Monday, November 15, 2010

Generosity Unbound

Generosity Unbound is a book about using philanthropy to provide services currently provided by government. The book launching event is in New York for anyone interested.  Besides recommending the book and putting it on my pre-order list as well, I now have an excuse to discuss a few philanthropy differences between the US and the UK and Europe.

I've mentioned that European conservatives are vastly different than US conservatives because the European variety still sees the state as the solution to problems where as the US variety sees the state as an impediment to solutions.  This charity issue is an excellent illustration.  I came across this article from Germany a few months ago.  It discusses how it is undesirable for billionaires to donate millions to charity because such generous donations might take the place of social welfare programs better run by the state.   The idea of a state solution is just more commonplace in Europe.  I suspect that most Americans reading that article, all but the most hardcore leftists, raised their eyebrows.  The idea of curtailing charity doesn't make sense.

I think the idea of curtailing charity would also seem nonsensical to the UK as well.  But I also suspect that the type of philanthropy presumably suggested in the book would be harder to implement in the UK than the US.

Yesterday the kids and I had lunch at our church vicar's home.  He and his wife hosted a few families for Sunday roast as they like to do.  The church has quite a large number of Americans attending.  At one point the Vicar's wife wanted one of the other guests to tell us about his new job with a Christian philanthropy outfit.  What was striking to her was what a broad base of social work with a Christian perspective the company did.  I gathered that the company is over 100 years old, very well regarded, and apparently one of the few that really engages socially with those it helps.  In other words, she was struck by how much the charity focused on teaching a man to fish rather than giving a man a fish.  I on the other hand, was struck by a comment she made in passing.  She wanted more information on how to volunteer because so many Americans that come to the church ask about where to do hands on charity work, often seeking volunteer opportunities for their children as well.  The flow of the conversation didn't permit me to ask if this was a more American kind of request.

My experience says it might be.  So far, most of the charity work I've seen in the UK is of the fundraiser variety and usually involves only adults.  For instance, M&M is very active in charity work.  Almost single handily, she puts on a Christmas choral concert at the Royal Hospital to benefit her chosen charity, Home Start.  She also has a kids' clothes resale a few times a year.  She has all of us mum friends donate our kids' clothes and sells the used ones for a pound a piece and the tagged and designer stuff (this is Chelsea, Dior baby is actually bought and worn around here) for five pounds.  She donates all the proceeds to Home Start.  (I've told her that I'm stealing her clothes sale idea when I return to Houston.  It is brilliant.  And I like how she concentrates her fire, working with one charity.)  Other friends often discuss fundraising events, ones they are planning and others they attended.  Charitable fundraising is part of life here.

For another illustration, take the differences between PTA's in the US and UK.  A PTA in the US has fundraisers typically for the school--new music room piano, new equipment in the gym--while in the UK, PTA's have fundraisers for charity.   (School improvements are paid for out of tuition.  I'll see if I can find an article raving about some school having a fundraiser for improvements and the reporter taking about how the school was trying to pass off its duties onto the parents.  I can't understate how profound this difference is between the US and UK views of tuition.  But I digress.)  Again, charity work is about fundraising.  At Suzanne Power's and my insistence, we did an Adopt an Angel type charity at the preschool this year.  No one complained or objected, but the default assumption is that charity is about money.

I'm not complaining about fundraising.  It is important, essential even, for charities to raise funds.  And an area with Chelsea's demographics is a great place for raising funds.  I am surprised, though, to learn how much charity in the UK focuses on fundraising.  As I have emerged from the treadmill that is early motherhood, I've started looking for some hands on charity work for myself and to start Christopher Robin, and maybe Cupcake.   I thought that I had not found anything like candy striping, Meals on Wheels, tutoring, prison Bible studies, Habitat for Humanity work days and the like because I'm still a bit preoccupied with domestic life.  Such opportunities just kind of come up at home.  You know someone doing a Bible study at a women's shelter.  Your law firm partnered with a local junior high school for tutoring.  Nordstroms has the Adopt an Angel tree in front of the customer service desk.  You don't need to look that hard for volunteer opportunities.  They find you.  What occurred to me at the vicar's wife's comment is that hands on volunteer opportunities don't find you in the UK; you have to look for them.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Baby Timeline, 0-6 Months

A couple of years ago, by request, I hammered out a new baby timeline for a friend.  I have recycled it many times since.  Today I planned to update it for a pregnant blogging buddy.  She didn’t ask, but it sounds like she and I are similar, mommy wise, so I thought I’d save her some trial and error.  Since I’m updating, though, I might as well post it.  So after the jump, find my New Baby Timeline.  The pronouns are female because the girlfriend I originally wrote this for had a girl, and I don’t see the point in replacing them all.  Also, I give nursing info, lots in 0-2 weeks, because that’s what I know.  If you plan on bottle feeding just ignore the nursing bits.  You will want to talk to a friend who did bottles.  Nursing and bottles don’t follow the same program, practically speaking.


An Army of Davids on the internet will always see through crap.  You can find a Christine O'Donnell she-didn't-have-sex-with-me "scandal" flying around the web posted by some anonymous guy who wore a Boy Scout uniform for Halloween a few years ago.  The Smoking Gun has already figured out who the guy is.  But I just loved this exchange in the comments:

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Meaning of Crossfire Lyrics

Crossfire is about the sanctuary that Flower's wife creates in their lives. I’d guess that they have a very old fashioned setup; he's an old fashioned guy married to an old fashioned girl. He's out doing the worldly bits and she creates the safe haven for their growing--2 with another coming next year--family.  Not exactly normal these days.  I gather from the confusion on lyric interpretation sites that it takes one to know one.  I have a marriage similar to Flowers: my husband travels often, I have 4 children 6 and under, I am a devout Christian.  I grew up Baptist in fact, so Mormonism isn't a foreign language, so to speak.  I’m pretty sure of this interpretation, the song makes perfect sense to me.

