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DCUM Weblog

The Most Active Threads Since Friday

by Jeff Steele last modified Dec 11, 2023 04:21 PM

The topics with the most engagement over the weekend included the Gaza war, other's identity quirks that are annoying, the resignation of the president of the University of Pennsylvania, and a Texas woman's ordeal regarding abortion.

The most active thread over the weekend was the thread that I have already discussed about Maury Elementary School. Following that was a thread titled, "Gaza War, Part 3" and posted in the "Political Discussion" forum. When the first Gaza war thread reached 1,000 pages, I locked it and started a second thread. Over the weekend, that one reached 1,000 pages so I locked it and started this thread. While this thread was the second most active over the weekend, the topic is not producing near the same number of posts that it did in the past. Ironically, despite the fact that the topic of the Gaza war has been the most active or nearly most active topic for over 2 months now, this thread started out with a discussion about whether people have stopped paying attention to the situation. It is always strange to me when posters not only read a thread, but post in it, only to declare that they don't really care about the topic. But, that's exactly what happened in this thread. Posters who claim that they don't care and don't have an opinion, cared enough to read and post an opinion. The other thing about which a number of posters were proud of not caring was the massive death toll from which Palestinians are suffering. The first refuge of those defending Israel has been to claim that the numbers of deaths being reported by Gaza's Ministry of Health are not to be trusted due to Hamas' influence on the Ministry. But, that claim is not holding water the way that it used to. So, posters have turned to claiming the deaths are "collateral damage" and while they are sad about innocent civilians being killed, it is a normal function of war. Therefore, it is simply not fair to single out the civilian deaths caused by Israel and may actually be antisemitic. Moreover, these posters claim that Hamas should be held responsible for the deaths of Palestinians rather than Israel. Much of this thread, if not most of it, is devoted to placing blame. The big divide is between those who believe that the atrocities of October 7 justify Israel's actions and those who don't. The first group argues that Israel has the right defend itself and to retaliate against those who attacked it. They claim that the Israeli military is showing concern for civilian safety and not intentionally targeting non-combatants. Any and all blame for Palestinian suffering lies with Hamas. The second group argues that Israel's actions have gone far beyond what could be justified by the October 7 attack. Israel is accused of intentionally trying to ethnically cleanse Gaza and commitiing genocide. Moreover, these posters point to the large number of journalists, academics, and cultural figures who have been killed by Israeli bombs — frequently along with their entire families — and argue that these cannot all be accidental. Rather, they contend, this suggests intentional targeting by Israel.

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Thursday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Dec 16, 2023 03:21 PM

Yesterday's topics with the most engagement included Ivy League University Presidents and antisemitism, a second thread about antisemitism and elite universities, the best known songs of our generation, and what major to choose if planing to go to medical school.

Once again the Gaza war thread led as most active yesterday. That was followed by two threads that are directly related to the war. The first was titled, "Stefanik Ivy Presidentd" and posted in the "Political Discussion" forum. The title, which suffered from both a typo and a lack of clarity, referred to a Congressional hearing during which Republican Representative Elise Stefanik asked a panel of university presidents whether calls for genocide were prohibited on their campuses. To be clear, Stefanik was referring to calls for the genocide of Jews which is a somewhat ironic concern given that something very close to, if not actual, genocide is currently being perpetrated by Israel against the residents of Gaza. Moreover, unpacking what Stefanik means by "calls for genocide" is itself a challenge. The Congresswoman explicitly referred to calls for "intifada" which in Arabic means "to shake off" but generally refers to Palestinian uprisings in the West Bank during which Palestinian teenagers used stones to fight the Israeli military. In no way does "intifada" mean "genocide". Similarly, many in the pro-Israel crowd claim the slogan, "Free Palestine from the River to the Sea" as being a call for genocide. While I have criticized that slogan, it does not refer to genocide. The college presidents, knowing that Stefanik clearly considers calls for genocide to include expressions that are not normally thought to be calls for genocide, were put in a bit of a conundrum and, unfortunately, fumbled their responses. Had they been asked whether a call to "kill all the Jews" violated their speech codes, certainly they all would have answered in the affirmative. But, instead, they were asked whether Stefanik's unorthodox and inaccurate definition of calls for genocide is allowed. That is a more difficult question. Unfortunately, in today's politicalized world, few are interested in doing the intellectual work to understand why what sounded like a simple question was actually much more complex. As a result, the presidents have come under considerable pressure and targeted with severe criticism. At the basis of this controversy is an effort among many in the pro-Israel camp to not only control speech, but to control the very definition of words. They have understandably and commendably made antisemitism unacceptable. But, now there are efforts to go further. Being opposed to Israel is considered antisemitism. Opposing Zionism is defined as antisemitism. Supporting Palestinians is considered anti-Israel and, hence, antisemitic. Slogans such as calling for an "intifada" or "Free Palestine From the River to the Sea" are allowed to be defined, not by those who use them, but by those who oppose their use and labeled as antisemitic. In this manner, pressure is applied to prohibit anything that is against the interests of Israel from being said. It is an effort to suppress pro-Palestinian speech entirely and has little to do with actual antisemitism.

