Getting Kids to Play Soccer ... and Leave Home

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Two pieces on parental failure that might seem unrelated (but aren't) caught my eye today. The first, by Free Range Mom Lenore Skenazy, considers a nationwide decline in youth soccer participation. The story Skenazy quotes rightly blames the decline on pushing children into tryouts and highly competitive leagues at too early an age, before stating what it is that kids really need:

Don't be fooled by the lack of a uniform... (Image via Pixabay.)
Really -- what IS the point? If kids want to play soccer, they don't need a coach, a field, a uniform and a fee. All they need is some friends and a ball. And actually, as Carlo Celli and Nathan Richardson note in their book, Shoeless Soccer, they don't even need a ball. Pele, the soccer legend, learned playing barefoot, kicking a sock filled with rags. [minor edits, link omitted]
I can't resist passing along a story about my baby brother, whose birthday it is today. My mother took him and a couple of his friends shopping when they were between six and eight, and they spontaneously began playing in a parking place next to her car as she loaded it. They used a dead frog as the ball. And, yes, one of them ended up heading it before she broke it up.

The second story is by Evil HR Lady Suzanne Lucas, and concerns helicopter parents interfering with their teenagers' first jobs, even unexpectedly filling in for them (!) when they complained about being tired. Her commentary is spot-on, and includes the following:
You are teaching your child many, many lessons in behaving like this. The first lesson is that your child is incapable of doing hard things. The second lesson is that mom does not trust them to solve their own problems. The third lesson is that mom will rush in and save them from any small difficulty. You know what this gets you? This gets you a 35-year-old living in your basement. [emphasis in original]
Although the first story concerns pushing children too hard and the second helping them too much, both are about parents who control the lives of their children too much. This keeps them from developing their own interests on their own terms, thereby becoming motivated and self-confident. In each case, back off is excellent advice.

-- CAV

It's ALL 'Wish Recycling'

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Or: You Can't Recycle Your Time, Part 7084

A new logistical problem with government-sponsored recycling programs that prompted me to write a column earlier in the year is finally making the news. The LA Times reports (HT: Steve D.) that China's new standards for quality are causing ripples in the domestic recycling industry and sending lots of material to the landfills:

In January, China began barring "contaminated" material it once accepted. And under China's new rules, if something is one-half of 1% contaminated, it's too impure for recycling.

"This policy change is already starting to have adverse impacts on California," CalRecycle declared last month in a bulletin, "and is resulting in more material being stockpiled at solid waste facilities and recycling centers or disposed of in landfills."

Eric Potashner, a government relations official for Recology, a curbside hauler that sorts San Francisco Bay Area trash for recycling, says, "There's no market for a lot of stuff in the blue bin. What we can't recycle we take to a landfill."
Interestingly, although the focus of the article is China's new standards, those are hardly the only thing causing people to realize that recycling is uneconomical.
"A year ago," Potashner says, "we were getting $100 a ton for newsprint. Now we're getting an average [of] $5 ... . Revenue has fallen off the cliff."
And quality is being compromised by a practice called "wish recycling," in which people put things that can't be recycled into bins simply because they wish they could be recycled.

But in my column, I argued that these programs are all "wish recycling":
The only thing worth reusing in this picture would be the metal these bins are made of. (Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash)
... Although you might think it was invented by hippies who, as Ayn Rand once put it, "would pollute any stream by stepping into it," recycling pre-dates China itself, and began the moment someone realized that it saved time, effort, and/or money to re-use an object or any of its raw materials. In fact, the practice was so economical that there was no need for scolds and government bureaucrats: People have made careers by buying, collecting and selling scrap metal, rags, and even human waste. Nevertheless, in the days of rag-pickers and night soil collectors, some things were recycled and some things were not -- because it was a waste of time, effort, or money. Tells, those large mounds arising after centuries of human habitation, attest to this in addition to accounting for many archaeological discoveries. But around the 1970s, hippies changed the goal of recycling from benefiting human life to preserving the natural world. Lest you think I quibble, consider how that affects even a simple choice: Toss out a cheap soft drink bottle -- or wash it and send it off to a recycling plant, regardless of whether it is quicker or cheaper to make a new one. [bold added]
This goal has caused countless Americans to waste enormous amounts of time sorting through trash for decades now. If China's new standards cause us to see this, that country will have done us a great favor.

