Archive for December, 2010
31 Dec 2010

The Constitution and Ezra Klein

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Liberals love playing Gotcha! They are always pouncing and then piling onto anyone of prominence who lets slip a statement capable of being interpreted as an expression of politically incorrect opinions.

Haley Barbour was recently targeted, and nearly obliterated by the incoming liberal barrage, after he was so indiscreet as to speak positively of white citizens’ councils in segregation-era Mississippi (for resisting the Ku Klux Klan) and for remembering life in his hometown, when he was young, as “not so bad.”

Amusingly, yesterday, liberal WaPo pundit Ezra Klein came similarly a-cropper and, I’d say, rather more deservingly.

Via Steve Gutowski:

This commentator, who is considered so intellectual that his fellow journalists refer to him as a “wonk,” informs MSNBC that he believes “it (The US Constitution) has no binding power on anything.” Its “text is confusing because it was written more than a hundred years ago.” Besides which, “What people believe it says differs from person to person, and differs depending on what they want to get done.”

Ouch!

If we are to believe Ezra Klein, the Constitution is first of all impotent and irrelevant, and secondly indeterminate and meaningless.

I think Mr. Klein demonstrates perfectly the end product of contemporary elite education, as practiced at his own UC Santa Cruz and UCLA just as it is practiced at Yale and Harvard. There are no facts, merely differing opinions. Even the US Constitution, a readily available document written in the same language spoken today, capable of being read without resort to a dictionary, the well-known product of an abundantly-documented tradition of political philosophy, and with respect to which same the design and drafting and compromises and debate are all well recorded, has for Mr. Klein no fixed or determinative meaning whatever.

Ezra Klein obviously was saying exactly what he really thinks. The inadvertence of his statement consisted of the fact that a majority of Americans really do think the Constitution is both binding and scrutable entirely slipped his mind. That was perfectly understandable. It was clearly one of those moments of liberal fugue, resembling Pauline Kael’s expression of astonishment that Richard Nixon has actually won the 1972 election when she knew personally no one who had voted for him. Like Ms. Kael, Ezra Klein probably knows no one who considers the US Constitution actually binding or immune to interpretation into anything the liberal heart desires.

In Ezra Klein’s community, there are no fixed meanings to texts, meaning is conferred by the reader. There is also no Constitutional right answer, politics is a contest decided by numbers achieved by the glibbest arguments and the most noise.

To absurd reactionaries like myself, the US Constitution and the principles of the Liberal political philosophy of the framers are a fixed political compass. To Mr. Klein and his ilk, there is really also a determinative political compass and fixed truth. But in his case, the established text is not to be found in a 100+ year old document like the Constitution. It can be read daily in the opinion columns and between the lines of news stories in the establishment media. It is the consensus of the bien pensant elite that is the unmoving Pole Star of liberal politics. You will no more ever find Ezra Klein opposing that consensus than you would have ever found Barry Goldwater or Ronald Reagan proposing that the US Constitution simply be ignored.

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Stung by widespread mockery, Klein replied, contending that he meant that the reading of the Constitution was not binding, but reiterating his view that no particular interpretation need necessarily pertain.

It’s also, I noted, a completely nonbinding act: It doesn’t impose a particular interpretation of the Constitution on legislators, and will have no practical impact on how they legislate.

The rather toxic implication of this proposal is that one side respects the Constitution and the other doesn’t. That’s bunk, of course: It’s arguments over how the Constitution should be understood, not arguments over whether it should be followed, that cleave American politics. The Constitution was written more than 223 years ago, and despite the confidence various people have in their interpretation of the text, smart scholars of good faith continue to disagree about it.

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Young Ezra was, in return, well and truly mocked by Iowahawk.

31 Dec 2010

“The Conservative”

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The Orlons were a black Philadelphia R&B group which began recording in 1960.

Hat tip to Walter Olson.

31 Dec 2010

Assange’s Hostages

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Empty Wheel, writing at voice-of-the-treasonous-American-clerisy Fire Dog Lake, shares Assange’s reflexive anti-Americanism and is affirmatively impressed by Assange’s ability to threaten the lives of American allies overseas.

