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The Home Front

Politics, culture, and American life — from the family perspective.

Hard Work, Ashton Kutcher, and Bristol Palin’s Quest for Jeans



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Colette, thanks for pointing out Ashton Kutcher’s amazing speech about the value of hard work. It’s great to see that that clip has generated a great deal of conversation. I sent the clip to Bristol Palin who loved his message of never being too good for a job. In response to Ashton’s message, in fact, she posted on her blog about how her mom made her work for that extra pair of jean she just “had to have.”

Since I was a kid, my parents taught me the value of work.  Mom, of course, was our town’s mayor, then  our state’s governor. She worked for a newspaper and tv station when I was very small. Dad has always been a commercial fisherman in Bristol Bay, plus, for years he had a great job in the oil fields up on the North Slope. Through some of those years he also owned an outdoor recreation shop selling and fixing snowmachines, watercraft, boats, ATVs, etc. (He always had Willow on his hip there, because she wasn’t in school yet and she loved hanging out in the mechanic shop!)

Mom and Dad worked hard. We weren’t wealthy, but they took care of our needs.

Here was my problem – mom sometimes didn’t realize I “needed” more jeans.

“If you want designer jeans, that’s fine,” Mom told me,  “but you’re gonna work for them.”

That’s why I got my first “real” job (besides babysitting) that summer at an out-of-the-way café in Nordstrom’s in Anchorage – which gave me the company’s discount on clothes. Of course, by the time I’d pay for the gas to get to Anchorage, plus parking, and then take advantage of that discount, I was barely breaking even.

There were several coffee stands with little drive-throughs where customers pull up to order fancy hot coffees, and—hopefully—leave me a tip. I worked in many of them, serving lattes, espressos, cappuccinos, etc. I’d happily be grinding and brewing coffee at the Sunrise Coffee Shack, then after my shift I’d drive down the road to Café Croissant and pour more coffee in the afternoons during a second shift there. Then, about a year later, I got a job working at the Espresso Café about fifty feet down the road. (Alaska seems to have coffee shacks on every corner!) Since it was all basically just the same job – smile, take orders, make their caffeine-infused drinks – I don’t think my bosses were ever concerned about me sharing company secrets.

Beginning in 7th grade, I also worked at my grandparent’s L&M Ace Hardware store in Dillingham, about four hundred air miles southwest of Anchorage.  It’s owned by my dad’s mom, who’s like a mom to everyone in that fishing town. One day, I was cleaning the glass shelves that held the guns and knives. Willow was on one side of the glass and would not stop bugging me. I took the Windex and merely sprayed it in her general direction. I was a mile away from her, but she immediately started screaming, “My eyes! My eyes!” My Nana, sick of listening to us, grabbed us both by the arm and said, “That’s it! You’re going home!”

After I got fired by my own grandmother, Dad wasn’t going to let me get away with being a bad worker. The next night, he hauled us all out to work in his open-air commercial fishing skiff.  This was harder – and so much colder – than cleaning the gun cases, but I look back on these times of employment when I really learned how hard people have to work to make money.

Now, as an adult, I still carry those lessons with me.  No, I don’t fish every Bristol Bay season opener anymore (at least not putting in enough time on the water slaying salmon to make much money!). I’ve been working for four years now in a dermatology office – with the best coworkers ever, I’d add!

My parents have said they are so proud of their kids’ work ethic, and that adds to the pride we can take in working hard every single day. I hope you all have that confirmation from your family and friends that reminds you how important work is. And like Ashton suggested from the awards show stage, don’t feel like any job is beneath you. And don’t wait for that “perfect” job to come along before getting off the couch to make a paycheck. Better jobs will come along after you put in the grinding hours today, believe me, I know. I’m glad for my work lessons through these years.

And now, thankfully, I can buy my own jeans, Mom!

