It's grey outside in my basement office. There's a pile of damp and rapidly molding ski pants dumped on the laundry  floor. I have a bag of gym clothes waiting with good intentions by the front door. I have a blue sticky note of  errands that need to happen this morning. Well, let's ignore those pressing matters for a moment and talk about Newt. 


Why did Newt destroy Mitt in South Carolina? Is it because he killed in the debates last week, and people want a candidate that they think can out debate Obama? Is there really a backlash against party elite? Is Mitt in trouble, because of a populist backlash against anyone who has reeks of Wall Street? Is because Mitt has not convinced social conservatives that he's a real conservative? 

UPDATE: And in response to popular demand….


The thought of an open marriage with this newt doesn't make us vomit a little in our mouths.

The Whys of Academic Paywalls

Let's say you get an obscure and alarming disease. Let's not make this scenario too scary. Let's say that this disease turns your big toe green and emits an embarrassing odor. What's the first thing that many of  us would do? We would google "alarming stinky green  foot disease." You might find a wikipedia page and a few newspaper articles on the green foot disease, but you would not be able to read any academic research on the topic, because you don't have a university ID. 

Why can't you read academic research? Why can't you read academic research that was conducted at public universities, which is funded by YOUR tax dollars? Let me tell you….

Not only is the research is hidden from the likes of you and me who don't have an academic ID card anymore, but also academics have to pay to read their own research. Yes, academics write research, receive no profits, and then have to pay to read it again. Oh, the insanity. 

UPDATE: Thanks so much to all my off-the-record friends who helped me with this article. And thanks to the love around the blogosphere. Yesterday, my article shot to the top of the Atlanic's Most Popular list. I was thrilled. 

More from Scott Lemieux, Boing Boing, and reddit

Henry Farrell calls on all academics to boycott Elsevier. 

UPDATE2: While the response to this essay was overwhelmingly popular, a couple of people have criticized it. The critics say that JSTOR is one of the good guys and I shouldn't be calling for their dismissal. The point is that we don't need ANY academic databases anymore. They cost us a lot of money. I didn't have the time to run down the exact amounts, but think hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, if not more, at the larger universities. If all journals just put their issues online, continued their usual peer review process, skipped printing the hard copy versions, then we would save money AND increase access. There's really no downside. 

A Thursday

4:00 Jonah, are you doing your homework?

J: Um, yeah. 

How many more definitions do you have to do? Oh, there's your brother's bus. Hurry up, hurry up. You have to be at school before 6:45 for your band concert. [Check email, start cutting up the broccoli, put the morning's cereal bowls in the dishwasher. 

J: But my shoes hurt.

Well, maybe you should have told me about your band concert earlier, instead of me finding out about it from some random lady at the YMCA yesterday. I could have gone to Payless the other day and gotten your some new ones. 

J: I don't know how to tie my tie.

We'll look it up on YouTube. Your dad won't be home in time. Hurry, hurry. [Grabbing Ian off the bus. Cracking eggs to bread the chicken. Check email.]

I: Moooom? Can I play Mega Mall Story on your iPhone? 

No. Start doing your homework. I need my iPhone. I'm checking email. 

I: Moooom? Can I play Nitrome Must Die?

No. It sounds like a bloody game and your teachers will think that we're abusing you. Again. Come on. Do your homework. We have to be out of her at 4:45 for the neurologist. [Check email. Answer email. Start frying chicken. Measure water for the couscous.] What time is your father coming home? He better get home early. Or at least on time. [Call Steve's office.] Where are you? Are you getting ready to leave? You need to be home by 6:30 at the latest, so you can eat some dinner and help with Jonah's tie. What? You have a 5:00 meeting? Arg!!! Well, you might not get dinner then. Bye. Kiss. Jonah, are you doing your homework? Why did you put this project off until the last minute. You should have been working on it over the weekend. [Put the broccoli in a pot with water.] I need to go to the supermarket on the way to the concert, because we're out of milk, butter, and wine. Really, really need a glass of red wine tonight. Ian, did you get green lights today at school. OK, good. Now, do your work. You have 2o minutes. Are you sick? Are you warm? You're not allowed to get sick. I have to go into the city tomorrow. [Check email.] 

Dollars and Common Sense at Universities

I'm doing a little poking around academic expenditures this morning, she says vaguely. I came across this fascinating article about Rutgers. Apparently, Rutgers is cutting funding for professors, while bolstering their athletic program. 

Rutgers University forgave $100,000 of the football coach’s interest-free home loan last year. The women’s basketball coach got monthly golf and car allowances. Both collected bonuses without winning a championship.

Meanwhile, the history department took away professors’ desk phones to save money and shrank its doctoral program by 25 percent. After funding cuts by the deficit-strapped Legislature, New Jersey’s state university froze professors’ salaries, cut the use of photocopies for exams and jacked up student tuition, housing and other fees.


Photography Class

I'm going to torture you all with my photography classes for the next two months. Ha! I'm the Queen of Apt. 11D and I get to torture people. Blogging is an excellent pastime. (Speaking of torture, we just started watching Shameless, and I can't get over what Joan Cusack does to William H. Macy. OW!) 

Our assignment for next Wednesday is to take an abstract photography that explores color. Get to it! Send me your best photos before next Wednesday and I'll publish them on this blog. 

This is the stained glass next to my front door. 

Stay at Home Spouses and Their Critics

I have long been a fan of Nancy Folbre's blog posts at the New York Times. She typically discusses the economics of parenthood, and I've regarded her as a champion of families in all their various shapes and sizes. Today's column was unneccessarily nasty. 

She refers to the recent article in Bloomberg about the rise of stay-at-home dads and their role in supporting successful career women. A reader forwarded me the article a few weeks ago, and I believe I threw out a quick link on the blog. The article discusses how many dads either slow down their own careers or stop them entirely to watch the children, as the wife works the long hours or travels for her job. 