Well, Julian Assange just made it clear who his hostages are:

    Top officials in several Arab countries have close links with the CIA, and many officials keep visiting US embassies in their respective countries voluntarily to establish links with this key US intelligence agency, says Julian Assange, founder of the whistle-blowing website, WikiLeaks.“These officials are spies for the US in their countries,” Assange told Al Jazeera Arabic channel in an interview yesterday.

    The interviewer, Ahmed Mansour, said at the start of the interview which was a continuation of last week’s interface, that Assange had even shown him the files that contained the names of some top Arab officials with alleged links with the CIA.

    [snip]

    “If I am killed or detained for a long time, there are 2,000 websites ready to publish the remaining files. We have protected these websites through very safe passwords,” said Assange.

Assange’s message–on Al Jazeera, in a message directed to “the Arab Street”? If he is disappeared or killed or put away, the names of America’s stooges in the Middle East will be released on some outlet like Al Jazeera.

31 Dec 2010

New Year’s Eve or Hogmanay

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Robert Burns, author of Auld Lang Syne

From Robert Chambers, A Book of Days, 1869:

NEW YEAR’S EVE, OR HOGMANAY

As a general statement, it may be asserted that neither the last evening of the old year nor the first day of the new one is much, observed in England as an occasion of festivity. In some parts of the country, indeed, and more especially in the northern counties, various social merry-makings take place; but for the most part, the great annual holiday-time is already past. Christmas Eve, Christmas-day, and St. Stephen’s or Boxing Day have absorbed almost entirely the tendencies and opportunities of the community at large in the direction of joviality and relaxation. Business and the ordinary routine of daily life have again been resumed; or, to apply to English habits the words of an old Scottish rhyme still current, but evidently belonging to the old times, anterior to the Reformation, when Christmas was the great popular festival:

    Yule’s come and Yule ‘s gane,
    And we hae feasted weel;
    Sae Jock maun to his flail again,
    And Jenny to her wheel.’

Whilst thus the inhabitants of South Britain are settling down again quietly to work after the festivities of the Christmas season, their fellow-subjects in the northern division of the island are only commencing their annual saturnalia, which, till recently, bore, in the license and boisterous merriment which used to prevail, a most unmistakable resemblance to its ancient pagan namesake. The epithet of the Daft [mad] Days, applied to the season of the New Year in Scotland, indicates very expressively the uproarious joviality which characterized the period in question. This exuberance of joyousness—which, it must be admitted, sometimes led to great excesses—has now much declined, but New-year’s Eve and New-year’s Day constitute still the great national holiday in Scotland. Under the 1st of January, we have already detailed the various revelries by which the New Year used to be ushered in, in Scotland. It now becomes our province to notice those ceremonies and customs which are appropriate to the last day of the year, or, as it is styled in Scotland, Hogmanay.

This last term has puzzled antiquaries even more than the word Yule, already adverted to; and what is of still greater consequence, has never yet received a perfectly satisfactory explanation. Some suppose it to be derived from two Greek words, άιαμηνη (the holy moon or month), and in reference to this theory it may be observed, that, in the north of England, the term used is Hagmenu, which does not seem, however, to be confined to the 31st of December, but denotes generally the period immediately preceding the New Year. Another hypothesis combines the word with another sung along with it in chorus, and asserts ‘Hogmanay, trollolay!’ to be a corruption of ‘Homma est né—Trois Rois lá” (‘A Man is born—Three Kings are there’), an allusion to the birth of our Saviour, and the visit to Bethlehem of the Wise Men, who were known in medieval times as the ‘Three Kings.’

But two additional conjectures seem much more plausible, and the reader may select for himself what he considers the most probable. One of these is, that the term under notice is derived from Hoggu-nott, Hogenat, or Hogg-night, the ancient Scandinavian name for the night preceding the feast of Yule, and so called in reference to the animals slaughtered on the occasion for sacrificial and festal purpose word hogg signifying to kill. The other derivation of Hogmanay is from ‘Au gui menez’ (‘To the mistletoe go’), or ”Au gui ľan neuf’ ‘ (‘To the mistletoe this New Year ‘), an allusion to the ancient Druidical ceremony of gathering that plant. In the patois of Touraine, in France, the word used is Aguilanneu; in Lower Normandy, and in Guernsey, poor persons and children used to solicit a contribution under the title of Hoguinanno or 0guinano; whilst in Spain the term, Aguinaldo, is employed to denote the presents made at the season of Christmas.

