Wednesday, August 15, 2012

MI: Boy Whose Hot Dog Cart Was Shut Down by the City of Holland Now Homeless

Mayor says city took action after restaurants asked for "protection" from 13-year-old entrepreneur with disabled parents

Several weeks after a city zoning officer shut down his hot dog business, 13-year-old Nathan Duszynski and his parents are homeless.

The family was hoping Nathan’s hot dog cart could help them through a difficult time.  Nathan’s mother, Lynette Johnson, suffers from epilepsy and his stepfather, Doug Johnson, has multiple sclerosis. Their illnesses have restricted them from finding permanent, full-time work.

The family receives about $1,300 a month in disability payments, Medicaid and food assistance. The three are having a hard time staying together. MLive confirms what the Mackinac Center learned Thursday — Nathan and his mother are staying at the Holland Rescue Mission.

"Nate and I are now in a shelter," Lynette Johnson said. "Doug can't stay with us because he takes prescription narcotics to deal with his pain and the shelter does not allow him with those kinds of drugs."

She said the situation has been stressful on the family. Lynette is afraid to be away from her husband in case she has a seizure.

Nathan wanted to help out his family by selling hot dogs from a cart he bought with money he saved. He worked out an arrangement with the owner of a local sporting goods store to sell hot dogs in the parking lot. The owner of the store thought it would be a great way to attract customers and even offered Nathan a sales commission if he got people to rent his motorized bicycles.

The city of Holland, however, shut down the business 10 minutes after it opened, informing Nathan it was in the city’s commercial district where food carts not connected to downtown brick-and-motor restaurants are prohibited. The Mackinac Center’s coverage of the issue has drawn national attention.

Last week, Nathan and his family made an appeal to the Holland City Council. Mayor Kurt Dykstra defended the city’s ordinance, saying it was to protect downtown restaurant owners, who asked that the "success of the downtown district not be infringed upon by those who don't share in the costs of maintaining the attractiveness of that space."


Gay rights come to Toy Town as Chick-fil-A battle continues

Publishers of children's series The Berenstain Bears are facing pressure to make a stand against homophobia in the latest episode of a controversy over the Chick-fil-A fast food chain, and its president's stance on gay marriage.

In the 50 years since they made their literary debut, The Berenstain Bears have taught generations of children valuable lessons about acceptance and the rejection of bigotry.

Now, publishers of the beloved children's series are facing pressure to make a stand against homophobia in the latest episode of a controversy over the Chick-fil-A fast food chain and its president's stance on gay marriage.

Gay rights groups want the bears to pull out of a marketing partnership with Chick-fil-A, which plans to hand out some of their titles as part of a forthcoming children's meal promotion.

Campaigners say that Chick-fil-A's conservative Christian president, Dan Cathy, has exhibited exactly the kind of social intolerance that Papa, Mama, Brother, Sister and Honey Bear educate young readers to avoid, with his public declaration that his 1,000-restauarant chain supported "the biblical definition of the family unit" and that same-sex marriage was "inviting God's judgment on our nation.'

"I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about," he stated in a radio interview.

His stance – and the company's history of donating millions of dollars to aggressively anti-gay Christian groups such as Exodus International – has brought both a backlash from social advocacy groups, politicians and customers on the Left, and a wave of support from conservatives.

The Jim Henson Company – creator of the Muppets, who have championed diversity and inclusiveness for half a century – severed a promotional deal with Chick-fil-A in protest and donated the profits it had raised so far to a gay rights charity. Mayors in Boston, Chicago and New York pledged to keep Chick-fil-A out of their cities.

Now campaigners want a similar rebuttal from The Berenstain Bears. Three social change groups – CREDO Action, and Faithful America have handed in petitions bearing 80,000 signatures to the books' publishing house, HarperCollins, and demanded that it also cut ties with Chick-fil-A.

They included with their petitions a copy of The Berenstain Bears New Neighbors, one of the 300-plus titles in the series, in which Papa Bear's nose is put out of joint by the arrival across the street of a family of pandas, with whom he takes issue because of their different colouring and bamboo patch.

After his cubs make friends with the panda children regardless, he learns the error of his ways and the families celebrate the virtues of inclusivity and non-discrimination.

"By partnering with Chick-fil-A, a company that actively bankrolls hatred and discrimination against the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community, HarperCollins is undermining the lessons of the beloved Bear family," said Taren Steinbrickner-Kauffman, founder of

"The Berenstains should follow the Muppets' lead and cut ties with Chick-fil-A. HarperCollins has a chance here to make a stand for equality and strike a blow against bigotry."

The Berenstain Bears books have sold more than 260 million copies in 23 languages since their launch in 1962. Their authors, husband and wife team Stan and Jan Berenstain, have since passed away. Their family still owns the copyright but, in a statement on their website, said that they were powerless to halt the Chick-fil-A promotion.

