Thursday, May 31, 2012

Talk about taking housing to new heights. The top-floor penthouse apartment in Chicago’s Trump International Hotel and Tower is hitting the sale block with a $32 million price tag. Named for its billionaire developer-turned-political commentator Donald Trump, the mixed-use luxury condo and hotel high rise is the Western Hemisphere’s tallest residential building, making its 89th floor apartment America’s highest home.

Not only that, with a $32 million price tag, the lofty abode is now the Chicago areas’s most expensive publicly listed home for sale and one of the most expensive listings ever to grace the Multiple Listing Services in the Midwest.

“There really is nothing comparable to this property in Chicago or the United States:  It is one of the largest condominiums all on one floor, which makes it very desirable,” says Chezi Rafaeli, an agent with Coldwell Banker Gold Coast and the Trump penthouse’s listing broker.

Let’s see if billionaire buyers literally seeking the height of luxury living at a  record-breaking Midwestern price agree.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

America today lives with a cultivated sense of victimhood. That is the legacy of 9/11. It fills us with anxieties. It warps our self-image. It distorts our foreign relations. It is self-perpetuating. Yet we need it. Too many benefit -- politically or materially or psychologically. Too many are emotionally dependent on it. Too few have the courage to confront the culture that has grown around the idea of America the victim. The price we pay -- in all currencies -- mounts.

The trauma exposed America's vulnerability to attack. That is obvious. More profound was its exposure of how fragile is the nation's psyche when America's exceptional security and freedom from the events that bedevil ordinary countries is called into question. We couldn't handle it. So we have absorbed it and made it part of our collective consciousness. The consequences are pernicious.

Above all, Americans have found a renewed purpose in our dealings with the world that is unhealthy. Summed up in the catch phrase "global war on terror," it is a convenient ordering principle. Convenient intellectually since we are spared the bother of figuring out who exactly out there wants to do us harm -- and why. It conjures a suitably stereotypical image of the "threat" -- an Islamic jihadist, bearded & turbaned -- who hates us for being who we are. His methods are diabolical, lending an aura of alien malice to our free floating dread. That gives emotions the upper hand over thinking.

The "global war on terror" is politically convenient, too. Our masters have used it effectively for more than a decade to justify whatever they find it expedient to do abroad -- and at home. We are cowed by our own fears, which are systematically stoked and manipulated. The GWOT has impelled us into a series of military and political adventures that range from the useless to the catastrophic to the absurd. The pointless invasion and occupation of Iraq is the most tragic-comic of these adventures. A failure on every count that leaves us more endangered by would-be terrorists, deprived of respect throughout the Muslim world -- and elsewhere, poorer by a trillion or so dollars, facing a strengthened Iran, the abject Iraq project has yet to be pronounced a failure by either our leaders or their courtiers in the press and think tanks.

Elsewhere, we insist on seeing ourselves as the victims of the worldwide jihadist campaign to undo us. So we chase terrorist phantoms. In 24 countries Special Forces and other under the radar operatives are combating any and all Muslims who might bear us ill-will. Since the threat is omnipresent, since the GWOT has no time-frame, that means that we must worry about the future too. So not just tangible present dangers but prospective intangible ones are our targets.

We all are implicated in the deeds we have done since 9/11. We have made torture a national policy, we have besmirched our good name in the eyes of the world, we have been passive accessories in repealing some of our most cherished liberties, we lie with impunity and we accept lies from our rulers as natural and necessary. Along the way, we have lost our self respect in a manner that we cannot acknowledge. For to do so is make an admission that we have done things as a nation that run counter to what we believe is the very soul and essence of our collective being.

We have permitted ourselves to indulge in the exaggerated privileges of victimhood too long and too often.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Frank Lloyd Wright: America's Greatest Architect

Frank Lloyd Wright built the spiraling Guggenheim museum and a spectacular headquarters for Johnson Wax. But America's most famous architect, who died in 1959 after a career that spanned more than seven decades, continues to be most fondly remembered for his houses.