BF sees the world as an imperfect place, a fallen place. Furthermore as a devout man in a career known for sex, drugs, and who knows what else, he no doubt has a difficult time managing temptation.  Not just the sex and drugs stuff, but also issues of pride and selfishness and other things we Christians worry about.  It’s hard.  You never know the pull of temptation until you try to resist it.  I’d bet he’s worn out.  He can’t live in the world he lives in without some place of rest.  His wife, with the help of God, provides it.   
There’s a still in the street outside your window/You’re keeping secrets on your pillow/Let me inside, no cause for alarm/I promise tonight not to do no harm/Yeah, I promise you, Babe/Not to do you no harm
This is a reference to the calm around a Christian household. The secrets she keeps on her pillow are prayers.  Basically because they are focused on the Permanent Things, the storms that rage over others pass them by.  The promise to do no harm is a plea to come inside.  I suspect that some of his homecomings might be difficult, not in some bad way, but in a marriage is difficult way.  I also suspect that many readers of this post are young and unmarried and don't get my meaning.   He probably brings a lot of the world in with him.  The most extreme example is probably when soldiers come home from combat.  The structure of life and the stresses they deal with make it hard to fit back into family life.  They go to training for the transition, in fact.  The Rock Star life has different stresses, High Powered Professional life it's own, but they don't fit with wife and family life, or even a happy life.  He's weary, and he's pleading to come in from the outside world.  He won’t bring it in with him.  He just wants to rest.  
We're caught up in the crossfire/Of heaven and hell/And we're searching for shelter/Lay your body down/Lay your body down/Lay your body down
The chorus refers to the crossfire that is our life on Earth, the constant struggle between good and evil, the battle for our souls. She’s having to keep things calm on her own--no small feat with two kids under 4 and while pregnant--and he’s out in the cold world.  
Watching your dress as you turn down the light/I forget all about the storm outside/ Dark clouds roll their way over town/ Thunder and rain came a’pouring down/Like chaos in the rain/Yeah, they’re handing it out  
This is a more sexual verse, she's now let him in, he's watching her silhouette as she dims the lights then of course he forgets all about the world outside. It is consistent with the sexually suggestive repeat of "Lay your body down" and the final "Next to mine." He's seeking not just the calming retreat of her home, but of her bed as well. Hey, not all rest is sleeping.  
Tell the devil that he can go back from where he came/His fiery arrows drew their bead in vain/And when the hardest part is over we'll be here/And our dreams will break the boundaries of our fear/The boundaries of our fear
He declares that the devil will not find his mark, will not gain his soul. Because she creates this sanctuary, he has the strength to resist temptation. The "hardest part" is life on earth. So after death, our dreams will break the boundaries of our fears--I'm not certain if this is the Mormon position, but I think he is referring to the idea that we cannot see God and Heaven because we are fearful. Our fears hold us back from seeing reality as God intended. So when we've died, we can finally see Heaven.  And we will be together; the idea of an eternal family is very Mormon. Though that "Next to mine" last line suggests he has a more immediate togetherness in mind.    (By the way, for any Twilight fans, the eternal family of the Cullens is probably the most Mormon-ish bit of the stories, not the no sex before marriage bit that reviews and interviews always harp on.  Quite annoying, that.  I've ranted a bit about that before.)

I love the video.  It supports my interpretation, and now, whenever I have a hard day doing the sanctuary bit for my family, I have visions of Charlie going all Buffy on some ninjas dancing in my head. I gotta say thanks to BF for that.  

The Meaning of Magdalena Lyrics

This song is about a yearly pilgrimage made to Magdalena, a town in Sonora, Mexican every year. In the historic church is a famous statue of San Francis Xavier, though it is meant to be Saint Francis of Assisi--it is kinda complicated. Look it up, and any of the other names or terms I mention below, for more background. The best background piece on the pilgrimage I found was here.   This song hints at tons of religious history and theory.  One could write, and many have, books on the topics touched on in this song.   More than a few wars have been fought over the ideas expressed, too.   I can give you a quick taste, though. 

Meaning of Hard Enough Lyrics

Hard enough is the marriage is hard song.   Everyone hears that marriage is hard.  But you don’t really understand the difficulty until you are married.  It is essential to understanding this song, however, so I’ll give it a go.  Lyrics at the end.

Meaning of Only the Young Lyrics

"Only the Young" is easily the most powerful song on Flamingo.  

I know BF says you can’t be cool and be Mormon, but he’s making a run at it.  This album is far more religious than most suspect.  Sorry to stomp on his coolness now, but "Only the Young" is a song about one of the most uncool things, the Christian walk.  It’s a witness song.  Christians "witness" to non-Christians when they tell their story about their coming to God or some struggle in their walk with God.  This is both.  One source on the web says that this song is a hymn, too.  I haven’t found the authority for that, but it is.  A hymn is a typically a song to God, while a gospel song is about us or worldly things.  (Another track about prayer, On the Floor, is a gospel song.)

"Only the Young" is an ongoing conversation between Brandon and God.  To explain I’m going to add what I imagine BF left out.  I don’t know if he would structure it exactly as I have, but this should help it make sense.  I’ll treat the chorus last.

The first verse is about the first time one questions all that is wrong in the world.  We’ve all done it.  Why is there bad in the world? Imagine BF praying before he really accepted God.  This is how the conversation goes:
God: Look back in silence; the cradle of your whole life. There in the distance, loosing its greatest pride.
BF: Nothing is easy, nothing is sacred. Why? Where did the bough break?
God: It happened before your time.

God says to look back and long ago you will see the Fall.  Why is everything hard?  Man disobeyed.  God told them not to eat the fruit, but once they disobeyed, then they knew shame.  Think of a dog that sneaks the food off the table.  They always seem to know they have done wrong.  So it was with Man.  They had innocence, and God provided everything for them.  But when they disobeyed, they ran and hid.  From that time life has been difficult for Man because from that point we knew we could choose—in fact it was our need to choose that prompted God to give us the rule about the tree—to do wrong, that we could walk away, that we could ignore God.  In the video the dancers fall and the light from above fades out.  The bough could be a reference to the old lullaby "Rock a Bye, Baby" about how the cradle falls when the wind blows and breaks the branch or about the branch from the tree of life, the apple tree in the Garden of Eden. 

BF: There were people there, lovely as you've ever care.
God: Tonight. Baby you can start again./Laughing in the open air; have yourself another dream./Tonight.
BF: Maybe we can start again?