In country places in Scotland, and also in the more retired and primitive towns, it is still customary on the morning of the last day of the year, or Hogmanay, for the children of the poorer class of people to get themselves swaddled in a great sheet, doubled up in front, so as to form a vast pocket, and then to go along the streets in little bands, calling at the doors of the wealthier classes for an expected dole of oaten-bread. Each child gets one quadrant section of oat-cake (some-times, in the case of particular favourites, improved by an addition of cheese), and this is called their hogmanay. In expectation of the large demands thus made upon them, the housewives busy themselves for several days beforehand in preparing a suitable quantity of cakes. The children on coming to the door cry, ‘Hogmanay!’ which is in itself a sufficient announcement of their demands; but there are other exclamations which either are or might be used for the same purpose. One of these is:

‘Hogmanay, Trollolay, Give us of your white bread, and none of your gray.’

And another favourite rhyme is:

    Get up, goodwife, and shake your feathers,
    And dinna think that we are beggars;
    For we are bairns come out to play,
    Get up and gie’s our hogmanay!’

The following is of a moralising character, though a good deal of a truism:

    Get up, goodwife, and binna sweir,
    And deal your bread to them that ‘s here;
    For the time will come when ye’ll be dead,
    And then ye’ll neither need ale nor bread.’

The most favourite of all, however, is more to the point than any of the foregoing :

    My feet’s cauld, my shoon’s thin;
    Gie’s my cakes, and let me rin!’

It is no unpleasing scene, during the forenoon, to see the children going laden home, each with his large apron bellying out before him, stuffed full of cakes, and perhaps scarcely able to waddle under the load. Such a mass of oaten alms is no inconsiderable addition to the comfort of the poor man’s household, and enables him to enjoy the New-year season as much as his richer neighbours.

In the primitive parish of Deerness, in Orkney, it was customary, in the beginning of the present century, for old and young of the common class of people to assemble in a great band upon the evening of the last day of the year, and commence a round of visits throughout the district. At every house they knocked at the door, and on being admitted, commenced singing, to a tune of its own, a song appropriate to the occasion. The following is what may be termed a restored version of this chant, the imagination having been called on to make up in several of the lines what was deficient in memory. The ‘Queen Mary’ alluded to is evidently the Virgin:

    ‘This night it is grid New’r E’en’s night,
    We’re a’ here Queen Mary’s men;
    And we ‘re come here to crave our right,
    And that’s before our Lady.

    The very first thing which we do crave,
    We ‘re a’ here Queen Mary’s men;
    A bonny white candle we must have,
    And that’s before our Lady.

    Goodwife, gae to your butter-ark,
    And weigh us here ten mark.

    Ten mark, ten pund,
    Look that ye grip weel to the grund.
    Goodwife, gae to your geelin vat,
    And fetch us here a skeet o’ that.

    Gang to your awmrie, gin ye please,
    And bring frae there a yow-milk cheese.

    And syne bring here a sharping-stane,
    We’ll sharp our whittles ilka ane.

    Ye’ll cut the cheese, and eke the round,
    But aye take care ye cutna your thoom.

    Gae fill the three-pint cog o’ ale,
    The maut maun be aboon the meal.

    We houp your ale is stark and stout,
    For men to drink the auld year out.

    Ye ken the weather’s snow and sleet,
    Stir up the fire to warm our feet.

    Our shoon’s made o’ mare’s skin,
    Come open the door, and let’s in.’

The inner-door being opened, a tremendous rush was made ben the house. The inmates furnished a long table with all sorts of homely fare, and a hearty feast took place, followed by copious libations of ale, charged with all sorts of good-wishes. The party would then proceed to the next house, where a similar scene would be enacted. How they contrived to take so many suppers in one evening, heaven knows ! No slight could be more keenly felt by a Deerness farmer than to have his house passed over unvisited by the New-year singers.