His early residences, most built in then fast-growing industrial cities like Chicago and Buffalo, are known as "prairie houses" because their spreading terraces and strongly horizontal roof lines that extended to form deep porches made the houses look ready to sail across the waving grasses of the Midwest.

Wherever they were built -- cantilevering over a stream in western Pennsylvania, set into a hillside above Los Angeles -- they fit into their settings and those sites enriched the designs. The houses seamlessly united indoors and out, while their flowing indoor spaces made sense to Americans whose lifestyles became more informal and leisure oriented. Just about every well-designed house today is indebted to the insights of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Since coming home from the Vietnam War, Frank Casimiro has made a point to put U.S. flags at the gravesites of military veterans.

Now in his fifth year as the Veterans Graves Officer for Fall River, Casimiro coordinates the program which saw 10,300 flags placed at various cemeteries around the city.

“When I started doing it it was all the World War II guys,” said Casimiro. “When the Vietnam Vets came home we were not appreciated.

Patriotism wasn’t in the country anymore. It was the World War II guys that got us to join the veterans groups and showed us the importance of honoring veterans.”

State law requires all deceased veterans get a flag for their gravesite on Memorial Day. The city purchases the flags and then gets reimbursed from the state. Each cemetery has its own rules about how long the flags will remain at the gravesite.

Casimiro has heard from family members of deceased veterans that appreciate the gesture. On Friday, volunteer George Yentz was distributing flags when he noticed a lady in her 90s getting out of her car. Yentz stopped what he was doing, helped the elderly lady get out of her car and place flowers at her husband’s gravesite.

“That’s what it’s all about,” Casimiro said. “You read these headstones. Guys served in World War I, World War II, Korea and the Spanish-American War. It’s a great thing to honor these veterans.”

Casimiro would like to see younger veterans get involved in the tradition. He hopes that leading by example will encourage the Gulf War veterans to become more active.

“We’re not seeing the young vets,” Casimiro said. “Their not joining the ranks. We’re all in our 60s and won’t be able to do this forever.”

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Americans choose to take to the roads for vacations and to visit friends and family on Memorial Day. Often, they’ll bring their firearms with them for sport or personal protection, and it’s perfectly legal under federal law. This gets under the skin of a handful of anti-gun jurisdictions that have grown so out of control that they’ll jail an active-duty Afghanistan veteran who’s following the letter of the law. A growing, bipartisan movement in Congress is looking to stop the harassment.

Rep. H. Morgan Griffith, Virginia Republican, has sponsored legislation that would amend current law to make it clear that individuals who transport their guns from state to state may stop for food, gas and vehicle maintenance. They also may seek medical treatment, tend to an emergency, stay overnight and conduct other activities incidental to the transport.

These things are legal already, but because the law does not spell it out in explicit detail, gun-grabbing areas take advantage of the ambiguity.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

EARLIER this month in Beijing, China and America held the latest instalment of their Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED), a regular—and by most accounts productive—series of high-level bilateral meetings. Attending were America’s secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, and treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner. Broad-ranging and important issues like trade, currency, nuclear proliferation filled the agenda. But most attention was focused on the daring flight of a blind lawyer and activist, Chen Guangcheng, from his illegal home detention in Shandong to the American embassy in Beijing.

America has long felt free to lecture China—and many other countries too—on its shortcomings and failures in the human-rights department. America having never been entirely free of shortcomings itself, there was ever some degree of hypocrisy in this approach. It has long been the common view in China, among officials and common folk alike, that American criticism depends on keeping “double standards” and that America ought to have questions of its own to answer, about things like discrimination against minorities, the long-ago subjugation of indigenous peoples and economic inequality at home, to say nothing of hegemonic behaviour abroad. China's tit-fot-tat annual report on the state of human rights in America, the most recent of which was released on May 25th (the text is carried in full here and in English at China Daily) is only more of the same.

