Thursday, January 26, 2012

Sen. Jim DeMint needs backup.

This morning, I went to a Ted Cruz event.  Cruz is the guy challenging Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst for US Senate.  He's a classical conservative, who wrote his thesis on the Ninth and Tenth Amendments.  (I've requested a copy of that.)  His stats look good.  Here is a link to fundraising info. (Check out that table about donor stats. Wow.)  Here is another link to recent poll data.  Having started with negligible name recognition compared to the sitting Lt. Gov., the trends look good, and he hasn't even started spending money yet.  His campaign so far is built mostly on speeches and word of mouth.  (Compared to the Perry campaign, Team Cruz knows how to work grassroots and social media. This unknown guy running for US Senate has a much better web operation than the sitting Governor of Texas did.)

Just like the analysis on the GOP from earlier today, Cruz believes that the problem for classical conservatives is one of leadership.  We are tired of talking about change.  We are ready to act but have precious few operatives in place.

The Rift on the Right

If I had posted my Why Newt? piece this morning as intended, I would have added a link to this precise analysis of what drives the current rift on the right:

Intervening in temper tantrums

Presented for discussion, this tale from the Daily Mail about a woman intervening against a mother during a temper tantrum.  A few years ago, I saw a similar event when a woman took a mother to task for yelling at her children, only the woman hadn't seen what had gotten the mother so worked up a block back--her 4-ish year old had bolted away from her onto the King's Road.  I tried to comfort the mother, but she was too stung to accept any help.

I started thinking that I've not seen this sort of thing in the US, but I have.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Clearly, I don't have enough bling.

In the past 6 weeks I have been to a few big fundraisers, two of which stand out in all their contrast.  Suzanne Powers took me to the Great Ormond Street Hospital fundraiser when I was in London.  My new friend, Annie Oakley, took me to a Rodeo fundraiser last weekend.  Both events had a live and silent auction and about the same number of attendees.  That is pretty much where the similarity ends.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Life Interrupted

When we moved to London, I tried out modern decor.  Modern catalogues look so pretty, and since we rented furniture, I saw a chance for a cohesive look.  Within weeks, I hated it.  It was cold and sterile, hard to warm up.  It also wasn't comfortable.  And cheap modern falls apart shockingly quickly.  To do modern, you have to go for quality.  Quality modern is shockingly expensive.  Needless to say, I got over my modern bug.
Upon our return, I started looking at those glossy catalogues, from the infamous Restoration Hardware book to CB2, Crate and Barrel's ultra modern glossy.  It looks like expensive stuff for 20somethings' apartments.  It is stuff that they will have no use for when have kids. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sit Down, John!

So I am following up my tipping point post with a tale of discontentment.  I reek of it.

My diary is up to date.  The garage is organized.  The art is on the wall.  I've managed adult church and Bible study.  Things are looking up, but only on the little things.  I spent today hacking at dead branches that I've not been able to attend to since the summer's drought.  The hacking helped with the thinking.

Two things became apparent in the past few days.

The Tipping Point

To recap my angst from last fall, the hop back across the Pond did not go as smoothly as I expected.  It was, still is, hard.  When I posted the nervous breakdown post, a gaggle of girlfriends made contact to check on me.  Virginia called from New Jersey.  Apparently she had been waiting for my return so we could discuss the craziness of it all, which was mostly the motherhood issue. Virginia has been back in the States for 2 years.  If you do the math on all the pros and cons, then she says that life is easier here.  I'd bet that way, even before accounting for the opinion of a trusted friend.  It is just that the main con, motherhood, is the bulk of our lives.

What irked me about all the difficulties is how much easier it was than my early months in London.  I knew almost no one.  I was in the flat the vast majority of the time, save the school run.  The same went for Virginia.  Then we met and things started to get better.  It was our tipping point, she said.  I simply needed my new tipping point.

Looking back, I had it.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Your focus determines your reality

In keeping with domestic reputation concerns from a few weeks ago, I recently had lunch with a friend.  She left work with her second child.  A few days prior to our lunch, she was with another, still working friend, who asked her 'what she did all day."  My friend was vexed at how often that question comes up as most working mothers have limited understanding of a housewife's day. I started laughing.  During some blog draft admin the previous evening, I'd run across an email I sent to her when, pregnant with her first child, she had expressed desire to stay home but worried that she would be bored.  At the time, this is what I told her:

Friday, January 13, 2012

Revisiting "Who Regrets Motherhood?"

