Category: Nanny State

“My Crime: I Let My Kids Play Outside” (via Free-Range Kids)

Monday, August 13th, 2012

Hi Folks — It’s Lenore from Free-Range Kids, where I get letters like this one with shocking regularity (check my blog and you’ll see a new one there right now!).  CPS must do some good. I’m sure it has saved a lot of kids in danger. But it also has a lot of power, which sometimes it uses to threaten, or even destroy families. Parents who are confident in their kids, their community and their own parenting often allow their children to have some independence. They even — if you can believe this — allow them to play outside! For this, they are sometimes (too often!) hounded. – L.

Dear Lenore: A neighbor of mine called the Texas CPS (Child Protective Services) and the Police on my wife and I because we allow our children, ages 6 and 8, to play in the courtyard directly in front of our apartment. CPS has been investigating my family since April 4th 2012, it is now August 12 2012, and all they have come up with is the one report to Police about my 6-year-old being outside in front of his home. Now we are dealing with the courts in a “Negligent Supervision” case, which makes absolutely no sense because my child wasn’t hurt or asking anyone for help. I was outside with my son when the Police arrived, but the CPS caseworker insists that I take drug tests and parenting classes. People are not neighbors anymore, they are just @$$holes. – A Texas Dad

Man Must Change Seats on Plane: He Is Seated Next to Two Minors (via Free-Range Kids)

Friday, August 10th, 2012

Hi Folks! I’ts Lenore from Free- Range Kids, where “flying while male” is not a new issue to us (see this post)  just a new airline: Virgin, in Australia. In today’s story, a man named Johnny McGirr, 33, was seated next to two unaccompanied minors — boys, about ages 8 and 10. He was supposed to sit next to the window, but switched to the aisle to let the boys look out, because he’s a nice guy.

That, however, is not how the airline saw him. When the stewardess came by she saw only that he was — accckkkk! — a MALE, and she made him move. The reason? Company policy: A woman can sit next to unaccompanied children, but not a man.

The fellow — a fireman — spent the rest of the trip embarrassed and angry. Eventually, he blogged about it, pointing out quite rightly that the assumption seems to be that every male is at least a  potential pedophile, even in public, on a plane, with people going up and down the aisles. This is what I call “Worst-First Thinking” — thinking up the very WORST case scenario and proceeding as if it is FIRST on the list of likely possibilities.  The airline excused itself by saying, “Most guests thoroughly understand that the welfare of the child is our priority.” As if it’s only a deviant who’d question this practice.

But the airline is wrong. Many people do NOT understand this panicked prejudice anymore. The buzz in Australia is that there is now a “public backlash” that has Virgin (and Qantas, and Jetstar and Air Newland) re-thinking its men-must-move policy.

Let’s hope they get it right this time, as British Airways finally did. Making people sit in a certain place because of  their DNA is something Rosa Parks fought a long time ago.  – L.

Look! Up in the air! It’s predator panic!

No Men — or Even Boys Over Age 9 — Allowed at Indoor Playground (via Free-Range Kids)

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

Folks — It’s Lenore Skenazy from Free-Range Kids again, where we are sick of a world distrusting all men as potential perverts. On my blog I’ve written about a parenting magazine that endorsed not allowing your kid to sleep over at the home where a divorced dad lives with his kids, because without a mom a dad could attack! And I’ve written about day care centers that don’t trust males to change diapers, because men are never to be trusted around bare baby bottoms! But here’s one of the wildest stories yet:  An indoor play space in Birmingham, England has restricted itself to women and children only. Dad cannot bring his kids to play there. Even 3rd grade boys and up are banned. Sorry, little buddy. Get out.

Here’s the piece.

Are we really supposed to not trust any sons, husbands or dads around kids?  Are you cute at age 8 and a predator at age 9 if you’re male? What if a kid has a dad (or two!) and no moms? No can play? — L.

Desperate Dad: “I Let My 12 y.o. Play Outside. Is that Criminal?”