But since September 11th 2001 such questions, it would seem, should have become even sharper. Tactics and policies adopted by the administration of George W. Bush (and largely continued by Barack Obama’s), to expand executive power and arbitrary powers of law enforcement, have made them so.

However wrongheaded America’s deteriorating regard for basic civil liberties may be, there are still vast differences between China and the United States that need to be highlighted. Notwithstanding trends of the past decade, the presence of an independent judiciary and the rights of free expression enjoyed in America provide imperfect but powerful checks to executive power—of a sort that barely exist under China’s one-party rule. Unfortunately these checks are of no use to the many civilians affected by America’s conduct abroad. Drone attacks in particular, it will be noted in some quarters, have visited greater harm on more innocents than anything that ever befell Mr Chen.

We ought to be able to avoid mounting a moral-equivalency defence of China’s system, not to mention plumbing the depths of the debate about the state of civil liberties and rule of law in America. Let us note simply that America’s standing on the moral high ground is not quite as steady it used to be, especially when it comes to the sort of issues at play in Mr Chen’s case.

At some point during the Clinton trip, one might have expected to see Chinese officials or commentators seizing on the irony displayed in such statements. Yet American officials say privately that their Chinese counterparts are reluctant to take that tack. And there is surprisingly little that turns up in Chinese-language internet searches matching “Chen Guangcheng” with terms like “Guantánamo” or “double standard”.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Perhaps not surprisingly, the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG takes top honors as the most expensive of them all with a "true cost of ownership" of $245,469.

All told, Mercedes-Benz models takes four of the 10 spots on the list. That's twice as many as BMW, and the rest are split between makes like Land Rover, Audi and Nissan. If that last one seems a bit out of place, keep in mind Nissan makes the mighty (and mighty complex) GT-R. Check out our gallery below for a full list of the biggest offenders.

Related Gallery Top 10 Most Expensive Vehicles to Own

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Wood is one of the oldest building materials we know, and one of the most beloved. It's a love affair that has lasted - like hardwood itself - through the centuries, from the log cabins of earliest America into the early 21st century.

The story of our architecture is literally written in wood - underfoot in planks polished by thousands of footsteps; on walls enriched with carved hardwood mouldings and paneling; even on ceilings, where load-bearing structural beams have assumed decorative roles, too.

"We are a country blessed from the beginning with an abundance and variety of hardwoods," says Linda Jovanovich, executive vice president of the American Hardwood Information Center. "But there are other reasons so much hardwood has been used in the building of America.

"Hardwoods are versatile," Jovanovich adds. "They come in many species, colors, and patterns of graining. They're easy to work - hence all the exquisite carvings. And they last. Hardwoods are durable, which is why we still have wonderful old homes and public buildings that date back to the beginning of this country." Or look as if they do.

In historic homes and modern cultural sites all across this country, the stage has been set by American Hardwoods. Warm to the touch, soothing to the ear, comforting to both eye and psyche, timeless hardwood will go on creating the environments Americans most want to be in. Visit and see why our love affair with hardwood has lasted so long.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

President Obama sent 1,000 Air Force Academy cadets into active duty Wednesday by laying out his vision for a post-war America in which the United States leads beyond the battlefield and defiantly challenging his critics’ notion of waning American influence.

In a commencement address to the graduating service members, Obama hailed a milestone moment as the country winds down its military involvement in the two wars that have defined the generation that has come of age after 9/11.

The Class of 2012 is the first in nearly a decade, Obama told them, that is entering active service with no American troops fighting in Iraq, and the first that can envision an end to the Afghanistan war.

The president used much of his speech to declare that American influence has not waned, as some of his critics have suggested. Instead, he argued, “the United States is leading once more. From Europe to Asia, our alliances are stronger than ever.”