As a mom raising three kids who — hopefully — value hard work, this is a great reminder that it’s okay to take a page from Momma Grizzly’s playbook. Want those Legos? Grab a broom.

Why Dexter Is the Most Unintentionally Conservative Show on TV



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I had to turn away the first few times I watched the show — the whole “serial killer” thing creeped me out.  However, as Showtime’s Dexter is coming to a season close, I’m starting to realize that the show has some underlying conservative principles. I wrote about it recently for Rare magazine:

Nudity? Occasionally. Profanity? All the time. Dismemberment? Every episode.

The protagonist in Showtime’s controversial series “Dexter” is an unrepentant serial killer. The show, in its seventh and final season, is a darling of liberal viewers, while conservatives tend toward the less niche fare offered by the major networks. However, even with its morally complicated plot, “Dexter” is one of television’s most unintentionally conservative shows.

Why?  First you have to understand the backstory.

The young Dexter (Michael C. Hall) witnesses his mother’s murder in one of the bloodiest murders in Miami history. Harry, the police officer who works the crime, adopts the young boy and raises him as his own child. Soon, however, Harry (James Remar) is horrified to discover that Dexter has been killing neighborhood pets. Assuming the desire to kill must’ve originated upon witnessing his mom’s death — and believing he can’t control Dexter’s urge — he teaches his son to kill only those guilty of heinous crimes. In other words, Dexter becomes a vigilante — a Batman of sorts — for whom viewers unwittingly end up rooting.

The show is not “conservative” in the sense that you might want the church youth group to watch it for spiritual lessons. The show’s themes, however, are subversively conservative.

Read the three reasons why this Showtime series exhibits underlying conservative themes here.

Do any of you watch this show?  Do you agree with my assessment? 

Most important, how do you think the series will end?

 

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Day-Care Workers Fired for Posting Pictures of Kids on Instagram



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A Facebook account I follow down here in Miami — WPLG Local 10 — posted this today:

FIRED FOR INSTAGRAM POSTS! Two daycare workers are out of their jobs after they were caught posting pictures of kids in their care… along with some comments parents say were inappropriate.

MORE INFO HERE: http://bit.ly/18HsTnN

What do you think? Did they deserve to be fired — or were their posts just harmless fun?

Um, yeah they deserved to be fired. Even if the comments weren’t inappropriate, there’s no reason why pictures of these kids should be posted on a public social-media site without the written permission of the parents. 

As for “harmless fun,” here’s an excerpt of what they posted:

Two Virginia day care workers have been fired after photos of children in their care showed up on Instagram — complete with comments making fun of them.

Melissa Jordan said she was angry when she saw what one staffer at the Heavenly Haven Learning Center 2 posted about her son Ethan.

In one photo, 2-year-old Ethan — who has delayed speech development — looks dejected sitting in a high chair.

The photo was posted by @mz_oneofakind — later identified as Jena Ferrel, who worked at the center, CNN affiliate WAVY reported.

“I’m sick of this s—!!!” she wrote in a caption.

“… He is thinking cuz sure can’t talk,” a day care manager chimed in, according to WAVY.

“Jerk” is too mild a description for these two.

 

Should American Grandparents Follow Chinese Example?



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In a piece titled Lean In, and Lean on Grandma” in the Washington Post, Kelly Yang points out that Chinese women do not suffer the angst of choosing between having a career and staying at home to raise their children largely thanks to grandparents providing childcare.

China can show [women] how it’s done. There, 51 percent of positions in senior management are held by women, and about 19 percent of its chief executives are women. In the United States, just 20 percent of senior managers and 4 percent of Fortune 500 chief executives are women. The explanation for China’s striking numbers is not the effect of some persuasive TED talk, best-selling book or even better access to affordable child care. Instead, it’s because, in China, the grandparents lean in.

