More on the criminalization of parenthood

Terrific column from Ross Douthat.  Just going with a long excerpt I love:

But the pattern — a “criminalization of parenthood,” in the words of The Washington Post’s Radley Balko — still looks slightly nightmarish, and there are forces at work here that we should recognize, name and resist.

First is the upper-class, competition-driven vision of childhood as a rigorously supervised period in which unattended play is abnormal, risky, weird. This perspective hasn’t just led to “the erosion of child culture,” to borrow a quote from Hanna Rosin’s depressing Atlantic essay on “The Overprotected Kid”; it has encouraged bystanders and public servants to regard a deviation from constant supervision as a sign of parental neglect.  [all the emphases are mine]

Second is the disproportionate anxiety over child safety, fed by media coverage of every abduction, every murdered child, every tragic “hot car” death. Such horrors are real, of course, but the danger is wildly overstated: Crime rates are down, abductions and car deaths are both rare, and most of the parents leaving children (especially non-infants) in cars briefly or letting them roam a little are behaving perfectly responsibly.

Third is an erosion of community and social trust, which has made ordinary neighborliness seem somehow unnatural or archaic, and given us instead what Gracy Olmstead’s article in The American Conservative dubs the “bad Samaritan” phenomenon — the passer-by who passes the buck to law enforcement as expeditiously as possible. (Technology accentuates this problem: Why speak to a parent when you can just snap a smartphone picture for the cops?)

And then finally there’s a policy element — the way these trends interact not only with the rise of single parenthood, but also with a welfare system whose work requirements can put a single mother behind a fast-food counter while her kid is out of school.

This last issue presents a distinctive challenge to conservatives like me, who believe such work requirements are essential. If we want women like Debra Harrell to take jobs instead of welfare, we have to also find a way to defend their liberty as parents, instead of expecting them to hover like helicopters and then literally arresting them if they don’t.

Otherwise we’ll be throwing up defenses against big government, while ignoring a police state growing in our midst.

Quick hits (part II)

1) My favorite use for “big data”?  Baby name analysis.  Here’s a cool analysis of trendy baby names, i.e., names that burned bright, but for a short period.  Here’s to you Ashley, Linda, Jason, and Mark.

2) I did not know that almond milk has become a thing among hipsters.  I am a regular soy milk drinker because I simply like it’s taste better than low-fat milk and it has a similar health profile.  I’ve never used almond milk because, despite almonds being full of protein, almond milk is strangely devoid of it.

A single ounce (28 grams) of almonds—nutrition info here—contains six grams of protein (about an egg’s worth), along with three grams of fiber (a medium banana) and 12 grams of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (half an avocado). According to its label, an eight-ounce serving of Califia almond milk offers just one gram each of protein and fiber, and five grams of fat. A bottle of Califia delivers six eight-ounce servings, meaning that a handful of almonds contains as much protein as the mighty jug of this hot-selling beverage.

What this tells you is that the almond-milk industry is selling you a jug of filtered water clouded by a handful of ground almonds.

3) Very thorough look at what the research on bed-sharing with you baby does and does not tell us.  I think a very telling point is that the research groups together those who do it haphazardly with those who do it on purpose and these are very different groups.  All of our children slept in our bed some as infants because when you are breast feeding in the middle of the night, that’s just way easier.

4) Nice to see Weird Al getting so much love with his new videos.  This post makes a case for “Smells like Nirvana” as his finest work.  Nice post  I’m pretty partial to Amish Paradise, myself:

5) I hate tipping.  I’m a reasonable tipper, but I totally object to the concept of it for most all cases.  And I am right to, writes Brandon Ambrosino in Vox.  There was also a nice Freakonomics podcast last year on just how foolish the practice really is.

6) I love Yahoo Tech (formerly NYT) Technology writer David Pogue.  It’s pretty amusing the silly question people write to him with, as he explains in this video.  The best part is I found out about Let Me Google that for You.  So need to use this site with my students.

7) Loved this video on how dark matter forms the invisible structure of the universe.

8) I kind of like how Vox has taken to debunking popular myths/misconceptions about social science and such.  Here, they render the Myers-Briggs (i.e,. I’m an ESTJ) harmless.  Not new, though– Gladwell wrote about these same problems a decade ago.  In a similar vein, they nicely summarize the long-existing evidence that sugar does not make kids hyper.

9) How becoming a father changes your brain.

10) I think the idea of “bandwith poverty” is really important.  Excellent NPR story on the matter.  It is really cognitively demanding to be poor.

11) Want to learn better?  Test, test, test (or quiz, quiz, quiz).

12) No, it will never become law, but I love the idea of this legislation that simply says that abortion clinics should simply be regulated in the same way as all other clinics that provide outpatient medical services.

13) 50 state-themed lego dioramas.  Awesome.

14) The secret of effective motivation.

15) Yet more evidence that if you really want less teen pregnancy and less abortion, you should want more free/low-priced IUD’s.

 

 

Criminalizing poor parenting

I kept adding articles about this topic to my pending quick hits list until I decided this just needs it’s own post.  The degree to which state bureaucracies seem to be willing to criminally punish poor parents (i.e., those who cannot always find affordable, reliable child care) while working (or going to college class, etc.) is truly abhorrent.  Not to mention the willingness to totally destroy families all in the name of “best interests of the children.”  Best interests my ass.

First, Radley Balko.  Several disturbing examples you should read, but here’s his conclusions:

You needn’t approve of the parents’ actions in any of these cases to understand that dumping them into the criminal justice system is a terribly counterproductive way of addressing their mistakes. (And I’m not at all convinced that three of the four stories were even mistakes.) The mere fact that state officials were essentially micromanaging these parents’ decisions is creepy enough. That the consequences for the “wrong” decision are criminal is downright scary.