Sunday, August 5th, 2012

Hi Folks — It’s Lenore Skenazy from Free-Range Kids. Pretty much all day long we advocate for parents being allowed to let their kids actually grow up — without the cops, courts or CPS crying, “That’s negligence!” Without busybodies, too. Here’s a case that’s been burning up the wires (Pixels?) on Reddit: Dad lets his 12-year-old play outside and everyone’s up in arms like he sent the young man out to dodge sniper fire.  At least in this instance, the police agreed the dad was not doing anything wrong. Here’s a parent who was less fortunate. Heck, here’s another.  Plenty more where those came from (just go to my blog). Let’s fight the criminalization of parents who believe in their kids and their communities. – L.

Gracious! Why are these children outside without a security detail?


The Differences That Aren’t

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

We think we know what we’re doin’
We don’t pull the strings
It’s all in the past now
Money changes everything.
  –  Tom Gray

Several of the comments on last Tuesday’s “What’s the Difference?” made the very valid point that sex is an extremely strong drive, as strong as hunger, and that makes it different from other human activities that aren’t attached to such strong drives.  Others pointed  out (again, quite correctly) that sex is often associated with powerful emotions, and that sexual activity has powerful neurological effects and releases hormones which promote bonding.  If I were a less honest person I might pretend that I was trying to elicit those responses in order to make my point, but the truth is that I wasn’t; however, I should have included them in the essay in the first place, because they really do make my point.

Prostitution is, when all the mystery, romanticism (positive and negative) and emotional hoo-ha is removed, a simple business transaction:  Party A (the seller) has something she is willing to sell, while party B (the buyer) has money he’s willing to spend.  Each values what the other has, so an exchange is made and, assuming neither tries to cheat the other, everyone is happy.  So what happens during the transaction?  Party A gives party B sex (a completely legal action), while Party B gives Party A money (also a completely legal action).  Yet somehow, we pretend that the juxtaposition of these two events makes them both wrong, which is arrant nonsense.  Arguments about the emotional and/or hormonal effects of sex are irrelevant, because it is completely legal to give sex to strangers for nothing, or in exchange for food and entertainment, or in exchange for some favor, or even in exchange for cold, hard cash as long as the transactions don’t happen together.  If we lived in a theocracy which banned all extramarital sex, a ban on prostitution would at least be consistent…but we don’t.  Furthermore, extramarital love affairs – which violate legal contracts and arguably endanger children – are also legal; in other words sexual arrangements in which those hormones are demonstrably in effect are legal, but those in which they are not are prohibited.  This is like legalizing the act of driving by a person who is clearly inebriated, while criminalizing it for people who are demonstrably sober, yet have an open container of liquor in the car.

Furthermore, we don’t ban other activities with powerful neurological effects unless a taboo substance is involved; one of the comments mentioned that oxytocin is released during sex, and that’s absolutely true…but it’s also released in nursing, yet wet-nursing is legal.  So is surrogate motherhood, despite the indisputable fact that pregnancy generates far more powerful emotions in the typical woman than sex does (N.B.: in Australia, prostitution is legal but surrogate motherhood is not.  So much for consistency in paternalistic laws.)  And though people of both sexes (but especially women) sometimes develop very strong attachments for children under their care, we don’t ban day care centers, nannies and schools.  As for the sex drive being as strong as hunger, isn’t that an argument for prostitution rather than against it?  If something is vital to health and happiness, what kind of sadistic monster would try to stop someone from gaining access to that thing in any fair and non-forcible way he can?  We rightly prohibit both rape and theft even if they arise from strong urges, yet criminalize the purchase of even badly-needed sex while celebrating the sale of food, even if the latter is consumed purely for enjoyment and has no nutritional value whatsoever.

But what about those brain studies?  I’m in favor of total drug decriminalization, but playing devil’s advocate for a moment:  surely, if sex affects the brain in the same way heroin does we’re certainly justified in regulating it in the same way, aren’t we?  Well, no.  Dr. Marty Klein explains:

…when so-called sex addicts are involved in sex (for example, when watching pornography), the part of their brain that lights up (the mesolimbic pathway) is the same part that lights up when a heroin addict has injected heroin.  Compelling proof of sex addiction?  Not even close.  That’s the same part of the brain that lights up when we see a sunset, the Golden Gate Bridge, the perfect donut, a gorgeous touchdown pass, or our grandchild’s smile.  Our brain, our blood, and our hormones always react to pleasure—including sexual pleasure.  The last 150,000 years of evolution at least accomplished that much with us poor humans…[anti-sex activists are only concerned] about how people become addicted to their own body chemicals when those chemicals are related to sex rather than, say, a walk through the park or a production of King Lear

In other words, while I might be taken to task for saying that sex is no different from any other human activity, I think most reasonable people will agree that sex is no different from lots of other activities that most people aren’t so uptight about, and that it’s pure mysticism to argue that the mere addition of a symbol of exchange (rather than the thing itself) can magically turn a moral action into an immoral one.

