Wednesday, September 30, 2009

UK Neighbors Engaged In Illegal Babysitting

Here's a story I wasn't expecting to see: West Michigan's bias against babysitting was preposterous enough, but it seems positively libertarian when compared to the rules babysitters have to follow in the UK.

Whether it's because statist busybodies who have so little faith in themselves project their own inadequacies onto the rest of their nation, or whether they believe themselves possessing the rare wisdom to form laws that result in "perfect" societies, the end result is the same: ignoring the possibility of genuinely good neighbors, and winding up with nonsense like "illegal" babysitting:
The government has ordered a review of the case of two police officers who were told they had to stop looking after each others' children or face prosecution.
Detective Constable Leanne Shepherd, from Milton Keynes, was warned by Ofsted [Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills] that she could be prosecuted if she did not end the "illegal" reciprocal arrangement with her friend, DC Lucy Jarrett.
The women, both 32, have taken turns looking after each other's daughters twice a week for the last two and a half years while they worked a ten-hour shift at Aylesbury police station in Buckinghamshire.
... New legislation means that people who baby-sit for more than two hours at a time or on more than 14 days a year should be registered and follow childminder rules, including undertaking first aid training and following the so-called "nappy curriculum" for under-fives.
According to the education watchdog, the rules apply in cases where parents receive a "reward" for the child care – which can include money or simply free baby-sitting in return. Ofsted is now in discussions with the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) about the interpretation of the word "reward".
DC Shepherd said she had received a surprise visit from an Ofsted inspector who said she had received reports that an illegal childminding business was being run. Despite explaining that the arrangement was between two friends who were helping each other out, DC Shepherd was told that she was breaking the law and had to stop immediately. "I was stunned, completely devastated. I spent the whole day crying because I couldn't see how I could continue working," she told the Mail on Sunday.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Third Family

“I think of you as if you were my own brother”, we say as the highest compliment we can offer a friend. There’s no greater accolade than to compare a close friendship to that of the stronger bonds of family: “You’re like a son to me…”

We get to choose our friends, and not our family, yet… I wonder if we tolerate the offensive faults and sins of friends with the same forbearance we often extend towards our family. Sibling accepts the bad with the good when they embrace sibling, to a degree that probably escapes them when it comes to the same sinful fallibility we may find in our friends. A parent’s forgiveness of their children’s faults is often only outmatched by a child’s acceptance of the imperfection of their parents, and the consequences of that fallibility on their lives… again, a mutual respect often eluding the mutual attraction of friendship.

Friendships are wonderful, but ultimately it’s a different, separate kind of strengthening bond than the one offered by family. A second, chosen, family, to raise us in ways that birth families do not.

This weekend I had occasion to experience the blessings, yet again, of a third family, the one that takes the best of each and adds something new of its own: one’s church family.

A “church family” consists of those who worship alongside us, at church. Different than the friendships developed at work, or at school, where colleagues become “chums”, attracted as they may be by mutual interest. The collegiality of the support at church touches a part of us far deeper than that, because the shared sense of mission surely goes much, much deeper than at any job.

It touched me deeply this weekend, that’s for sure, as I tried in vain to find the right words to say to someone I know through church, an older gentleman whose ailing wife passed away recently, after a lengthy and painful illness. We got to know each other in the casual way one meets people through church: the same faces in the same places at the same times every week, familiarity leading to a feeling of family. A church family.

Each week’s quick greetings after church might have been short in duration but they nevertheless cast long shadows from their repetition, especially towards the end as the news would grow worse each time.

This week there was only one to greet, the worst having finally happened. Not for the first time, the worst being the best that could happen, given the grim circumstances.

I didn’t know quite what to say as we each approached for our usual greetings. I had often prayed for them both, keeping the example of his quiet strength in memory throughout the tough times I myself repeatedly went through during this past summer from hell. I owed him a lot, and I held these thoughts in mind as I took his hand in mine, placed my other hand on his shoulder, and smiled.