“As we’ve done the work of ending these wars, we’ve laid the foundation for a new era of American leadership,” Obama said. “Let’s start by putting aside the tired notion that says our influence has waned, that America is in decline.”

To those who have questioned whether he subscribes to the notion of American exceptionalism, the president pointedly used those very words.

“Never bet against the United States,” he said, adding that “the United States has been, and will always be, the one indispensable nation in world affairs. This is one of the many examples of why America is exceptional.”

“I see an American Century because of the character of our country — the spirit that has always made us exceptional,” Obama said. “It’s that simple yet revolutionary idea — there at our founding and in our hearts ever since — that we have it in our power to make the world anew; to make the future what we will.”

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

An 18th-century Scottish-born British lawyer and writer forewarned the disease eventually would strike. More than two centuries ago, he even explained the sequence by which it would occur. While his warning wasn't specific to the United States, today we see signs it is spreading quickly within the Western world.

Like cancer, this disease comes in different stages. Stage 1 is curable; Stage 2 isn't. Recently, one patient's Stage 2 self-diagnosis made headlines.

Former District of Columbia Council member Harry Thomas Jr. stood before U.S. District Judge John Bates earlier this month. Thomas was found guilty of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from a fund intended for youth programs. He explained he suffered from "a sense of entitlement" causing him to lose sight of his moral compass. A 38-month prison sentence was imposed to help him regain his bearings.

By his criminal act, Thomas' disease -- i.e., a "sense of entitlement" -- had spread beyond the boundaries of legality, causing him to violate the public trust. He was in Stage 2 of the disease -- a sense of "illegal" entitlement.

While few Americans suffer from Stage 2, it is Stage 1 -- a sense of "legal" entitlement -- that is endemic to the population. What was initially intended by politicians as a genuine effort to financially assist those truly in need of various forms of government financial support has exploded into a stream of assistance programs that effectively desensitize the population to the work ethic upon which this great nation was built.

And the disease continues to drain our public treasury as our politicians today fail to make the tough decisions needed -- to curtail or even eliminate such programs -- for fear of offending those afflicted by Stage 1. Therefore, those afflicted continue to vote these politicians into office.

Selfishness is a sense of entitlement to something earned by the work of others. As more people embrace the entitlement and less do the work, it starts democracy on a downslide back to bondage. The transition through complacency, apathy and dependency so consumes the former, they may not even consciously recognize what is happening as it occurs.

It isn't unlike what Britons experienced a century ago. From the sun never setting on their empire, through Pax Britannia and into its wake, they eventually found themselves in decline as a great power. It was only after this realization Britons came to wonder how and when it happened.

It appears, how went Britain, now goes America.

The "Three Little Pigs" fairy tale was told in early America -- its moral now well enshrined in Western culture: A strong work ethic earns security; a weak one does not.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The United States has been in decline relative to other countries for the last 30 years. On key metrics, we've fallen behind our peer group of industrialized countries, such as the UK, France, Germany, and Japan.

Am I exaggerating? Well, according to the Corruption Perception Index, we rank 24th in the world (only slightly better than Qatar) for public sector corruption. We rank 25th (way behind our peer group) in the OECD for math scores among 15-year-olds.

Over the past 30 years, our national debt has grown from about 30 percent of GDP to over 100 percent, and will become much worse based on current trends. In a recent survey of 10,000 Harvard Business School Alumni, "66 percent of respondents see the U.S. falling behind emerging economies." It is difficult to find many encouraging metrics.

If the above statistics don't convince you, visit the New Delhi International Airport, then compare it with our JFK or Newark International Airports. In many areas, our infrastructure is an embarrassment, already inferior to that of many third world countries.

Many Americans still have an almost cult-like belief that America is the greatest nation on earth. They systematically reject evidence suggesting we have significant room for improvement.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The economic difference between communities is more drastic than it has been in a century. How did this happen?