Maggie’s Wednesday Links

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

(Thanks to Jack Shafer for the first item, Radley for the next three, Furry Girl for the fifth, and Agitatortot Robert Chambers for the sixth.)

Maggie’s Saturday Links

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

(Thanks to Radley for the first three items, Jesse Walker for the fourth and Agitatortot David for the fifth.)

So. It Has Come To This.

Friday, July 6th, 2012

The scene is a security screening station at Los Angeles International Airport, August 2012.

Screening Officer Jules: Greetings, prospective passengers! Looking to travel through the public airways? Now don’t be distressed! You know who we are? We’re associates of your Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. You do remember your Secretary of Homeland Security, don’t you? Let me take a look at our boarding roster. You’re Brett, right?

Brett: Yeah.

Screening Officer Jules: Just like it said on the ticket! You remember your Homeland Security Secretary, don’t you Brett?

Brett: I’m sorry?

Screening Officer Jules: Looks like me and Security Sergeant Vincent caught you citizens having breakfast! Sorry about that. Whatcha having?

Brett: Hamburgers.

Screening Officer Jules: Hamburgers, the cornerstone of any nutritious pre-flight meal! Did you declare the origin of these hamburgers on your pre-boarding manifest, citizen?

Brett: Pre-boarding manifest?

Screening Officer Jules: Where’d you get them? McDonald’s? Jack in the Box? Wendy’s? Where?

Brett: Big Kahuna Burger.

Screening Officer Jules: Big Kahuna Burger! That’s that Hawaiian burger joint! Can you produce a declaration that the cattle from which these hamburgers were butchered originated in the continental United States, excluding Alaska, and did not travel to foreign jurisdictions within ten years preceding August 1, 2002  so as to be guaranteed free of bovine spongiform encepalopathy?

Brett: Excuse me?

Screening Officer Jules: Mind if I try yours? This is yours right? Mmmmm, this is a tasty burger! Security Sergeant Vincent, ever have a Big Kahuna Burger? Would you like to test these for bovine spongiform encepalopathy and other biohazards? They’re real tasty.

Security Sergeant Vincent: Ain’t hungry.

Screening Officer Jules: Well, if you like testing burgers for hazardous materials give these a try sometime. I can’t usually get ’em myself because of Screening Officer Fitness Directive B-73, which pretty much makes me a vegetarian. But I do love the taste of a good burger. Hey, you know what they call a Quarter Pounder with cheese at Kennedy International?

Brett: No.

Screening Officer Jules: Tell him Security Sergeant Vincent.

Security Sergeant Vincent: Forbidden biohazard contraband as prohibited by the Food Export Convention of 2006.

Screening Officer Jules: Forbidden biohazard contraband as prohibited by the Food Export Convention of 2006! You know why?

Brett: Because of the Food Export Convention of 2006?

Screening Officer Jules: Check out the big brain on Brett! You’re a well-informed citizen! The Food Export Convention of 2006. What’s in this?

Brett: Sprite.

Screening Officer Jules: You mind if I have some of your tasty beverage to wash this down?

Brett: Since when do you …?

Screening Officer Jules: Excuse me citizen, new guidelines require that we test this Sprite for explosives and volatile compounds. … <slurps>

Screening Officer Jules: Mmmmm. That hit the spot. … Now Brett, what does Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano look like?

Maggie’s Afternoon Links

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

(Thanks to Jesse Walker for #2 and Lenore Skenazy for #5).

California Foie Gras Ban Challenged

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

The ridiculous and unconstitutional new California foie gras ban is already the target of a lawsuit.

The suit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles maintains the law, which outlaws force-feeding birds for the purpose of enlarging their livers and selling products from force-fed birds, is unconstitutional, vague and interferes with federal commerce laws.


