Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Soft justice as British criminal's letter reveals 'It's relaxing in here, we play snooker and do rock-climbing – it's quite good'

A father jailed after police found a stash of illegal guns and weapons worth £20,000 at his home has written to his daughter telling her prison is 'relaxing'.

Robert Shaw, 41, penned the note to his nine-year-old daughter from his cell telling her how he had been rock-climbing and playing snooker. Despite his age he is serving two years and eight months at Portland Young Offenders Institute on the island of Portland in Dorset.

According to the Sun, in the letter, the former flooring shop owner wrote: 'There is a snooker table, pool table, table tennis, a gym, rock-climbing, football and tennis. 'I have a TV and find it very relaxing. Apart from missing everyone, it's quite good.'

However, his 'quite good' life behind bars has sparked outrage from his former wife Sally Shaw, 40, from Exeter, who branded it a 'disgrace'. She told the newspaper: 'I thought prison was meant to be a punishment, not a holiday camp. It doesn't feel like he's being punished — it feels like he is laughing at me.'

Ms Shaw also accused him of 'gloating' that his life was better than hers and accused him of not helping her with the children financially. In addition, she feared the letter gives their two children the impression that prison is fun.

Shaw, from Topsham in Devon, is serving time after admitting ten charges of possessing a firearm without a certificate and three fraud offences. He was sentenced in July at Exeter Crown Court where he was described as an 'obsessive gun collector'.

Shaw's stash of weapons included revolvers, a German gun from the Second World War and a sniper rifle that should only be used on military sites.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman told MailOnline: 'Hard work for offenders is at the heart of our plans to make punishments more rigorous. 'Prisons should be places of hard work and industry. 'Criminals must be reformed so that when they finish their sentences they do not simply return to crime, creating more misery for victims.' [Empty talk]


Vet Fights Zoning Board's Order to Destroy Backyard Tree House

In my day, kids built their own treehouses and it was only the parents who said anything about it -- with "be careful" being the usual instruction

A zoning board in Fairfax County, Va., is standing firm in its decision to order a war veteran to destroy a tree house he built for his two young sons. County officials determined Mark Grapin, an Army aviation specialist, violated zoning regulations when he built a tree house in his backyard.

“The boys wanted a tree house,” Grapin told Fox News Radio, explaining it was a promise he made to his 8-year-old and 10-year-old sons before he left for Iraq. “It was a commitment I made to the boys and, frankly, we should do our best to keep our commitments to our children."

So when Grapin returned home, he followed through on that promise and headed off to the local home improvement store. He said he contacted Fairfax County and was given assurances that he didn’t need any special permits to build the $1,400 tree house.

But it turns out – that wasn’t exactly accurate. “I was up on the roof of the thing when I found out the county board of zoning enforcement had left a notice on the front door,” he said.

It turns out Grapin didn’t need a permit – he needed a zoning variance. That’s because his house is on a corner lot. And in the eyes of Fairfax County – Grapin has two front yards.

"Because of the location on his lot, he does have to follow the zoning code,” said Merni Fitzgerald, a spokeswoman for the county told the Washington Post. “It’s no different from a shed or a garage or any structure.”

Grapin acknowledges that he made a mistake. “We just didn’t connect the dots to all the offices that needed to be contacted to build a tree house,” he said.

But he still made a promise to his sons – so Grapin decided to appeal the ruling. He said the board of zoning appeals denied his request for a variance – but offered him one last chance to plead his case, on Nov. 30. In the meantime, Grapin has had to pay nearly $1,800 in permits and fees to build the $1,400 tree house.

“I paid $885 for a special permit to build the tree house,” he said. “There were additional fees of $975 to have the plans for the property redrawn to reflect the tree house and then I had to pay mail fees to notify the neighbors of hearings so they could voice any concerns they might have about the tree house.”

All that trouble – for a child’s tree house.

“It might have been cheaper to take the boys to Disneyland,” he told Fox News Radio.

Grapin said he’s pretty bothered by the “queen-sized pantyhose, one-size-fits-all code.”

At his final opportunity to plead his case, Grapin will have to satisfy nine requirements to save his sons’ tree house. He must prove that the tree house “will be in harmony with the intended spirit and purposes of this Ordinance and will not be contrary to the public interest.”

Grapin said he’s come to terms with the fact that the tree house may have to come down because of the costs of fighting the county. “At some point, I’m going to have to say, ‘I’m sorry, boys. We fought the good fight.’”


Supreme Court Stands Up For Freedom

Rarely has the Supreme Court struck a blow for individual freedom as it did in its recent decision in Brown vs. Entertainment Merchants Association. The ruling had dissenters on the left (Justice Breyer) and on the right (Justice Thomas), but nobody on the political center-right should be doing anything but cheering the outcome of this case, which centered on a 2005 California law restricting the sale of certain violent video games to children.