It was as if he heard what I was thinking, and from behind his eyes I saw a sign of someone being genuinely helped from hand after gentle hand touching him that day, as each caring gesture gave him that much more renewed courage to smile in his turn. In his voice I heard someone seemingly able to hear prayer after silent prayer said on his behalf every week for a year. “Thank you”, he said to me through the kindest of smiles, the only words that ended up being needed in our brief time together this week.

Even though a lifelong love had come to an end, his loss was less than it could have been, thanks to the shared presence of his children, his family of friends, and his third family:
his church family.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Babysitting Without A License

Has neighborly kindness been outlawed in Michigan? A West Michigan woman has been threatened with a $1,000 fine and 90 days in jail... for babysitting her neighbors' children:

Lisa Snyder of Middleville says her neighborhood school bus stop is right in front of her home. It arrives after her neighbors need to be at work, so she watches three of their children for 15-40 minutes until the bus comes.

The Department of Human Services received a complaint that Snyder was operating an illegal child care home. DHS contacted Snyder and told her to get licensed, stop watching her neighbors' kids, or face the consequences.

"It's ridiculous." says Snyder. "We are friends helping friends!" She added that she accepts no money for babysitting.

... A DHS spokesperson would not comment on the specifics of the case but says they have no choice but to comply with state law, which is designed to protect Michigan children.

But, who will protect the children from the road to hell paved with the good intentions of the Department of Human Services?

[Hat Tip to RSM at The Other McCain]

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Even a genius like Orwell could not have imagined Canada in the age of the "Human Rights" Act. The latest news is that the Canadian Human Rights Commission, in an apparent purification ritual, is now investigating their erstwhile crusader, Richard Warman, for hate speech, not apparently moved by the recent decision of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal that the hate speech section of the Canadian Human Rights Act is unconstitutional. Instead of turning on themselves, questioning their own self-righteous conduct, disbanding, and seeking redemption for their years of working with those who post hate in order to better prosecute the websites they have targetted, the CHRC crowd now seems to want to investigate the long-persecuted Marc Lemire's claim that Warman posted hate speech on Lemire's white nationalist site. It looks like Warman, the logical outcome of a law that allows busy bodies to police speech that might one day promote "hate", must become the regime's scapegoat. How ludicrous does this all have to get before the government has the courage to take a stand and shut all this nonsense down?
CHRC investigates Richard Warman for hate speech - Ezra Levant
Blazing Cat Fur: I love the irony but I really don't want to see Section 13 (1) rehabilitated

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Radio Memories: Gratitude, Family and Patriotism

"My father thanks you, my mother thanks you, my sister thanks you, and I thank you."

This expression of gratitude became a familiar conclusion throughout twenty-five years' worth of curtain speeches for one very gifted entertainer's theatrical performances. He was a legend in his own time, at the turn of the 20th century, and hopefully the light of his life's work can continue to shine through our century as brightly as it did through the last.

George M. Cohan's love of country was only eclipsed by love of family, and as I've studied his life over the years his example has often made me wonder about how we may increase the love of one through love of the other, and if either are ever really that separate...

Our Sunday series of posts on Radio Memories, devoted to the glory days of radio drama, the theater of the mind, returns this week with a bang: a biographical broadcast dedicated to that theatrical sensation, that American musical legend,

George M. Cohan.

Wading through YouTube, or similar online archives, will reveal just how much of our recent cultural heritage seems to have been preserved; movies, music, television shows... you name it, it seems to be there, somewhere, ready to be relived anew. Yet, back up a generation or two, and the gaps tend to far outweigh the surviving artifacts of the significant influences that so shaped and entertained the modern mind at the turn of the 20th century.

Some of this historical record was doomed to disappear, given its nature. Vaudeville, such a treasured slice of life for so many decades, has gone the way of all live theater: when the curtain comes down the art lives on only in memory.

Maybe, like life itself, this fleeting quality lends the theatrical performance much of its perceived value. Unlike most other media, it's here-today-gone-tomorrow... just like we are, who make up its audience.