“I think the injunction will help all chefs from the risk of unknowingly breaking the law, and give our legislators time to fix it,” said Sean Chaney, executive chef and co-owner of Hot’s Restaurant Group Inc., one of the plaintiffs named in the suit. The group has restaurants in Hermosa Beach and Northridge. “There’s so much vagueness in the whole thing.”

Association des Éleveurs de Canards et d’Oies du Québec, the nonprofit group that represents farmers and distributors, and New York’s Hudson Valley Foie Gras, North America’s largest producer of the delicacy, are also listed as plaintiffs.

This is great news, and follows on the heels of a similar suit to overturn California’s equally dumb shark-fin ban, along with a suit seeking to overturn the state’s caged-egg law (known as Proposition 2).

I’ll have more to say on the matter in my upcoming weekend Reason food-law column. For now, read up on the suit here and here, and check out the actual complaint here.

Baylen Linnekin

Chew on These Lunchtime Links

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

Here are a few lunchtime links to chew on with your meal. And feel free to borrow some of Fido’s floss in case anything gets stuck between your teeth.

  • Last month the eponymous founder and head of the Dr. Bronner line of products was arrested at a protest staged in Washington, DC. His “crime”? Pressing a few hemp seeds. You’re not the only one who thinks that’s stupid.
  • The CDC says foodborne illness is not on the rise. Armed with that evidence, there’s a new food-safety law on the books that a former USDA official (now a professor at Iowa State) says “won’t stop food-borne illnesses.”
  • A story on horse meat includes a number of breathless comments about how terrible it is to dine equine. And this comment: “I hope any monster who eats horse meat dies a slow death.”
  • Why does white bread dominate the market? A book reviewer suggests (convincingly) it’s because of “governmental and business interests that collude.”

So what’s for lunch?

Baylen Linnekin

(Lady of the) Evening Links

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

(Thanks to Jacob  Sullum for #5 and Jesse Walker for #6)

I’m That Guy Who Writes About Food (and Law)

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

Are you all as obsessed with alt text as are Reason readers?Greetings, fellow Agitator fans. I’m Baylen Linnekin, a lawyer (and holder of an advanced degree in agricultural and food law) who founded and leads the Washington, DC-based grassroots food freedom nonprofit Keep Food Legal. We advocate on behalf of our members (hint!) and supporters for the rights of everyone to grow, raise, produce, buy, sell, share, cook, eat, and drink the foods of their own choosing. But we take an “eat and let eat” attitude in that we don’t advocate for any particular food choices. In that vein, we’ve fought for the rights of raw milk and Four Loko drinkers, food trucks and brick-and-mortar restaurants, and home gardeners and foie gras farmers alike.

My writing on food and food law has appeared in nerdy places (Chapman University Law Review, Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly, Journal of Wine Economics, and the forthcoming second edition of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America) and slightly hipper spaces like Reason (where I write a weekly online food-law column), the Huffington Post, and Baltimore Sun. You can read a lengthier bio and learn more about me (including my Keep Food Legal-related publications and speaking appearances) and our great board at our website.

Longtime Agitator readers may note this is my second guestblogging stint here. Longtime participants in The Agitator fantasy football league should also recall me as the guy who demolishes their foolish dreams of victory on what must now seem like an annual basis. (My secret to achieving multi-time winner status in The Agitator fantasy football league has been my savvy drafting of Tom Brady, the greatest quarterback of his generation.)

Given my focus on food and food law (and since my price of guestblogging admission here was a promise to keep the New England Patriots hagiography to a minimum), I’ll be focusing this week on the prevalence of lousy food laws and regulations.

If you’d like to check out my latest online Reason column (on what I call the “food-safety fallacy”), you can do so here. If you’re blessed with free time, you can thumb through my Reason archives (including columns, online and print articles, and guestblogging stints) here.

One final note: Thanks to Radley for the invitation to hang out here with all of you and this great group of fellow guestbloggers. And best wishes to Radley as he writes his book, which I’m very excited to read.

Who is Maggie McNeill and What the Hell is She Doing Here?

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

My name is Maggie McNeill, and I’m a whore.