According to the Shanghai Municipal Population and Family Planning Commission, 90 percent of young children in the city are being looked after by a grandparent. In China, it is not uncommon for maternal and paternal grandparents to split duties or travel long distances to help care for their grandchildren. The unofficial motto of these grandparents? Have passport, will babysit.

this author’s mother, to her credit, cares for three grandchildren to help further her daughter’s career. For most families in China, there are four grandparents who share a single grandchild, and they take turns providing care. But is this a model that would fly in America?

I know all kinds of grandparents, from the most hands-on to the most independent. And while American grandparents are helping out more and more — mostly financially, but also by providing living space and childcare — I don’t think there will be a big shift anytime soon. Too many grandparents would consider it a giant leap backwards to return to the days of childrearing. If they got through it without substantial assistance from their own parents, so can their children. Thanks in large part to the efforts of go-getting Baby Boomers, new geriatric frontiers are being explored that don’t involve caring for infants or toddlers.

And wouldn’t career women be reluctant to place such a huge burden on their parents or in-laws? After all the things our parents do for us, unless we are in true dire straits, do we really want our parents to spend their Golden Years helping us to crack through that corporate glass ceiling? Shouldn’t grandparenting be a blessing, not a full-time obligation? 

But who knows? Maybe toting a grandchild to the country-club golf course or on a hostel excursion will become the latest trend.

(On the other hand, this way of life may be why China has one of the lowest percentages of mothers who breastfeed. But that may be changing.)

Should Disney Princesses Depict ‘Reality’?



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A few months ago I joined those who objected to the overglamorized version of the heroine Merida from Brave on Disney’s website. While I don’t have a problem with a princess who is dressed to the nines, I preferred that the Scottish lass remain a rugged tomboy. But many moms struggle with whether or not it’s okay to expose our daughters to movies that tell tales of finding a prince and living happily ever after wearing a tiara and a ball gown.

But, of course, that is hardly what the Disney characters are all about, especially in more recent years. Sure it’s more of a stretch to make the feminist case for older movies like Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella, (although I believe they can be made), but ever since Ariel fought the villain side by side with her prince and Belle delighted in the world of literature while patiently calming a wild beast Disney has made a point with each subsequent leading lady to portray women of strength and independent means who sometimes happen to choose a princely mate. (And sometimes not.)

These are intended to be simple fairy tales, but that doesn’t stop haters from feeling they have to make a mockery of their divergence from reality. The latest is a photo series called “Fallen Princesses” that shows the Disney characters dealing with “real world” problems like obesity and cancer. But of course it also has to throw in not-so-ordinary problems like plastic surgery addiction and being a “cat lady.”

Snow White struggles to keep her head above water with several kids, and a prince who can’t find work.

 The photo I most take issue with is this one that shows Snow White with several small children and an “unemployed” husband. 

I don’t find it that hard to teach my daughters to distinguish between fantasy and reality. They don’t need in-your-face artists to tell them what the world is really like. And the example they will follow is the one that I, and the other strong women in their lives, have set for them. And, whether or not they face the future with a prince charming by their side as I did, they will know there is nothing wrong with escaping to a fantasy world now and again.

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Teaching Our Teens to Find the Sweet Spot



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David French had a great post on The Corner yesterday in which he examined the way so many parents — and society at large — push kids to be “awesome.” He pointed out that the “cult of self-esteem” seems to be breeding a narcissistic generation that eschews hard work and true virtue. Even when meant well, as in the Evangelical crusade to “be awesome for others,” he believes we run the risk of having kids burn out. Better to teach the value of being faithful for its own sake.

While I don’t disagree entirely with this notion, I do think we can find a sweet spot between the two. And a very surprising spokesman for this idea came from what I would have thought was one of the least likely sources last Sunday.

Perhaps you heard about the acceptance speech that Ashton — aka Chris Kutcher — gave at the Teen Choice Awards. Maybe friends on Facebook posted a link and you thought “What could that Hollywood hunk possibly have to say that I would find relevant?” Well, he weighs in on three things: oppotunity, being sexy, and living life. Here’s hoping those squealing girls were paying attention. They just may have learned a few valuable lessons.