We can watch a filmed version of a stage act, but... "it's just not the same". We can read the dusty playbills and fraying programs from a century ago, listing the great stage performers, and wonder at the magic of an Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor, and George M. Cohan. What must it have been like, to witness Live? Often enough their stage work was preserved upon film, or record; but, "it's just not the same".

These ghosts from our past are well represented by the Yankee Doodle Boy himself, George M. Cohan. Such a famous celebrity in his day, yet today reduced to anonymity, known primarily for his patriotic contributions to America's musical legacy.

When people my age know him at all, it's perhaps through the wonderful James Cagney biographical film, Yankee Doodle Dandy, a cinematic tribute that Cohan himself lived to see before cancer brought down the final curtain on his career in that wartime year of 1942.

That career saw over 10,000 stage appearances, the writing of 500 songs (according to his autobiography; 1,500 songs, according to the experts at Wikipedia), making his first appearance on the stage at the age of eight in 1886, retiring after appearing in his last play in 1937.

At his peak he was as famous for his love of family as we was for the patriotism behind songs like "Over There" and "You're A Grand Old Flag". He wore that love as openly as his love of country, maybe more so.

Mary Ramsey, lifelong friend of the Cohan family, remembers:

"One sweet thing about George M, while his mother was alive, there was never a day went by when he didn't either see her at her apartment, or call her on the phone when he was out of town, he would never miss calling her. She always had heard from him, every day."

Secretary Ida Kohn remembers:

"He was a very gentle person, kind, and very well-mannered, of course... It was so sweet and charming of this man, who was so famous in the American theater, to refer to his father, with such humility, as 'my Daddy'."
Precious little survives from his legendary days on the American stage; for reasons that can be heard in the embedded program below, Cohan only made 7 (!) records of his songs throughout his life. Fortunately, through the hard work of radio producer Joseph Meyers we can hear George M. Cohan in a forum that can truly make us value the treasure that he left us. Mixing hobby and employment, Meyers built a remarkable radio series, called Biography In Sound, dipping into his impressive collection of rare recordings as well that of the archives and news gathering services of NBC. The series came just as radio was following vaudeville into the cultural fog of yesteryear, each week interviewing family, admirers and colleagues of famous statesmen, stars, athletes, poets, writers, from Woodrow Wilson to Babe Ruth to WC Fields to Clarence Darrow to Carl Sandburg to... George M Cohan.

The Biography In Sound episode broadcast on March 5, 1957, offered a stirring tribute entitled "They Knew George M Cohan". The concluding 15 minutes include rare excerpts from an April 1938 dinner, put on by the Catholic Actors Guild on behalf of the great song and dance man.

It was a very humble showman who took to the microphone that special night:

"This gathering here, tonight, it's more of a tribute to the memory of my father than anything else. And of course that makes it doubly thrilling to me..."
For the rest of his speech, I invite you to sit back, dim the lights, and rekindle the flame of the flickering candle of memory, of the relationship between love of family and love of country... and love of life.

You're a grand old flag,
You're a high flying flag
And forever in peace may you wave.
You're the emblem of
The land I love.
The home of the free and the brave.
Ev'ry heart beats true
'neath the Red, White and Blue,
Where there's never a boast or brag.
But should auld acquaintance be forgot,
Keep your eye on the grand old flag.

Previous Radio Memories posts:

Fibber McGee And Molly: The Scrap Drive
D-Day Broadcasts (from June 5, 1944)
Red Skelton: Vacations
Frontier Gentleman: Gambling Lady
Information Please: Guests Walter Duranty and John Gunther
The Aldrich Family: Cleaning The Furnace
Tom Mix, Terry and the Pirates VE Day broadcasts from May 8 1945
You Are There: The Capture Of John Wilkes Booth
Fort Laramie: War Correspondent
CBS Radio Workshop: Son Of Man
Great Gildersleeve: Easter Rabbits
Dimension X: Time And Time Again
An American In England: Women Of Britain
Cavalcade Of America: Bob Hope Reports
The March Of Time: Feb 10 1938 broadcast
Hear It Now: Coming Home From The Korean War
Escape: Vanishing Lady
Rogers Of The Gazette: Rewinding The Town Clock

Saturday, September 19, 2009

This Pretentious CNN Anchor Doesn't Know As Much As A Late-Night Comedian

Who is Wolf Blitzer?