As longtime readers might note, I've changed my blogrolls.  I've got one I'd like to highlight now, Momastery (see expat and parent blogroll on right).  Her blog exploded with a post called Don't Carpe Diem, about accepting that motherhood is hard and can't be enjoyed in every single second, but is inexplicably beautiful in fleeting moments and in completion.  

Her post reminded me to reply to comments on one of my posts, Who Regrets Motherhood.   I figured out what so upsets mothers about the Daily Mail article. Don't Carpe Diem says that the motherhood climb is long and hard but that there are moments of breathtaking beauty. Jill Scott, who regrets motherhood, refuses to see those moments. She despairs over her losses so much that at the top of motherhood Mt. Everest, she refuses to look out. She's looking at her calloused hands, contemplating her frozen toes and lamenting that she could have simply climbed any old hill. 

And I do mean to compare motherhood and other things to Mt. Everest and random hills. Much of the day in and day out of motherhood can be compared to other bits of life. The constant noise and interruption is like cubical culture in a busy office. The sleep debt might be similar to Paper Chase hours or a constant state of jet lag due to a consulting job. That is, all of the bad stuff I can explain to non-mothers in terms they can understand: assorted bad days plus actual feces. But the good moments, the view from Mt. Everest, I can't explain that. There are no words. There are no comparisons. When we moms talk about those moments, we don't have to explain; we just know. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Plastic Surgery

My friend Lara Lakin had an interesting post about paying physical appearance compliments to women.  Read the whole thing, but I responded:
I think your advice about delaying physical compliments until a bit later is spot on. In this day and age it is far too dangerous to lead with physical compliments to women. Another thought from an American, I've often found that British women are more reserved about their physical appearance, especially boobs. I find this fascinating when considered in conjunction with the American rep for prudishness. Last night, I was Twelfth Nighting with girlfriends and today I queried my aerobics class. I realize that 20 or so women is barely above anecdotal, but all of us would have taken the comment as a compliment. Furthermore, a few noted that American women tend to be curvier in general, while much of the European gene pool is ectomorph. They thought that the compliment would be more likely mistaken because hour glass figures tend to outlier status, so that y'all are more self conscious of curves. Thoughts?
As it happens, all of the women, all Americans by the way, that I questioned had considerable boobs, most of them natural.  Which reminds me of something I've been meaning to address: plastic surgery.

Houston is loaded with it.  But it is all very subtle.  In London, I think fewer women had any assortment of cosmetic procedures, but those that did had loads of it. Think Carla Bruni.  Houston women have fewer and more subtle procedures.  Did you know you could have a boob lift?  The surgeon pulls up the skin at the collar bone, merely lifting breasts.  Anyway, I've been surprised by the frequency of plastic surgery.  I stopped talking about it after the second foot-in-mouth incident when I mentioned my shock to a new friend only to have her say, "You know I've had [insert one procedure here].'

I have to say, the thought is tempting.  After the twins, no amount of Abs of Steel will give me abs of steel again.  But I am just not a plastic surgery gal, mainly because I would never subject myself to the risks of surgery for cosmetic reasons.  I did once think that if I was already in the OR, I wouldn't mind a tummy tuck. I told Yasha that if I am ever in surgery for some emergency reason, tell the docs I'd like a tummy tuck.  This was his reply, complete with his very powerful James Earl Jones, courtroom voice.  I remember it from memory:

"Let me get this straight: when the doc comes out to give me progress reports on your spleen removal after a car accident, you want me to tell him, "By the way, my wife wants a tummy tuck"? No. Unequivocally no. Not if I had a thrice witnessed notarized document and a video deposition. No."

Guess I didn't think that one through.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Traveling with children, a scale of age

I am done traveling transtlantically with children on a regular basis.  For 5 years we flew to Texas from London and back 2-3 times a year.  I have learned much about traveling with young children.

Whether taking a short trip to the country or boarding a transatlantic flight--or even a day trip to a museum--getting out with children sometimes is more trouble than it is worth.   Our last nursery Sports Day in London, I was kicking myself for even attempting to go.  I had to take the Things to the far side of Battersea Park for a sports day that had a few too many events for the younger children    One melted down during the event.  We couldn't get a cab.  We--my mom was with me thank goodness--ended up walking most of the way back, with screaming toddlers.  Fun.

My best advice, don't travel, or plan grand day adventures, with children under 5 unless you must.