 

 

The Curious Case of High-Powered Moms Opting Back In



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You haven’t had the time to read Judith Warner’s lengthy New York Times article from last week about moms who “opted out” of high-powered, high-paying jobs to stay at home with their children — who are now looking to opt back in? I finally got around to it, and I pulled out what I think are the most interesting passages.

Ultimately, I always have a hard time with these stories. Though I was quite a go-getter as a young student, poor choices put me in the position of being quite happy to leave my drudge of a job and stay at home while my husband pursued his career path. So I can’t relate — as I imagine the majority of American women who work outside the home (at record levels) also can’t — to the experience of going from the corporate board room to the PTA board meeting.

I also can’t seem to relate to these marriages that suffer so much under the strain of everyday family life and end up in divorce. Though my marriage has had its struggles as we slogged through the quotidian duties of parenthood, there was never any doubt that we were in it together and would make it to the other side as strong as ever. Not judging those who have divorced (my first marriage didn’t last its first year), I just find it sad that so many couples lose their way.

That said, it is still interesting to find that most of these former power brokers don’t regret leaving the workforce (although they had some trouble adjusting to traditional gender roles) and — despite the frustrations they’ve experienced as they try to opt back in — few desire their old careers but instead are looking for a job with a sense of deeper fulfillment.

[The] desire to be emotionally present at home, Pamela Stone, the sociologist, told me, became more pressing over time for the women she interviewed, reshaping their ambitions when they decided to go back to work.

While two-thirds of the women she reinterviewed originally worked in male-dominated professions like banking or corporate law, now only a quarter are employed in traditionally masculine and hard-driving fields. The rest chose more female-dominated, and far less lucrative, “caring, nurturing occupations” like teaching or nonprofit work, Stone said. Only one of the women she interviewed had returned to her former employer (in a “vastly different capacity, much diminished,” she said); and all have scaled down their ambitions. . . .

Many of the women I spoke with were troubled by the gender-role traditionalism that crept into their marriages once they gave up work, transforming them from being their husbands’ intellectual equals into the one member of their partnership uniquely endowed with gifts for laundry or cooking and cleaning; a junior member of the household. . . .

The husbands hadn’t turned into ogres. Their intent was not to make their wives feel lesser. But when traditional gender arrangements were put into place, there was a subtle slide into inequality. “The dynamic changes,” said Hope Adler, a former manager at the professional-services firm KPMG who spent 10 years at home full time with her four children before starting work again and choosing to take a much-lower-paying job at a smaller consulting firm that allowed her to work some of the time from home. “When I worked at KPMG we did 50/50. . . Then once I started staying home, I was doing laundry, dinner. . . .” But once she started working again, the expectations remained the same. “There just doesn’t seem to be a way to go back,” she said.

…But most people don’t make life decisions based on statistics or the collective good. And not a single woman I spoke with said she wished that she could return to her old, pre-opting-out job – no matter what price she paid for her decision to stop working. What I heard instead were some regrets for what, in an ideal world, might have been – more time with their children combined with some sort of intellectually stimulating, respectably paying, advancement-permitting part-time work – but none for the high-powered professional lives that these women had led.

Warner also found that fathers are seeking to find the balance that their wives are striving for, but the current economy may be hindering their efforts. 

Men, too, are feeling the crunch of excessively demanding work. They now report more work-life stress than women do, according to the Families and Work Institute. They also may be penalized more than women if they try to accommodate their work schedules to the needs of their children, as research appearing in the June issue of The Journal of Social Issues shows. It’s perhaps not surprising, then, that some husbands find themselves eyeing their wives’ lives at home with envy. “Men want to say we’re more than a paycheck,” Ted Mattox told me. “There has to be something more than going to work for 50 years and dying.”