Well, more specifically, a retired whore.  Or if you want me to be really specific, a retired call girl and madam who now writes a blog called The Honest Courtesan, in which I discuss the realities of harlotry.  Sometimes I write about my personal experiences (sans lurid detail), sometimes about the history of the profession, sometimes about unusual aspects of it most outsiders don’t know about.  Once a month I do a biography of a famous prostitute, and once a month I write a fictional tale in which a professional plays some major part, and sometimes I even do funny or whimsical columns.  But the great majority of my posts are about the rights of sex workers, which are under heavier assault in the United States (and a number of other countries) than they have been in years.  A lot of people enjoy flattering me by telling me that I write very well, and sometimes they do more than just tell me; a few weeks ago Radley asked me to be part of the group filling in for him while he’s on sabbatical, and I was delighted to say “certainly”.  I’m not even going to attempt to fill his shoes (I doubt he could cram his feet into my size 8 1/2 spike-heeled pumps, either), but I’ll do my best to keep you entertained and to maintain some of his usual traditions in my own unique way.  Most of the stuff I publish here will be written specifically for this blog,  but Radley said it was OK if  cross-posted as well; so, some days I’ll do that if I think that day’s post is of a more general interest rather than something that would feel out of place anywhere other than my own blog.  This post is a hybrid; it’s an adaptation of one I did last year for another libertarian blog called Nobody’s Business, which y’all might also be interested in.

Now, even though most of you think of prostitution as a libertarian issue for the straightforward reason that the government has no business regulating what two or more consenting adults do in private, many of you may not realize that it’s actually much bigger than that.  Because prostitution is the only “crime” defined purely by motive (having sex with strangers is perfectly legal unless motivated by financial gain), in the absence of a videotape of the interaction it’s all he said-she said territory.  And because professional escorts never, EVER directly agree to the such-and-such sex act for such-and-such amount of money by which prostitution is defined, cops are forced to either A) lie and say they did, or B) come up with some sort of “evidence” of intent to commit prostitution.  In recent years, different districts in the US have claimed all of the following as evidence:  the possession of condoms or a cell phone, the lack of underwear, winking, dressing provocatively, loitering in an area known for prostitution, and many others.  Last year Utah passed a law which added “acting sexy” to the list,  but legislators assure us it will only be used against “real” prostitutes.

This sort of “evidence” belongs in a 17th-century witch trial, not a modern courtroom; yet women (both prostitutes and non-prostitutes) are arrested on such flimsy pretexts every day in this country, and mainstream “feminists” say nothing because they accept the arrest and harassment of individual women as collateral damage in their jihad against prostitution.  Nor are women the only ones who need to worry; in Sweden, radical feminists have succeeded in establishing a law which makes it legal to sell sex, but criminal to buy it.  Let that sink in for a moment:  it’s as though cops witnessing a drug deal were to haul off the buyer but wave the seller on his way.  The rationale (such as it is) behind this madness is that prostitution is a form of “violence against women”, essentially “paid rape”, so the client is treated as a type of lower-degree rapist.  The woman’s wishes are irrelevant; she is considered legally incompetent to consent to sex if there is compensation involved, just as a twelve-year-old girl is incompetent to consent.

This “Swedish Model” has also infiltrated Norway and Iceland (where strip clubs were also banned on the same grounds) and is now being considered in Ireland, Israel and France; the French minister for women’s rights recently declared she will try to impose it on all of Europe.  Radical feminists are trying to trick Canadians into embracing it by wrongly labeling it “decriminalization”, and it has already entered into the rhetoric of police departments in a number of states.  Massachusetts wants to define “human trafficking” so loosely that even the husbands or drivers of sex workers can be prosecuted for it (and all their possessions seized, naturally), and as of last week New York threatens cab drivers with $10,000 fines and loss of their licenses “if they if they ‘knowingly allow’ their vehicles to be ‘used for the purpose of promoting prostitution’.”  And given how easy it is to accuse a woman of prostitution…you get the picture.  In the sex worker rights movement we have a slogan:  “Sex worker rights are human rights”.  Just as the “War on Drugs” has resulted in widespread havoc, tremendous waste and wholesale abridgement of civil rights, so has the “War on Whores” (though to a lesser degree).  When the government is allowed to criminalize raw motives, thoughts and relationships, and when a woman can be arrested for how she acts, or a man for whom he knows or does business with, no one is safe.

Morning Links

Friday, June 29th, 2012