The Father of the Year. . .

. . .is Bill Clinton.

Clinton was named the “Father of the Year” by the National Father’s Day Council on Wednesday.

The group selected Clinton for his “profound generosity, leadership and tireless dedication to both his public office and many philanthropic organizations,” Dan Orwig, chairman of the National Father’s Day Committee, said in the announcement.

via Bill Clinton named ‘Father of the Year’ – POLITICO.com.

Profound generosity, tireless dedication to his public office and the rest of it are well and good.  But what do they specifically have to do with Fatherhood?  “Tireless dedication” to one’s work can well mean neglecting one’s children.  No disrespect to the former president, but his one daughter is all grown up now, so what made him such a good dad this particular year?

Who might be better candidates for Father of the Year?

The French case against gay marriage

 

France is also fighting a battle against gay marriage.  But religion and politics are not really entering into it.

For Patrick Laplace, the mayor of this trim little town, the Socialist government’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage in France is a colossal mistake.

Laplace has not taken his stand for political reasons. He belongs to the Radical Party, a loyal ally of the majority Socialist Party in Parliament. Nor has he decided for religious reasons. Laplace has faith in God but puts no stock in the organized church. His opposition, he said, arises from a rational analysis defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman for family and filiation.

“And I’ve heard no one here in Blerancourt who disagrees with me,” Laplace, a 59-year-old former banking executive, said in his ornate town hall rising from the flatlands 75 miles northeast of Paris.

As President Francois Hollande’s government prepares to have its comfortable majority vote gay marriage into law, probably late next month, thousands of mayors, deputy mayors and other small-town officials across France have risen up to voice their opposition.

The movement largely ignores political and religious lines, according to its organizers. Instead, they say, it dramatizes another line, one that divides Paris, with its trends and politics, from the countless smaller communities around France where most people remain attached to timeless values in a tradition-heavy society with deep Christian roots. . . .

Here in France, the battle over gay marriage is being fought in the street and in the media, not in the courts. France being France, it is a battle that revolves around ideas and philosophy, not legalities.

via Local officials in France voice opposition to gay marriage – The Washington Post.

Marriage is already a  secular affair under the Napoleonic Code, with these mayors performing virtually all weddings, which then can be solemnized in a church.  Would that Americans could address the issue in terms of ideas and philosophy!

But there is also a cultural divide between a sophisticated elite that assumes it can just change whatever it doesn’t like and ordinary folks who constitute traditional society.

The first recording of a family Christmas

The Wall family Christmas of 1904 has been preserved on the equivalent of an early dictaphone.  The link gives more details, including samplings.  (Be sure to play the one of the 7-year-old singing, with his big finale.)

Curators at the Museum of London have discovered what they believe to be the first ever recording of a family Christmas.

They were made 110 years ago by the Wall family who lived in New Southgate in North London.

There are 24 clear recordings on wax cylinders which were made using a phonograph machine between 1902 and 1917.

Music curators say the sound quality of the music recorded is outstanding.

Cromwell and Minnie Wall had nine children, eight of whom appear on the recordings. All the recordings are bursting with vibrancy and life, according to Julia Hoffbrand who is the curator at the Museum of London who helped restore the recordings.

Wall Family

 

via BBC News – Curators discover first recordings of Christmas Day.

May you and your family continue this tradition, handed down from generation to generation, century to century, of having a Christmas celebration “bursting with vibrancy and life.”

If you have a big estate, die or give it away by January 1

Income taxes for everyone are not the only taxes that will jump up, should we jump off the fiscal cliff.  The estate and gift taxes will also soar dramatically. George Will is sardonic about it:

If you have worked hard for five decades, made pots of money and now want to squander it all in Las Vegas on wine, women and baccarat, go ahead. If, however, you harbor the antisocial desire — stigmatized as such by America’s judgmental tax code — to bequeath your wealth to your children, this would be an excellent month to die. Absent a congressional fix before Jan. 1, the death tax, which is 35 percent on estates above $5 million, reverts to 55 percent on those above $1 million.

via George F. Will: Fixing the tax code at the cliff’s edge – The Washington Post.

Rather than dying, many wealthy folks are giving their money away to their heirs, something else that will be heavily taxed after January 1.  From CNN Money:

Currently gifts and estates of up to $5.12 million are exempt from taxes, but as part of the fiscal cliff, any portion of a bequest that exceeds $1 million will be taxed next year — and at a 55% rate (currently, the rate is 35%). That will kick in unless Congress and the president agree to extend the current exemption or agree on a new one. Many older Americans are not waiting to see if that happens.

