I took my kids to one of those indoor play places last week and they had a blast. My oldest, who is almost four, took off as soon as we got inside; he was climbing and jumping and running all over everything. He immediately made some new friends and they chased one another up ramps and down slides for an hour. My daughter, who’s 18 months old, had a more difficult time with the big-kid equipment but played on some of the smaller stuff with my wife or just generally wandered around the place.
There were also signs posted that said parents were encouraged to play on the equipment with their kids. So, after watching my son play with his new friends and encouraging them to climb higher or run around faster, I helped my daughter climb up onto the big-kid equipment, helped her go down the big slides, and sat with her in a “tree house” at the very top while she waved to my wife down at the bottom.
When my son saw that I could play on the equipment, he wanted me to play with him too. So, my daughter and I chased him across some bridges and up some ramps, and raced him down the various slides. His new friends came along too.
All of this seemed pretty normal to me. I’m usually running around with my kids and a bunch of other people’s kids usually join in because it looks to them like my kids and I are having fun.
But here’s the part that was weird:
After 20 minutes, or however long, I took a break, climbed down, and went to get a drink of water. As I passed the snack area where most of the parents were sitting, many on their cell phones and one on a laptop, a mother said to me, “Thanks for playing with my son too!”
"You’re welcome" or "Of course!" or something like that is what I said to her. But I also wondered why these other people weren’t playing with their kids. There were two or three others jumping and running around up there; it wasn’t just me. But the vast majority were typing, texting, and talking rather than playing.
I can’t figure out why so many people react to their children like they’re some sort of miserable job they’re being forced to do in the hours when they’re stuck with them. I like my kids; I think they’re nice people; and I like playing with them. And, when they’re playing nicely with me and my kids, I like your kids too.
There are a lot of ways to respond to the racist, anti-Semitic wingnut who killed three people in Kansas City a few days ago. This blog post, by Rabbi Royi Shaffin, isn’t one of them.
Shaffin’s argument is that we need more guns, not fewer, and that, specifically, Jews need to be armed to the teeth in order to combat anyone who might want to harm us.
To bolster his argument, he repeats several of the historically inaccurate examples that the gun lobby typically trots out. The first is that the American founders wanted an armed populace that could resist the government:
The right to bear arms as described in the second amendment to the Constitution was instituted to prevent a government and it’s army from having complete control. When “we the people” have arms, the police and the military are not as intimidating. Should there arise a government that attempts to institute a militaristic dictatorial regime, it will have the difficult task of suppressing an armed populace.
The second example is that of the Jews during the Second World War, who apparently wouldn’t have been so easily murdered by the Nazis if they’d just had more guns:
When one reads about the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in the chronicles of first-hand historian Emanuel Ringelblum, one is struck by the fact that the Jews were severely lacking in arms and were reduced to fighting the Nazis with molotov cocktails. Imagine if they had actually been well-armed. Furthermore, imagine the Nazis trying to get a bunch of Jews with guns onto cattle trains headed for Auschwitz. It wouldn’t have happened.
Suggesting that the Holocaust wouldn’t have happened if the Jews had attempted to fight off the Waffen-SS with handguns is patently ridiculous and, I think, insulting to the victims of the Holocaust. The implicit argument is that, by not arming themselves and fighting, the Jews went to their deaths placidly or, at the very least, that they could have done more to resist what we know was actually a war machine that was bent on their utter annihilation.
Obviously, Shaffin is not wrong about the existence of anti-Semitism or the existence of people who specifically want to harm Jews. But this notion that Jews should arm ourselves to the teeth does little more than provide us with the illusion of safety rather than actually making us safer. The Kansas City shootings make this clear, as the people who were shot weren’t even Jewish; they just had the terrible misfortune to be at the Jewish Community Center when a disturbed man came looking for people to kill. The shooter had no reason to believe that the people he wanted to attack would be unarmed; in America, lots of people carry weapons and, in Missouri, plenty of people have concealed carry permits. This didn’t prevent the shooter from driving to the JCC and shooting people. Some people will argue that if everyone was carrying a gun, the shooter would have been stopped from killing three people. Perhaps. But this argument relies on the idea that pretty much everyone should be armed at all times … because you just never know when someone will try to shoot at Jews and end up aiming a gun at you, a non-Jew, instead.
