Reader Mail

Kid’s Play

Fighting the toy monster. Disobeying Mother Hillary. Plus much more.

3.13.05

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PARENTS UNDER SIEGE
Re: Lawrence Henry's Don't Buy Toys:

Great article. But if you want to know the full-bodied, throat-grabbing, oxygen-stealing experience of useless toy propagation, you should try having triplets.

Yeah, three of the little buggers, eleven years old now and all boys, luckily. Even my wife agrees that teenage girl triplets might have been cause to slip away and join the French Foreign Legion.

With the arrival of "the guys" we were inundated with well meaning gifts from friends and relatives. Rattles and stuffed animals appeared by the carload. I can't recall ever buying anything like that myself. My wife and I were too busy changing diapers and making formula to indulge in the gift-giving urge that seems to overcome friends and family of multiple children (by multiple, I mean triplets or higher, twins, as real multiple parents know, don't count).

I have a theory that the United States armed forces would do well to recruit the parents of multiples to run the quartermaster corps of the various military branches. Keeping after multiples brings out innate organizational skills in a person, not to mention a keen development of the herding instinct.

When it came to toys, my wife and I have always been in perfect agreement. As soon as we received that first set of three "ever fun and educational sound effect" baby toys, we knew that we had a mission. With a vision of a house full of chatting, talking and squeaking junk to goad us on, we absolutely forbid anyone, grandparents included, to give any audio-active toy to the boys. Being a meek person myself, I left the enforcement of our rule to my better half, who could give glaring lessons to Howard Dean. Word quickly spread among friends and family: talking toys for the triplets are taboo.

And the boys have not suffered from our decision. To the contrary, my wife and I are game people. The boys have grown up in a house filled with board games such as Monopoly, chess and Scrabble, and plenty of card games, especially Pinochle. We also let them play video games, making sure that the games are age appropriate and with the simple rule that the game must be for multiple players, or if for a single controller, that everyone must have a turn. That turns the video console into a social experience rather than a machine for creating brainwashed solitary preteen zombies.

I personally consider it a holy duty to teach the boys how to play poker and pool, so that they can have a meaningful college experience when they get older (I used to add pinball to that list of "must learn games for college" but I'm afraid that bar room pinball machines have gone the way of the dinosaur).

I heartily agree with Mr. Henry's strategy for disposing of useless toys. He has taken a step that most parents shy away from. Keep up the good work, and remember, a good game of eight ball will serve your kid much better than an extra class of postmodern English Literature.
-- Robert F. Casselberry

Lawrence Henry replies:
Eight ball! Heaven forefend! Teach 'em straight pool.

Thank God those days are well behind me. Mr. Henry's experience does bring back some memories of performing a garbage bag clean up every year or so. But the talking doll was too much as it reminded me of the "Twilight Zone" episode that featured Telly Savalas, "Talking Tina." Lawrence better be careful, the Savalas character paid with his life for throwing Tina away.
-- Anthony Mastroserio
Princeton, New Jersey

Mr. Henry, your article this week has never been truer or closer to home. I am in the process of cleaning out my cellar in preparation to moving. It's been 28 years and five kids since I have really gone through it. I am surprised at the amount of toys that have been hidden down there for many years. I think some of them might have some value as relics of the past but most are broken junk. My biggest find though, was boxes and boxes of Legos. Fortunately, I have been able to pawn a good portion of these off on my grandson ( much to the despair of the parents), in which case, 20 years down the road they can pawn off on their grandkids, and so forth. I understand the scrutiny you may endure as you take a trip out to the garbage barrel, as I have to pass thru the same myself. (My wife would make a good TSA employee.) Rest assured that your article probably hit home with a lot of us parents.
-- Pete Chagnon

Like you, I also (somewhat of a scrooge) was not inclined to overbuy toys for my son, though I did have the desire to buy what I thought were interesting toys for him. Because of his lack of interest in many of them, it didn't take too long to realize that I was buying them for myself rather than him (and wasting a bit of money). And compared to his friends and schoolmates, he certainly had fewer toys and gadgets than most, but he didn't really care.

Now at age 20, as a college student, he does not have a great desire for acquiring or having "things" that he does not need. His request list for presents for a birthday or Christmas is usually pretty short and reasonable. I believe your premise is correct that parents are pleasing themselves rather than the children.
-- Marcy Chambers

We live in an era of "stuff." Some of it useful, much of it easily obtained, and unfretted if lost. But it's useful stuff (someday) and it chagrins many to simply pitch the useful "stuff" because it's taking up "space." Space in this case being the square footage surrendered to all the "stuff."

