Wednesday, October 06, 2010

A small revolt against over-protective parenting

This is a real dilemma. I myself had a free-range childhood but my own son was rarely without a watchful eye on him during his childhood. So I can see both sides of the argument. I suspect that the society-wide decay of morality in all senses has in fact made a more protective role for parents a rational response

The food-faddist aspect of childcare is however driven more by misguided convictions than by social pressures, as far as I can see. One of the first things my son learned to say when he was a toddler was his McDonald's order! And there were always plenty of other kids in the store with perfectly respectable parents in attendance

New York journalist Lenore Skenzay let her 9-year-old son Izzy ride the subway by himself. The result was nothing short of hysterical. The syndicated columnist and her travelling tot suddenly found themselves at the centre of a media storm that saw Skenazy tarred as a Bad Mother for audiences from Chile to China and even Malta.

If there had been a handy pond nearby I’m sure there would have been at least one conservative commentator willing to find out whether she floated.

Skenazy is the author of “Free Range Kids”: her thesis being that we should untangle parenting from irrational fear and bring a certain rationality to the business of kid raising.

Her book can be traced in a line of work that could be dubbed the Bad Mommy genre of confessional writing that has emerged in the last few years that has sought to offer a counterpoint to the frenzied, goal-focused, perfectionist mantra of motherhood that has become the acceptable standard of being a Good Parent.

Skenazy’s controversial ideas are interesting given she has joined a growing number of writers whose view on the changing emphasis placed on parenthood, especially motherhood, has exposed the feverish flush of anxiety and control that now is popularly seen to be mandatory.

Novelist Ayelet Waldman was largely ahead of the curve, with her now infamous essay for the New York Times in 2005 in which she admitted that the passionate, intense love that consumed her was that which she felt for her husband, not her four children.

“If a good mother is one who loves her child more than anyone else in the world, I am not a good mother. I am in fact a bad mother. I love my husband more than I love my children,” Waldman wrote.

In her piece, Waldman frets over whether allowing her husband (novelist Michael Chabon) to occupy a central place in her emotional world makes her a failure.

“I am the only woman in Mommy and Me who seems to be, well, getting any. This could fill me with smug sense of well-being. I could sit in the room and gloat over my wonderful marriage. I could think about how our sex life - always vital, even torrid - is more exciting and imaginative now than it was when we first met. I could check my watch to see if I have time to stop at Good Vibrations to see if they have any exciting new toys. I could even gaze pityingly at the other mothers in the group, wishing that they too could experience a love as deep as my own.”

“But I don’t. I am far too busy worrying about what’s wrong with me. Why, of all the women in the room, am I the only one who has not made the erotic transition a good mother is supposed to make? Why am I the only one incapable of placing her children at the center of her passionate universe?”

Waldman went on to turn her musings into a book called (what else?) “Bad Mother” which hit bookshelves last year. Reflecting on the brouhaha that conflagrated in the wake of her original piece and the surge in the number of books in the “Bad Mom” genre, Waldman told the New York Times: “There has been a backlash against that ‘perfect mother,’ and now people are starting to ache for a more realistic way to define women and motherhood.”

Her book has been joined by a number of titles by well-known women who have shared their confusion, angst and downright need for a drink since becoming mothers.

Founder of phenomenally popular blog, (it attracts 7 million hits a month), Heather Armstrong recently published a book called, “It Sucked and Then I Cried: How I Had a Baby, a Breakdown, and a Much Needed Margarita”.

Actress Dani Klein wrote “Afterbirth: Stories You Won’t Read in a Parenting Magazine”.

All of these books in some way reinforce the idea of motherhood being a pursuit that leaves one perpetually open to a mass of potential criticism and judgement, while floundering in the midst of a deeper personal crisis.

“To be a mother—even simply to be a woman—in today’s world is to be made exhausted and resentful by a role or set of roles that we don’t recall deliberately choosing,” Sandra Tsing-Loh commented in an article for The Atlantic entitled On Being a Bad Mother.

Tsing-Loh says of her poor- by modern standards sort of parenting: “I am bad, not in that fluttery, anxious, 21st-century way educated middle-class mothers consider themselves ‘failures’ because they snap when they are tired, because they occasionally feed their kids McNuggets, because as they journal they soulfully question whether they’re mindfully attaining a proper daily work/life balance.”

What this genre of writing reflects is the cultural renegotiation we are currently experiencing about what being a decent parent means.

Whether some might think being a bad parent means feeding your kids fresh-from-the-box Mac’n’cheese or letting them catch the 380 to Bondi, take comfort from the fact there are a growing number of parents who think you’re doing a good job.


The lazy British police again

Policeman abandoned unconscious man to die by side of road... and then lied to hide his actions. Australians tend to see the British generally as work-shy and that certainly applies to their police

A policeman who left an unconscious man to die by the side of a road before inventing a story to cover his tracks has been found guilty of misconduct.