The truth of the matter is that, no matter how much Rabbi Shaffin and I want to combat anti-Semitism, we can’t do it by shooting at it.
Yesterday, the internet was abuzz with the news that leaflets were posted at a synagogue in Donetsk and/or handed to several Jewish residents. The leaflets apparently told Jews they needed to register with authorities and pay a fee or risk expulsion.
This pushback, intended to provide people with more information about the situation, instead led people who don’t know much about the situation simply to argue that the leaflets were “fake.”
But here’s the thing: they aren’t fake. They are actually existing leaflets that were handed to actually existing Jewish people in a part of the world where Jews have not fared at all well for quite some time.
I think an important thing to point out is that something like this doesn’t need official sanction from a government in order to be threatening to those who receive it. In other words, the leaflet might have been designed purely as a provocation or to get the West to respond in the way that it has … but, even so, the whole idea was to use the notion of terrorizing the Jews of this community to do so. That a particular political party or governing body might not be responsible doesn’t change that fact, or the fact that simply being Jewish in Ukraine has, for a long time, been a very difficult proposition.
Just in case you were wondering, in the wake of the recent shooting at a Jewish Community Center in Kansas City, how we’re doing with our racism and anti-Semitism here in the Heartland, the answer is a resounding “Not so great”:
According to those who know him, Frazier isn’t really all that bad. One person said “he spoke his opinion, which you can respect that at least.” Another spoke of him as you might an honest relative, saying “you may not like his opinion, but at least you knew it. You knew exactly where you stood with him.”
But one of his biggest defenders also happens to be Marionville Mayor Dan Clevenger, who described him as “always nice and friendly,” a man who “respected his elders, greatly, as long as they were the same color as him [chuckle].”
Still, though, they could have been friends without sharing opinions, right? Nope! “I kind of agree with him on some things, but I don’t like to express that too much.”
In case you’re wondering what some of those thing they agree on might be, they aren’t his favorite West Wing character or flavor of ice cream. According to KSPR, Clevenger once wrote a letter to the editor of a local newspaper warning people about Jews, who run the “medical industry [that] has succeed in destroying the United States work force” and the also the government. Clevenger even cited Miller in his letter, saying “I am a friend of Frazier Miller helping to spread his warnings.”
Maybe Clevenger feels differently today? That hate-filled letter is old by now and his opinions may have changed. Well, he told KSPR that “there’s some things going on in this country that’s destroying us. We’ve got a false economy. And it’s some of those corporations are run by Jews ‘cause the names are there.” That was yesterday.
It’s Tax Day, which is an annual holiday where 20 year old white kids complain about how much our goverment spends on “entitlement programs” or defense or public education … or whatever else Ron Paul says we shouldn’t be paying for.
Is there some stuff I don’t want to pay for? You bet. Do I get to decry all taxation because some of my money goes to things I don’t support? No, I don’t think so.
Could we find ways to make things function with less waste? Surely. Could we find ways for the super-rich to pay a little more rather than consistently helping them to pay less? I would think so.
All of these issues are serious ones; I don’t mean to make light of them. But they don’t suggest that we ought not to help people who don’t have enough to eat or that we ought to leave the elderly high and dry.
As it turns out, in the real world having an enormous society that functions at all is very expensive. Being a part of society means pitching in; it also means benefiting from being a part of society.
Would I be happier if we lived in a utopia where no one ever needed a helping hand from the rest of us, where private charity was sufficient to provide for all the needs of the least well off in our society, and/or where we could just melt down all of our weapons instead of buying more of them? I guess so. Most people would.
And yet, all the wishing and hoping and complaining about taxation won’t turn our current society into a tax-free libertopia. So here’s to another year of taxes. Go out there and enjoy driving on the roads, check out a book from the library, and be glad that millions of kids have access to public education. You paid for it.