The doings of the guisers or guizards (that is, masquers or mummers) form a conspicuous feature in the New-year proceedings throughout Scotland. The favourite night for this exhibition is Hogmanay, though the evenings of Christmas, New-year’s Day, and Handsel Monday, enjoy like-wise a privilege in this respect. Such of the boys as can lay any claim to the possession of a voice have, for weeks before, been poring over the collection of ‘excellent new songs,’ which lies like a bunch of rags in the window-sill; and being now able to screech up ‘Barbara Allan,’ or the ‘Wee cot-house and the wee kail-yardie,’ they determine upon enacting the part of guisers. For this purpose they don old shirts belonging to their fathers, and mount mitre-shaped casques of brown paper, possibly borrowed from the Abbot of Unreason; attached to this is a sheet of the same paper, which, falling down in front, covers and conceals the whole face, except where holes are made to let through the point of the nose, and afford sight to the eyes and breath to the mouth. Each vocal guiser is, like a knight of old, attended by a sort of humble squire, who assumes the habiliments of a girl, ‘with an old-woman’s cap and a broomstick, and is styled ‘Bessie: Bessie is equal in no respect, except that she shares fairly in the proceeds of the enterprise. She goes before her principal, opens all the doors at which he pleases to exert his singing powers; and busies herself, during the time of the song, in sweeping the floor with her broomstick, or in playing any other antics that she thinks may amuse the indwellers. The common reward of this entertainment is a halfpenny, but many churlish persons fall upon the unfortunate guisers, and beat them out of the house. Let such persons, however, keep a good watch upon their cabbage-gardens next Halloween!

The more important doings of the guisers are of a theatrical character. There is one rude and grotesque drama which they are accustomed to perform on each of the four above-mentioned nights; and which, in various fragments or versions, exists in every part of Lowland Scotland. The performers, who are never less than three, but sometimes as many as six, having dressed themselves, proceed in a band from house to house, generally contenting themselves with the kitchen for an arena; whither, in mansions presided over by the spirit of good-humour, the whole family will resort to witness the spectacle. Sir Walter Scott, who delighted to keep up old customs, and could condescend to simple things without losing genuine dignity, invariably had a set of guisers to perform this play before his family both at Ashestiel and Abbotsford. The drama in question bears a close resemblance, with sundry modifications, to that performed by the mummers in various parts of England, and of which we have already given a specimen.

Such are the leading features of the Hogmanay festivities in Scotland. A similar custom to that above detailed of children going about from house to house, singing the Hagmena chorus, and obtaining a dole of bread or cakes, prevails in Yorkshire and the north of England; but, as we have already mentioned, the last day of the year is not in the latter country, for the most part, invested with much peculiar distinction.

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Marred by an annoying advertisement, but still moving, the Scottish Parliament (with Sean Connery present) sings Auld Lang Syne.

30 Dec 2010

In North Carolina, No Less

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A 17-year-old star student in Sanford, North Carolina was searched, then suspended, arrested and charged with a misdemeanor, because she was mistakenly carrying her father’s lunchbox, identical to her own, and his contained a small paring knife which he used to slice his apple.

WRAL story

It is time for the revolution.

America has somehow wound up being run by nincompoops who respond to unique and extraordinary crimes committed by a few individuals (Columbine, 9/11) by awarding themselves unprecedented grants of authority, completely alien to our constitutional and civic traditions, to tyrannize over the entire American population.

Americans are now harassed, electronically strip-searched, and groped at airports, treated like criminals upon entering courthouses and public offices, and children are arrested and thrown out of school for drawings, carrying toys, or for being found in possession of kitchen utensils.

Not so very long ago, high school boys used to participate in target shooting in urban high schools. Rural students would bring deer rifles to school, and keep them in the lockers during class, in order to go hunting at the end of the school day.

Only someone genuinely insane would suppose that Ashley Smithwick really represented a threat to anyone, but an ideological regime pathologically hostile to private possession of arms and fanatically devoted to the principle of a statist monopoly of force has descended upon schools across the United States. Zero tolerance policies are gestural expressions of ideological absolutism. Zero tolerance policies express the viewpoint of officialdom that our pacifistic, hoplophobic values are more important than facts, rationality, or your rights. Nothing whatsoever is as valuable as physical safety and the unchallenged rule of established authority.