This is about BF's acceptance and baptism.  For Mormons and many other Protestant faiths, baptism is done when you become a believer, not when you are born.  I don’t know exactly how it runs for Mormons, but I suspect similar to Baptists.  At the end of every service there is the invitation period when the preacher asks for anyone who wants to accept the Lord to come forward.  At the front there are people waiting for you, people to pray with you.  You repent for your sins and ask for the redemption provided by Christ’s death on the cross when he stood in for us.   The baptism is arranged for the near future.    After a little Mormon research, it sounds like other members of the church lay hands on you after you are baptized.  So there are people all around you when you come to the Lord, helping you start your walk.   Then, once you are listening to the light of the Lord in you, you start over.  New Christians feel joyous, happy.  Newly bathed in the light of the Lord, it’s all happiness and puppies.  You have hope.  Check out BF’s poses in the video during the verse.  His arms aren’t completely outstretched but the first “Tonight” could be the minister’s open arms calling you to faith.  In the next sequence BF has his arms wide and his legs crossed at the ankles with a black stage, conjuring death on the cross imagery.   A few shots later the lights are brilliant white above, suggesting the Resurrection, and perhaps Pentacost. (Look it up if you’re curious.  This post is long already.)

BF: Mother its cold here. Father, thy will be done./Thunder and lightening are crashing down. They’ve got me on the run.  Direct me to the sun.  Redemption keep my covers clean.
God: Tonight, Baby, we can start again. 

But life is still hard.  Soon the glow seems to fade.  As a believer, you keep having to ask for God’s help.  Frankly, you don’t know how strong temptation is until you try to resist it.  In many ways, life gets harder.  It is easy to lose your focus, especially when the the bad comes when your mom dies.  I think this verse is about his struggles with his mother’s death.  “Mother it’s cold here” refers to the empty space in him that she occupied.  He’s sad, cold, and lonely.  “Father, thy will be done.”  This is the most significant lyric.  In the Christian walk the hardest thing to accept is that we don’t always get what we want, that we don’t know what is best for us, that it is God’s will, not ours, that matters.  Logically this makes sense.  God is all knowing while we are not, so He has more perspective to see what is right, which path to take and so on; he sees us together at the end so temporary separations are just that, temporary.  This is easy to accept when our life is going well or when a problem is someone else’s.  But when hurt comes knocking on your door, ‘Father, thy will be done‘ is damn difficult to say and to mean.  ‘I don’t want her to die.  I want her here with me.   I miss her.  I’m lonely. Why did you let this happen?‘  In questioning and doubt, and often anger, we lose sight of God.  Then comes the storm, the mistakes.  In the video people are flailing in the air.  The stage is dark.  The rain pours down.  In some shots he seems to be throwing things away, almost absentmindedly.  Like, ‘there go the years,’ toss, gone.  This must have been a very difficult time for him.  Everything seemed in chaos.  When these times come, we have to seek God again and ask forgiveness.  In the video he is almost always looking up, except when he hunches over asking for redemption.  God forgives you, and then you have to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try again.

God: And the sun will shine again./And the sun will shine again./Are you looking for a sign?/Or are you caught up in the lie? [I’ve seen lie and light for this.  I think lie. Either works though.] 

Once you turn back to the Lord, once you look for Him, the light shines upon you.  Notice in the video that BF is looking skyward, reaching skyward, and the globe light goes on.  He doesn’t turn it on.  Because he reaches for it, it shines on him.

BF’s lament to God: Only the young can break away, break away and they are Lost when the wind blows; 
God: on your own, ohh... 

BF does a great job writing lyrics and singing lyrics that people are able to take completely differently.  I found this chorus the most difficult to translate.  It might refer to a Mormon belief that I am not aware of.  I think that I’ve got it, though.  Most people hear "break away" to mean something good, some sort freedom.  Today most people think that freedom to do whatever pleases you is best.  Be true to yourself.  Do your own thing.  Break away.  For BF ‘breaking away‘ isn’t a good thing.*  In fact, throughout this album references to breaking away, flying high, out on a wire, in the wind are all bad.  (I wouldn’t be shocked to find similar phrases in the Book of Mormon.)  The phrases are all about loneliness and being at the mercy of the whims of the world.  This chorus, which shows people flailing about in the air, is no different.   

Only the young can break away, means that only people with life stretched out before them, only they can blissfully ignore God.  When you are older, you still can ignore God, but then the consequences come.  

God didn't create moral rules because he likes watching us struggle against our baser nature.  Moral rules exist to guide us to a happy and full life.  A common example these days that I am sadly too familiar with: when you are a 25 year old woman, it is easy to live your life for the moment--have casual sex as you please, avoid marriage and motherhood, go all in on your career, etc.  The consequences don't come until later, years later, when it is often too late to get all the things you only recently realized you wanted.  I know far too many women who are lost and lonely as they approach 40 because of choices that they made in their 20's.   

As for BF, in the past 5 years, he has become a husband and a father and has lost his mother.  He’s determined to stay the course, because when life gets hard, when the wind blows, those who break away are lost.  They are helpless.  
*While breaking away isn’t a good, the ability to break away is essential.  Saying that people should come to God, is black from white different from saying that people must come to God.  It is nonsense, first of all.  People can be forced to go through the motions but not to think a certain way.  Chesterton says it better, “The free man owns himself. He can damage himself with either eating or drinking; he can ruin himself with gambling.  If he does he is certainly a damn fool, and he might possibly be a damned soul; but if he may not, he is not a free man any more than a dog.”  This is why God gave us the choice in the Garden, so we could choose to love him.  It would mean nothing if he created creatures that had to love Him.  CS Lewis covers this topic well in Mere Christianity, in case you are interested. 

Friday, October 15, 2010

Because We Have Twelve

The Times article on Secretary Clinton's public comments about the UK defense budget has been updated and has enough comments that you can see the main threads of tensions in the Special Relationship.  Leaving aside the diplomatic bungling of Clinton's questioning, in general terms, a Brit tends to think either that the US doesn't appreciate the UK enough for the sacrifices it makes, or that we have lied about or exaggerated the West's defense condition and the the world is actually safe enough to justify cutbacks.

I dismiss the second premise as foolish delusions worthy of Neville Chamberlin.  For those that still live in denial, on both sides of the Atlantic, I can only assume that they simply don't want to hear the truth, and I will waste no time tonight shouting to the willing deaf.

As for us not appreciating British efforts, when it comes to the lives of soldiers, this is simply not true.  I don't know any American who is not grateful for the soldiers committed.  I will grant, however, that Americans don't always appreciate how much more of a financial burden the UK carries than other allies. As many commenters stated, we should seek more assistance from the Continent. That is certainly true.

But here is why we often miss how much the UK does give.  We provide so much more.  For example, the UK defense budget debate focuses in part on the waste of aircraft carriers.  The UK has two and is stopping production on others.  A couple commenters note that the seas are calm enough and that two carriers is over kill.  But the seas are calm because we have twelve carriers.  And one of our carriers wields the power and capacity of all of the rest of the world's carriers combined.  The UK, and the rest of the world, enjoy calm seas because we have twelve.   Yes, we aren't making any more carriers right now either, but we have twelve.