To find time for that “something more,” husbands would need to join with their wives in rejecting nighttime networking sessions and 7 a.m. meetings. They would have to convey to employers that work-life accommodations like flexible hours or job sharing aren’t just for women and that part-time jobs need to provide proportional pay and benefits. At a time when fewer families than ever can afford to live on less than two full-time salaries, achieving work-life balance may well be less a gender issue than an economic one.

On the Consumer Front



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Baby Boomers are buying cars that automakers developed with young hipsters in mind. 

More and more “euro stores” are popping up, following the dollar-store model.

A posh development on the Upper West Side of NYC will have a separate entrance for poorer residents.

Student-loan debt is affecting the business plans of potential start-ups.

 

Forget title loans — get quick cash with your designer handbag!

 

 

Breastfeeding or Manners? Let’s Have Both



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A mom in Texas was breastfeeding her child at a recreational-facility, when an employee asked her to cover up, or to use a private room that the recreational facility would provide.  The ensuing incident was caught on video – and, of course, posted on the couple’s blog – and has created some passionate debate over exactly where lactating mothers can — or should — feed their infants.  Here’s what happened:

As a mother of three, I realize how awkward it sometimes is to have to nurse in public.  However, in the battle between breastfeeding and manners, why can’t we have both?  Read my take here.

Gospel Singer Cut From MLK Event Over Gay Issues



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I think we’re going to be hearing more and more stories like this.

Mayor Vincent C. Gray cut a singer who has won Grammy, Dove, and Stellar Awards in gospel music from a city-sponsored concert Saturday at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.  Joe Carter at The Gospel Coalition wrote about the situation:

The Story: Award-winning gospel musician Donnie McClurkin claims he was uninvited to a concert in Washington, D.C. celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. and the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington due to his stance on homosexuality.

The Background: According to the Washington Post, McClurkin was scheduled to perform in the D.C.-government-sponsored concert with other singers at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial during the “Reflections on Peace: From Gandhi to King” event. But at the request of Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D), who fielded concerns from activists Friday, the Grammy-winning singer decided not to perform, according to the mayor’s office.

In a lengthy video statement posted online Saturday, McClurkin said Gray “uninvited me from a concert that I was supposed to headline.”

“There should be freedom of speech as long as it’s done in love,” McClurkin said in the video, adding that he believes it is unfortunate that in today’s world, “a black man, a black artist is uninvited from a civil rights movement depicting the love, the unity, the peace, the tolerance.”

Read the whole story here, including the quote McClurkin gave Charisma magazine in 2002 (related to childhood sexual abuse) that raised the ire of gay rights activists. Donnie’s video statement can be viewed here.

Imagine Getting into a Cab and Realizing Your Driver Was the President



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You overslept on the very morning you have that very important appointment.  Instead of navigating the subway, you stick your hand in the air and hope the next cab has vacancy.  When it stops, you slide into the weathered seats, tell the driver your destination, and begin to absent mindedly flip through your e-mails.  But, is that a familiar face in the rear view mirror?  Could it be?  Yep.  The man taking you around town, honking at traffic, and charging you forty cents per mile is none other than President Obama.

No, that didn’t happen in America.  However, the Norwegian prime minister did just that:

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg pulled off a stunt recently that many of his fellow democratically elected leaders would likely be too scared to carry out: He tried to mingle with the people. In what he described as an effort to hear from real Norwegians, Stoltenberg dressed up as a taxi driver and spent an afternoon driving people around Oslo. He didn’t quite manage to remain incognito though. Pretty much all his passengers realized sooner or later who their driver was, despite the sunglasses and uniform. Still, from the short video posted online it seems like lively discussions did emerge, even if the passengers knew who they were talking to. One elderly woman says she’s lucky he was her driver because she “wanted to send a letter.”

The media stunt certainly makes the prime minister seem like friendly guy, with one woman even making fun of his driving. “Your driving isn’t exactly the best I’ve seen,” she said.