-- CAV

One Cheer for WeWork

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Just swap a nice, juicy rib eye for that bottle, and see how little things change in a century. (Image via WikiMedia.)
In case you haven't heard, WeWork, a company that provides shared workspaces and other infrastructure for startups and other small businesses, recently adopted a policy of refusing to reimburse employees for meat-containing meal items purchased while on business. (The policy is supposed to reduce WeWork's "carbon footprint," in case you were wondering why a company would try to pressure employees into eating like vegetarians.) Business writer Suzanne Lucas amuses by indicating much better ways the company could achieve its stated goal than by annoying something close to ninety-seven percent of its employees -- and by spelling out just what a hassle this will be:
Imagine you're the person in charge of travel reimbursement. You now have to scour receipts to make sure someone didn't get chicken on those nachos. And what if an employee takes a client or a job candidate out to eat? Is the employee required to say to the client (or job candidate), "Hey, you can't order that spaghetti Bolognese. No meat!" Because that won't go over well.
And that's just a sample. Even the exceptions the company is willing to grant will entail extra inconvenience and expense.

Lucas is right that WeWork, as a private company, has the right to set whatever policies it wishes. And she is also right to mention that:
[I]f I was balancing two job offers and one would scrutinize my business meals for signs of hamburgers and the other would not, I might be inclined to turn down the offer from the company that cared more about what I ate on a business trip than what I accomplished. I suspect I'm not alone. [bold added]
I think that there is an additional lesson here, though. Whatever you might think of WeWork's policy, at least they can only inconvenience themselves and (perhaps) those they do business with. When like-minded people demand similar policies of the government, they are asking that it force us all to live with their choices. This is not just wrong, it might be even more impractical than they realize. I don't know if WeWork sponsors organizations that seek fuel rationing or other government interference with what fuel I use, but at least they are doing two things: (1) suffering the consequences of their own foolishness, and (2) "'virtue' signalling" (by publicizing this), so I am aware that this company places other considerations above how best to offer me value for my money.

-- CAV

Two on Kavanaugh

Monday, July 16, 2018

Shortly after President Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, I came across a couple of analyses of his past record that indicate where he might stand on a couple of key issues.

Regarding freedom of speech, Ken White of Popehat concludes:

Image via Wikipedia.
... Kavanaugh's work on the D.C. Circuit show a judge strongly protective of free speech rights, and part of the trend of applying free speech doctrines both to classic scenarios and to government regulation. His stance on telecommunications and elections laws will get him painted as part of the "weaponize free speech" movement by results-oriented thinkers. He's strong on First Amendment limits on defamation law and his approach to anti-SLAPP statutes do not, as some have suggested, signal that he wants to make defamation cases easier. But though he might help upset applecarts by applying the First Amendment to regulatory schemes, and will not uphold broad speech restrictions, he will likely not overturn doctrines that make it hard for individuals to recover for speech violations.
So far, so good -- for someone nominated by a President who doesn't exactly strike me as friendly towards this crucial right.

Kavanaugh's record on abortion isn't exactly extensive, but he has been nominated by a President hostile to women's reproductive rights. Regarding how he might rule in an abortion case, we have the following from The New York Times
In a case last fall that drew widespread attention, the appeals court voted to allow an undocumented pregnant 17-year-old in immigration detention to seek an abortion without delay; the Trump administration had wanted to first transfer her to an adult sponsor for guidance.

Judge Kavanaugh dissented. He wrote that while the appeals court was bound to obey Supreme Court rulings that said that the Constitution protects a woman's right to choose an abortion, those precedents left room for the government to apply "reasonable regulations that do not impose an undue burden."

He maintained that the government was within its bounds to choose a transfer to a sponsor instead of "forcing the minor to make the decision in an isolated detention camp with no support network available." Judge Kavanaugh accused the majority of wrongly inventing "a new right for unlawful immigrant minors in U.S. government detention to obtain immediate abortion on demand." He said that barred the government from intervening to connect minors with their immigration sponsors before making such a serious life decision. "The majority's decision represents a radical extension of the Supreme Court's abortion jurisprudence," he wrote. [links omitted]
The fact that the case covers someone in government custody muddies the waters, but this falls clearly within the debate over the role a parent or guardian should play in whether a minor has an abortion. Kavanaugh's stand here doesn't tell me conclusively that he would vote to overturn Roe vs. Wade, but, given that many conservatives see government intervention with such involvement as a convenient means of interfering with the exercise of that right, this ruling doesn't look good

I haven't made up my mind on whether I support or oppose this nominee, but I am concerned about the second issue.