The Court upheld lower court decisions and revoked the law, ruling that video games were protected speech under the First Amendment. No one in their right mind would endorse the sale of these games to minors; in fact, many people believe that no one in their right mind (of any age) should even play these games. But the issue was whether the government has the right to restrict their sale, or whether the responsibility for such restrictions belongs in the hands of parents. What the high court really concluded is that government is not in the parenting business, and that Moms and Dads should get their fat carcasses off the couch, monitor what their kids are doing, and learn how to say NO.

In a world where regulations are taking over almost every imaginable aspect of our lives, it’s rare that anyone from the government instructs you to figure things out for yourself. One particularly pernicious area of government intervention is within the relationship between children and their parents. Too often, kids are told that they don’t have to listen to their parents, because there is a government agency chock-full of bureaucrats ready to help.

The Supreme Court clearly stated that no matter how heinous the game, it is the parents – not the government – who are responsible for supervising their children and ensuring that they don’t entertain themselves with this garbage. What a refreshing ruling. It’s a cold slap in the face of every growing bureaucracy that wants to take over our lives.

Unfortunately, this decision didn’t stop the State of California from attempting to expand their domain in another invasive and equally fruitless manner. The legislature passed – and Governor Jerry Brown signed – an anti cyber-bullying bill, which continues a trend in which government injects itself into issues better handled on a local, community basis. The fact that this bill became law demonstrates how leftists place no limit on how they will intercede into our lives – even if they have absolutely no ability to enforce the bill they passed.

The bill allows schools to suspend students for “bullying” classmates on social networking sites. This raises a huge number of questions. Are schools now supposed to hire personnel to monitor these websites? What, exactly, constitutes bullying? Does one girl professing that another girl dresses geeky constitute bullying? Does one boy saying that another plays football like a girl constitute bullying? Isn’t this all really another means of suppressing the First Amendment?

This is what happens when government over-intrudes into our lives and personal decisions. Unbelievably, the California State PTA went along with this. Maybe they should have figured out that they endorsed abandoning parental rights and responsibilities to a bunch of faceless bureaucrats. Or perhaps they should spend a little more time parenting instead of attending PTA meetings, after which they no doubt return home and wonder why they pay so much money in state taxes.

Hopefully, some intelligent organization will sue the State of California and overturn this ridiculous piece of legislation. We need thoughtful and committed warriors to fight the continuing expansion of government. It’s not just that government spends 37% of every dollar in our economy (as opposed to 27% just fifty years ago). It’s the entire attitude that government is capable of making every decision for us – a growing trend whose ultimate effect is the breakdown of families and communities.

A perfect example of this nanny-state attitude emerged in the fight over light bulbs. As you know, the standard incandescent bulb is being phased out by government fiat. In response to some objections to this policy, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu – who is convinced that he knows better than the rest of us – made this incredible statement: “We are taking away a choice that continues to let people waste their own money,” which just confirms his opinion that if both bulbs are on the shelf, we are too stupid to select the correct one ourselves. Sometimes it feels like we’re all drowning in the limitless arrogance of these petty little dictators.

Soon, people like Steven Chu will be making all of our decisions unless we stand up and say “No more! We’re doing quite fine without you, so take a hike.” That’s exactly what the Supreme Court said: Parents, you’re in charge now, so do your job.



"When the Crosses Are Gone: Restoring Sanity to a World Gone Mad"

In his most recent work, “When the Crosses are Gone: Restoring Sanity to a World Gone Mad,” Dr. Michael Youssef argues that the United States is entering into a period of spiritual and moral decline. In his meticulously researched book, he reveals how organizations – such as the Freedom from Religious Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union – are tirelessly working to eradicate Christian crosses from American society. The cross, which has stood for generations as a symbol of religious freedom in the West, is now clearly and unequivocally under attack.

One major problem, he argues, is that Americans continue to tolerate a culture that is becoming increasingly more hostile towards Christianity. The banning of crosses from public schools, county seals, and national memorials are only some of the ways secularists are threatening Christian values today.

The First Amendment, as Youseff reminds us, states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Yet over the past few decades, a growing number of organizations opposed to organized religion have purposefully and willfully misinterpreted the language of the Constitution to fit their own secular agenda.

Will Durant once said, “A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.” In his insightful study, Youseff argues that when the crosses are gone, the collapse of the United States will soon follow. Without faith and morality, he contends, the nation cannot survive. This new work – which discusses some of the most important religious issues of our time – is a must-read for any thoughtful citizen eager to preserve and defend Christian principles in the 21st century.



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 blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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