Multi-part question: Will you tell us about a time in your life when you were at a crossroad(s), what big decision you made and how you made the decision?
My initial thought was that there just aren’t a lot of big decisions in my life where the outcome felt uncertain to me so I wouldn’t have much to say in response to this question. But, in thinking a bit more deeply about it, I suppose I’d say this is itself noteworthy enough for a response.
When I think of big decisions, I could point to choosing to attend one college or one graduate program over another; or to move from my first job at James Madison University to my current job at Nebraska; or to get married; or to have kids. All of these might be considered crossroads in my life.
But the choices I made in each of those cases felt like the obvious thing to do, both at the time and certainly upon later reflection. I never seriously considered going to grad school anywhere but at Duke once I’d been admitted and I visited. I never thought, after meeting my wife, that I wouldn’t end up marrying her. And so on.
I like to think that this is due to thinking things through in advance. In my writing on heroism, I often note that thinking ahead, planning ahead, is the best preparation for action. If you haven’t thought seriously about the kind of life you want to have lived, about the sorts of actions and choices that define who are you, you won’t be prepared to take action when it’s demanded of you, to make a difficult or dangerous choice when you come to a potential crossroads. I like to think that my crossroads moments haven’t felt so much like big decisions filled with uncertainty because I thought about what I wanted or what I hoped for well ahead of time and, when those moments approached, I had a very good sense of what I wanted to do.
One day after questioning President Barack Obama’s “Christian convictions” on Fox News, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee has delivered another quote that this time appears to riling up both the left and the right. During his speech at Saturday’s New Hampshire Freedom Summit, Huckabee reportedly said, “I’m beginning to think theres more freedom in North Korea sometimes than there is in the United States.”
Let’s get this guy together with Dennis Rodman; they’d make a dynamite team for the GOP in 2016. They don’t know a whole lot about the rampant human rights abuses taking place in North Korea, but that doesn’t stop them from talking favorably about the place.
Maybe their campaign slogan could be something like “Together We Can Make America A Little More Like North Korea … But Maybe Without The Gulag And Starvation … Or Whatever.”
I’m preparing for a few days with family to celebrate Passover … so I’m looking for questions I can answer when I have a few minutes here and there over the next few days.
Traditionally, at the Passover seder, the youngest child asks four questions about why the night of the seder is different from all other nights. There’s a catchy little song with both the questions and answers; we’ll see if my son will sing them on Monday night or if he’ll decide he’s too shy.
But don’t you be shy: Send in your four questions (or just one, you know, if you don’t have four).
For the first time in about five years, and thanks to heartbleed-related coding issues, my blog has a new layout. Many of you who follow the blog on Tumblr likely never even saw the old layout, since you tend to read things on the Dashboard … but perhaps you’ll take a moment to let me know what you think of this new look.
We hired a nanny a little over a month ago, both because we wanted our daughter to have some one-on-one care before she becomes a middle child and because we don’t see a lot of benefit in putting an infant in full-time daycare.
The whole thing is working out really, really well. The woman we hired is fantastic; she takes our daughter to the park or to the library and, when she’s taking care of both kids (our son goes to daycare three mornings a week to hang out with his friends), she takes them to a museum or to the zoo. The kids took to her immediately and all the behavior issues that crop up whenever there’s a big change were quick to dissipate. They’re napping much better at home than they ever did at daycare and, as a result, we get to spend more time (and more quality time) with them after work.
Interestingly, the biggest challenge to having an entirely new person spending a great many hours in our house is trying to explain the notion of keeping kosher. The simplest part is showing her the different sets of dishes and silverware, and explaining which is used for which type of food. Then there’s a basic list of commonly-eaten kosher and non-kosher animals. From there, it gets trickier: “Also, don’t mix milk and meat. And, for some reason, chicken counts as meat but fish does not.” And then, “We have to read all the packaging of everything before we buy it because, for example, a lot of the cheese you might find in a grocery store is made with animal products and is, thus, not kosher.”