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Wednesday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Dec 07, 2023 04:06 PM

Yesterday's topics with the most engagement included losing a friend because of the Gaza war, short women, Yale and A grades, and anger with a mother-in-law due to holiday arrangements.

The Gaza war thread was back as the most active thread yesterday and the next most active thread was directly related to the war. Titled, "Lost a dear friend over the war", the thread was originally posted in the "Religion" forum. But, after reading it, I moved it to the "Relationship Discussion (non-explicit)" forum because it really didn't have anything to do with religion. Some posters suggested that the thread was most appropriate for the "Political Discussion" forum, which ultimately was probably correct. The original poster says that three couples went to dinner, including one of her oldest and best friends. Two of the couples expressed solidarity with Palestinian civilians who are under Israeli attack in Gaza. The original poster's friend, who is strongly pro-Israel, went on a tirade against the others, jumped up and left the table, and took a ride share car home, even abandoning her husband. Her husband apologized and said that her extreme views have been causing marital problems and problems at their kids' school. The next day, the original poster called her friend and her friend told her never to speak to her again. The original poster asks if others have lost friends over this sort of discourse. When I moved this thread, it had less than a page of posts. But in less than five hours the thread grew to 18 pages. That's more than 250 posts, or more 50 posts an hour. Before the first page was complete, a poster had made a totally-political post that had nothing to do with the estranged relationship. Not only was that post off-topic to the discussion, it didn't even reflect the positions held by either the original poster or her friend, In short, the statement suggested that the poster had not bothered to read the original post. But, that was enough to provoke additional political posts. To be clear, the first three political posts were all from pro-Israel posters criticizing Hamas, a group that the original poster had explicitly rejected. Like the original poster's friend, these posters seem incapable of having a simple, reasonable discussion. While a few posters did address the relationship aspects of the thread, often saying that they too had lost friendships over political issues, the bulk of the discussion consisted of debate over the war. Many posts in this thread reflect why disagreements such as the original poster described can so easily lead to lost friendships. A good number of individuals have adopted the position that any sympathy for Palestinians is support for Hamas and any criticism of Israel is antisemitism. To be sure, many — maybe even most — Jews don't hold such positions and many non-Jewish supporters of Israel also reject those views. But, for those who do have such beliefs, almost any kind of discussion other than fully agreeing with Israel's actions is impossible. As was pointed out in the thread, when encountering such individuals, your choices are to keep silent and preserve relationships or speak up and likely see the relationship ended.

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Tuesday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Dec 06, 2023 10:39 AM

Yesterday's topics with the most engagement included a house explosion in Arlington, a bumper sticker, "average" and "above average" value women, and divorcing when children are in college.

The most active thread yesterday was titled, "House Explosion in North Arlington" and posted in the "Off-Topic" forum. This is a tragic story that began in the late afternoon on Monday. Arlington police responded to reports of shots being fired within a house in North Arlington. Police determined that an occupant of a duplex had fired between 30 and 40 flares from a flare gun. After being unable to make contact with the individual inside the home, police obtained a search warrant and attempted to force entry. At that time, they heard what they believed to be gunshots from within the house followed by a devastating explosion. As video that was widely circulated on social media showed, the entire duplex was destroyed. Much of the early part of the thread was devoted to obtaining facts about what exactly happened and speculating about the cause of the explosion. Suggestions ran from a meth lab exploding to a gas leak. The owner of the duplex unit in question was soon identified and linked to a number of social media postings advocating various conspiracy theories, including accusing his neighbors of being spys who were out to get him. In real time developing stories of this nature, I have a difficult time trying to draw lines between what should and should not be allowed to be posted. Inevitably, whatever I decide will be imperfect. In this case, my primary concern was preventing misinformation, particularly when it came to identifying individuals. Therefore, I removed any mention of the duplex's owner's name. But, I allowed discussion of his social media postings. My thinking was that the individual might turn out to be innocent, as unlikely as that might be, but his social media postings exist regardless of his involvement in the explosion. As of this morning, Arlington Police have said that they believe that remains recovered from the home belong to the property owner, but positive identification is outstanding. A number of posts dealt with possible motivations for the individual's behavior. This included suggestions that he was a right-wing gun enthusiast or a left-wing radical. But, due to the social media postings, most attention focused on mental health. Many posters proposed various actions that could be taken with regard to those suffering from mental health problems and others discussed the difficulty of getting assistance for adults who have mental health challenges. In addition, considerable attention was focused on the family who lived in the adjoining duplex unit. That family, apparently evacuated prior to the explosion, has lost their home and all belongings. Many posters were eager to know how they might help them.