I regret that this video footage of the scene is not in English, but seeing the delight on his passengers’ faces as they realize their driver’s identity make it worth a quick watch:

 

End of the World Watch: Abortion Clinic Sending Out Coupons



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For $50 off, Sundays only.

Via LifeNews.com.

Did Matt Damon Inadvertently Make a Conservative Movie?



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He did, according to movie reviewer Rebecca Cusey:

Shhh….Don’t tell Matt Damon, but something went sideways and he made a conservative manifesto in Elysium. 

It’s pretty much a warning about what will happen to Earth if socialism wins.

Elysium takes place in the near future, after the entire earth suffers under the kind of economic meltdown threatening some of our great cities now. It’s dusty. It’s dirty. It’s unkept. No one has families or cars decent homes or fresh clothes or, apparently, showers. Jobs are dreary and dangerous and unsatisfying, if you can find them at all.

Future Los Angeles. Behold the power of socialism!

Basically, it’s Detroit.

Total economic meltdown. Here is a partial list of places where this sort of systematic economic failure has happened or looms:  Detroit.  California. Illinois. The Soviet Union. Cuba. Greece. Spain.

Not, say, Texas or Virginia.

Read the rest of her review – called After Watching ‘Elysium, You’ll Want to Register as a Republican’ - here.

Celebrate Me - I’m Childless!



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Time magazine’s new cover story “Having It All Without Having Children,” by Lauren Sandler breaks down an interesting trend.  More couples are foregoing parenthood than ever before in American history:

From 2007 to 2011, the most recent year for which there’s data, the fertility rate declined 9%. A 2010 Pew Research report showed that childlessness has risen across all racial and ethnic groups, adding up to about 1 in 5 American women who end their childbearing years maternity-free, compared with 1 in 10 in the 1970s. Even before the recession hit, in 2008, the proportion of women ages 40 to 44 who had never given birth had grown by 80 percent, from 10% to 18%, since 1976, when a new vanguard began to question the reproductive imperative… the rise [of childlessness] is both dramatic and, in the scope of our history, quite sudden.

The article purports to examine how judged and scorned these childless couples are in a society that often “equates womanhood with motherhood.”  Instead of entering into what one childless-by-choice woman described as “the glamorous martyrdom of motherhood,” they are simply making another choice… a choice that just so happens to allow them to have more free time and take more exotic vacations than the rest of us.

This is where Time begins to get it wrong, because it fails to note that this so-called martyrdom goes both ways

The Chilling History of How Hollywood Helped Hitler



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The Hollywood Reporter has a fascinating book excerpt of “The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler” (Harvard University Press, Sept. 9) by Ben Urwand which chillingly shows how far major Hollywood studios went to collaborate with the Nazis during the ten years leading up to World War II.  Apparently, they “let Nazis censor scripts, remove credits from Jews, get movies stopped and even force one MGM executive to divorce his Jewish wife.”  They also enthusiastically assisted in the Nazis’ world-wide effort to spread propaganda.

The excerpt has some pretty amazing detail, including one example from April 1937.  After author Erich Maria Remarque’s trilogy “Three Comrades” was completed, MGM hired F. Scott Fitzgerald to write a screen play which attacked the rise of Nazism in Germany.   The film was set in the late 1920s, when the Nazis were gaining their brute political force.  However, the German consul didn’t approve of the movie and suggested some changes.  “This screen adaptation suggests to us enormous difficulty from the standpoint of your company’s distribution business in Germany. … [and] may result in considerable difficulty in Europe for other American producing organizations.”

MGM executives capitulated to several German demands.  Eventually, the film’s setting was moved up, had no attack on the Nazis, and absolutely no mention of Jews.  (Rest assured, these cuts didn’t affect the movie’s romantic plot.)  Three Comrades would have been Hollywood’s first explicitly anti-Nazi film.