Totalitarianism never came to America through foreign invasion, military conquest, or our defeat by foreign enemies. But totalitarianism has arrived here, in our schools, our airports, and our public spaces, entirely domestically. Totalitarianism is already occupying ever-expanding regions of our public lives via the petty tyranny, the habitual cowardice, the overwheening self-importance, the small mindedness,and the contemptible values of our ordinary administrators and minor officials.

This country needs a new litigation center dedicated to combating zero tolerance policies, safety fascism, and TSA-style security policies.

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Update from Bryan Preston via Glenn Reynolds.

The school administrators are issuing misleading press releases, obfuscating the student victim’s status and trying to depict a new-fangled lunch container as a purse. Sleazoids.

30 Dec 2010

Cartoon

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Via Theo.

30 Dec 2010

Family Pride

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Rogier van der Weyden. Philippe de Croy’s Coat of Arms, the reverse side of the Portrait of Philippe de Croy. c.1460. Oil on panel. Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp, Belgium.

The Cröys are one of the oldest families in Europe, and are ebenbürtig (“born on an equality”) with all the German Royalties. They therefore show no signs of respect to Archdukes and Archduchesses when they meet them. Although I cannot vouch personally for them, never having myself seen them, I am told that there are two pictures in the Cröy Palace at Brussels which reach the apogee of family pride. The first depicts Noah embarking on his ark. Although presumably anxious about the comfort of the extensive live-stock he has on board, Noah finds time to give a few parting instructions to his sons. On what is technically called a “bladder” issuing from his mouth are the words, “And whatever you do, don’t forget to bring with you the family papers of the Cröys.” (“Et surtout ayez soin de ne pas oublier les papiers de la Maison de Cröy!”) The other picture represents the Madonna and Child, with the then Duke of Cröy kneeling in adoration before them. Out of the Virgin Mary’s mouth comes a “bladder” with the words “But please put on your hat, dear cousin.” (“Mais couvrez vous donc, cher cousin.”)

— Lord Frederic Hamilton, The Vanished Pomps of Yesterday: Being Some Random Reminiscences of a British Diplomat (1921), p. 53.

The reference to cousinship with the Holy Family presumably alludes to a marriage of one of the Cröys with a female member of the Bagrationi dynasty of Georgia during the period of the Crusades. A number of such marriages to prominent Frankish crusaders are known to have occurred, and the royal family of Georgia traditionally did claim descent from the Biblical House of David.

29 Dec 2010

Ten Best NASA Photos of 2010

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Mars’ moon, Phobos

29 Dec 2010

Union Extortion at New York Art Venues

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Stagehands on strike against Broadway theaters, 2007

James Ahearn, writing from New Jersey, notices the union racketeering at New York City performance centers that has been going on essentially forever.

My wife and I have season tickets for events at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. At intermissions, we sometimes watch absently as three or four men in gray suits emerge from the wings to move a piano into place or bring out extra music stands and chairs.

What they do is essential but unremarkable. Turns out that it is remarkably well-paid, however. Would you believe $422,599 a year? Plus $107,445 in benefits and deferred compensation?

That is what a fellow named Dennis O’Connell makes at Carnegie Hall. He is the props manager, the highest-paid stagehand.

Four other guys, two of them carpenters, two electricians, are paid somewhat lesser amounts, ranging down to $327,257, plus $76,459 in benefits and deferred compensation, for the junior member of the team, John Goodson, an electrician.

The New York Times broke this story last week. The reporter, Daniel J. Wakin, got it from a publicly available document, Carnegie Hall’s tax return for the 2007-08 season.

The hall was legally obliged to disclose the pay of the chief executive, Clive Gillinson, and the names and pay of the next five highest-paid employees. All five were stagehands.

Gillinson, who doubles as artistic director, was paid $946,581, nearly twice as much as O’Connell, the props manager, but not out of line for top arts executives in Manhattan.

The Carnegie stagehands’ pay was something else again, but not, as it turns out, unique. At Avery Fisher Hall and Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center, the average stagehand salary and benefits package is $290,000 a year.