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Monday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Dec 05, 2023 11:26 AM

The topics with the most engagement yesterday included Millennials feeling abandoned, a deadbeat dad and graduation, feeling uncomfortable because of a lack of commitment, and marrying for lifestyle instead of love.

The most active thread yesterday was titled, "Millennials feel 'abandoned' by parents not available to help raise grandkids: 'Too busy'" and posted in the "General Parenting Discussion" forum. Let me be clear and say that I find everything about this thread to be disappointing. As longtime readers of this blog will know, I hate generational labels. So, of course I am going to dislike a thread that is premised almost entirely on two such labels (Millennials and Boomers). But, beyond that, this is a fake controversy entirely generated as clickbait. Frankly, I don't feel like reading this thread so I am not going to bother. What I will do is discuss the background of this thread and what led to random clickbait ending up as the most active thread on our website. The original poster wrote that "Boomers are too busy and galavanting around on vacations to help their kids and grand kids" and that this is "[a]nother example of boomer selfishness". To support this contention, the original poster provided a link to a Fox News article that basically made the same argument. However, Fox's article was not based on research or surveys or any sort of data that would support this claim. Rather, Fox based its article on an article published by Business Insider. Business Insider, in turn, offers no real data to support this contention, simply writing this "appears to be typical". Everything in the Business Insider article is based on a couple of anecdotes. A Boomer father who retired to Mexico is presented as a common example of Boomer parents. Moreover, that father actually complained that his children have programmed his grandchildren's lifes to such an extent that they have no time for him anyway. With minimal editing, this article could have been written with the entirely opposite premise, saying that children of Millennials are too busy and have no time for their Boomer grandparents. That would not have made this a better article, but it wouldn't have made it worse. It is simply not a very good article. The "trend" that it describes is entirely limited to a small subset of a small subset of a generation of grandparents. That's not a trend, it's an anomaly.

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The Most Active Threads Since Friday

by Jeff Steele last modified Dec 04, 2023 10:16 AM

The topics with the most engagement since my last blog post included dealing with excessive crying by a two-year-old, a troll thread about a sister-in-law asking for jewelry, a troll thread about a child joining the military, and another thread about MCPS Principal Joe Beidleman.

As I predicted in my last blog post, the Gaza war thread is back as the most active thread over the weekend after having dropped from that spot for a day. The second most active is another one that I've already covered, the thread about "The Golden Bachelor". That means that the first thread that I will discuss today was titled, "Discipline for excessive crying" and posted in the "Infants, Toddlers, & Preschoolers" forum. The original poster has a two-year-old daughter who is constantly crying. Almost anything that the original poster does can cause the girl to cry for long periods of time. Moreover, the girl is only like this around the original poster and not her husband or nanny. The original poster knows that experts advise not punishing a child for crying, but she is at the end of her patience and desparate to find a solution. She wonders what others who have had a child like this have done. In response, the original poster gets a range of advice. Nobody is in favor of literal punishment, but some counsel ignoring the child. That advice is generally accompanied by other strategies aimed at encouraging an end to the crying. For instance, telling the girl that her mother can't help her while she is crying, teaching breathing or counting exercises to help her calm down, or creating a "time out" room to where she can be sent to cry alone and calm down. One poster recounts using "kiddie yoga" videos to help her child learn emotional regulation skills. Posters also suggest that the the child may be feeling the stress the original poster experiences from the crying and that actually causes her to cry more. To reduce this vicious circle, posters suggest that the original poster address her own emotional state. Another angle that many posters took was to propose that the original poster contact a developmental pediatrician and have her daughter evaluated for potential special needs. About halfway through the thread, the original poster responded to thank everyone for the helpful responses. But, she pointed out that the wide variety of responses shows why this is a difficult situation for her to know how to address. She still isn't sure what to do because there are so many contradictory schools of thought. Shortly after that response, the original poster responded again to say that she was planning to contact her local pediatric developmental behavioral center today. Previously, she was unaware that diagnoses or evaluations could be done at such a young age. She seemed to have dropped out of the thread at that point, but it continued for another 7 pages without her. Many of those posts simply repeated or reinforced advice that was previously offered.