According to the New York Times, “Mr. Urwand said that he found nearly 20 films intended for American audiences that German officials significantly altered or squelched. Perhaps more important, he added, Jewish characters were all but eliminated from Hollywood movies.”

“At this critical historical moment, when a major Hollywood production could have alerted the world to what was going on in Germany,” Urward laments, “the director did not have the final cut; the Nazis did.”

Read the excerpt here.

The Car-Seat Conundrum



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Just last week Greg Pollowitz linked to a story about Prince William putting his newborn son in his car seat incorrectly. Well, apparently we’re all doing it wrong. This article is from March 21, 2011 — how many of us missed this? Emphasis mine.

Everything you thought you knew about car seats is wrong. Okay, not everything, but things have changed and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) along with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced new guidelines today. And it’s big news. The recommendation is that children rear face longer and they also changed the details for kids in boosters. . . .

New Rear-facing Recommendation: Parents are to keep children rear-facing until 2 years old, or until they reach the maximum height and weight for the seat as noted in the manual. . . .

New Boostering Recommendation: Children should ride in a belt-positioning booster (that means a high-back!) until they are at least 4 foot, 9 inches, AND 8-12 years old. . . .

Beyond that, all kids need to stay out of the front until they’re at least 13 years old. Make sure you’re using the car seats correctly, too. There’s a lot of intricacies for both harnessed seats and boosters. When in doubt, find a Safe Kids inspection station or event and get checked out by a tech. And hopefully more and more pediatricians, with these new recommendations, will be on board as well, and we can maybe put an end to vehicle related-injuries being the number one cause of death in kids ages 2-14.

For all our kvetching, it’s those last words that hit home. Yes, it seems extreme and, yes, it seems that parents are being guilted ad nauseum. But when one considers the benefit of following simple precautions (despite how difficult it may be to get the legs of a tall 18-month-old to fit comfortably when rear-facing) and the heart-breaking cost of not following them . . . all right, all right. We’ll do it.

And for those willing to take it to the upper limit, the $750 Carkoon is on the way to store shelves. Its slogan is “when safe is not safe enough.” 

UPDATE: And now it appears the rules are changing again.

 

When Should a Politician Just Go Away?



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This week, I’m wrangling with honor, shame, and the idea of “second chances” in light of the (most recent) Weiner scandal:

By now, America has rejected Anthony Weiner with as much passion and unanimity as it rejected New Coke and the final episode of Seinfeld. After giving him a second chance, our forgiveness resulted in even more predatory sexual behaviors, exposing our children to blurred photos of his nether regions on television, and more genitalia puns in one week than in the average four years of high school. Suddenly, everyone agrees it’s time for “Carlos Danger” to simply go away. And, if recent New York polls are any indication, America might just get its wish.

But Carlos is an easy call. What about other politicians? When should scandals end political careers, even when they’re really, really sorry?

Recent examples abound.

Obviously, there’s Democrat Eliot Spitzer who resigned from his position as governor of New York in 2008 because of a prostitution scandal, but is currently running for comptroller.

Then, there’s the Democratic San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, whom seven women have publicly accused of unwanted sexual advances like groping. On Friday, he told his constituents “the behavior I have engaged in over many years is wrong … the intimidating conduct I engaged in at times is inexcusable.” Yet, instead of resigning, he’s entering two weeks of “intensive therapy.”

Republicans have their own share of drama.

For example, did you know Tennessee’s 4th Congressional district is being led by a self-described pro-life Congressman Scott Desjarlais who encouraged his mistress to have an abortion and supported his former wife’s decision to have two abortions? 

And what about Newt Gingrich, Mark Sanford, and others who have tarnished our “family values” brand in their own unique ways?

Please enjoy my handy guide to scandal-plagued politicians

Sadly, I think we’ll get a lot of use out it.
 