But all of that is ultimately just a memorization game. The hard part, as expected, is explaining why. Keeping kosher is something we do; it’s part of our tradition and part of who we are. But it’s not the easiest thing to explain. I mean, it’s easy enough to say, “There are a bunch of passages in the Torah that are all about dietary restrictions and Jews have stuck with those for an awfully long time.” But it takes a good deal more than that to explain why those dietary restrictions are ones that we — in this house in this time and place — still find meaningful and worth following, especially since we don’t read the Torah literally and we don’t take to heart all of the rules-and-regulations passages from right alongside the passages about keeping kosher. But it’s a worthwhile endeavor to try to explain oneself to others … despite, or perhaps because of, the difficulty that often attends making sense of one’s beliefs and actions.
The family of a Roseville tree trimmer who was severely beaten after he accidentally hit an 10-year-old boy on his way home from work Wednesday has set up an online fund-raiser to help defray medical expenses.
Steve Utash, 54, has no medical insurance and remained hospitalized Friday in critical condition at St. John Hospital and Medical Center with multiple head injuries. Donations are being collected on the Go Fund Me site, where 900 people had contributed nearly $37,000 of a $50,000 goal by Friday night.
After his pickup struck the boy, who was shown running out in traffic on video from a security camera at a nearby gas station, Utash was mobbed by a large group of men who beat him unconscious.
He doesn’t appear to have violated any traffic laws, Detroit police said.
This is a very sad story, for the obvious reasons: A boy was hit by a truck and the driver, who stopped to help, was viciously beaten.
But it’s also sad because, if one reads the comments attached to the article, readers were very quick to make this a racial issue, complaining that Detroit is dangerous because of the “urban element” who live there, that the boy who darted into oncoming traffic wasn’t raised properly by his inner city parents, and that Utash’s beating would have garnered national attention if he’d been black instead of white.
In other words, a sad story can always be made sadder.
A few mornings a week, I wake up to a comment on my blog that’s so outlandishly stupid or offensive that I think to myself, “This is obviously spam or trolling.” So I delete it.
Amazingly, nine times out of ten, the commenter publishes an identical comment almost immediately after I’ve deleted the original comment. This lets me know that it’s not spam, that somewhere out there is a veritable army of trolls with no appreciation for decency or the English language, and that these trolls are so accustomed to having their comments blocked that they copy their comments so they can just paste them back in after they’ve been deleted. I’ve learned that they’ll continue to do this until they’re banned from commenting because, apparently, this is what they do with their time.
As I probably last mentioned about a year and a half ago, I wrote a short article on using Tumblr for assignments in my ancient political theory course; it’s been published in Politics and is now available online. The piece is an explanation of the way I used Tumblr as a teaching tool, a look at the way blogging is being used in higher education more generally, and also some specific thoughts about why Tumblr works for a subject like political theory.
Here’s the abstract:
Blogging in the classroom is not a new idea, but my students have tended to view the blogging assignment negatively, as a homework assignment that simply needed to be done each week and then forgotten until the next time they were required to visit the blog. With that in mind, I decided to employ a very different method of educational blogging – using the Tumblr platform – in which each student would take ownership of his or her own blog and which would make the best possible use of social networking technology to boost interaction among the students and engagement with the course material.
A Superior Court judge who sentenced a wealthy du Pont heir to probation for raping his 3-year-old daughter noted in her order that he “will not fare well” in prison and needed treatment instead of time behind bars, court records show.
Judge Jan Jurden’s sentencing order for Robert H. Richards IV suggested that she considered unique circumstances when deciding his punishment for fourth-degree rape. Her observation that prison life would adversely affect Richards was a rare and puzzling rationale, several criminal justice authorities in Delaware said. Some also said her view that treatment was a better idea than prison is a justification typically used when sentencing drug addicts, not child rapists.
A lot of people are furious about the sentence handed down in this case, not to mention the language used to justify it. And I understand their shock and their outrage. But I don’t share it.