My wife and I do the occasional jihad against "fast-food" toys that accumulate in my kids' rooms and the family rooms, under sofas and all that. The kids' drawings are the most difficult of all items to edit out.

Much of our failure to throw out kid toys can be laid at the feet of PIXAR Corp. for the Movie "Toy Story" & "Toy Story 2." Daring to suggest that these toys have real lives and consciences: " -- dammit! I'll just put the dolly up here on the high shelf...just in case". But just like the movie, kids do forget about certain toys. After that movie, I am now trying to find "homes" for used toys. I am screwed up...thanks to PIXAR!
-- P. Aaron Jones
Huntington Woods, Michigan

Actually, you can tell the relatives not to buy toys and you'd be surprised how much they seem to appreciate it, but if you're too chicken, try this: "Bring books instead of toys."
-- Robin Boult
Murfreesboro, Tennessee

HILLARY DEAREST
Re: George Neumayr's It Takes a Snow Job:

An African immigrant I once met, an older man, told me of the true meaning of the old African saying "It takes a village to raise a child," a saying which was hijacked by Hillary Clinton for her book.

The saying, he explained, is an admonition to individuals to conduct themselves in a manner that sets a good example for children, whether you have any or not. Implicit is the recognition that it isn't only parents who raise children -- it's the whole society, i.e., "the village." Children as a matter of course watch adults closely and tend to emulate not just the example set by their parents but also the example set by other adults and authority figures they see and hear. And this being the case, it means that we all have a collective responsibility to help "raise" children by setting good examples for them to follow.

The saying, in other words, is a call for individual moral conduct and personal restraint on the grounds that our actions affect others, and particularly children, whether we mean them to or not.

My impression is that Hillary, like most other liberals, interprets the saying to mean, in effect, that the state is the "village" and the citizens are the "children." Former New York governor Mario Cuomo was also fond of using family imagery to justify government command and control. But this is not what the wise old African told me the saying means.
-- Daniel Byrns
St. Louis, Missouri

Mrs. Clinton can best be described by remembering her remark in New Zealand some years ago. She proclaimed that her parents had named her after Sir Edmund Hillary. But Sir Edmund had not yet achieved distinction by climbing Mt. Everest. He was just one of us when Mrs. Clinton entered the world. She lives a cartoon-like life. She is a dreamer. And she has long ago forgotten how to find truth.
-- Howard Hughes

"This is the arbitrary nanny state that takes its cues not from any natural moral law but from the will of an elite that seeks to impose its ideology on families." I have often pondered the irony of the liberal anathema on violence via TV, but full speed ahead on every type of sexual relationship the mind of man (liberal man) can conceive. It puts me in mind of my wife's theory that my son has developed his bad habits from my bad example. His good habits apparently came out of the blue.

Mrs. Clinton's coming masquerade as a centrist will be a fine measure of just how widespread our societal amnesia is, and just how far a huckster like Hillary can ride the wave. She is truly an amazing creature. It's as if she tried to run us over in the parking lot, and is now asking us solicitously how we are. Eva Peron, call your office.
-- Joseph Baum
Newton Falls, Ohio

We've linked to the Nebular column about Senator Clinton:

We'd like to thank Mr. Neumayr and The American Spectator.
-- Administrator
Nevadans for Equal Parenting

Oral Sex was first brought to the public's mind nationally by her husband. Why not mention this if you really have the guts to tell it like it is? Children all over the U.S. began to use the Clinton excuse that this is not sex.
-- Paul Filler

Hillary Clinton uses everyone and everything she can to further her own power. She cares nothing for anyone or anything else. Anyone who believes differently is incapable of discerning reality or is hopelessly naive to the point of overt stupidity.

It is obvious that you can fool some of the people all of the time.
-- Kirk A. Hayes

Mrs. Clinton's attitude towards child-rearing reminds us once again that she is not fit to be President of the United States. She is fit
to be President of Harvard.
-- Mrs. John B. Jackson III (Janet)

EARNED MULLIGANS
Re: Paul Beston's Home of the Mulligan:

One can say cynically Martha Stewart is getting a "second chance" because too many insignificant media jobs with pre-sold advertising slots depend upon it. She also has enough good ideas and products that folks want. As Beston stated, Stewart herself will rise or fall depending upon her own recognition of market and personal reality.