But musts happen.   As Kacie, a newish mom, found out last summer, travel with young children can be done, it just isn't easy.  So for those not lucky enough to be able to stay put or leave children at home until your youngest reaches 5, I have a bit more detail to help you make travel plans.

0-6 months
Depending on the baby, this is easy.  I don't recommend it too much though due to contagious bugs and the need to set routines, but if you must, it is not that bad.  You have to take a few extra things along and, depending on the trip, need to give yourself more time to get there.  You also need to adjust your expectations of your visiting schedule.  But as far as traveling with a baby goes, this is the easiest time until they are 5.

6 months-walking
This stage gets more difficult for an assortment of reasons.   Nap and feeding schedules are/should be established and are, therefore, harder to work around.  The baby doesn't sleep as much.  The baby is louder.  The baby can be crankier.  If the baby is crawling or cruising around furniture, then you have to worry about babyproofing at your destination.  The baby is eating baby food, meaning you have to take along more than boobies or formula.  If you feed the baby what you eat, that extra is only a stick blender and pre prepped mush for the plane.  Yet, there are still delivery problems.  Spoon feeding is much messier than bottle feeding and is a real experience on a plane.  You need extra clothes for the baby and yourself.  This is also one of the few times I used bibs.  You need the heavy duty, long sleeved, big pocket ones to make any difference.  That is, no matter how the Three Martini Playdate lady might hope, a plane trip with this age babe might require a steamer trunk for a carry on.  (The rest of the time, she is spot on. Steamer trunk nappy bags are overkill.)

Walking-3 years old
This is the absolute hardest time to travel with a child.  Don't do it unless you absolutely must.  Security alone is a hurdle.  A stroller, which you must crash for the X-ray, or a loose 2 year old?  Easy shoes that the child won't remove on his own in other parts of the get the idea.   Temper-tantums are par for the course for this age and only increase as a child gets tired and off routine.  Jet lag will rock your world.  Screaming in the hotel room at 2 am will mortify you.  You must babyproof everywhere you go.  I could go on far too long with tales of travel fails for this age group.  Do not be lulled by the promise of a relaxing vacation destination.  Nothing about traveling with children this age is relaxing.  Nothing.  It can be done, but you will need a vacation when you get home.

3-5 year olds
Sometime around 3, you start on the downhill slope for travel difficulty.  Now, your child can be distracted on a plane.  My best advice is to limit TV time except when you are on a plane.  If you can spring for an iTouch or similar, do it, or add kids' games and shows to your iPhone.  Have a charger or extra battery pack.  Make airplane time unlimited fun.  No time limit iPod use.  Eat whatever you want. (Though you will want to push water a bit so they don't get dehydrated--wonder if I run afoul of EU regs for that?)  Just like the plane ride is an oasis from constant communication, make plane time a vacation from the rules for kids. The older they get, the better this works.
Jet lag, sleep problems get progressively easier too.  If nothing else, you can explain jet lag a bit, but mostly children start having more of an adult sleeping pattern and are easier to get back to sleep when they wake in the middle of the night.  Note well, I'm not claiming jet lag at this age is easy, but merely easier than for a 2.5 year old.

Then sometime around 5, it all gets easier.  I promise.

Monday, January 9, 2012

You have to force Americans to receive only as much government as they are willing to pay for

Best of the Web has an item on a recent David Brooks column. I second what Taranto writes, but want to highlight one bit from Brooks:[emphasis mine]
If you believe in personal responsibility, you have to force Americans to receive only as much government as they are willing to pay for. If you believe in the centrality of family, you have to have a government that both encourages marriage and also supplies wage subsidies to men to make them marriageable.
No you don't have to do or have any of those things. On the contrary, if you believe in personal responsibility, it is most effective to leave people to their own devices. Natural rewards and consequences will do the heavy lifting. If you believe in the centrality of family, you need a government that doesn't take a wrecking ball to its foundations. That is, the decline of the family is, as Taranto notes in his post, in large part due to government action. The simple solution is to have government stop acting.