Some commented that perhaps Brits should give us a bill for services we've used.  That might not be the strongest line of argument against the US.  All of Europe's bloated domestic budgets and anemic defense budgets are possible because we have twelve carriers, because we planted the weed that was the Marshall Plan, because we have boots on the ground all over Europe, and yet only ask for the room to bury our dead.

The Temptation of the American Isolationist Soul

Many Americans harbor an isolationist fantasy.  Isolationism is coded in our cultural DNA.   We hear, constantly, that Europe doesn't want us around so we often daydream about packing up, holing up at home, and leaving Europe to it.  Everyone is getting a small peek at a 'small America' world order with the current administration.  Whenever we indulge in our daydream though, the more sober among us realize that our current defense position is of our own making.  We carried the water for so long that Europe isn't capable of doing it.  We can't shrug. The consequences are too horrifying.

So yes, the UK gives far more than anyone else.  And yes, we appreciate it.  But that doesn't change the fact that even the UK is walking away, and they know it.

UPDATE: In a few days, I guess, we will know how they chose.

UPDATE 2:  The Brits had to do some back door financing to the military after the "Arab Spring" and Libya.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

More on Finding a School in London

The other day when I wrote about school admissions I didn't specify which type of school, public or private, I meant.  If you are American you probably assumed that I wrote of private schools.  You are right, but I could have written that advice with both types of schools in mind.  You put your children on the school list later in the public system, usually around 3 instead of birth, but otherwise the admissions process isn't that different. (The terms "public" and "private" don't translate directly to British English, but since this post is more likely to be used by Americans than Brits, I'll use the terms in the American sense.)

The British public admissions system looks a lot like their private admissions system just with catchment areas.  Unlike in the US, there are can be multiple state funded--even state funded religious schools--in a given area.  So if you live at 1 Ivy Lane you might have a host of schools to chose from, some secular, some Catholic, some Anglican, some Jewish, etc. You apply for an interview and, based upon the schools' catchment areas and whatever other criteria the schools want to impose, you try to get your kid accepted.  For instance, if the best school in your area is Catholic, and if it requires pupils to be Catholic, and if and you aren't, you won't be offered a place.  Even if the school of your choice has no additional requirements, if the school is oversubscribed, which often happens if the school has a good reputation, you might not get a spot.  The catchment area for automatic attendance might be nonexistent, very small, and/or difficult to ascertain.  Things like minority status and special needs can affect your chances of getting a place.  Apparently, parents hire lawyers to fill out their child's application so they don't miss any possible advantage.  Parents also often find religion on the school house steps.  Extreme measures are so prevalent that they inspire satire.  Here is an advice thread I found on an expat forum from a few years ago that details some of the issues.

It is one thing to not get your first choice when applying in the private system.   It is quite another to not have a choice within the state system.  Therefore, the powers that be are considering a lottery.  Or something similar to charter schools or homeschool co-ops like we have at home.  This seems very new around here and I don't know if it will take off well.  If interested, here's a little info on parents starting schools in the US and possibly using web vlogs like the Kahn Academy on YouTube.

For more info on getting into school around here, see here. (Yes, I know the text refers to private schools, but they mean public.  The terms are sort of reversed here.  It's complicated.  But that's the info you want.)  The Times has a School Gate blog, subscription required.  Here are a few excerpts:

Local authorities will usually allow you to specify three schools, ranked in order of preference. The first thing you need to do is research which schools your child has a good chance of being accepted at – if a school is very popular, it may be that your child will only be accepted if you live within a few hundred metres of the school. Similarly, some faith schools prioritise children who have been baptised or can prove regular church attendance[.]
 Education is really in trouble if a child can't be offered a school place at any school. But that's what is happening now. And without much blame or apparent disapproval. Don't people care?
There is currently a huge demand for primary school places, especially in London. It's suggested that there are 2,250 places too few this year, and that this will almost double next year. Each of these children has a family, and those families are confused and stressed. I personally know one little boy who hasn't been offered a place at any school in the borough. Yes, that's right. It wasn't that he didn't get any of his preferences; he wasn't offered anything. And the family has simply been told too wait. It's their first foray into education in this country - and not exactly impressive.
Many parents are genuinely angry that the great school at the bottom of the road or within walking distance is closed to their children. This may be because it's a faith school, or because the school has become so popular, you need to live within around 50 metres of its door. Such schools often end up with very a rich cohort of pupils, who get in because of their geographical location. House prices are pushed up because of catchment area demand and the school becomes covertly selective.
Then there are the other ways to "play the system". Some parents give up and go private, others lie about their address, find religion or move (often renting) to get into a good school. Local authorities know this, and are getting wise, but it still happens. Still, I can't blame my LA for demanding copies of your most recent council tax statement and two utility bills to be sent with new school applications. If your address has changed in the last two years, they are even asking for proof of purchase or rental of the new property, and fascinatingly, "disposal of the previous property." Perhaps this is a new way to catch out those clever parents who rent a property on a short-term basis to try and get into a good school.
Parents say that they want a choice, and the choice would be there as much as it is at the moment - parents should choose the schools they want, and know that if their choice is over-subscribed, the decision about who gets in is made via a lottery. What could be fairer?
The idea of putting the words "education" and "lottery" together just sound wrong. But in practice, they might just work. Yes, there is a possible environmental concern - children who live further away might get in and have to drive there rather than walk - but this could be got round by still having some kind of catchment area. I also think that the siblings rule should stay, at least for primary school. Otherwise it will be a nightmare for parents. But if you can suggest a fairer policy for everyone, I'd like to know about it.

In case you are wondering, in the US you'd simply move to the area zoned to your school of choice.  If the school is popular, the home values are higher, as are the property taxes.  Some friends in Dallas did the math and, at least for Highland Park in Dallas, you break even, private tuition v. home price/property taxes at about 1.6 children.  Therefore if you have 2 children, private v. public is almost a wash.  For three or more children, it makes more economic sense to pay more for a house.  (There might be other reasons for doing private schools, of course.)  If you can't afford a house zoned to a school you prefer, there are often independent charter schools or school district magnet schools.   Navigating a magnet system might be similar to the British system, just the exception, not the rule.  Tax vouchers are available in some states, but for a discussion on that query Matthew Ladner or Jay P. Greene and school vouchers.  (I'll post updates for more direct info as soon as I have time to get them.  Ladner, I've got to go do dinner for the kiddos, if you are reading send me a good summary.)