America’s new economic map shows growing differences, not just between people but between communities. A handful of cities with the “right” industries and a solid base of human capital keep attracting good employers and offering high wages, while those at the other extreme, cities with the “wrong” industries and a limited human capital base, are stuck with dead-end jobs and low average wages. This divide—I will call it the Great Divergence—has its origins in the 1980s, when American cities started to be increasingly defined by their residents’ levels of education. Cities with many college-educated workers started attracting even more, and cities with a less educated workforce started losing ground. Geographically, American workers are increasingly sorting along educational lines. At the same time that American communities are desegregating racially, they are becoming more segregated in terms of schooling and earnings.

Certainly any country has communities with more or less educated residents. But today the difference among communities in the United States is bigger than it has been in a century. The divergence in educational levels is causing an equally large divergence in labor productivity and therefore salaries. Workers in cities at the top of the list make about two to three times more than identical workers in cities at the bottom, and the gap keeps growing.

Cities with a high percentage of skilled workers offer high wages not just because they have many college-educated residents and these residents earn high wages. This would be interesting but hardly surprising. But something deeper is going on. A worker’s education has an effect not just on his own salary but on the entire community around him. The presence of many college-educated residents changes the local economy in profound ways, affecting both the kinds of jobs available and the productivity of every worker who lives there, including the less skilled. This results in high wages not just for skilled workers but for most workers.

The growing divergence of American communities is important not just in itself but because of what it means for American society. While the divide is first and foremost economic, it is now beginning to affect cultural identity, health, family stability, and even politics.

Over the past half century, the United States has shifted from an economy centered on producing physical goods to one centered on innovation and knowledge. Jobs in the innovation sector have been growing disproportionately fast. The key ingredient in these jobs is human capital, which consists of people’s skills and ingenuity. In other words, humans are the essential input—they are coming up with the new ideas. The same two forces that have decimated traditional manufacturing, globalization and technological progress, are now driving the rise of jobs in the innovation sector.

The innovation sector includes advanced manufacturing (such as designing iPhones or iPads), information technology, life sciences, medical devices, robotics, new materials, and nanotechnology. But innovation is not limited to high technology. Any job that generates new ideas and new products qualifies. There are entertainment innovators, environmental innovators, even financial innovators. What they all have in common is that they create things the world has never seen before. We tend to think of innovations as physical goods, but they can also be services—for example, new ways of reaching consumers or new ways of spending our free time. Today this is where the real money is.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

America expands once again -- digitally this time

The metaphor is an easy one, overused and perhaps even a bit overwrought. We are forging forward into a digital frontier, leaving convention behind, traveling without guides into an uncharted virtual land where progress and profits are forever around the next bend.

Sound familiar?

In the 19th century, Americans expanded into a physical frontier -- a geographic edge of society brimming with opportunities and dangers and challenges and setbacks. So began the notion of manifest destiny: the idea that, no matter what, the United States pushes outward to the farthest edge of the most distant place possible.

Today, almost two centuries after that term was coined, American expansionism is playing out vigorously at society's latest cutting edge: the social space of the Internet. Friday's high-octane, $16 billion IPO of the global juggernaut that is Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook is, for better or worse, the most recent example of how the new frontier has been cultivated, colonized and commanded by entrepreneurial Americans.

As the manufacturing economy reconfigures, you often hear the lament that "America doesn't make anything anymore." But then there's this: Most of the world's digital centers of gravity have been, and remain, American. Apple and Microsoft. Google and Yahoo. YouTube and Amazon and eBay. Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. Kickstarter. Netflix. PayPal. Akamai, the content-delivery behemoth. Intel, the internal combustion engine of the whole shebang. And for that matter, the Internet itself and the organization that regulates its domain names were both born and raised in (you guessed it) America.

A digital manifest destiny is playing out, built upon the notion that the United States' outward expansion continues apace on the virtual frontier. What the self-defined sense of American exceptionalism built in the physical world, it is now building in the digital one.

"It's a projection of American values -- what international experts would call soft power," says Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project.