So a few weeks ago I tweeted Penelope Trunk's Blueprint for a Woman's Life.  In the discussion thread on FB I said of PT's take on life:
Practical rules unhinged from morality. A fave contention of mine is that moral rules aren't for the sake of rules. They are rules because they largely work to produce happy and prosperous people. She is all means/ends analysis. There is no sense or duty or right or wrong to temper her goal seeking, hence plastic surgery and loathsome maternity leave manipulation amongst sensible advice to have children a little earlier and focus on your marriage. She's all 'can this help me succeed as a woman' without any regard for whether the action is Right.
Now having read a subsequent post of hers on continuing domestic abuse, I feel for the poor woman who is obviously floating around without much but the practical to guide her.  Again she makes some good points, essentially that it can be practical both to stay in such a marriage to avoid complications and difficulties of divorce or to leave to protect your physical welfare.  The decision is in the weighing of the concerns.  What worries me for her is that she doesn't seem to have any internal guidance beyond the practical for the weighing.   Nor does she seem to have much check on her own actions.  This poor woman is lost and unmoored.  

I've added her to my blogroll because I think much of her writing can be informative, though not perhaps in the way she intends.  Be aware, however, her blog is not easy reading.  

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Failure of American Political Speech

H/T to @Lynneguist for this article about the failure of American Political speech.  While I agree with the overall premise, I have two comments.  After explaining how misuse of the term "socialist" really, really bugs the author, he states:
As our Book of isms says, socialism is:
A political and economic theory that holds that the means of production and distribution in an economy should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole or by a central government.   
Got that? The means of production. Owned by the government.  
As one comment notes: 

No, that's not what it said. "Owned *or regulated*". Got that?
So if the means of production and distribution are in private hands, but they have to abide by an overwhelming blizzard of regulations that nearly buries their ability to function the way a business in a free economy should function (namely, in response to the market), then by this definition it is completely fair to describe that situation as socialism. 
The author then continues and falls into the confusion about the term "liberal".  Noting that Burkean philosophy was called liberal at the time--and it was, "classical liberal" refers to Burke--the author makes the leap that conservatives are actually "liberal."  They are, but what most people never notice is that modern American liberals aren't liberal in the historical sense of the term.  They are progressives.  One of the great failures of American political speech is this rarely known switch to calling progressives liberals.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

If you must choose, choose wisely.

The choices left to conservatives after Iowa are starker than most realize.  In order to show how stark, I need to dissect the term conservative.  Due in part to the significant overlap of the types of conservatives and in part to the media’s successful efforts to make Christian moral values the dominate understanding of the term, “conservative” hides two subparts.   
Those two subparts are: theory of government and morality.  The conservative theory of government is the classical liberal, Burkean, limited government position.  I will call these "classical conservatives" because the traditional term "classical liberal" is confusing given that modern liberals are actually progressives and because I’ve read far too much Lauren Child and Dr. Seuss.  I have developed an alliteration addiction.   The conservative morality is basically Christian morality.  It is this type of conservative, the social conservative, that most people think of whey they hear the term "conservative."   
While the overlap among the types of conservatives is significant, it is not complete.  There are social conservatives who are happy to use government to achieve moral ends.  These are the “big government conservatives”.  On the other side, there are many classical conservatives who are socially liberal.  Given, however, that the mark of a classical conservative is belief in limited government, the moral beliefs of classical conservatives matter less because they are not likely to impose them through law.   In case you wondered, the Tea Party is predominately a classical conservative movement.  
The current set of GOP nominees pits the classical conservative against the big government conservative, with an outlier in Paul.
The big government conservatives are Gingrich, Santorum, and Romney.  They differ a bit on what they would like to achieve through big government.  Santorum focuses more on traditional social issues, which is why some commentators say he is the most conservative in the race, while Gingrich is a bit of a wild card.  Regardless, both are typically happy to use the current powers of the federal government to achieve their goals.  
Romney is also a big government guy though not as conservative.  He’d use the expansive power of the federal government to do conservative-ish/liberal-ish things.  This is why he is stuck at 25%.  He doesn’t inspire the big government conservatives because he isn’t conservative.  He repels the classical conservatives (and libertarians, but more on them in a moment) because he’s a big government guy.  And he doesn’t even capture many conservatives in the overlap because, if we have to submit to big government, then we might as well get conservative policy.  I’d guess that his 25% is mostly those who have bought into the risky conventional wisdom (more on that in a later post) that social conservatives can’t win and who think that he is at least a better manager than Obama.  In fact, outside of professional political commentary, I’ve heard no Romney supporter make any argument in his favor save these practical ones.  There is little sense that anyone knows or prefers any of his actual policies.  Frankly, that scares me more than anything else in this primary season.
The classical conservative is Perry.  He believes in limited government, specifically our federalist system, which pushes as much power as possible to state and local levels.  The general idea is that local government is more easily controlled and tailored to individual desires. When anyone says that Perry is only conservative in the race, they mean that he is the only classical conservative in the race.  He happens to be the common type of classical conservative, one who is also socially conservative.  This fact and his campaign’s panicked post debate gaffes retreat to secure the base--commonly though mistakenly* thought to be social conservatives--has camouflaged his limited government beliefs.  
It is only now, after Iowa, that classical conservatives have realized the opportunity we are about to lose.  Throughout the world, progressivism is failing.  This is an historic opportunity to restore limited government, not the time to compromise with a conservative take on big government.  This is why Perry is staying in, and why it might work, though I will admit it is a long shot at this point.  