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Logistics of Cups-Tales From a PTA Coffee Morning

My second touring Thursday was preempted by a coffee morning, this one for the nursery school.  In fact, I had coffees for all the kids classes this week.  I might actually be coffeed out for a while. The coffees were eventful, though.  (How often do you think gun control comes up at a London nursery PTA coffee?) 

Foxy, who I haven't seen in a while, came and we had a long discussion about schools.  After I wrote my finding a school post, I realized I hadn't covered public schools, but that was basically because the process is similar.  I wanted to pick her brain about the additional post I started.  It turns out that she has been thinking on writing a book on the ins and outs of finding a school.  Hopefully she will.  

Another mom and I had a laugh about the logistics of putting these mornings together.  It isn't difficult, but how many people have coffee cups for 50, especially in a city like London where kitchen storage is at a premium?  So if you have a coffee morning for 50, you have to borrow cups.  The night before, therefore, we had an email thread entitled "The logistics of cups."  I think this is one of those things that only housewives will find mildly and ironically amusing.

As befitting a nursery coffee morning, at some point discussion will turn to to-work-or-not-to-work topics.  

I was having just such a discussion with a mom and mentioned that the one of the biggest advantages that I had as a home mom was that I never know when the big moments are going to come.  I don't know when they will get sick or when they will want to have a discussion about why the sky is blue.  

Quality time is a nice concept, but you can't schedule the big moments.  They just happen.  

This morning, Christopher Robin was kind enough to demonstrate that for me.  Fridays are my hardest school day.  My nanny is off so I have no help getting the kids out the door, and their school ends at lunch on Fridays so I have to have everything together and organized for the rest of the day.  (By mid-afternoon today, I will have 8 children in the flat.  I will be busy.)  Friday mornings, therefore, are work intensive for me.  

After eating breakfast, Christopher Robin had to unload the dishwasher.  I had turned on some music to help wake them up.  One of the lyrics in the song was something about the truth killing the singer.  Christopher Robin, who listens to lyrics, asked why/how the truth was killing the singer and why did other songs say things like the truth hurting.  He wanted to know if the truth was bad.  So over clean coffee cups we had our first discussion about Truth not requiring belief to exist, not caring whether you like it or think it fair.  Truth just is.  Since we often don't like the Truth, and since we are often frustrated in our attempts to change it, songs, poems, and literature are full of 'Truth hurts' themes.  

I promise you that I would never choose a Friday morning for such a discussion.  I can also tell you from experience that if I bring up the subject later he will likely not be interested in talking about it.  Chances are that in a few weeks, perhaps while I'm in the loo cleaning up Terremoto's attempt at clean up, he will come seeking more guidance on Truth.  Something will have happened at school or he will have had time to digest what I had said and come up with new questions.  I can't plan it.  The big moments just come.

But none of the preceeding tales will keep this coffee morning in my memory.  The gun discussion will.  

Yesterday's coffee was on Markham Square.  I'd usually vauge details like location up a bit for blogging, but right now everyone in London knows about Markham Square.  Markham Square was the scene of the barrister shooting in 2008, which I don't think made much news in America, but which everyone in London has at least heard about.  It is in the news often now because the police inquest into whether he was killed lawfully is underway.  More than a few women asked Suzanne Powers if her house was the house.  No, it was nearby.  Multiple times during the coffee someone would mention how tragic it was and why did the police have to shoot the guy.  The first time I heard the topic discussed, I got caught out and blurted out that of course they shot him because he been shooting about in a resedential area.  

After that comment, the Texan was not invited into the discussion.  I cleared the kitchen out pretty quickly, actually.  In front of me, the topic only came up again when Foxy arrived.  She started to ask me about it, I smiled in that do-I-have-to-answer way, and then she waved me off as the Texan who she knew what I thought.

I got the impression that people think that Texans such as myself approve the shooting because we just like a good shoot out, because we like decisive justice.  It fits the cowboy narrative.  We don't, however, like shoot outs.  We simply like innocent deaths less.  

Our cowboy nature is more a matter of practical realities than Justice.  The problem with a gunman of any sort, is that everyone else doesn't know what he is going to do, and his choice could be quick and fatal to others.  I had not actually read much about this story until yesterday.  This is a good summary of the inquest into whether he was lawfully killed.  

The women yesterday suggested alternatives such as negotiation, which you will notice was going on until he pointed his gun at officers--though why they wouldn't let his wife try to talk him down baffles me.  The women discussed injuring him, which leaves him possibly drunk and enraged and still able to fire (for my Texan readers, yes shooting to injure was an actual discussion; for my other readers, shooting to injure is only done in movies and courts disaster in real life).  A couple of ladies wished they had hit him with a tranq dart.  

I called in a medical consult on the last one.  Her assessment:  "I know that by guessing [his weight] I could drop a man in about 20 secs with a syringe. I will have to research for you what is availble via a tranquillizer dart." To which I asked, could a man get off a few rounds before he went down?  Twenty seconds sounds like enough time to fire.  Her answer: "To my knowledge there isn't a drug that will work fast enough that a few rounds could not be fired, especially if the weapon is an automatic."  (She's from Tennessee.  She knows what she is talking about on the drugs and weapons point.)  So that's why they didn't use drugs.  Not only would he still be able to fire, but also he might fire wildly as the drugs took effect.    

I wonder, at what point would killing the gunman be acceptable?  After he took the life of another?  Or, if the girl into whose bedroom he had been shooting had been at home and he had killed her, would there have been an inquest into why he wasn't taken down before he killed her?   If a drunk gunman has you and your children trapped in a bathroom, at that moment do you care more about the drunk gunman's motivations or getting your children to safety?  Do you want to give him another chance to stand down if it means he gets another chance to kill your daughter?   

I don't think it is good that the police shot him because he was bad and this is Justice.  I think it is good that the police shot him because the risk to innocent others was too great.  That position at the coffee, however, gave a little more depth to the meaning of the "Lone" in Lone Star State.   

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Class List

If you ever move to London and face the loneliness at the beginning...

If you have children you might think that your loneliness will dissolve when they start school.  After all, you will see moms at drop-off and home time ("home time", such a nice phrase, much better than "pick up") and will  get a class list with contact info making it easier to socialize.  I've already talked about the strange quiet among moms at drop-off and home time.  The class list issues, however, baffle me even more than awkward intro conversations.