Look at what the digital space disseminates, he says: freedom of the press, of information and of assembly; knowledge and scientific advancement; free-market mechanisms and entrepreneurialism.

Technological progress has always walked hand in hand with American expansion.

Friday, May 18, 2012

There are more minority children than white children being born today. This is a game-changer in America. It is difficult to argue for affirmative action for a growing minority population that will soon become the majority. What will become important is the concept of equality based on the 14th Amendment; as America become a society of diverse ethnic groups, none of which has a majority. It is important that our government doesn't favor any particular ethnic group nor discriminate. 

The demographics today show that Hispanics are approximately 15 percent of America's population, blacks are 11 percent and Asians are a growing percent. In 20 or 30 years whites of European ancestry will become a permanent minority in America.
How will this trend change the political landscape in our beloved America? How will this change our cultural values? Will English continue to be the lingua franca of America and the world? Will the traditional Protestant ethics of hard work continue to dominate America's labor force?

The principal benefits of America's demographic change are significant growth in the labor force and the economy and hybrid vigor.

This is a brave new world whose consequences on America must be considered.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

In “Bunch of Amateurs: A Search for the American Character,” Jack Hitt investigates the tradition of American amateurism in various fields, from politics to astronomy to bird watching.

Q. Why might we look back at this time in history as one of the golden ages of amateurism?
A. My argument about the cycle of amateurism is that it often cranks back up when the economy goes sour and people drift off to that backyard temple of ingenuity. Hewlett-Packard was formed in David Packard’s garage in 1938 at the height of the Depression. Is it a coincidence that Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak hid out in a Cupertino, Calif., garage during the dog days of Gerald Ford’s “whip inflation now” economy in 1976 and improvised the first desktop computer? The April jobs report for 2012 saw an increase of 119,000 new employees. Only 4,000 of those derived from large firms. Small businesses and startups were responsible for 58,000 of those jobs.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

America may be filled with beautiful rivers and streams, but some of the country's most notable waterways are also its most endangered. Released Tuesday, the 2012 America’s Most Endangered Rivers list examines the most threatened waterways in the U.S. and the human activities that jeopardize their quality.

American Rivers president Bob Irvin said in a statement that the list, "underscores how important clean water is to our drinking water, health, and economy. If Congress slashes clean water protections, more Americans will get sick and communities and businesses will suffer.

Several rivers on the list -- in Wyoming, Ohio and West Virginia -- are threatened by natural resource extraction, including natural gas development and mountaintop removal coal mining.

The report argues that to protect northeastern Ohio's Grand River from negative impacts of natural gas development, the state must "require the highest standards" for monitoring and testing chemicals and wastewater related to fracking.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

To the Editor:

It seems that all we read and hear about are the insurmountable problems we have in America. What we need to do is to find and be a part of something much bigger than we are and the problems we face. I believe that ''bigger'' is staring us right in the face and we cannot see her. She is America!

A few weeks ago my wife Debbie sent me her first picture ever of standing facing the Grand Canyon. The words attached to that message: This brought me to tears. It was at that moment that I realized what had happened to her. She had just experienced the thrill and vastness of something so much larger than all of us. We can only imagine. I wish I was there to share that moment with her. What she really experienced was the wonder and vastness of mother America. I am sure it also took her breath away.

We as a nation need to find that vastness and wonder in her; she is in trouble and needs us and we need her. She is and will always be the ''bigger'' we will always need. This can only come from we the people. She belongs to us and we belong to her. Let the love affair begin! The time has come.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) Chapter 18 of Dayton, OH recently toured the KitchenAid plant in Greenville, OH. There, we witnessed the production of an American icon – the KitchenAid stand mixer. We saw a state of the art powder painting facility, robotic polishing of the patented bullet shaped gear case, CNC machining of the various components and the hand assembly of over 4,000 mixers per day.