"Wolf, things have not worked out as well as you would have hoped for, I'm sure...", consoles off-screen Jeopardy game show host Alex Trebec.

A recent Celebrity episode of the long-running tv quiz program revealed that the modern-day Ed McMahon, Tonight Show sidekick Andy Richter, seems to be a bit more aware of his facts and figures than long-time CNN journalist Wolf Blitzer.

Among the challenging questions that plunged his final score into its eventual negative numbers...:

Wolf thought this was fettucine:

Wolf believed that the answer to this question was "Jerusalem"...

The highlight video assembled at is hilarious, and if you have time you can enjoy the full episode at YouTube, part one here and part two here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bruce Bawer just spoke in Montreal

Blazing Cat Fur sent the notice around, but I didn't get the live feed for the Bawer conference up in time. But here's the link to the videos (in English with a few introductory words in French):

And here is the French-language introduction of Bawer by PointdeBascule's Marc Lebuis:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Amoral ACORN

Have you been following this story? The shocking series of undercover videos being served up daily at Andrew Breitbart's Big continue, chapter by ugly chapter, exposing some pretty ugly truths: employees at ACORN have been quite willing to condone under-age prostitution.

Posing as a pimp boyfriend banker trying to set up his prostitute with a brothel filled with 13-year old prostitutes trafficked illegally into the country from El Salvador, in order to raise funds for a future congressional campaign, newsmakers James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles keep piling up video evidence of the amoral practices of ACORN employees in branch office after branch office across the US.

After dropping in on ACORN headquarters in Baltimore (video here, transcript here), Washington DC (video here, transcript here), and New York (video here, transcript here), this morning we were teased with a fragment of the team's sting operation in San Bernadino, California. This one left my head spinning:

ACORN has issued a different kind of response to the latest video. While the community organizers in Baltimore who helpfully offered tax advice for running a brothel with under-age girls got fired for their behavior, ACORN attests that their California employee was only playing along, especially when she claimed that she had killed her husband:
"I decided to shock them as much as they were shocking me. Like Stephan Colbert does – saying the most outrageous things with a straight face."

I keep re-writing, and re-thinking, my conclusions to this latest development. Is it more likely that she is crazy enough to admit crimes like murder, to two total strangers, or that she would spend so much time acting the fool for total strangers? Surely, it's the latter proposition that is the most possible, however improbable that it may sound.

Andrew Breitbart is no dummy: surely he would have checked up on this woman's outrageous statements, to the degree that one could, before posting his video? Especially given the litigious threats ACORN made last week, when the first videos were released? Does Big know whether in fact her ex-husband is still alive? Was she ever even married in the first place?

Seeing as we're being offered a daily dose of this macabre moral soap opera, I guess we have to wait and tune in again tomorrow, for the next installment...

Just received, a misdirected? text message:

Hey i'm trying to take out the web piercing cause i have a dentist appointment.
And can't unscrew it.
Anyone got advice?

Students cheer as normal wins...

Friday, September 11, 2009

Sept. 11

This would be a good day to take an hour and listen to Gil Bailie's July talk to the Colloquium on Violence and Religion. It is exemplary of the kind of moral striving and frank, courageous, informed and irenic talk we all need to pursue if the West is to save itself from its own decadence and from its religious-political rivals who take from what remains of the legacy of Western freedom, science, and free economies, but have, to be blunt, as yet little to offer the cause of this freedom's renewal and survival.

