Tax, Taxes, and Taxation (on Tax Day)

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.

# politics # libertarians


Passover Seders move to nights that work for busy lives:
Sundown Monday signals the start of Passover, the most observed of Jewish holidays, a night when Jews follow the biblical mandate to gather, eat and retell their story of liberation. Unless, that is, they already did it over the weekend or plan to some other night this week.
Mostly to accommodate busy work and travel schedules, more American Jews are holding their Seders — the elaborate ritual meal at the heart of the eight-day holiday — on different nights, not only on the traditional first two nights.

I’m generally a live-and-let-live kind of guy when it comes to religious observance. You do what works for you; I do what works for me; it’s better to be observant in the way you can be than to do nothing; and so on.
But this, I have to admit, seems like a bridge too far for me.
It would be more convenient to schedule the holidays for times when I’m not busy, or when I’m already visiting my family, or when my wife has a few days off from work. I mean, if we could celebrate Passover at the same time as Christmas, then we wouldn’t have to take a couple of days off from work. Or if we could celebrate Passover at the same time as Rosh Hashana, we’d be able to knock off all at the same time those few days of religious observance that most American Jews agree are sancrosanct. Then a whole lot of people wouldn’t have to deal with the hassle that Judaism seems to represent for them for more than a couple of days a year.
Part of me thinks it’s better that these people celebrate Passover on the wrong day than not at all. But part of me is pretty sure religious observance isn’t principally about your convenience.

Passover Seders move to nights that work for busy lives:

Sundown Monday signals the start of Passover, the most observed of Jewish holidays, a night when Jews follow the biblical mandate to gather, eat and retell their story of liberation. Unless, that is, they already did it over the weekend or plan to some other night this week.

Mostly to accommodate busy work and travel schedules, more American Jews are holding their Seders — the elaborate ritual meal at the heart of the eight-day holiday — on different nights, not only on the traditional first two nights.

I’m generally a live-and-let-live kind of guy when it comes to religious observance. You do what works for you; I do what works for me; it’s better to be observant in the way you can be than to do nothing; and so on.

But this, I have to admit, seems like a bridge too far for me.

It would be more convenient to schedule the holidays for times when I’m not busy, or when I’m already visiting my family, or when my wife has a few days off from work. I mean, if we could celebrate Passover at the same time as Christmas, then we wouldn’t have to take a couple of days off from work. Or if we could celebrate Passover at the same time as Rosh Hashana, we’d be able to knock off all at the same time those few days of religious observance that most American Jews agree are sancrosanct. Then a whole lot of people wouldn’t have to deal with the hassle that Judaism seems to represent for them for more than a couple of days a year.

Part of me thinks it’s better that these people celebrate Passover on the wrong day than not at all. But part of me is pretty sure religious observance isn’t principally about your convenience.

(Source: Washington Post)

# holidays # Judaism # Passover

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?
elledeau

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.

# questions # raison d'être # education

What is your preferred non-hametz pasta substitute?
jakke

I can’t say there’s really anything during Passover that I prefer. The truth is that after two days of Passover, I’m ready to be done with Passover.

But, to answer your question, I’ll go with matzah farfel.

Relatedly, who has Kosher for Passover recipes for me so that my family and I won’t be totally miserable for eight days?

# Judaism # food # Passover # holidays

I just got this ad in an email from a local concert venue.
It reminded me of the sign I saw someone holding one year at the Austin City Limits music festival:
"All they play in Hell is Rascal Flatts"

I just got this ad in an email from a local concert venue.

It reminded me of the sign I saw someone holding one year at the Austin City Limits music festival:

"All they play in Hell is Rascal Flatts"

# music

CBS has just declared war on the heartland of America. No longer is comedy going to be a covert assault on traditional American values, conservatives. Now, it’s just wide out in the open. What this hire means is a redefinition of what is funny and a redefinition of what is comedy.

He’s talking, of course, about Stephen Colbert … who hates “traditional American values” so much that he teaches Sunday school.

I can only imagine that Rush is upset about CBS choosing Colbert to replace Letterman because he believes the real traditional values are taught in synagogues on Saturdays.

I’m going to go ahead and guess that Rush doesn’t know the first thing about Colbert — which is bolstered by the fact that he calls him “Kohl-burt” rather than “Kohl-bear” — except that his Comedy Central persona satirizes conservatives. And that was enough for Rush to give his well-reasoned opinion.

On the plus side, at least his ridiculous opinion wasn’t as off-the-wall as this.

# media # comedy # Limbaugh # Colbert # television # religion

I’d say my favorite part of Twitter right now is sethkjolly, who was pretty sure I wasn’t going to post this little festival of high-fiving himself from the other day because, after all, I’m not tofias:

So … this is what you’re missing if you don’t spend all day on Twitter.

I’d say my favorite part of Twitter right now is sethkjolly, who was pretty sure I wasn’t going to post this little festival of high-fiving himself from the other day because, after all, I’m not tofias:

So … this is what you’re missing if you don’t spend all day on Twitter.

# Twitter # internet # comedy # inside joke

Isn’t This Form of TV Dead Yet?

Before all the announcements about retirement and replacement, when was the last time you watched Letterman?

# television

In my last post, I wrote about explaining the laws of kashrut to our nanny and I ended with this paragraph:

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.

