Benjamin Studebaker

The Home of an Aspirant Political Philosopher and his Early Period Works

Leave Thomas the Tank Engine Alone

A recent article on The Guardian‘s website by one Tracy Van Slyke has stirred up controversy among parents and culture critics as to whether or not Thomas and Friends is a suitable television program for children. Van Slyke slates the show, claiming that it’s authoritarian, sexist, anti-environmentalist, and even racist. Van Slyke says that she is thankful her son “never went through a manic train fascination like so many other children.” I’m 22. I don’t have any children. But Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends  originally came out in the 1980s–unlike so many of the people writing about this show, I remember what it’s like to have “manic train fascination”. I still have the old episodes on VHS, I still have my wooden magnet trains, and once in a great long while, I even get them out and play with them. So here follows a defense of Thomas from someone who knows what it’s like to be a kid who loves Thomas and loves trains.

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Don’t Blame Putin for Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17

On July 17, 2014, Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine by a Russian-built SA-11 surface to air missile. The tragedy killed 298 people, the majority of whom were Dutch, as well as a handful of AIDS researchers. In the wake of this terribly unfortunate incident, many in the west are blaming Russia for having supplied the pro-Russian Ukrainian rebels with the sophisticated weaponry necessary to carry out the deed.  In so doing, however, they are missing the forest for the trees, choosing the simple, cathartic narrative of Russian villainy over the reality.

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A Critique of Aaron James’ “Asshole” Theory

I’ve recently been reading Aaron James’ Assholes: A Theory, in which James attempts to sort out what it means to be an “asshole”, how people get to be “assholes” and what methods people and societies should use to contain and contend with them. It is an interesting book, but I have a quibble over James’ claim that assholes are to blame for their asshole status.

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Both Israel and Hamas are Wrong to Claim Self-Defense

I was listening to an interview on the radio earlier today with a spokesman for Hamas. The interviewer asked the spokesman why Hamas was continuing to fire rockets despite their ineffectiveness against Israel (since the start of Operation Protective Edge, Hamas has only killed 2 Israelis). He replied that the Palestinians had a right to self-defense. In my most recent post about this conflict, I’ve seen similar arguments being made by Israeli sympathizers–”no coutry would put up with” the rocket fire Israel endures, and Israel has a right to self-defense. These arguments are deeply flawed because they fatally misconceptualize what self-defense is.

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America Should Welcome Latin American Child Refugees With Open Arms

America is rife with talk about a Latin American refugee crisis–tens of thousands of children are fleeing Central America for the United States. An estimated 60-80,000 will seek refuge this year, and that figure is expected to climb to 130,000 next year. The children are fleeing poverty and gang violence. The law entitles these children to a hearing and places them in the care of relatives or government operated shelters. If successful, they can obtain green cards, but many lack access to the sort of legal counsel that might make that happen. The focus in recent weeks in the American press has been on finding ways to get rid of these children and prevent more of them from entering the country. This is foolish mistake.

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