As someone who advocates for a more restorative approach to justice, it seems to me that a prison sentence in this case isn’t accomplishing anything other than punishment. And, given the details of the offense, the judge is almost certainly right that the offender would not fare well in prison. He’d likely be savagely beaten, raped, murdered … or all of the above. He might be put in protective custody in prison, but that would mean solitary confinement all day every day for the duration of his sentence which is, I think, a form of torture.
Of course, this is precisely what some people want: Offenders ought to be made to suffer in prison. The virtue of that suffering is the suffering itself; we are outraged by the offense and we want to pay back the offender in kind. That, for a great many people, is the whole point of prison. It’s why people complain about anything from prisoners’ access to educational opportunities, to television privileges, and to three square meals a day. If you’re watching tv or taking a correspondence course, you’re obviously not suffering enough for the offense that landed you in prison.
For my part, I think we’d do better to think about steps we can take to right the wrong that occurred and to ensure that it isn’t repeated. Of course, it’s clear that society needs to be protected from dangerous offenders and so, in some cases, probation would be completely inappropriate; this doesn’t appear to be one of those cases. But in case my reading of the situation is incorrect and this offender presents a potentially ongoing danger, the judge has mandated treatment (both inpatient and then outpatient) and has ordered the offender to stay away from children. Failure to comply will surely result in a prison sentence.
What remains, then, is an attempt to right the wrong or respond to the harm that has been done. In cases where an offender is sentenced to prison, the public feels that justice has been done and we can all move forward. But there’s absolutely no line drawn for us between a prison sentence for the offender and righting the wrong experienced by the victim … because there really isn’t any immediate connection between those two things and because we don’t spend a whole lot of time considering the needs of victims.
Restorative justice isn’t about leniency for offenders; it’s about discovering and attempting to meet the needs of victims while encouraging offender accountability. It’s just not clear that lengthy prison sentences under the worst possible conditions accomplishes either of those things.
One way I know that television is currently at the apex of popular culture is that I find myself wondering whether or not a particular movie would make a good tv show. Often, my answer to this question also coincides with my determination of whether or not I thought the movie was a good one.
Case in point: I watched Thor 2 the other night and it was predictably horrible. The plot was tired and occasionally impossible to understand; the acting was overly goofy; and the CGI didn’t even look good. But I also thought to myself: This would be a horrible tv show. There’s not really enough plot here for an hour and a half movie; there’s certainly nothing interesting about the characters … apart from Loki who’s confusingly alive at the end of the film without any real explanation (after we watch him die heroically fifteen minutes earlier). In short, there’s absolutely nothing here for an ultra-violent eight episode HBO anthology series to be built around.
I suppose this is precisely why “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” is a spectacular failure of a tv show. If you wouldn’t make an hour and a half movie about the adventures of Phil Coulson and his misfit band of agents because they’re a bunch of boring lumps, you certainly shouldn’t try making 22 episodes.
My friend David Williams has a very nice piece on Rousseau and inequality over at the Monkey Cage today:
If the current discussion of economic inequality is to matter, it must transcend mere platitudes and identify the potential problems generated by wealth disparities. And Rousseau offers at least one avenue to engaging that substantive debate. It is possible that his arguments are misguided. But they are capable of empirical testing – and there is some recent evidence that his arguments might well prove true. In any case, Rousseau counsels not merely to acknowledge inequality, but to confront the full dimensions of its effects.
If you’re interested in the problem of inequality or in Rousseau, or if you’re just glad that political theory is finding its way into the Washington Post, go read the whole thing.
“In candor, I have been a dirty old man ever since I was a very young man. Except, that is, when it comes to my daughters (and other young women that I care deeply about). And that brings me to the amusing debate about how (mostly) young female lawyers dress these days.”—
Kopf explains to female lawyers that they should dress more conservatively, giving the example of a young lawyer who draws a great deal of attention to herself — very positive attention from men and very negative attention from female law clerks — as a result of her physical attributes and her clothing choices:
“She is brilliant, she writes well, she speaks eloquently, she is zealous but not overly so, she is always prepared, she treats others, including her opponents, with civility and respect, she wears very short skirts and shows lots of her ample chest. I especially appreciate the last two attributes.”