Former traffic officer Pc David Driver, 36, wrote false witness statements in his notebook after he found out 26-year-old Steven Hathaway had died. He told bosses he had spoken to Mr Hathaway and his friend who were outside a house in the picturesque Cotswold village of Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucestershire.

But in fact Mr Hathaway had been comatose from drink and drugs and his friend barely able to stand when Driver left them in the middle of a freezing night on Valentine's Day last year. Less than an hour later Mr Hathaway died at the scene.

On Tuesday Driver admitted misconduct in a public office on the first day of his trial at Worcester Crown Court. The court heard Mr Hathaway might have survived if Driver had called an ambulance.

David Jackson, prosecuting, said an inquest had yet to be held but added: 'There is evidence that the cold had been a contributory factor, which Driver should have been aware of and acted upon. 'That doesn't make him legally responsible for the death, but it is a relevant factor.'

Driver was an officer for Gloucestershire Police when he spotted Mr Hathaway and another man lying on a pavement outside a house in Moore Road, Bourton-on-the-Water at 1.30am on Valentine's Day last year. He spoke to Mr Hathaway's friend who was also drunk before leaving them.

Ten minutes later a passing motorist saw the men and dialled 999 and two different police officers attended the scene. They called an ambulance but paramedics could not detect a pulse for Mr Hathaway and he was pronounced dead at 2.35am.

Judge Alistair McGreath said Driver 'panicked' after learning of Mr Hathaway's death and concocted a false report to cover his back. He said: 'He [Driver] said they were both capable and, critically, that neither of them were unconscious and incapably lying on the ground.'

Following Mr Hathaway's death, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (PICC) launched an investigation and Driver resigned from Gloucestershire Police. In February he pleaded guilty to neglecting his duty as a police officer and perverting the course of justice.

On Tuesday Judge McGreath adjourned the case and bailed Driver before sentencing on November 12. He told him: 'It is important that you understand I will pass on you the sentence that is appropriate on the information that I have. 'Being out on bail says nothing at all about what that sentence will be.'


Yet another false rape claim in Britain

Any conviction for rape in Britain would have to be regarded as unsafe unless there were independant witnesses actually present at the time

A horsewoman who claimed her boyfriend fed her a Pringles sandwich laced with diazepam to make her drowsy before raping her is facing jail. Kate Woodhead’s fiction extended to salacious details about him being ‘turned on’ as he pulled off her jodhpurs, a court heard. But after a three-week trial, a jury decided that her story was a pack of lies.

She made it up to get back at Porsche-driving Paul Joseph because she feared he was having an affair and thought he was about to walk out on her, Guildford Crown Court heard. During the case she was granted anonymity under an order made by the judge. But this was lifted when she was convicted.

The court heard that Mr Joseph, an IT consultant, divorced his wife in 2007 to be with Woodhead, who ran a business providing horses and carriages for weddings. They moved into a rented lodge with a stable block in Wisley, Surrey.

In the early hours of April 10 last year Woodhead went with a friend to a police station to accuse Mr Joseph of rape. She told officers she would pursue her complaint only if they promised not to approach her boyfriend until after she had sorted out her affairs, including the house.

She went home in a ‘friendly and jovial mood’, the jury was told, and the couple continued to share the house and enjoy sex while he remained in ignorance of what was happening behind his back.

The friend who accompanied her to the police station told the court Woodhead said she intended to make Mr Joseph pay for the ‘other woman’ and he ‘wouldn’t know what had hit him’.

Prosecutor Hugh Forgan said: ‘The allegation of rape is entirely fictitious. The pair had a topsy-turvy relationship and at the time of the allegation they were sleeping in ­separate beds. ‘However they still had a sex life, in fact she even had sex with him the day after going to the police crying rape.’

Their relationship ended after a furious row when Mr Joseph found a large number of ­condoms in a drawer and became convinced Woodhead was selling herself for sex. Woodhead kicked him out, changed the locks and obtained a court order banning him from the premises.

She packed his belongings, including a top-of-the-range Bang and Olufsen stereo, expensive art prints, and the desk from his study, into a horsebox. They were driven away and were never seen again.

In another ‘malicious’ act, she lied to the DVLA, transferring ownership of his ­Porsche ­Carrera and BMW motorbike to her name, intending to sell them. She was arrested after her friend went back to the police to tell them she thought the rape scenario was made up. The rape allegation against Mr Joseph was dropped and no action taken against him.

Cross-examining Mr Joseph, Andrew Turton, defending Woodhead, suggested that he made her a sandwich of Pringles and diazepam, then when she became drowsy he carried her to bed, and was ‘turned on’ by removing her jodhpurs before having sex with her without her consent.