At home when your children start school, you get a class list with the parents names--their first ones-- child's name, home and cell numbers (it is "cell" as in cellular, not "mobile" in the US), email, physical address, and perhaps a birthday.  It might even include a child's allergies.   This is just assumed, expected, done.  It is not thought about.  By the second or third week of school, you probably receive a booklet containing all of that information for the entire school.   As you may have guessed, this is not so in London.

My children attend two different--completely different, philosophically and demographically--schools.  At the nursery school, we are into week 3, yet we still have no class list.  Last week at our PTA meeting, the headmistress proudly told us that our request to have emails included on the list was approved.  The list was out by the sign in sheets last week so that we could proof our entry.  This list will not contain first names of parents, and perhaps not the parents at all.  (The list from Fall 2008 had parents first names, courtesy of M&M being PTA chair, but names haven't reappeared since.)  Home phone numbers are more likely than mobile numbers.  The list always contains full physical addresses.  I assume that privacy concerns drive the sparse roosters so the inclusion of a physical address confused me.  An American concerned about privacy would more likely list only email, and probably has an email dedicated for school and other kid stuff.  The last thing a privacy seeking American would put down is their physical address.  Yasha thinks that since it is unthinkable for a Brit to stop by someone's house unexpectedly and because the moat and drawbridge rule dictates obscure house numbers, that Brits probably see their address as the piece of personal information least likely to result in actual contact.

I have the class list for the other school.  It is only the class list for Cupcake's class.  There are 11 other classes.  The class list contains, I kid you not, the children's names.  The girls are underlined.  The boys are not.  Despite the complete pathetic-ness of this list, I am less bothered by it.  First, this school believes that you drop your child at the door and they take care of the rest.  If they need you, they call you.  If you need them, call them.  After we moms get used to this arrangement, we rather liked it.  Second,  keeping with their philosophy, the school has no PTA, no Casino Nights, no Homeroom Moms.  If we mom's want to socialize, we can, and have, on our own terms.  There is no pressure.  Third, some experienced mom always steps up to gather parent details for the previously mentioned social stuff.

This year I am that experienced mom.  I figured I'd just show up the first week with a clipboard and pass it around.  I got about 5 Italians and one German father, who I later learned was my Turkish friend's husband dropping their youngest off, that is, I already had her details and had met her for numerous coffees, playdates, and movie nights.  Knowing that the nursery school list would be long coming, I'd tried this clipboard at the nursery school as well.  It was a complete bust on all counts.  I may as well have been one of those survey takers in a mall for all the hits I got.

This year the Reception teachers have started a little newsletter of the previous weeks events and general announcements that goes out on Fridays.  One mother, who would like simply to find a carpool buddy for school, suggested that I put my email in the newsletter so that parents who wished to could send me their details.  I thought it was a great idea so I spoke to the head teacher this morning.  They won't put that in the newsletter.  I am welcome, however, to print out my own little slip to go in the backpacks.  I should talk to the headmistress.  The headmistress is happy to do so but seemed rather baffled that I would want to put the slip in more than my daughter's class or my daughter's section (6 classes).  "You want to put the slip in all of them?"  Pause.  I nod.  "Well as long as it is all printed out and ready to go.  Thank you."  I should mention that I like this lady a lot.  She intimidating though.  Growing up all of my principles were men and/or very friendly so whenever I heard people talk about an intimidating school marm, I didn't really get it.  Now I do.  She is tiny, happy, and very intimidating.

By half term in mid-October I should finally have all of the class list issues sorted.  I might get the nursery school list tonight at the Curriculum Night.  Yes, there is a curriculum for the nursery school.  I have to attend tonight as a member of the PTA.  Do you sense another mild rant in the making?

In the few minutes before The Things' hometime, I need to schedule a coffee meet for the moms for whom I do have contact info, put in a change of address on Yasha's and my voter registrations, run get some bread for bruschetta for tonight's gathering, and otherwise soak in this lovely day.  I've been typing on my front balcony, a very un-British thing to do, but the day is too lovely to be inside.  This might be the last pretty and mild day until Spring.

I'm starting to wonder if I am just going crazy.  Is this class list stuff harder than it used to be at home?  Are privacy issues striking there as well?  So many years have passed since I was involved in school, I wonder if I just remember that things are easier at home.

Week 4 into school and the nursery school class list hasn't gone out yet and I have a whopping 27 out of perhaps 120 contacts for my kid in Reception.  As a member of the PTA I do have a contact list for the nursery school, and it surprisingly contains mobiles, email, and parents first names.  I'm waiting to see what information appears on the regular list.  Sounds like the limited listings might be due to a few personalities rather than the school in general.  A friend wonders if some of the privacy concerns are status markers, people trying to prove they are Somebody by citing privacy concerns.  I wouldn't stagger from shock to find that was the case.  So my analysis loses some force as a comment on Brits in general.

Yet there isn't some generally known and accepted practice about such things. Unlike at home, this stuff is complicated.  The 27 out of 120ish for the other school, however, surprises me.  It shouldn't.  After 2 years there is an email list for the Year 2 moms of 47 out of 120ish, so this 27 isn't that bad.  Some of us want to be social, and we will.  Others don't want to socialize.  That's fine.  My only complaint there is that every once in a while one of the hard to contact parents complains that they didn't get information for one thing or another.  When dealing with a school that does not control inter-parent communication, you have to pick one or the other: be on the list and get regular information or refuse the list and get info by less reliable word of mouth.

I hope that this little rant doesn't come off as too frustrated.  I'm less frustrated than surprised.  I don't understand not wanting to know the family of your kid's school mates.  I'm hopelessly American.  The Impertinence of Being Earnest, I'd guess.  Funnily enough, today I had a chat with one of the new moms, a Dane.  Danes are easy to talk to.  There is little veiling.  She said that as soon as she read the little flyer I sent out in the backpacks she thought, "Well, this lady certainly isn't British."  Perhaps 30 minutes earlier, as Cupcake and I scooted down the King's Road, my American friend Gnomz had driven by and hollered out a greeting to which we hollered and waved back.  Yes, I am certainly not British.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Hotel Stories: Decor

For our Tenth Anniversary getaway, Yasha and I went back to the hotel where he had a conference and we had taken the elder children the previous weekend.  Long story short, it was closer and a bit cheaper than another close but not so cheap hotel we have been to a few other times.  The not so cheap hotel doesn't have great food, so we thought we'd give the convention place a try.  We should have just gone out to Gidleigh Park, our favorite hotel with the decor I am shamelessly copying in my new home and with the Michelin rated restaurant.  Gidleigh, however, takes two hours by train and costs quite a bit more.  Yasha had to leave for the States on Sunday morning, so we thought we'd salvage Saturday night and be more economical by staying close in.  In the end, we came home Saturday afternoon--barely missing the traffic from the Pope's visit. We should have gone to Gidleigh.  Here is why, part 1.