As an outlier to the conservative battle stands Paul.  He is a limited government guy, but in the extreme.  A libertarian essentially holds that individual autonomy should trump in all but a precious few circumstances, like crimes.  Libertarians vary greatly in how much they think the government should do and, for various reasons I won’t go into here, Paul is an extreme libertarian, too extreme to achieve a broad following.  He will stay in a while longer.  He will win respectable percentages, especially if Perry exits leaving Paul as the only limited government candidate.  But if nothing else, his foreign policy positions will prevent him from gaining a large collation.   
Therefore, to my libertarian friends I ask, wouldn’t fighting for libertarian government on a state by state basis be preferable to any form of big federal government?  Sure, libertarians aren’t likely to take Massachusetts, but perhaps other states are possible, especially since the majority’s objection to libertarian foreign policy would not be in issue at the state level.  I know this is a very conservative position, but you have to fight the war you are in, not the war you want.  Libertarians can reform states, as long as a federalist restoration keeps the feds from interfering from the top.
For the rest of us GOP voters, we must choose between big government with a conservative bent or limited government in restoration.  True, each one is preferable to the present administration of big government of a socialist flavor.  Also true, successful societies require moral men. But moral men must be won by persuasion, and that is the job of culture, not law. Morality compelled by law is no morality at all.   

Most important, however, in the weighing of big-but-conservative government and limited government, remember this: laws can always bend the other way.   After decades of living under the liberal reign of New Deals and Great Societies, of our tax dollars funding entities we abhor, we should know this.   We should work to insure that it won’t happen again.  US Federalism provided structural resistance to big government, which is why it took until the 1940’s to achieve big government. We should seek to restore it.  

*The conventional wisdom holds that social conservatives are the go to base, but I think the CW is wrong.  Classical conservatives are the base.  The Reagan landslides were predicated on limited government.  Social conservatives might do better in elections than RINO’s, but classical conservatives can find common cause with the widest spectrum of Americans.  

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

US Federalism 101

So it begins. No one knows how Iowa will go and almost anything is possible.

Yasha and I are rooting for Perry.  During our trip to London, and at home frankly, we've gotten many questions about why we are for Perry. My answer: he's the federalist. Trouble is, few know what that means.

Federalism has been mostly dead since the New Deal. Outside of government, only lawyers commonly deal with federalism issues and even then only incidentally, witness Bachmann's misunderstanding about Masscare from one of the early debates. I've found myself explaining federalism often of late.

Early in the campaign, Perry said he would work to make the federal government as inconsequential to our daily lives as possible.  Then he stopped talking about it.  I have a hunch that the Perry campaign isn't directly talking about federalism because they'd have to explain it first (and the party has some some fair-weather federalists, which I will discuss in another post).  A US federalism explainer does not lend itself to a stump speech, much less a 2 minute beauty pageant debate response.

I might be able to pull off a summary in a post, however. 

This post is a general explanation of the federalist structure for laymen. I’m sure it will draw ‘actually’ comments from my dear Yasha because in order to reduce the complicated 200+ years of Constitutional jurisprudence to a coherent, short(ish) post, I cannot include all details. He doesn’t like not including the details. A few months back the Godfather, a Canadian expat lawyer currently living in the UK, was in Texas and casually asked Yasha about US Federalism while they drove from Houston to Austin. Yasha explained the concept the whole way there. Houston to Austin is about a 3 hour drive depending on how leaden is your foot. Therefore, the Godfather doesn't need to make the jump, but anyone else interested in US politics should. The best way to start is a quick read of the US Constitution. It isn’t a long document and shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes. While reading, pay attention to whom the document addresses, the shalls and the shall nots. Then, jump...