Mr Joseph said: ‘A Pringle sandwich laced with diazepam must have been the driest ever. You’d think you could taste it. I wouldn’t eat it.’

The jury found Woodhead guilty of perverting the course of justice, fraud and two counts of theft. She had denied all the charges. Remanding her on bail until sentencing next month, Judge Neil Stewart said a custodial sentence was ‘almost inevitable’.


Rabbi Schlomo Lewis: "Ehr Kumt"

A great sermon by an American rabbi below. "Ehr Kumt" is Yiddish ("Er kommt" in High German) -- meaning "He is coming", referring first to Hitler and now to his modern-day ilk

I thought long and I thought hard on whether to deliver the sermon I am about to share. We all wish to bounce happily out of shul on the High Holidays, filled with warm fuzzies, ready to gobble up our brisket, our honey cakes and our kugel. We want to be shaken and stirred - but not too much. We want to be guilt-schlepped - but not too much. We want to be provoked but not too much. We want to be transformed but not too much.

I get it, but as a rabbi I have a compelling obligation, a responsibility to articulate what is in my heart and what I passionately believe must be said and must be heard. And so, I am guided not by what is easy to say but by what is painful to express. I am guided not by the frivolous but by the serious. I am guided not by delicacy but by urgency.

We are at war. We are at war with an enemy as savage, as voracious, as heartless as the Nazis but one wouldn't know it from our behavior. During WWII we didn't refer to storm troopers as freedom fighters. We didn't call the Gestapo, militants. We didn't see the attacks on our Merchant Marine as acts by rogue sailors. We did not justify the Nazis rise to power as our fault. We did not grovel before the Nazis, thumping our hearts and confessing to abusing and mistreating and humiliating the German people.

We did not apologize for Dresden, nor for The Battle of the Bulge, nor for El Alamein, nor for D-Day.

Evil - ultimate, irreconcilable, evil threatened us and Roosevelt and Churchill had moral clarity and an exquisite understanding of what was at stake. It was not just the Sudetenland, not just Tubruk, not just Vienna, not just Casablanca. It was the entire planet. Read history and be shocked at how frighteningly close Hitler came to creating a Pax Germana on every continent.

Not all Germans were Nazis - most were decent, most were revolted by the Third Reich, most were good citizens hoisting a beer, earning a living and tucking in their children at night. But, too many looked away, too many cried out in lame defense - I didn't know." Too many were silent. Guilt absolutely falls upon those who committed the atrocities, but responsibility and guilt falls upon those who did nothing as well. Fault was not just with the goose steppers but with those who pulled the curtains shut, said and did nothing.

In WWII we won because we got it. We understood who the enemy was and we knew that the end had to be unconditional and absolute. We did not stumble around worrying about offending the Nazis. We did not measure every word so as not to upset our foe. We built planes and tanks and battleships and went to war to win... to rid the world of malevolence.

We are at war. yet too many stubbornly and foolishly don't put the pieces together and refuse to identify the evil doers. We are circumspect and disgracefully politically correct.

Let me mince no words in saying that from Fort Hood to Bali, from Times Square to London, from Madrid to Mumbai, from 9/11 to Gaza, the murderers, the barbarians are radical Islamists.

To camouflage their identity is sedition. To excuse their deeds is contemptible. To mask their intentions is unconscionable.

A few years ago I visited Lithuania on a Jewish genealogical tour. It was a stunning journey and a very personal, spiritual pilgrimage. When we visited Kovno we davened Maariv at the only remaining shul in the city. Before the war there were thirty-seven shuls for 38,000 Jews. Now only one, a shrinking, gray congregation. We made minyon for the handful of aged worshippers in the Choral Synagogue, a once majestic, jewel in Kovno.

After my return home I visited Cherry Hill for Shabbos. At the oneg an elderly family friend, Joe Magun, came over to me.

"Shalom," he said. "Your abba told me you just came back from Lithuania."

"Yes," I replied. "It was quite a powerful experience." "Did you visit the Choral Synagogue in Kovno? The one with the big arch in the courtyard?"

"Yes, I did. In fact, we helped them make minyon." His eyes opened wide in joy at our shared memory. For a moment he gazed into the distance and then, he returned. "Shalom, I grew up only a few feet away from the arch. The Choral Synagogue was where I davened as a child."

He paused for a moment and once again was lost in the past. His smile faded. Pain filled his wrinkled face. "I remember one Shabbos in 1938 when Vladimir Jabotinsky came to the shul" (Jabotinsky was Menachim Begin's mentor - he was a fiery orator, an unflinching Zionist radical, whose politics were to the far right.) Joe continued "When Jabotinsky came, he delivered the drash on Shabbos morning and I can still hear his words burning in my ears. He climbed up to the shtender, stared at us from the bima, glared at us with eyes full of fire and cried out. `EHR KUMT. YIDN FARLAWST AYER SHTETL - He's coming. Jews abandon your city.' "

We thought we were safe in Lithuania from the Nazis, from Hitler. We had lived there, thrived for a thousand years but Jabotinsky was right -- his warning prophetic. We got out but most did not."