As I mentioned before, this hotel hosts conventions and has rather odd interior decorations.  Modern interiors are all the rage here.  If you are in London, take a look in the furniture sections of any of the major department stores for a clue.  Granted, the overwhelming modern inventory in the department stores is partially due to the stores playing to the super-rich expats, currently hailing from the Middle East and Russia, who love modern decor.   But Brits still love modern interiors.

If I see a redone home, typically it is modern, like a Crate and Barrel layout, to ultra-modern, polished stone, chrome, glass and little else.  Redone offices and hotels are almost always modern.  Last week my oldest friend came to town.  As is my custom, I took her to tea.  I didn't do the Ritz as it really isn't my favorite, very touristy and, save the scones, not very yummy.  My favorite place is The Antheaneum Hotel, which was Yasha's home in London before we moved over here.  It had a redo about 2 years ago.  Oh, the Lucite.  Orange, smoke, and pearlized Lucite to be precise.  With velvet, always with velvet.  I should have taken more pictures last week.

Anyway, this weekend I took a few pictures of the convention hotel.  Photographer, I am not.  If I ever travel with M&M or Vilvy again, I'll have them take good photos as they are both semi-pros with good eyes.
I was trying to capture a few contrasting elements, the old brass knob and wood door, with the glass and chrome desk, and Lucite lamp.  
Here is a hallway from what I call the Rose wing.  The walls are a dark burgundy and, along the left hand side, the walls are lined with black cotton velvet draperies with dark gold lame bottoms.  My iPhone couldn't get a good picture of the halogen pendants that float in front of the drapes.  
This is the top of the four poster bed.  Those are dark mauve sheers (no really) with chrome, Lucite, and wood posts.  On top of the posts are little vases with 2 or three feathers, the flourish of a lush minimalist.  There is a famous decorator in Houston (his name escapes me)  who does expensive and historic homes in lush style.  This room looked like he walked in, got started, and then had to jet off somewhere else without completing the room.  This decorator wanted to do lush, but not really.   

If I had gone to Gidleigh, I could have used the pictures for research, rather than mere posting.  I am not sure why this juxtaposition between old and modern tweaks me so.  Perhaps because it is so different from what I am used to.  Americans try to copy the old.  We pay good money to have new floors and furnishings beaten and sanded to look old.  Seriously, there are DIY projects that involve beating furniture with chains, painting and then sanding...  We encase steel I beams in reclaimed wood.  To have a land where such things are common place yet shunned, it intrigues me.  I want to know why.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Tube Strike

When Americans think of some of the European things we would love to bring home, fresh bread, delectable dairy, better chocolate, and good public transportation top the list.  When we visit Europe, we are duly impressed by the likes of the Metro and Tube, the bicycles and buses.  Good public transport is a wonder, after all.  More American cities should aspire to it, right?

Well, it is a wonder.  But it won't work in every city.  Aside from the issue of comparing apples and oranges--American cities, especially in the West, are far more sprawling than comparable European cities making public transport more challenging--and aside from other considerations like climate (more on that in a later post), one can't fully understand public transport until one lives in a city dependent upon it, until one's livelihood, as opposed to one's vacation plans, is dependent upon it.

London is a city dependent upon the Tube.  Yes, there are buses and bikes and pedestrian friendly streets, but the Tube moves the bulk of commuters and tourists.  When the Tube is down, buses are full.  When the Tube is down, most everyone with cars drives.  When the Tube is down, taxis are hard to hail.  When the Tube is down, London streets are so full of cars that traffic locks up and bike navigation, a risky venture to start, becomes more risky.  Even in a city this dense, walking can be a haul.  When the Tube shuts down, everything suffers.  Even for those people, like me, who don't use the Tube often.

Last Tuesday the Tube workers' union went on strike.  Since I don't usually think about the Tube, I foolishly allowed Cupcake and Christopher Robin to go on a playdate in Fulham after school on Tuesday.  At 7 o'clock at night, well after traditional rush hour, it took us an hour and a half to get home, due to no show taxis, delayed buses, and tight traffic.  Walking wasn't an option with 5 year old Cupcake; I might have tried it with Christopher Robin, though we would have made it home in about the same time.  Yasha almost had to walk home from the City (downtown) and didn't arrive home until 9.

In case anyone wonders why I don't use the Tube much--strollers and stairs.  I'm just now getting out of the stroller phase of motherhood.  I can take the older children on the Tube, but still wouldn't venture on the platform with both Things.  In the 4 years we have been in London I've not had much occasion for solo ventures either.  I've set up our life within walking distance.  I don't really need the Tube for my day to day.  Not so for others.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Bed Bugs

Three months ago I had never heard of bed bugs.  I had a minor freakout, on this blog in fact, when it seemed that we had an infestation.  Turns out we didn't, but Vilvy's nonna did (Vilvy had just been visiting and had the itchy bites.)  From that event I now have lots of information about these itchy critters.  Unlike any other infestation I have heard of, eradicating them often means throwing out loads of stuff--couches, chairs, cushions, curtains, carpets....  Friends had to refurnish entire rooms to get rid of these things.  Nothing we currently use kills them effectively.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Restoration Hardware

I haven't seen a catalogue in a few years.  Now I must pick one up.  And I will have to click through to Lileks later.  
I loved Driscoll's joke, though.  "[D]o I want to watch MSNBC tonight and be called a racist, or CNN and be dubbed an Islamophobe….?"  Decisions.  Decisions.  

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

On Environmentalism

There have been many movements that at their core explore the relationship between Man and Nature. These movements generally saw Men as stewards of Nature. The change to seeing Man as a servant of, or worse, a cancer or virus upon the earth, slowly gained popularity, and finally surged in the 1960's. (Just a few examples here, here, here, here, and I’m sure you’ve seen pieces about limiting the birthrate. Here is a recent report on Ecoterrorism.) Two of the watershed events in this change: Rachel Carson published Silent Spring in 1962 and a Union Oil rig had a blowout off the coast of California in 1969. Silent Spring focused fear of pesticides in the public mind and the blowout brought forth the Environmental Protection Agency. These events collided when one of the earlier actions of the EPA was a ban on DDT, which was made possible by the publication of Silent Spring and its description of DDT as a cause of cancer in humans and extinction in various bird species.