“It’s crazy,” said Richard Behrendt, Director of Estate Planning for Baird’s Private Wealth Management. “I bet more wealth is transferred this year than in the past 10 years combined.”
Jonathan Blattmachr, a principal of Eagle River Advisors in New York who has lectured groups of estate planners about the expiring exemption, said the amount given away in 2012 will be three or four times that of any other year.

The drop to a $1 million exemption means that the tax bill on gifts or estates of $5.12 million will go from zero this year to $2.266 million next year, according to Blattmachr.

What do you think about the estate tax?  One strain of puritanism has always disapproved of the “idle rich,” such as those trust fund kids on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous jetting to Monaco and other of the world’s playgrounds.  The thought is, people should earn their wealth by hard work, not just live off of the hard work of their forebears.

Then again, inheritance is related to the unity of the family across generations.  Also, those with inherited wealth are not necessarily “idle,” since they usually have to keep the family business in good working order.

The inheritance tax is often devastating to farmers and owners of small businesses.  Farmers are often cash poor, but land rich.  That is, the soaring price of land makes them wealthy on paper, in terms of assets, but they don’t necessarily have much actual money.  Frequently, when the landowner dies, the farm has to be sold to pay the estate taxes.  The heirs don’t have that kind of money even if they want to continue the family farm.  The same can hold true for small businesses, which often have to be dissolved upon the death of the owner when the heirs can’t come up with the cash to pay the inheritance tax.

Supreme Court to rule on gay marriage

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear two cases that may settle the legal status of gay marriage in this country.  The court will rule on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage in federal law as being between one man and one woman.  It will also rule on Proposition 8, the referendum in which California voters rejected gay marriage, only to have the vote stricken down by a federal court.

Supreme Court to hear same-sex marriage cases – The Washington Post.

What do you predict will happen?

Our legal system has long been tinkering with what marriage is supposed to be.  For example, the definition of marriage as a permanent, for-better-or-worse estate was changed by no-fault divorce laws, but I don’t recall anyone complaining much.

Structure and freedom for kids

Washington Post education columnist Jay Mathews discusses some findings in Michael Petrilli’s book The Diverse Schools Dilemma; namely, that middle class and working class parents tend to have different parenting styles that impact education:

A middle-class, college-educated parent of any ethnicity is likely to be like me: Overscheduling children’s free time but preferring innovative instruction and informal discipline at school.

The research Petrilli cites says working-class and poor parents of any race are more likely to let their children amuse themselves as they see fit once their homework is done but tend to prefer schools with traditional teaching styles and strong discipline.

He cites the work of University of Pennsylvania sociologist Annette Lareau. She and her team closely tracked 12 families of different racial and class backgrounds. They found the center of life in middle-class families was the calendar, with what Lareau said were “scheduled, paid, and organized activities for children . . . in the two-inch-square open spaces beneath each day of the month.” But despite the forced march to improvement that characterized their children’s free time, those parents tolerated a lot of back-talk and often negotiated with children about what they wanted to do. They preferred teachers who did not give orders but encouraged creativity..

Working-class and poor parents, researchers found, left their children on their own on weekends and summer days but were more likely to set strict behavior rules. Those parents tended to like teachers who were tough and structured.

As a nation, we have been arguing for many generations about the best parenting styles. Those of us who prefer lots of scheduled activities but not much discipline should remember that many members of the revered Greatest Generation who won World War II were raised the way many low-income children are brought up today. . . .

Do loose school lessons teach more than structured ones? Does regular weekend soccer practice do more for our children’s character than roaming around with their friends? I don’t know. The research doesn’t say.

If middle class and low-income parents have different methods with their kids and different expectations for their schools, how do principals and teachers serve both populations?

via Do rich and poor parenting styles matter? – Class Struggle – The Washington Post.

So when middle class teachers go with a “creative” free-form approach to teaching, working class kids end up with no structure, either at school or in their free time.  Perhaps home-schooled middle-class kids tend to do so well because both their schooling and their free time are highly structured.  If this breakdown is correct, poorer kids would do really well if they only had more structure in their schooling.

As I recall, though we were middle class, my school was highly structured and my free time was my own.  That may have more to do with “greatest generation” parenting, times gone by, and local culture.  I think it’s good to give children some space for freedom and for pursuing things they enjoy on their own, rather than scheduling every minute with sports and self-improvement lessons.

Do you think this holds true?  Can you make a case for one of these parenting/educational styles over the others?  Are there other possibilities?


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