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Thursday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Dec 04, 2023 11:11 AM

The topics with the most engagement yesterday included things that posters did as children that would be considered dangerous today, thefts of coats in DC, cool first names, and breaking an Early Decision college acceptance commitment.

For one of the few times since October 7, the Gaza war thread was not the most active, falling to 4th. But, since the ceasefire has apparently ended and fighting has resumed, it may be back on top tomorrow. The most active thread yesterday was another one that I've previously discussed. That was the thread about "The Golden Bachelor" which, if I understand correctly, had its finale. After that was a thread titled, "What did you do as a child that would be called dangerous today?" and posted in the "Off-Topic" forum. The original poster says she played with lawn darts and rode her bicycle without a helmet. In addition to riding bikes without helmets, another common activity many posters listed was riding in a car without using seatbelts, often not even in a seat but in the back of a station wagon. Several posters also described wondering around outside without supervision, frequently being gone for long periods without adults knowing their whereabouts. A number of posters expressed skepticism of the safety measures and concerns that we observe today. Some questioned whether children were actually hurt frequently enough to justify requirements such as wearing bike helmets. Others contended that the measures are justified and that while others might not remember children being harmed, statistics show that they were. The dispute extended beyond safety concerns and eventually encompassed various parenting styles. As one poster wrote, the type of childhoods posters are describing are "viscerally HATED by all the helicopter, lawnmower, anxious, nervous mommies on this board". One poster essentially challenged our entire way of life, accusing everyone of being "drones" and comparing helmets to masks used to prevent the spread of covid. He complained that, "It’s sad how clamped down life is today and the psychosis of the population." By the end of the thread it had mostly morphed into the thread I discussed yesterday about raising children free from structured activities and allowing them freedom. I think it is worth trying to make some distinctions. Seatbelts and carseats are undoubtedly a good thing. The recent accident in Fairfax in which five teenagers who were not using seatbelts were jettisoned from an SUV when it hit a tree should be evidence of that. Bike helmets are probably also good. But, maybe kids do need a bit more freedom to explore the world on their own without constantly being under someone's watchful eye. A lot of posters in this thread express nostalgia for their own unsupervised adventures, but I wonder if they are allowing their own kids the same?

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Wednesday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Dec 03, 2023 08:17 AM

The topics with the most engagement yesterday included Maury Elementary School, a daughter who was groped at school, Covid vaccine uptake, and raising kids without structured activities.

Once again the Gaza war thread was the most active of the day yesterday. The most active thread after that was titled, "Maury Capitol Hill" and posted in the "DC Public and Public Charter Schools" forum. This thread was actually started back on September 21 by a poster who had heard about a Parent-Teacher Association meeting at Maury Elementary School, a District of Columbia Public Schools school located on Capitol Hill. The poster had heard of two issues that came up in the meeting. One was the current effort to reevaluate DCPS school boundaries and the other was a loss of Title 1 funding that is aimed at low-income students. The poster was concerned about how these developments might impact property values. This was an active thread that grew to 23 pages prior to yesterday. But, yesterday the thread added 10 new pages. I didn't read the first 23 pages but apparently the interest yesterday was generated by a subsequent meeting about school boundary changes. A poster summarized that meeting, saying that DCPS wants to cluster Maury with another nearby elementary school, Miner Elementary School. The purpose of the proposal is to address socioeconomic disparities between neighborhood schools. If I understand the "clustering" idea correctly (and there is a good chance that I do not), kids from both schools will attend younger grades together at one location and older grades will be combined at the other building. Students at Maury apparently perform better than those at Miner and it seems that the hope is that by spreading the higher-performing kids around, it will improve the weaker school. Overlying this is the issue of race. Maury is nearly 60% White while Miner is 80% Black. As a result, some of the posters see this as an attempt to "spread the White kids around". To make matters worse, the DCPS plan is not yet fully baked and DCPS staff members were unable to answer a number of basic questions. Needless to say, this has created all kinds of consternation among Maury, and likely Miner, parents. Parents who have seen Maury improve over the years are worried that that progress will be set back. But, not all posters see this idea as entirely negative. As mentioned by the original poster, increasing affluence at Maury resulted in the school losing Title 1 status and, with it, significant extra funding. One result was apparently that free preschool is no longer offered by the school. Clustering with Miner would restore Title 1 funding and free preschool. As one poster pointed out, currently Maury has plenty of students who could benefit from extra funding, but without Title 1 status that money is not there. The ultimate problem for DCPS is that administrators can try to orchestrate diversity goals, but in a school system that emphasizes school choice, parents have options and will not always cooperate.