On a similar note, Rush Limbaugh publicly acknowledged his drug problem, and sought help for it and is earning a second chance from his many listeners. It DID NOT diminish the power of his message, because his message is mostly correct. Ted Kennedy however, has never sought solace or publicly acknowledged his manslaughter death of Mary Jo Kopechne and his supporters back him while whistling past the graveyard. Kennedy's message is equal to Kennedy's current public stature.
-- P. Aaron Jones
Huntington Woods, Michigan

BON MOTS
Re: R. Emmett Tyrrell's Thunder Bolton:

Thank God for the Internet, as I can quickly look up the fancy French words that Mr. Tyrrell inscribes. I thought that vichyssoise was potato soup, but wasn't sure. And now I know that it literally means "of Vichy," or "from Vichy."

If one were to guess Jean-Francois Kerry's nationality, one might suppose he is French. I don't know if Kerry's forebears proceeded from Vichy, but doesn't vichyssoise seem wonderfully apt? The vichyssoise Senator Kerry. But wait! The French language surprises again, with the masculine form, vichyssois. Why on earth the need for this form? For the vichyssois Senator Clinton, of course.

And I always thought it was the Germans who had a word for everything.
-- Dan Martin
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

HI, COURT
Re: George Neumayr's Constitution Killers and Vincent Chiarello's letter ("Nino Neumayr") in Reader Mail's The Woman Question:

To: Nino Neumayr
From: An interested observer
Subj: Your new position

Although it is often said that "rank has its privileges," it also has its commensurate duties and burdens. As the Spectator's newly installed highest judge, you share the frightful responsibility of writing -- and acting -- in a way commensurate with your position. It will not always be easy.

For example, The Washington Post's Court reporter will offer encomiums to others, such as Justices Kennedy and O'Connor, but, alas, you shan't be included in his hagiography that poses as journalism. You will be described, however, as "pugnacious," "not a team player," and the Court's "bomb thrower." That last description is, given these troubling times, especially damning. But soldier on, I implore you.

In your role as the Court's intellectual gadfly, you must, I'm afraid, remind your colleagues when they make no sense, legal or logical: what, pray tell, is an "undue burden?" And how is it that they accepted the American Psychological Association's amicus brief that 17-year-olds are not mature enough to know when they kill, as was done in Roper, but in another case submitted earlier, claimed that 14- and 15-year-olds were very capable of making decisions about aborting (aka "killing") a living creature in their womb? 'Tis a puzzlement!

And please do remind your colleagues in dulcet tones in the privacy of your conference rooms, or in the "I feel your pain" prose of your written opinions of the Court, that a State Supreme Court (Missouri) cannot, legally, vacate the "controlling precedent" of the Supreme Court -- the Stanford decision -- which is what was done in the Simmons case. And without even a mere mention by your estimable colleagues. One would bet, however, that if a similar action had happened in a case involving abortion, or one involving affirmative action, such a flight from legal precedent would have been dealt with -- immediately -- if not sooner. So you see, Signor Neumyar, you have your hands full.

I do not envy you. But take heart in these words: "I have fought a good fight; I have finished my course; I have kept the faith." I would cite the source, but your colleagues would most likely find that a violation of the First Amendment.
-- Vincent Chiarello
Reston, Virginia

LATE AND FOREVER
Re: Martin Kelly's letter ("Curses") in Reader Mail's Europe Is Up :

While I acknowledge the sacrifices of Martin Kelly's family in WWII, I take umbrage at his remarks about the U.S. being late to the "party" as well as being a little to puffed up about the importance of our role in that war. It is well documented that Hitler could have not only been stopped, but faced political ruin if only the French and English had stood up to him at the start. Instead they chose appeasement and the selling out of their allies. Europe is littered with cemeteries full of U.S. dead who came to the 2 "parties" Europe had in less than 25 years. In comparison, the only time in America where French and English died in war was against each other for imperial gain or to prevent the U.S. from slipping the yoke of imperial tyranny.

If Europe wants to belittle the U.S. for thinking we carried the lion's share of the load during WWII, maybe they should first think about repaying the American taxpayer for the lend lease loans they never paid back in full and the cost of the Marshall Plan, not to mention the money spent keeping the Soviets from turning Europe into their new front yard. We in the U.S. have given a huge amount of treasure and youthful lives because the nations of Europe have a nasty habit of not being able to play well with others. The U.S. had $330 billion in direct war costs while France and Great Britain had $204 billion combined. The U.S. suffered more deaths than either Great Britain or France, despite being two years late to the "party". So I think it is fair to say that we have paid for the right to act the way we do.
-- Scotty Uhrich
Glyndon, Minnesota

FAILURE TO COMMIT
Re: Jed Babbin's Exit Strategies:

Non- or mis-communication of most any issue seems to be the hallmark of the Bush Administration. So, of course, Mr. Babbin is right in saying, "We have done an exceedingly poor job of battling jihadist ideology, even among the people we are freeing from its oppression." Too, George Bush, as self-nominated but unelected theologian-in-chief, impaired the fight against jihadists -- and tragically misled the nation -- when he repeatedly kept saying that Islam is a "religion of peace" in those many months following 9/11.