To repeat, that is the average compensation of all the workers who move musicians’ chairs into place and hang lights, not the pay of the top five.

Across the plaza at the Metropolitan Opera, a spokesman said stagehands rarely broke into the top-five category. But a couple of years ago, one did. The props master, James Blumenfeld, got $334,000 at that time, including some vacation back pay.

How to account for all this munificence? The power of a union, Local 1 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. “Power,” as in the capacity and willingness to close most Broadway theaters for 19 days two years ago when agreement on a new contract could not be reached.

Wakin reported that this power was palpable in the nervousness of theater administrators and performers who were asked to comment on the salary figures.

Kelly Hall-Tompkins, for one, said, “The last thing I want to do is upset the people at Carnegie Hall. I’d like to have a lifelong relationship with them.” She is a violinist who recently presented a recital in Weill Hall, one of the smaller performance spaces in the building.

She said she begrudged the stagehands nothing: “Musicians should be so lucky to have a strong union like that.” Uh-huh.

Isn’t it wonderful for Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center donors and ticket buyers to be able to reflect that their contributions to the arts in Manhattan allow a handful of blue-collar union goons to take home salaries higher than many of the actual performers?

29 Dec 2010

‘Im a Denier”

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Via Theo.

29 Dec 2010

North American Dialects

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Very interesting, but current computer screen technology leaves a lot to be desired for this size of map image and associated apparatus.

29 Dec 2010

Obamanomics and Reaganomics Compared

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Daniel J. Mitchell posted the above chart from Heritage and offered the following observation.

This is a remarkable image, but let’s start with some disclaimers. There are lots of factors that impact economic performance, and many of them are outside the control of politicians. Moreover, it is impossible to know what would have happened in the past two years or in the early 1980s if Obama or Reagan had chosen different policies.

But even with these caveats, it is difficult to look at this chart and not conclude that Obama’s big government policies are much less successful than Reagan’s small government policies.

28 Dec 2010

Toy Gun Control in Rhode Island

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Providence, Rhode Island addresses violent crime by destroying children’s toy guns at Christmas time.

Boston Globe:

Dominic Johnson, a 10-year-old fourth-grader with a fledgling Mohawk, brandished his black, long-nosed toy gun and caressed the muzzle appreciatively.

“It’s like a shotgun mixed with a rifle,’’ he said, as his mother, April, told him to stop pointing it at nearby children.

Soon it would be junk.

Dominic joined dozens of children yesterday at the annual Toy Gun Bash in the gymnasium of Pleasant View Elementary School. There, they lined up to toss their toy guns, from dainty purple water guns to camouflage-painted pistols, inside the Bash-O-Matic, a large black, foam creature with churning metal teeth and the shape of a cockroach spliced with a frog.

Prodded by Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch, who wore a fuzzy Santa hat, the children stared curiously as the Bash-O-Matic mashed up their guns and digested them into a plastic bin near its tail. …

For seven years, Providence municipal and law enforcement officials have organized the event around Christmastime as a way to raise awareness of the dangers of playing with guns, real or fake. …

In exchange for their toy guns, all the children received wrapped presents that were indisputably not violent — dolls, stuffed animals, and board games like checkers.

Some children were not thrilled with the trade.

Malik Hall, a round-eyed second-grader, looked apprehensive as he stood in line with his favorite toy, a thick, blue gun with plastic sword underneath the muzzle. The 8-year-old was furious when his mother, Amanda, told him he would have to give it up. Yesterday morning, he tried to hide it under his pillow, she said.

“I’m worried,’’ she said. “He might cry.’’

But when it was his turn, Malik strode dry-eyed and with quiet dignity to the Bash-O-Matic and fed it the gun. When his mother approached, he said nothing.

“You don’t want to talk to me?’’ Hall asked. He looked at her stonily and left to retrieve his gift.

Hall said she had no regrets. The 26-year-old mother of six said she has been trying to wean her only son off toy guns for years. In kindergarten, he brought a pop gun to school and shot at a classmate when the child refused to return his toy truck.

The police and representatives of the state’s children services department rushed to the school, and the boy was expelled.

Hat tip to Adam Freedman.

28 Dec 2010

Burka Woman

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