Multi-Generational Family Ties



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We’ve heard about all the college grads moving back home, and about the sandwich generation caring for parents and children. But more and more, it seems to be the grandparents who are making the necessary sacrifices to ensure financial stability

Grandparents helping their children and grandchildren is nothing new; that’s what family is for. But the extent of the support — whether it’s providing a place to live, caring for young grandkids, covering back-to-school shopping or paying college tuition — has increased with the fragile economy.

At the height of the Great Recession, nearly two-thirds of America’s grandparents were providing an estimated $370 billion in financial support to their grandkids over the previous five years, according to a [2011] survey by the MetLife Mature Market Institute. That averages out to $8,661 per grandparent household.

And now it’s not elders moving in with their kids because of financial straits, it’s the other way around.

According to a Pew Research Center analysis of the latest U.S. Census Bureau data, approximately 51 million Americans, or 16.7 percent of the population, live in a house with at least two adult generations, or a grandparent and at least one other generation, under one roof. The Pew analysis also reported a 10.5 percent increase in multigeneration households from 2007 to 2009. And a 2012 survey by national home builder PulteGroup found that 32 percent of adult children expect to eventually share their house with a parent.

“It used to be older people whose money had run out who were living with their children, and now it’s the next generation that can’t keep up,” says Louis Tenenbaum, a founder of the Aging in Place Institute, which promotes “multigen” remodeling.

And grandparents are thinking about their grandchildren’s future, as they are contributing to 529s more and more.

Parents still contribute the lion’s share of funds invested in 529 accounts. But contributions from grandparents now make up about 9.5 percent of the total, according to the most recent data from the Financial Research Corp, which tracks 529 investments. . . The trend isn’t lost on financial services companies, and many are starting to market 529 investment opportunities directly to grandparents as a result.

Here’s a list of guidelines for financially assisting children and grandchildren.

 

 

 

Prince William Needs Lessons on the Car Seat



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On the Family Finance Front



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The Wall Street Journal had two pieces on family finances yesterday that caught my eye. The first from Rebekah Bell is about graduating from college debt-free. She starts her analysis with these sobering statistics: 

Figures from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reveal that 37 million Americans have student loan debt. About two-thirds of students receiving bachelor’s degrees borrow to fund their education, with the average student debt at an all-time high of $26,000. Total student-loan debt is estimated to be $1 trillion.

Only 38% of borrowers are making payments on their loans. The rest are either still in school, postponing payments or not paying them back. Almost one in 10 students who started repayment in 2009 defaulted within two years. At least 40% of student borrowers put off a major purchase such as a car or home because they couldn’t afford it, and many are delaying marriage and families.

She goes on to suggest several strategies to help avoid crushing college-loan debt, from accumulating as many “non-premium rate” educational credits from varying sources (including high schools, online courses, and summer-school classes at a local community college) to several ideas for generating income during your college days. Read more here.

Then I saw an opinion piece by Demetria Gallegos about parents’ veto power on their children’s purchases. With kids carrying hefty balances as they stash away generous gifts from grandma and money from lucrative babysitting gigs, it can be difficult to teach them to forego pricey items and to think about the future. 

[My husband] John and I have had to articulate a policy around savings, and how the girls can spend it.

The general principle: “Until they’re 18, we have the right to deny them spending it on things we don’t approve of,” says John. “Our name is on the bank account.”

The girls buy this argument – up to a point.

“I understand if you keep us from using it on things like drugs, but since it’s our money, it should be our decision,” says Emily. . . .

Jamie, 16, agrees that John and I are within our rights to control withdrawals. “You should have more influence in our bank accounts,” she says. “You’ve been putting money in that account for years. That’s your investment in us, so you should have a say in it. . . .Our insistence on holding the reins, however, doesn’t mean that the money is untouchable. In the same way their allowance teaches them to manage cash in hand, we want the savings account to give them lessons in delayed gratification. 

I know it’s a struggle in our household. More here.

 

 

 

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