Turns out, however, that Silent Spring was wrong. The resulting ban on DDT is responsible for much pain and death. (Here are 100 Things You Should Know About DDT.) But the modern environmental movement was off to a roaring start.

Skeptics criticized the environmental movement from the beginning, but couldn’t get much traction or even attention for their arguments. In the late 90's a man named Bjørn Lomborg entered the fray. Lomborg is a statistician. At the time he was a devout environmentalist who thought that the movement could do a better job with its fact presentation. After hearing a certainly erroneous statement by a skeptic, he set himself and some of his grad students to the task of rebutting the skeptic and improving the environmental movement’s fact presentation. To his surprise he discovered that the movement was using weak stats because they had poor factual support for their positions--they were trying to be vague in order to amplify the scope and nature of various problems. The environmentalists knew that in order for the governments of the world to act, the governments and their societies needed to think that the environmental issues were more dire than things like education or health care or infrastructure. Without actual facts to support their assertions, advocates for global warming used, and continue to use, fear-mongering.

In the past few years, this fear mongering has turned graphic and threatening. Environmentalists have produced a string of condescending, disrespectful, threatening, and violent ads. Then there is the No Pressure ad by 10:10, which is in a class of horror all to itself. Besides inciting fear, environmentalists aren't above exaggerating their facts either. For example, see Al Gore’s comments about how it is appropriate to “have over-representation of factual presentations on how dangerous [global warming] is” as well as comments by Stehphen Schneider, founder of Climate Change. or another liberal's advice to present “unrealistic” projections for rail projects.

Thinking he was doing a welcome public service, Lomborg published The Real State of the World (Dutch title) in 1998. Lomborg found that the world environment was improving, perhaps not quickly enough for some, but improving. The book is dense, but the intro contains summaries of the topics, which range from warming to water to trees to fossil fuels as well as descriptions of things like the file drawer effect. (Lomborg did not claim falsification of data. The proof of that malfeasance would come later.)

The book was an immediate shock to the environmental community and only after considerable high pressure, back room wrangling did the the book come to the US in 2001, titled The Skeptical Environmentalist. The book faced continual establishment opposition and was cited for scientific violation by a Danish scientific dishonesty committee. One of the charges was that Lomborg was not a scientist but a statistician, to which Lomborg’s supporters replied that his book was about the stats, not the studies themselves. Most significantly, however, the committee refused to provide any list of specific violations. (Compare and contrast this failure to list specifics with the finding by an English court against Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. Original report here. Summaries here and here.) Lomborg appealed. The leading Danish scientific committee invalidated the report of the lower committee. Citing that they did not want to give Lomborg any more publicity, the scientific dishonesty committee declined to revisit their invalidated report.

Another major event for environmental skeptics was the debunking of the famous Hockey Stick. The Hockey Stick is a graph by Michael E. Mann that claims to show a sharp rise in global temperatures over the last 100 or so years. Ross McKitrick and Steve McIntyre questioned the graph from the moment they saw it (hockey sticks are apparently a tell tell sign of something amiss, statistically speaking). They criticized the graph mainly for excluding the medieval warm period. When corrected, the graph shows a much flatter and unalarming warming. The graph is sometimes called the Zombie Hockey Stick for the number of times it has died and risen. (Link from

In addition to Lomborg’s work and the Hockey Stick issues, here are some bits and bobs on some of the better known environmental issues:

WEATHER: After Hurricane Katrina, many environmentalists have warned that she was just the beginning. In fact, the predicted increased activity did not come to pass. In the chart here the largest spike is 2005, but note the falloff since then. See also, Hurricane season 2010, Hurricane season 2009. See ICECAP as well. For more recent info, see here. UPDATE: A major weather study published in January 2011

POPULATION Environmental population theory has roots in the writings of Thomas Malthus who thought that the human population would exceed the earth’s capacity and would be naturally culled, that is, starve or die off from disease. His theory has influenced such works as The Population Bomb and has inspired some horrible race, class, and eugenics flavored ideas as well as much Ecoterrorism including the September 2010 Discovery crisis. Mostly, however, environmental population theory does not understand that humans are the earth’s greatest resource and that technology and wealth tend to naturally suppress population growth as education becomes more important than manpower. (Whether demographic decline is such a good thing is a discussion for another post. Query Steyn, new population bomb, empty cradle, and demographics is destiny for a taste of that discussion.)

FIRE AND FORESTS California’s “mega fires”. More here. Russia’s peat fires.
There is far too much information available for me to link to every environmental topic. Here are various websites where you can get information to rebut the current deluge of environmental preaching. Many of these sites have links to other blogs, books, and reports. Search for whatever topic interests you.

No skeptical environmentalist, however, has damaged the environmental movement the way that the environmental movement’s leaders have. Last winter, hacked emails told the tale of the worst scientific scandal of a generation. Climategate is the story of how the leading scientists in the environmental movement discussed how to manipulate data and reputation to prove global warming.

They already had a reputation for moving the goal posts, first claiming global cooling and not finding it, then global warming and not finding it, and then claiming climate change, or “climate weirding” so that inconvenient data would not bind them, and they could use every news making natural event as “proof” of change. But this went far beyond rebranding PR tricks. They threw out inconvenient data or adjusted the data to achieve the result they sought. Then, so no one could check their work, they lost their data. (Snarky-er comments, here.) Furthermore, they engaged in a conspiracy to exclude opposition reports from any peer reviewed journals so that they could preserve their self serving excuse that any studies that did not confirm the “consensus” were junk.

I cannot write better descriptions than have already been written, or said. This one is about the lack of coverage of Climategate in the US. Another hoping it isn’t really true. This one is a slightly different take on Climategate coverage--Google tweaks searches. Glenn Reynolds at, has kept up with the issue providing links and short commentary over the course of the scandal. Here are all his posts on Climategate, which include everything from technical links to links about rain forests, water level, glaciers, the late coverage in the New York Times, and much more. (You will see a few Journolist entries there because the email collusion scandals are similar and often compared.)
In short, we have a suppressed but vigorous skeptics movement against an established but false believers movement. Considering how much the governments of the world want to fix the supposed problem, you might want to read up a bit.

UPDATED 9.2.2010 in response to Lady Di comments and to add some ecoterrorism links.
UPDATED 10.3.2010 to include the No Pressure 10:10 spot and other fear mongering ads.