-- CAV

Friday Hodgepodge

Friday, July 13, 2018

Image via Pixabay.
Four Things

1. On the ride home from school back in June, my seven year old daughter made an odd complaint: she couldn't get a song out of her head.

Yes: In the process of promoting a school trip to an Orioles game, her teachers managed to afflict her with her first earworm. The song in question was, "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."

2. Some time in the past month, I had to explain to Pumpkin what a jackpot actually is, after she informed me that her little brother was sitting on it.

3. What you or I might call July 4 or Independence Day, Little Man was calling America Day. We spent the evening of ours on a beachside balcony in Florida's First Coast area watching fireworks.

4. Some time over the past few months, Little Man has taken to ... greeting ... squirrels by yelling "Hello!" and racing towards them. He's fast, but they're faster.

At Disney World, he yelled an insult at a duck (not Donald or Daisy!), but didn't storm after it. He's otherwise a very good-natured little boy, and I have no clue where that came from.

-- CAV

Something Parents Can Worry Less About

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Lenore Skenazy writes of child abduction by complete strangers, something parents hear about on a near-constant basis and from every direction:

Image via Wikimedia.
It doesn't seem to matter to [Joey Salads] that he is reinforcing an idea that is already both rampant and untrue: Everyone is just waiting for the split-second opportunity to steal our kids.

Stranger kidnapping is the rarest of crimes. Even if you wanted your child to be kidnapped by a stranger, you'd have to leave him outside, unattended, for 750,000 years before he'd be statistically likely to be snatched.

But you wouldn't know it from Salads' shame-spreading, fearmongering videos, including his latest, in which he and a dad decide to teach the dad's wife about how horrible she is for letting their baby wait in the car for the few minutes it takes her to pay for the gas. [bold added]
Skenazy also briefly considers those child abductions that do occur in a Wall Street Journal piece and notes that "The most common victims are girls aged 12 to 17, with sexual assault being the biggest motive," and that the vast majority of them did not live with their parents.

-- CAV

Rude and Concerned Are Not Synonyms

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

For better or worse, there is often a time delay for me when it comes to processing ridiculous and unexpected insults. A good example of this came during our recent family vacation, which included taking the kids to Disney World for a few days. Having gotten up later than we wanted for a scheduled event, we rushed to the park. Just after, I saw an opportunity to buy everyone breakfast while my wife stood in line with the kids for a ride. After my kids (aged seven and five) and I got a place in line, my wife joined us. So I headed out the building to get breakfast. No more than a yard or two from the building, two young adult females with technicolor dreadlocks accosted me, asking me where my children were. Assuming them to be park employees of some kind, I said, "Oh, they're with my wife."

Yeah. That's me around the thirty- and sixty-second marks.
"We're concerned that you're leaving them in line by themselves," one of them said somewhat brusquely. Thinking something was odd, but being in a hurry, I simply left for the coffee shop. Only at some point on the way did I realize that these two were almost certainly busybodies, rather than park employees, and that the answer they really deserved was something like a perfunctory, "That's rude."

I am not a threatening-looking person. My kids are healthy and clean, and were dressed for the occasion. I wasn't yelling at my kids. They weren't crying or screaming. The only reason whatsoever I can come up with for any concern by an onlooker is that they saw me enter with my kids and leave without them -- a sight that anyone with a grain of sense would realize is not some rare phenomenon at an amusement park. I am sure plenty of other parents hand off their kids to the other parent, or even their older siblings, other relatives, or friends.

A clean-cut, ordinary-looking man taking his kids to a line and leaving a few minutes later signals abandonment ... exactly how? And did this duo -- whose demeanor would give me pause about trusting my kids with them, to say the least -- spend any time enjoying the park? Did they worry themselves sick by appointing themselves guardians of every child in sight? Do they enjoy provoking parents? I don't know or care. But their assumption that I would skip out on my own young children in a crowded amusement park was either clueless enough or rude enough to merit an etiquette citation rather than an answer.

-- CAV