The article was mildly interesting. I have several friends who took on the role of primary caregiver with the wives taking on the role of primary breadwinner. I didn't really need an article to be aware of this trend, but I was happy to see the guys getting props for their work. 

Folbre seems to not like anyone staying home, regardless of their gender. She prefers the Scandinavian model where the state makes it easier for both parents to work. She says that American tax policies have created unfair incentives for stay-at-home parents. 

Professor McCluskey asserts that the marriage tax bonus should be termed “aid for affluent husband care.” Given the existence of homemaker dads, a more accurate term is “aid for affluent spouse care.”

Whatever we call it, there is no reason to subsidize it. Beautifully decorated living rooms and gourmet meals are delightful after a long day at the office – but they shouldn’t come at taxpayers’ expense.

Excuse me? Excuse me? Is that what Prof. Folbre thinks that I'm doing in this house? Does she really believe that any stay-at-home parent is home and forgoing thousands of dollars of salary, because they get an extra $20 in their tax return? Folbre needs to get out of the university and actually talk to some real parents. 

I'm home, because there are no jobs that will allow me to leave at 3:00 when the school bus pulls up and for parent-teacher conferences or illnesses. The job that I was trained for, no longer exists. I am only qualified to work at jobs that pay $20,000, which would never cover the amount of childcare that I would require for school vacations and summer breaks. (Not even discussing the extra work involved with raising a special needs child.) I am not preparing gourmet meals most nights. Think hotdogs and Annie's Mac and Cheese. I am helping with homework projects and driving kids to swim practice. I'm making a few dollars here and there with writing projects when they happen. I am volunteering at the school. 

It's a huge sacrifice to be home like this. My 401K nest egg is pitiful. I feel guilty buying new shoes for myself. It took me a couple of years to get over the huge loss of prestige of dropping from a university professor to the untouchable status of stay at home parent. It's completely bizarre, mean spirited, and ignorant to think that anyone does this job for $20 on their tax return. 

Working Mothers and Hollywood

Guilt and regret are part of the parenthood package. Along with the joy and the sweet memories of bringing home the baby from the hospital and baby's first steps comes the twinge of regret. Maybe I should have had a touch more patience when my son was struggling with Algebra. Maybe I should haven't said X when I was so angry. Maybe I should have spent more time playing board games with my daughter. Everybody has those thoughts. 

At the same time, the world is not yet set up to allow two parents to work and to manage all the demands of the family without a certain amount of craziness. At the Y on Wednesday, the moms talked about how they were trying to remain employed, while managing their families. This group of moms were the parents of special needs kids, so the constraints were even larger. These moms, like all moms, wanted to work during the school hours. They needed a flexible schedule to attend parent-teacher conferences and to watch an ill child. They couldn't afford to take a job that paid less than the expenses for the babysitter and gas.  Those jobs do not exist. 

The parenthood package also involves boredom and sacrifice. Presumably if one decreases one's personal boredom and sacrifice, then one increases the guilt factor. If one decreases one's guilt factor, one increases the personal boredom and sacrifice factor. (The guilt factor is always there, BTW, if you work or you don't. I'm full of it. Of course, I'm a neurotic, so maybe don't go by me.)

Virginia Postel says that Hollywood still portrays women leaders as consumed with the first kind of guilt. They subscribe to the Anna Quindlen doctrine which is that family time is always more meaningful than any career. This Quindlen doctrine skews the Margaret Thatcher movie with 

The problem, rather, is that grafted on to what could be an affecting story of greatness and decline is an invidious, and gratuitous, moral. Call it the Gospel According to Anna Quindlen, the writer and columnist who enshrined its maxims in a commencement speech she wrote in 1999 and eventually turned into the best-selling book “A Short Guide to a Happy Life.” “No man ever said on his deathbed I wish I had spent more time in the office,” she instructed. “Don’t ever forget the words my father sent me on a postcard last year: ‘If you win the rat race, you’re still a rat.’”

I have no idea what I'll think on my death bed. My regrets might be that I didn't use enough sun screen in my teen years. Or that I ate too many Big Macs over the years. Or that I never bought those tickets to see Nirvana. I can't live my life trying to figure out what I'll be thinking years from now. I am just trying to make the most of the cards on my table at this moment. 

But back to the Postel piece, I'm not sure that she's right. There are plenty of movies about successful, happy working women. Erin Brockovich comes to mind. But there must be more, right? 

Let Them Eat Their Own


Newt Gingrich isn't going down without a fight. A fight that's going to threatening the weird alliance between social conservatives, libertarians, and country club Republicans. My, my. Newt does make things interesting. 

Here's the link to the King of Bain. Commentary from Huff Post

Meanwhile, Obama just amassed $42 million in campaign funds in the last quarter. The gossip is that Romney will win the nomination, but this process is going to trash him so badly that he's going to be the next Kerry. Last year, they were saying that Obama was the next Carter. With 66% of the population thinking that there is too big of gap between rich and poor, this attack ad hits home. 

When Steve watched the opening still of the ad, he immediately thought one of the women in the ad looked like his aunt. That's when he thought that Romney was sunk. The "Every Aunt" will haunt Romeny until Election Day. 

Concierge Medicine

Article-2085262-0F5FA75800000578-524_306x423The local news was all abuzz this week, because Beyonce's and Jay Z's private security prevented parents from seeing their newborns in the NIC unit. They had so much hate directed at them that Beyonce checked out early. 

Amanda Marcotte isn't that sympathetic towards the new, unfamous parents.

This incident brought up the topic of concierge medicine – the practice of giving gold plated medical services to those that can pay. Check out Beyonce's birth room. More here