The talk is found in three audio files currently at the top of this page.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Not just Rubes from Poland

Why Are Jews Liberals?---A Symposium: Commentary magazine has an interesting round table on Norman Podhoretz's latest book. Many good answers are given to the question, though all deal with the relation of Jews either to Judaism or to the non-Jewish world; none deals with the difficult subject of Jew-on-Jew relations in the old Europe of limited Jewish opportunities, or in the New World; and part of the answer to (secular) Jewish liberalism surely lies there. Anyway, a couple of neat quotes, first from Jeff Jacoby:
...troubadour Shlomo Carlebach after a lifetime of visiting American campuses: “I ask students what they are. If someone gets up and says, I’m a Catholic, I know that’s a Catholic. If someone says, I’m a Protestant, I know that’s a Protestant. If someone gets up and says, I’m just a human being, I know that’s a Jew.”

“Just-a-human-being” liberalism, secular and universalist—there is the dead end into which the flight from Jewish separateness has led so many American Jews. To call it a dead end is not to deny its allure. Much of liberalism’s appeal lay in making Jews feel good about themselves, secure in the conviction that they were part of a broad and enlightened mainstream. Liberalism freed them from the charge of parochial self-interest that had so often been leveled against Jews. It replaced the ancient, sometimes difficult burden of chosenness—the Jewish mission to live by God’s law and bring the world to ethical monotheism—with a more palatable and popular commitment to equality, tolerance, and “social justice.”
And from David Gelernter:
The title of Norman Podhoretz’s book asks an important question, and the text answers it: Jews are religious by nature, and having mostly abandoned Judaism, they have taken up the “Torah of liberalism” instead—as an ex–wine connoisseur who has lost all sense of taste but is still thirsty might switch to cheap gin.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Ye Shall Know Them By Their Fruits

A 65-year old counter-protestor had the tip of his pinky finger bitten off by a pro-Obama supporter:
“It all started with their difference in philosophy over healthcare reform,” said Senior Deputy Eric Buschow of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department.
A witness picked up the detached fingertip after the suspect spit it out and drove it to the hospital. Buschow said doctors told the victim that they could not reattach the fingertip because of the high risk of infection.
The speculations in the accompanying comment thread are sometimes... interesting:
20 bucks says the victim was wagging his finger in front of the guy and was warned to stop several times. i bet he deserved it.
the anti-reformers do not know how to have a discussion about this topic. they have to get in your face anytime they are trying to make a point. just shows how ignorant and how intolerant they really are as people.
Posted by: james September 03, 2009 at 10:53 AM

The person who "deserved" to lose a finger for his beliefs was later interviewed about the altercation, and by the calm humility he displays here, I wonder just how "in your face" he was in "making a point" to the Obama supporter at the rally:

Friday, September 04, 2009

A mere statistic

Grandson sues to clear Stalin over killings | Oddly Enough | Reuters
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Josef Stalin was in the dock on Monday when a Russian court held a preliminary hearing in a libel case brought by his grandson over a newspaper story which said the tyrant had ordered the killings of Soviet citizens.
"We want to rehabilitate Stalin," he told Reuters. "He turned populations into peoples, he presided over a golden era in literature and the arts, he was a real leader."

A phrase in the article saying Stalin and the secret police committed grave crimes against their own people caused particular offence, Zhura said.
Gilded words of praise for the dictator were unveiled last week on the marbled halls of a central Moscow metro station and Stalin was voted Russia's third most popular figure in history in a nationwide poll last year.

Russia buried last August Soviet-era dissident and author Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who was sent to a Gulag (labor camp) for making a joke about Stalin, in a religious ceremony which bore all the hallmarks of a state funeral.

But in the public arena in today's Russia, there is very little talk about the millions of Soviets who perished in Gulag labor camps or from famine during Stalin's rule.

Recent Russian teachers' manuals have described Stalin as an effective manager who acted rationally in conducting a campaign of terror to modernize the Soviet Union.
What those who can't live with nasty historical reality further miss, it seems to me, is that Stalin's death toll keeps on rising. A Russia that has "modernized" with very little in the way of a shared covenant that works to guarantee the individual's freedom - and no such covenant can exist without people first recognizing the impossibility of any big man long keeping a moral order - without which success in the now single global economy is unlikely to be very great, is a society likely fated to suffer great resentments and continue to fade into a rather childless oblivion.