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Tuesday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Nov 29, 2023 10:19 AM

Yesterday's topics with the most engagement included covid vaccination refusers, sex partners, non-selective liberal arts colleges, and what to do about an alcoholic son.

The Gaza war thread continued to be the most active thread yesterday, but just barely. Second was a topic that is perhaps even more controversial than the Israel-Palestine conflict. Titled, "Are antivaxxers all just contrarians and conspiracy theorists?" and posted in the "Off-Topic" forum, the original poster asks if there are critical thinkers among those who oppose vaccinations. It is not apparent from the original post whether the original poster is referring to those who oppose all vaccinations or those who are only against the covid vaccination. Regardless, most of the thread focuses on the covid vaccine. This, of course, is not a new topic and there is very little, if anything, new in this thread. I think there are a few obvious facts related to this topic. First, the vaccine was originally oversold, with many believing that the shots would prevent contracting and transmitting covid. That's obviously not the case, though the vaccine does appear to significantly limit both catching and spreading the disease and results in less severe illness among those who are infected. Second, there were relatively widespread side effects to the vaccine that caused suspicion, hesitation, and reluctance to get vaccination. Finally, there has been widespread campaigns, often politically-motivated and frequently based on misinformation, in opposition to the vaccines. The result is that anyone who wants to convince themselves not to get the shot can easily do so. Threads like this one demonstrate different types of vaccine opponents, Of course there are the right-wingers convinced that the vaccine is an attempt to turn them into transgender Marxists who are controlled by 5G radio signals, and the traditional granola leftists convinced that vaccines cause autism, but the covid vaccines have led to another category of vaccine-hesitant individuals. This is the "I support vaccines except for covid" group. Members of this group have a host of reasons for justifying their covid vaccine reluctance. Frequently, they claim to have "done their own research" which often consists of simply reading a few Facebook posts. The new boogyman, as several posters point out, is fear of "spike proteins" that they contend have horrendous side effects. But, I was surprised by the number of posters in this thread who are avoiding covid boosters because they claim the shot knocks them out for a day or two. If they are having that type of reaction to the vaccine, I wonder what will happen to them if they catch actual covid? Conversely, a number of posters in this thread report not having had an interest in the booster until a friend or family member fell ill with the disease. Having witnessed what they went through, these posters have either gotten or or planning to get the shot.

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Monday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Nov 28, 2023 10:19 AM

The topics with the most engagement yesterday included Alexandria possibly eliminating zoning for single family homes, another student walkout in MCPS, an epidemic of estrangement, and a daughter's mysterious emergency room visit.

Yesterday the Gaza war thread continued as the most active thread. Skipping, that one, the most active thread was titled, "Alexandria on the Cusp of Eliminating All SFH Zoning" and posted in the "Metropolitan DC Local Politics" forum. The original poster claims that Alexandria is plagued by a number of negative factors such as failing schools and an increasing number of murders and now the Council is going to completely destroy the city by eliminating zoning for single family housing. There is apparently a vote on this topic today. First, just to clarify what this proposal is all about. Currently, some parts of Alexandria are zoned exclusively for single family houses. In an effort to expand housing options, the Council proposes to remove this zoning and allow the development of multifamily housing units in those areas. Posters variously see this as either enhancing the value of their property or destroying it. Those in the first group suggest that what is now a single family home could be sold for a higher profit if it were purchased in order to develop multifamily housing. Others, on the other hand, believe that higher-density will destroy their current community and cause their current homes to lose value. This illustrates the dilemma of housing costs. Those in search of housing are eager to see more affordable housing which, proponents of development argue, can best be achieved by increasing the supply of housing. As such, encouraging the replacement of single family homes with multifamily units should increase affordability. But those who currently own property are not interested in seeing it lose value and that is exactly what they fear will happen if their current property is suddenly surrounded by lower-cost housing. Regardless, there is no agreement about the best course of action. Some posters think it makes sense to sell to a developer and take the money and run. Others think staying put until single family homes are scarce and sell for a significant premium makes more sense. Several posters are also worried about an increased number of residents overburdening city services, especially schools. Anger with the proposal is such that many posters who apparently currently own single-family homes make all sorts of threats about how they will react, such as turning their homes into brothels or raising pigs in their back yards. Sadly for these posters, the new zoning proposals will not allow for brothels or pig farms.

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