We are not in Lithuania. It is not the 1930s. There is no Luftwaffe overhead. No U-boats off the coast of long Island. No Panzer divisions on our borders. But make no mistake; we are under attack - our values, our tolerance, our freedom, our virtue, our land.

Now before some folks roll their eyes and glance at their watches let me state emphatically, unmistakably - I have no pathology of hate, nor am I a manic Paul Revere, galloping through the countryside. I am not a pessimist, nor prone to panic attacks. I am a lover of humanity, all humanity. Whether they worship in a synagogue, a church, a mosque, a temple or don't worship at all. I have no bone of bigotry in my body, but what I do have is hatred for those who hate, intolerance for those who are intolerant, and a guiltless, unstoppable obsession to see evil eradicated.

Today the enemy is radical Islam but it must be said sadly and reluctantly that there are unwitting, co-conspirators who strengthen the hands of the evil doers. Let me state that the overwhelming number of Muslims are good Muslims, fine human beings who want nothing more than a Jeep Cherokee in their driveway, a flat screen TV on their wall and a good education for their children, but these good Muslims have an obligation to destiny, to decency that thus far for the most part they have avoided. The Kulturkampf is not only external but internal as well. The good Muslims must sponsor rallies in Times Square, in Trafalgar Square, in the UN Plaza, on the Champs Elysee, in Mecca condemning terrorism, denouncing unequivocally the slaughter of the innocent. Thus far, they have not. The good Muslims must place ads in the NY Times. They must buy time on network TV, on cable stations, in the Jerusalem Post, in Le Monde, in Al Watan, on Al Jazeena condemning terrorism, denouncing unequivocally the slaughter of the innocent - thus far, they have not. Their silence allows the vicious to tarnish Islam and define it.

Brutal acts of commission and yawning acts of omission both strengthen the hand of the devil. I recall a conversation with my father shortly before he died that helped me understand how perilous and how broken is our world; that we are living on the narrow seam of civilization and moral oblivion. Knowing he had little time left he shared the following - "Shal. I am ready to leave this earth."

"Sure I'd like to live a little longer, see a few more sunrises, but truthfully, I've had it. I'm done. Finished. I hope the Good Lord takes me soon because I am unable to live in this world knowing what it has become."

This startling admission of moral exhaustion from a man who witnessed and lived through the Depression, the Holocaust, WWII, Communist Triumphalism, McCarthyism, Strontium 90 and polio. - Yet his twilight observation was - "The worst is yet to come." And he wanted out.

I share my father's angst and fear that too many do not see the authentic, existential threat we face nor confront the source of our peril. We must wake up and smell the hookah.

"Lighten up, Lewis. Take a chill pill, some of you are quietly thinking. You're sounding like Glen Beck. It's not that bad. It's not that real."

But I am here to tell you - "It is." Ask the member of our shul whose sister was vaporized in the Twin Towers and identified finally by her charred teeth, if this is real or not. Ask the members of our shul who fled a bus in downtown Paris, fearing for their safety from a gang of Muslim thugs, if this is an exaggeration. Ask the member of our shul whose son tracks Arab terrorist infiltrators who target - pizza parlors, nursery schools, Pesach seders, city buses and play grounds, if this is dramatic, paranoid hyperbole.

Ask them, ask all of them - ask the American GI's we sit next to on planes who are here for a brief respite while we fly off on our Delta vacation package. Ask them if it's bad. Ask them if it's real.

Did anyone imagine in the 1920's what Europe would look like in the 1940's.

Did anyone presume to know in the coffee houses of Berlin or in the opera halls of Vienna that genocide would soon become the celebrated culture?

Did anyone think that a goofy-looking painter named Shickelgruber would go from the beer halls of Munich and jail, to the Reichstag as Feuhrer in less than a decade? Did Jews pack their bags and leave Warsaw, Vilna, Athens, Paris, Bialystok, Minsk, knowing that soon their new address would be Treblinka, Sobibor, Dachau and Auschwitz?

The sages teach - "Aizehu chacham - haroeh et hanolad - Who is a wise person - he who sees into the future." We dare not wallow in complacency, in a misguided tolerance and na‹ve sense of security.

We must be diligent students of history and not sit in ash cloth at the waters of Babylon weeping. We cannot be hypnotized by eloquent-sounding rhetoric that soothes our heart but endangers our soul. We cannot be lulled into inaction for fear of offending the offenders.

Radical Islam is the scourge and this must be cried out from every mountain top. From sea to shining sea, we must stand tall, prideful of our stunning decency and moral resilience.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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