"This programme was in development for over a year. We were unaware of any controversy involving Chick-fil-A until July 25. The Berenstain family does not at this time have control over whether this programme proceeds or not. We hope those concerned about this issue will direct their comments toward HarperCollins and Chick-fil-A," the statement reads.

HarperCollins issued a statement saying that it is "committed to free speech."

"We have a long history of diversity and inclusiveness and work tirelessly to protect the freedom of expression. It is not our practice to cancel a contract with an author, or any other party, for exercising their first amendment rights."


Hey, young people: stop your sobbing

The British left’s championing of the underdog has morphed into promoting that most unpleasant of traits: self-pity

Last week, a High Court judge, Mr Justice Foskett, dismissed a claim by a 23-year-old unemployed geology graduate from Birmingham, Cait Reilly, that working at Poundland for nothing - or rather for benefits [work for the dole]– was a breach of her human rights. Instead the judge sensibly declared that it was mad to compare being made to work in the shop to ‘slavery or forced labour’.

It’s hard to believe that such indulgences reached the High Court in the first place. How could anyone seriously compare a workfare scheme to enforced, back-breaking toil on a cotton plantation? Even more bizarre is that such embarrassing self-pity is often considered to be a raised middle finger to The Man or, at the very least, Tory chancellor George Osborne. Far from Reilly’s actions flowing from leftist radicalism, it’s the outcome of a statist culture that encourages blubbering self-pity in the young.

As Brendan O’Neill recently argued, such a narrative of self-pity has been provided by an education system that obsessively protects young people’s self-esteem. It’s fair to say that the children of the New Labour era have been more flattered, mollycoddled and shielded from adult responsibilities than any other generation. They have grown up to believe that having illegible handwriting, the attention span of a gnat or ending up with disappointing exam grades is never their fault. Almost anything can be excused away by medical or therapeutic sick notes; these young people are encouraged to blame parents, peers and teachers for any difficulties. The cultivation of vulnerability among the young, to see any pressure they may face as potentially ‘damaging’, has amplified that most unappealing aspect of being a teenager: self-pity.

Whereas in the past adults would encourage teenagers to toughen up, they are now socialised into a culture that endorses this woe-is-me outlook. Protecting a young person’s self-esteem is considered a top priority these days. This is why the type of work young people may be required to do, such as working in shops alongside plebs, is considered far more troubling than youth unemployment. For liberal leftists, it would be far better to provide young people with the material resources through which they can survive free from any nasty pressures from the outside world. In fact, much of the discussion on ‘vulnerable young people’ – always vulnerable, never ambitious - is about devising ways that their fragile self-esteem can be protected from parents, peers, teachers, relationships, internet trolls, ‘slave based’ work experience or ‘exploitative’ paid employment. The emphasis is always on protection, not on encouraging freedom or independence.

Traditionally, the youthful drive to escape, from claustrophobic family life and mind-numbing small towns, meant that young people would be prepared to rough it, to take risks and to make opportunities for themselves. It would also mean that such youngsters were more likely to be open to the politics of change and transformation. Now they are likelier to demand state protection from life itself. As increasing numbers of twentysomethings and thirtysomethings live at home with their folks, that burning desire to escape and make a mark on the outside world is mostly absent. Instead, self-respecting ambition, drive and chutzpah have been replaced by the politicisation of pity. Alongside weeping buckets for yourself, leftist radicalism now consists of seeing others as objects of pity in need of government munificence or state protection from individual prejudices or nasty comments on Twitter.

Obsessive pity for the underdog has long been an ignoble feature of British radicalism and in recent years that retrograde tendency has intensified. In the late Eighties, the less that welfare socialism could relate to working-class aspirations, the more that radicalism became an arena for the well-off to showboat their concern for the poor. Left-wing politics simply spoke less and less to working people with aspirations. And increasingly, such free, aspiring individuals were viewed with suspicion; being free, it seems, simply means being free to harm others, yourself and your children. The state became an arbiter to limit the mental ‘damage’ caused by unchecked individuals. Such psychologising of everyday life means that some people have internalised a sense of helplessness. In turn, these people view others, not as active agents capable of making their own lives, but as other diminished souls in need of constant support. The politics of pity has therefore become a powerful way to legitimise the therapeutic state. To question it now runs the risk of being labelled callous and uncaring.

The original vision of social democracy at least recognised that individuals were capable of making their way in the world. The goal of social democracy was to alleviate objective barriers and enable people to be judged on their talents and abilities. Now social democrats view individuals as generally incapable without financial support and extensive state monitoring. This isn’t the same as a safety-net in times of hardship, but rather an instinctive awareness that, in the absence of civic society or cohering political beliefs, the state must hold individuals together.

Pitying concern for the poor, young people on work schemes or victims of harassment sounds very benign. In reality it’s an authoritarian impulse to ensure that individuals remain accounted for and that a political relationship between citizens and the state exists. For all their Big Society rhetoric of freeing up the individual, even the Conservative Party cannot let go of initiatives designed to tighten state control over individual autonomy. In the absence of beliefs and ideas, what else is there to bind people together?