In the comments, when challenged by someone who said that at least three female law clerks had no idea who this young lawyer might be, Kopf argued that he wasn’t really referring to a specific person but to “an amalgam,” though he begins his description of the woman with the words “True story.”
Not surprisingly, the blog post has garnered a lot of negative attention. In a follow-up post, Kopf doubles down:
I honestly don’t care how you (or others) remember me.* I do care passionately that federal trial judges be seen as individuals with all the strengths and weakness (baggage) that everyone else carries around.
If, on balance, you think the post was harmful to the image of the federal judiciary and truly treated women as objects, I am very, very, very sorry for that, but I would ask you to pause and reread it. I hope you will find upon objective reflection that the mockery I make of myself and the hyperbole and somewhat mordant tone I employed, made a point worth considering.
In the rough and tumble world of a federal trial practice, it is sometimes necessary to see and react to that world as it is rather than as we wish it would be.
In other words, there are lots of men in the world of federal trial practice (and in the world, generally) who are sexists, who leer at women, who care less about the work done by a women than about her physical attributes. And the reality of this situation, the judge believes, obviously necessitates that women need to change their behavior and pay careful attention to the choices they make.
At some point, I have to assume, we’re going to move past this kind of nonsense as a society. But in 2014, when a federal judge feels totally confident about expressing this sort of opinion publicly for the good of women everywhere … well, we’re pretty clearly not there yet, are we?
Economist, author, and George Mason University (GMU) professor Tyler Cowen was pepper sprayed in his classroom today by a man trying to place him under citizen’s arrest. ArlNow.com reported on the incident, which took place at GMU’s Arlington, Virginia, campus this afternoon.
Police say the man entered the classroom and attempted to place the professor under a citizen’s arrest. The professor tried to get the man—described as a white male in his 20s or 30s—to leave, at which time the man pepper sprayed him and a scuffle ensued, according to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
The professor did not know the man, Sternbeck said.
Serious question: Is it a problem for anyone if I bolt or barricade the door to my classroom after class has begun?
Mississippi is prepared to execute Michelle Byrom this week for a murder that pretty much everyone is certain her son committed (since he keeps saying he did it):
Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood has requested that 57-year-old Michelle Byrom be executed by lethal injection Thursday for the 1999 murder of her husband, which prosecutors said she plotted. Edward Byrom Sr. was fatally shot in his home in Iuka, Mississippi, while Michelle was in the hospital receiving treatment for double pneumonia….
If Byrom is put to death, she will be the first woman the state has executed in 70 years, but her advocates say there are many reasons she deserves a stay.
Chief among them is the fact that Byrom’s son has confessed not once, but four times, to killing his abusive father: in three jailhouse letters smuggled to his mother, and once in a statement given to a court-appointed psychologist.
In what’s been called a “perversion of American jurisprudence” by Warren Yoder, executive director of the Public Policy Center of Mississippi, a jury has never heard any of Edward Byrom Jr.’s confessions.
The modern death penalty in America: Not making a damn bit of sense since 1977.
In a potentially game-changing moment for college athletics, the Chicago district of the National Labor Relations Board ruled on Wednesday that Northwestern football players qualify as employees and can unionize.
NLRB regional director Peter Sung Ohr cited the players’ time commitment to their sport and that their scholarships were tied directly to their performance as reasons for granting them union rights.
Unsurprisingly, Northwestern University disagreed and will appeal:
"While we respect the NLRB process and the regional director’s opinion, we disagree with it," the statement read. "Northwestern believes strongly that our student-athletes are not employees, but students. Unionization and collective bargaining are not the appropriate methods to address the concerns raised by student-athletes."
I’d be quite curious to hear more about what “the appropriate methods to address the concerns raised by student-athletes” would be.