The KitchenAid mixer began humbly enough in 1918 as a residential version of the commercial mixers produced by Hobart Manufacturing Company. These early models were beefy at nearly 65 pounds of cast iron construction! They were rugged and built with the aesthetic appeal of a drill press. The mixer was streamlined in 1936 by industrial designer Egmont Ahrens into the shape that is so familiar in kitchens today. The machines are also considerably lighter with the structural components made of die cast aluminum and zinc instead of using iron. A myriad palette of colors is offered to match any kitchen décor. The Greenville plant is the only plant producing KitchenAid stand mixers for both the domestic and export markets.

Today, KitchenAid is the last brand of residential stand mixer being produced in the United States. They proudly point out that their mixers are built with over 85% domestic content. All of their competitors have chosen to move offshore in pursuit of cheap labor. KitchenAid pursued this path as well with some of their other product lines. After looking at total costs, the decision was made to move production of hand mixers back to Greenville from China last year. Later this year, the production of their food processor line will be moved from China to Greenville. This is exciting news and proof that we can compete successfully in the global market from right here in the Miami Valley.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

On this Mother’s Day, I’m here to report: We can all ignore the nutty parenting advice of this gorgeous, skinny Valley Girl on Time magazine’s cover who’s posed her almost 4-year-old with his lips on her breast while his wide eyes stare out toward all of America.

And all of America is cringing. No, amend that. America’s women are cringing. Men are feeling something else.

In any case, this image is everywhere now, and millions of already guilt-propelled, insecure new mothers are hearing that nagging little voice: Maybe my babies would turn out better if I do what this breathless blonde does. That is, carry babies in slings 24/7, nurse them until senior prom and let them sleep with daddy and me until they’ve got bedmates of their own. And maybe even after that!

Ms. Jamie Lynne Grumet, 26, from California (of course) says she and her husband are “intimate” while their kids sleep right next to them.


In fairness, however, I must note that Ms. Grumet does not usually nurse her son when he’s standing up on a chair. She cradles him, she explains on her obnoxious I’m-a-better-mother-than-you-are blog, titled “I am Not the Babysitter.”

Oh, shut up.

Ms. Grumet is a proponent of one of the latest rages in child rearing. That’s “attachment parenting,” the brainchild of pediatrician William Sears. He says breast-feeding till whatever age, “wearing” babies in slings and co-sleeping produce happier, healthier kids.”

Friday on the “Today” show, Ms. Grumet explained this ditzily while preschooler Grumet Jr. squirmed nonstop, thus letting us speculate, ignorantly, on whether he’s as spoiled bratty as he looks. Meanwhile, Dr. Sears said that were we all natives on some Caribbean isle, living in nature with no parenting books, blogs or psychologists, we’d all raise our kids this way.

And that’s swell.

But who lives in nature on crowded Caribbean isles anymore, including Caribbeans?

The big winner here is Time magazine. Millions of men have examined this picture very, very closely. Women who actually wanted to read Ms. Grumet’s annoying story confronted an online pay wall. You either headed out to buy Time or paid a minimum of $4.99 for a trial subscription. I regret to say, I paid.

I am, however, grateful that I became a mother back in the dark ages when there were only a handful of parenting books, your own mother and mother-in-law to undermine your confidence at every turn. That’s why I adored the late, much-maligned Dr. Spock, whose mantra was “trust yourself.”

Here’s my Mother’s Day two cents for all you new mothers, now that there’s a zillion “Oh No! Watch Out!!!” mothering blogs detailing how you’re ruining your child.

Don’t read ’em.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

If you didn't think American civilization was in trouble already, this ought to worry you: Americans are hiring psychics to communicate with their pets.

According to Benjamin Radford of Discovery News, pet psychics claim they can use telepathy to communicate with animals, living and dead -- for about $85 an hour.

I can tell pet owners what their dog is thinking for half that amount: Rover wants you to scratch him on the belly and give him a treat. I'll pop my invoice in the mail.