But maybe that's just why many Russians can't face the reality of Stalin: they can't accept that doing what it took to defeat the Nazis at their own game was no guarantee of "the people's" survival, sad to say. But why isn't that obvious by now?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Canadian Human Rights Tribunal Refuses to Apply the Law

While the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has no authority to make constitutional rulings, Athanasios D. Hadjis has nevertheless ruled, in Warman v. Lemire, that he will refuse to uphold that part of the law, Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, that deals with "hate speech" given the Tribunal Member's own personal understanding of the Charter of Rights and of the Supreme Court's Section 13-affirming Taylor decision. Hadjis is washing his hands (not only of the bad law but perhaps of his own previous involvement in the invidious "human rights" game) and kicking the can to the politicians and, possibly, the higher courts. Will freedom of speech in Canada be served by the ultra-cautious PM Stephen Harper (Mackenzie King the II) or by the power-hungry Michael Ignatieff (the wannabe Trudeau the II). Now that Ignatieff is stating a blanket refusal to vote with the minority government in Parliament, Canadians may have to pick their Prime Ministerial poison in a fall election.

Canadian Human Rights Tribunal
[290] In my view, it is clear that Taylor's confidence that the human rights process under the Act merely serves to prevent discrimination and compensate victims hinged on the absence of any penal provision akin to the one now found at s. 54(1)(c), as well as on the belief that the process itself was not only structured, but actually functioned in as conciliatory a manner as possible. The evidence before me demonstrates that the situation is not as the Court contemplated in both respects. Thus, following the reasoning of Justice Dickson, at 933,one can no longer say that the absence of intent in s. 13(1) "raises no problem of minimal impairment" and "does not impinge so deleteriously upon the s. 2(b) freedom of expression so as to make intolerable" the provision's existence in a free and democratic society. On this basis, I find that the Oakes minimum impairment test has not been satisfied, and that s. 13(1) goes beyond what can be defended as a reasonable limit on free expression under s. 1 of the Charter.
V. Conclusion
I have determined that Mr. Lemire contravened s. 13 of the Act in only one of the instances alleged by Mr. Warman, namely the AIDS Secrets article. However, I have also concluded that s. 13(1) in conjunction with ss. 54(1) and (1.1) are inconsistent with s. 2(b) of the Charter, which guarantees the freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression. The restriction imposed by these provisions is not a reasonable limit within the meaning of s. 1 of the Charter. Since a formal declaration of invalidity is not a remedy available to the Tribunal (see Cuddy Chicks Ltd. V. Ontario (Labour Relations Board), [1991] 2 S.C.R. 5), I will simply refuse to apply these provisions for the purposes of the complaint against Mr. Lemire and I will not issue any remedial order against him (see Nova Scotia (Workers' Compensation Board) v. Martin, 2003 SCC 54 at paras. 26-7).
"Signed by"
Athanasios D. Hadjis
He "simply refuses"; that has the nice ring of civil disobedience, doesn't it? But will anyone in government try very hard to notice? In any case, I think a tentative "congratulations" to all those who have been fighting Section 13 is in order.

Blazing Cat Fur of course is keeping track of all the relevant links

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The Best Advice... often the simplest.

I was standing in church, and felt a nudge on the arm; I turned to see my friend looking at me, concerned. "Hey", he whispers helpfully, "Smile."

So I did.

And suddenly things didn't look, or feel, so bad anymore.

For a while. A moment respite. But that was enough.

Ready now for tomorrow.

Smile and maybe tomorrow
Youll see the sun come shining through, for you

He's back!

Due to his sudden disappearance last October, and after several months of unexplained non-activity, I had placed an "in memoriam" next to our sidebar link for Wolf Howling. I just clicked on the link and find GW has been back since April, when he commented briefly on his recovery from some major medical problem. More great reading! and all the best to GW.