And this is ultimately what pity politics justifies: high levels of state intrusion and snooping throughout society. Pity for ‘vulnerable youth’ involved with the riots only paves the way for yet more state meddling and autonomy-sapping ‘support’. Grandstanding pity for supposedly vulnerable minorities in society often leads to restrictions on free speech, free assembly and free thought. The effect is also the encouragement of self-pity and the demand for protection from psychological harm and dented self-esteem. It leads to grievance-struck individuals who demand that the state recognises their particular identity, censor opinions that hurt their feelings or, in the case of Reilly, protects them from doing work experience. To be radical these days means to demonstrate screeching self-pity (‘you don’t understand me, how dare you say that’) or patronising pity for those ‘less fortunate than ourselves’.

All of this isn’t the same as expressing social solidarity or having compassion towards somebody else’s suffering. Solidarity and compassion seek active agency in alleviating problems, a cornerstone of a humanistic outlook, whereas pity frees an individual of guilt and flatters their ego. The writer Faisal Devji pointed out that pity is one of the worst emotions because the fact that it is vicarious and detached means that anything can be justified in its name. Pity is not grounded in real situations so it can become shrill and hyperbolic. This is why pity lends itself to narcissism; it’s an emotion designed to encourage individuals to help themselves rather than others. Consequently, it inflames an infantile, often nihilistic and destructive, reaction to a person’s surroundings. This is why the politics of pity is the script that radical Islamists, lumpenised rioters and the Occupy protesters have all rehearsed from.

The new politics of pity is the unfortunate but logical outcome of both identity politics and therapy culture. It is where self esteem and recognition for ‘hurts’ are paramount and personal responsibility is an offensive imposition. On either side of the pity coin, the conclusion is always the same: a complete rejection of autonomy and demands for the state to play an enlarged role in diminishing our lives. It’s surely time young people stopped being so enslaved to the therapeutic state.


Atheists oppose church discount

UPDATE: The owners of Willow Springs Water Park wrote today in an e-mail to TheBlaze that they will not be backing down from their church group discount and that they plan to continue honoring it. Stay tuned for more updates on this story.

Over the years, atheists activists have targeted nativities, crosses on public property, prayer and other related symbols and expressions of faith. Now, secularist activists are setting their sights on the discounts that private businesses offer to religious people. TheBlaze already told you about a restaurant in Columbia, Pennsylvania, that is facing atheistic wrath over a church bulletin discount. Now, an amusement park in Little Rock, Arkansas, is facing similar threats — and has already buckled under the pressure.

At issue is a discount that the Willow Springs Water Park has been offering to church groups. Following a non-religious organization’s complaint over being declined the same rate that religious groups enjoy, park owner David Ratliff, purportedly feeling pressure, discontinued the faith-based discount. This decision to bend to the demands of a secular organization wasn’t enough, though. Atheists fear that Willow Springs will, once again, begin offering faith-based discounts next season.

So, in a threatening letter sent by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), a secular non-profit, the business was discouraged from offering the deal to faith groups next season. In its own words, the FFRF describes how the drama unfolded between the business and the non-faith-related charity — and the fears it has that Willow Springs will begin offering the discount again:
Leifel Jackson, executive director of the charitable Reaching Our Children and Neighborhoods (ROCAN), asked the water park if the discount would extend to his non-profit. Jackson was told that ROCAN could not receive the discount because it is not a church group.

ROCAN Director Jeff Poleet — a new FFRF Lifetime Member — explained to Ratliff that ROCAN is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, just like a church and should not be denied the promotion.

Arkansas Matters reported that without the discount, Jackson said he couldn‘t afford the admission and ROCAN’s planned trip was canceled, crushing some kids’ hopes.

As a result of his conversation with Poleet, Ratliff chose to discontinue all discounts for the remainder of this season.

In a charge led by FFRF staff attorney Stephanie Schmitt, the group is claiming that the discount is illegal both at the state and the federal level (read the complaint letter that was sent to the business on August 2). The allegation at the basis of this claim? That religious groups are being charged less than secular groups, a form of discrimination in the minds of the FFRF’s leaders that is simply not to be tolerated.

The letter went on to highlight the organization’s views about the purportedly illegal practice in an effort to dissuade Ratliff from granting religious groups the discount come next season.

“We understand that you are discontinuing these discounts altogether at least for the duration of the year,” the letter reads. “We are concerned that the discriminatory discounts will be continued at a later time or will be covertly offered.”

Schmitt went on to ask the amusement park to respond with a letter outlining the steps the business is taking “to ensure this violation of federal and state law does not occur again.”

While the FFRF complains that the deal was discriminatory against secularists, the Willow Springs Water Park, like many other businesses, offers military discounts, among others. Are these deals equally “illegal” — or does the litmus test only apply to faith groups? That’s certainly a question worth pondering.



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 WATCHAUSTRALIAN POLITICSDISSECTING 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.  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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