But this isn't about telepathy so much as it is about our obsession with pets -- a reflection of a country gone nutty and soft, confused by our emotions.

Look: Pets, generally, are a great thing. Social scientists explain that in our fast-paced, transient society, pets help fill the void that was once filled by close friends and extended family.

I love dogs and wish I wasn't away from home so often or I'd get one.

But our obsession with pets is getting out of hand. Despite our sour economy, the pet-service industry continues to grow by $2 billion a year -- to $52 billion this year.

There are gourmet pet foods, heated waterbeds for dogs, doggie personal trainers and doggie weight-loss programs (Biscuit Watchers?).

If Rover's feeling down, a doggie psychologist is waiting to help: "Rover, your low self-esteem can be traced to your neutering."

Now that people will pay thousands of dollars for veterinary care, pet health insurance policies are all the rage.

The truth is that many pets in America are living better than three-fourths of the people on this Earth, and something isn't quite right about that.

But today, we're not only pampering pets with overzealous affection, we're trying to elevate them to the level of humans. We see a dog's paws move while it sleeps and we assume the dog is having a nightmare.

We think today that our dogs have souls that live on after their physical bodies cease to work and exist.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Letter carries are hoping that warm weather this weekend helps people warm up to the idea of donating to the local community.

Most people are receiving bright yellow bags in mailboxes this week; those bags can be filled with non-perishable food items to be collected by local letter carriers.

The Annual Stamp Out Hunger Across America Campaign is the largest single day food drive in the U.S.

"If the community could just dig a little deep and grab one or two cans off their shelf and a box of crackers or anything of that sort it goes a long way," says letter carrier Paul Rodriguez.

Letter carriers will pick up yellow bags with donated items Saturday, May 12th.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

America’s real problems have nothing to do with what we do in our bedrooms and everything to do with what top executives do in their boardrooms and executive suites.

We’re not in trouble because gays want to marry or women want to have some control over when they have babies. We’re in trouble because CEOs are collecting exorbitant pay while slicing the pay of average workers, because the titans of Wall Street demand short-term results over long-term jobs, and because of a boardroom culture that tolerates financial conflicts of interest, insider trading, and the outright bribery of public officials through unlimited campaign “donations.”

Our crisis has nothing to do with private morality. It’s a crisis of public morality – of abuses of public trust that undermine the integrity of our economy and democracy and have led millions of Americans to conclude the game is rigged.

What’s truly immoral is not what adults choose to do with other consenting adults. It’s what those with great power have chosen to do to the rest of us.

It is immoral that top executives are richly rewarded no matter how badly they screw up while most Americans are screwed no matter how hard they work.

We must protect and advance private rights of individuals over intimate bedroom decisions. We must also stop the abuses of economic power and privilege that are characterizing so many decisions in the nation’s boardrooms and executive suites.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

As a Brit from a working-class family, raised in a northern working-class town, who attended (at taxpayer expense) a fine quasi-private school and then went to Oxford, I'm interested in snobbery. It's a trait I despise. I've seen plenty of it in my time, though there's far less in Britain than there used to be.

As a young man I aspired to live and work in the US because I wanted to be part of a thriving classless society. Of course that was naive. America is not a classless society. I'm not talking about the 1% and the 99%, and I'm not talking about mainstream America and the underclass (shocking though that gulf is). I'm talking about elite disdain for a much larger segment of the country. It's a cultural thing: American snobbery.

"Indeed, it could be argued that the unprecedented level of socioeconomic segregation in America is actively promoted by an elite that is continually attempting to create and inflate behavioural and cultural distinctions between itself and the rest of society. What is important about its lifestyle is not so much the values that it invokes, but that it is different in every detail from those obese, junk-food eating, gas-guzzling, gun-obsessed, fundamentalist Joe Sixpacks. The elite project of 'raising awareness' serves as a form of self-flattery, through which the upper classes can highlight their moral superiority to the rest of society."