It makes one wonder: Does the administration understand we're fighting an ideology? Or are they just afraid to actually tell the truth that it really is Western civilization against Islam?

Too, do we and the administration delude ourselves by thinking that Islam is a religion, rather that an aggressive, uncompromising, violent political movement that just happens to have religious trappings and hides behind those?
-- C. Kenna Amos Jr.
Princeton, West Virginia

Mr. Babbin lays out the case for stopping Iran's nuclear program well enough, and also deserves praise for recognizing that the "war on terrorism" is in fact a war against fundamentalist Islam. He falters, though when he says that a full-scale invasion of Iran is beyond our reach and suggests more limited means (e.g. air strikes). Perhaps an invasion is beyond our means at present. The solution to that problem is to increase our means...or to use all of our weapons (i.e. nuclear weapons). That's what one does when one actually intends to fight a war seriously. We are not doing any of those things. We are "fighting" as much as we can without being willing to make hard choices, either in terms of fiscal priorities or strategic ones.

When the September 11 attacks forced us into this war, it was clearly going to take some time to mobilize our resources and to deal with the various threats arrayed against us. That was nearly four years ago. Although many commentators supportive of the administration's efforts have correctly pointed out that judged a year or two into them, our progress in World War II or the Civil War wouldn't have looked so good, that case can no longer be made. Four years into World War II, and we'd won it. Germany and Japan had been completely destroyed (not just "defeated" but destroyed). Four years into the Civil War, and the South had been defeated (and largely destroyed). In both cases, we made a national effort, mobilized our forces and fought all-out. Today, four years after the President identified North Korea and Iran as part of an "axis of evil", they have developed (or are close to developing) nuclear weapons, and we've done nothing against them. Meanwhile, we're bogged down in Iraq...

Of more concern than errors of strategy in the current war, is our apparent unwillingness to actually take on an enemy that could put up any sort of a fight, or that might have nuclear weapons. This doesn't speak well of either our national will or the extent of our military power. And, it will have dangerous consequences for us down the road. It's all very well to say, "We're the most powerful military force since Rome." What counts, though, is usable military power. Our most potent weapons, nuclear weapons, are unusable (or all but). The Navy could sweep the world's seas, and the Air Force, the worlds' skies. But neither would be enough to actually force a war against anyone to an end. To do that, one has to invade and occupy an enemy's country, and that requires ground forces. Limited military strikes against anyone won't solve the problem. Counting on the locals to rebel and save us the trouble is wishful thinking. Unless we're prepared to use our own nuclear weapons to force the issue -- as we did against Japan in 1945 -- the only truly effective way to "solve" the twin problems of North Korea and Iran is to declare war on them and then wage unlimited war, including an invasion. Limited air strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities will accomplish little beyond imposing delays, while without a doubt starting a real war with Iran. They'd strike back with terror attacks against us or against the Europeans. They'd intensify their support for the insurgency in Iraq. If we didn't destroy all of the nuclear facilities and they actually completed a working weapon, we'd end up on the receiving end (which may happen anyway). Then we'd have to actually fight.

I believe that the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs are far and away the biggest immediate strategic problem that we face. And, not just because of the potential for either regime to supply terrorists with nuclear weapons. Rather, because if either country's program is seen as deterring us from military action, then the incentive for other hostile nations to acquire nuclear weapons will become irresistible. Our own freedom of action to protect our citizens and their property will then become sharply reduced. Or the added costs of systems to deal with this problem will become even greater, at a time when we don't have the money for unlimited on-going expenses. Instead, we need to make an example of one or both countries, an example so unambiguous that potential imitators will be deterred...forever.

Nations have to chose military and foreign policies that are compatible with their political systems and the temperament of their people. It should be obvious by now that our country does not do protracted, poorly-defined "half" wars well. At heart, the Jacksonian approach is the one compatible with the demands of our political system and our national temperament. In other words, once we're in a fight, fight all-out, smash and the enemy with whatever force is required...and come then home. It has worked whenever we've done it. In the modern era, we've failed whenever we've tried anything else.
-- Anthony Mirvish

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