And so a number of people wanted to know why I keep kosher.
In the first place, it’s a return for me to the way I did things when I was growing up. My grandparents kept a kosher home and so did my parents; I went to a private Hebrew day school from kindergarten through eighth grade. So keeping kosher was the standard for me until high school. I didn’t keep kosher in high school, college, or graduate school. Returning to it now that I have a family of my own is a sort of homecoming for me.
But it wasn’t necessarily a choice I would have made for myself. It was my wife’s idea and it was important to her; when we drove out to Nebraska from Virginia back in 2008, she suggested it and, over many hours in the car, we debated and decided to give it a try. It was actually pretty difficult to do when we lived in Lincoln; there was no kosher meat available in the city until Trader Joe’s opened shortly before we moved, so we had to drive to Omaha and stock up on frozen meat. Most of the time, we were de facto vegetarians. Despite the challenges, I have to say that it was a great feeling to know that my grandparents could eat anything in our house, using the proper dishes and silverware, when they came to visit. My grandfather never would have said anything, but I’m sure it was a concern when he visited me during my grad school stint in North Carolina. 
Having moved to Omaha, it’s much easier. The Jewish community is larger here and there are many more kosher items available in the grocery stores.  Buying kosher meat, separating dairy from meat, choosing to have a whole bunch of sets of dishes, or asking questions about ingredients when you’re at a restaurant are all things that could be a hassle but, at this point in my life, they bring a sense of intentionality to a meal. Rather than just choosing anything from the fridge and putting it on a plate, each meal represents an opportunity to pause and consider what’s important to me.
Finally, and very much related to the last point, keeping kosher has become something that’s a part of our identity because we’ve joined a vibrant Jewish community here in Omaha and we’re raising our kids in that community. Keeping kosher is something we do to explain Judaism to our kids; it’s a connection with the history and tradition of the Jewish people. And it’s part of consciously creating a particular identity as Jews in a place where Jews are a very, very small minority. My sense is that this will pay dividends as the kids get older, as their Judaism always will have been a clearly defined part of who they are just as it was for me.

In my last post, I wrote about explaining the laws of kashrut to our nanny and I ended with this paragraph:

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.

And so a number of people wanted to know why I keep kosher.

In the first place, it’s a return for me to the way I did things when I was growing up. My grandparents kept a kosher home and so did my parents; I went to a private Hebrew day school from kindergarten through eighth grade. So keeping kosher was the standard for me until high school. I didn’t keep kosher in high school, college, or graduate school. Returning to it now that I have a family of my own is a sort of homecoming for me.

But it wasn’t necessarily a choice I would have made for myself. It was my wife’s idea and it was important to her; when we drove out to Nebraska from Virginia back in 2008, she suggested it and, over many hours in the car, we debated and decided to give it a try. It was actually pretty difficult to do when we lived in Lincoln; there was no kosher meat available in the city until Trader Joe’s opened shortly before we moved, so we had to drive to Omaha and stock up on frozen meat. Most of the time, we were de facto vegetarians. Despite the challenges, I have to say that it was a great feeling to know that my grandparents could eat anything in our house, using the proper dishes and silverware, when they came to visit. My grandfather never would have said anything, but I’m sure it was a concern when he visited me during my grad school stint in North Carolina. 

Having moved to Omaha, it’s much easier. The Jewish community is larger here and there are many more kosher items available in the grocery stores.  Buying kosher meat, separating dairy from meat, choosing to have a whole bunch of sets of dishes, or asking questions about ingredients when you’re at a restaurant are all things that could be a hassle but, at this point in my life, they bring a sense of intentionality to a meal. Rather than just choosing anything from the fridge and putting it on a plate, each meal represents an opportunity to pause and consider what’s important to me.

Finally, and very much related to the last point, keeping kosher has become something that’s a part of our identity because we’ve joined a vibrant Jewish community here in Omaha and we’re raising our kids in that community. Keeping kosher is something we do to explain Judaism to our kids; it’s a connection with the history and tradition of the Jewish people. And it’s part of consciously creating a particular identity as Jews in a place where Jews are a very, very small minority. My sense is that this will pay dividends as the kids get older, as their Judaism always will have been a clearly defined part of who they are just as it was for me.

# Judaism # food # Nebraska # Omaha # kids # religion

On Nannies and Keeping Kosher

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.

# kids # daddy blogging # nanny # Judaism # food # religion

Game of Thrones, Season 4

Hands down, the best part about the season premiere of HBO’s Game of Thrones is that we didn’t have to catch up with the Theon or Bran storylines.

The worst part about the season premiere of HBO’s Game of Thrones is that we’re definitely going to spend some quality time with Theon and Bran in the second episode.

Seriously, I thought Season 3 was an amazing ten hours of television … except for the seemingly unending torture of Theon Greyjoy and the northerly meandering of Bran, Hodor, and the Reed siblings. If those characters fell off the map of Westeros, I wouldn’t be sad. [And, no, I haven’t finished reading the books; no spoilers in the comments here, if you please.]

# television # Game of Thrones

Breaking News: No News To Report On This Story In Days.
It’s impressive the way that CNN went all in on this story, just dropped everything and decided that they were going to be the missing airplane network.
But at what point does CNN give up on this and report news again? Ever?

Breaking News: No News To Report On This Story In Days.

It’s impressive the way that CNN went all in on this story, just dropped everything and decided that they were going to be the missing airplane network.

But at what point does CNN give up on this and report news again? Ever?

# media # CNN

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