It doesn’t benefit these kids in the least to give their parents a criminal record, smear their parents’ names in their neighborhoods and communities and make it more difficult for their parents to find a job.

Jessica Grose:

Debra Harrell, 46, let her 9-year-old daughter play outside alone at the park. The South Carolina child had a cellphone she could use to call her mother in case of emergency. On the girl’s third day alone at the park, someone asked her where her mother was. The girl said her mom was at work. (Harrell works at McDonald’s and didn’t want her daughter to have to sit inside the restaurant for hours on a beautiful summer day.) The result? Harrell was arrested for “unlawful conduct towards a child” and put in jail; her daughter is now in the custody of the department of social services.

Most commentators—save for a few busybodies interviewed by the local news who nattered on about the possibility of the child being abducted by a strange man, something that’s extremely rarethink that authorities went way too farin arresting Harrell. It angers me, as a citizen, to see the police overreach this way. How is it benefiting this child to be put in the custody of social services? And since I’m a parent, Harrell’s arrest scares me: How can I appropriately parent my child when doing something that seems relatively safe, if out of fashion, can get you arrested?

Connor Friedersdorf (longer excerpt, but spot-on):

The case is disturbing on several levels.

1) Parents ought to enjoy broad latitude in bringing up their children. There are obviously limits. The state ought to intervene if a child is being abused. But letting a 9-year-old go to the park alone doesn’t come close to meeting that threshold. Honestly, it seems a bit young to me, but I don’t know the kid or the neighborhood, it doesn’t sound as though the mother had any great option, and as I didn’t give birth to the kid, support her, and raise her for 9 years, it isn’t my call.

2) By arresting this mom (presumably causing her to lose her job) and putting the child in foster care, the state has caused the child far more trauma than she was ever likely to suffer in the park, whatever one thinks of the decision to leave her there. Even if the state felt it had the right to declare this parenting decision impermissible, couldn’t they have given this woman a simple warning before taking custody?

3) The state’s decision is coming at a time when it is suffering from a shortage of foster families, as well as a child protective services workforce so overwhelmedthat serious child abuse inquiries are regularly closed in violation of policy.

Perhaps most concerning of all are the surfeit of cases where child protective services censures parents for ostensibly jeopardizing a kid’s safety in a manner that is totally disconnected from any statistical realities about the actual dangers faced.

He then links to the excellent comments about what actually endangers children, which I linked to a few weeks ago.

And, finally, he follows up with another disturbing, harrowing story of a 35-year widow who’s children were taken away and subjected to awful experiences in various foster homes because she left her four 10 and under children home while she went to a college class.  And even if you think that is negligent parenting (a reasonable argument, but the full context matters), the idea that the state’s solution to this was actually in the best interests of the woman’s children is completely risible.

This is just all wrong.  Sadly, though, I do think it fits into Balko’s larger theme:

A couple of themes we explore here at The Watch are the increasing criminalization of just about everything and the use of the criminal justice system to address problems that were once (and better) handled by families, friends, communities and other institutions. A few examples from recent headlines show those themes intersecting with parenthood.

This simply needs to change.

Super-Mega Quick hits

Sure, I’m at the beach, but quick hits will not be denied!  (In fact, it’s extra long as a direct result)  There’s a ton, but I didn’t feel like breaking them up this week.  Sorry.  Enjoy…

1) Krugman on conservative delusions about inflation.  It really is pretty amazing how these continue.

2) Challenges universities face from a professor’s point of view.

3) Loved this essay in the Atlantic on how all the mothers in animated movies are dead.  Or at least essentially out of the picture.  A notable exception– The Incredibles, one of the best animated films in the past decade (and a favorite of all the Greene kids and parents).

4) Nice Brenday Nyhan in the Upshot.  When beliefs and facts collide, beliefs win.  Though, not for me and my enlightened and scientifically-minded readers :-).

5) Apparently, this is the year of 42 year old women.  It just so happens I’m married to one.

6) Kristof on just one more sad story of wronful imprisonment.  I’m going to be reading this guy’s book.

7) Three psychological findings I wish I’d known in high school.  Indeed.

8) I so loved classic rock when I was a teenager.  I thought I was much too cool for the rock of the times.  Of course, now that’s “classic rock” too.  538 with a look by the numbers.

9) Nice Economist piece on the myth of the omnipotent presidency and the damage that the myth does.

10) Yahoo Tech presents 15 entertaining novelty twitter accounts.  Some of these really are awesome.

11) Fascinating story on the last days of Diane Rehm’s husband and how we starved/dehydrated himself to death (he had advanced Parkinson’s).

12) Back before youtube there was jibjab.  This land is your land was a revelation.

13) Okay, turns out that whole how to/not to praise children thing really is getting complicated.  Still, I think it is clear that it is a good idea not to over-praise nor praise excessively for innate abilities.

14) Nice Salon piece on how NC”s new Republican-led voter disenfranchisement laws really are the most evil in the country.

15) I was fascinated by this Atlantic piece on how the “crossover” has taken over the new car market.  I had no idea.  Of course, my cars are from 1998 and 2000.  Really interesting on the history of cars versus minivans versus SUV’s, etc.

16) When I first read about the Kentucky State Senator and the temperature on Mars, I figured he couldn’t really be that dumb.  Turns out he’s not.  But still pretty damn stupid.  I’m sorry, Democratic state legislators just don’t come this dumb.

17) Pope Francis, radical environmentalist.

18) There was going to be a Seinfeld episodes about guns, but the cast nixed it when they were already rehearsing.

19) It is just too easy to be declared a suspicious person by the US Government.  With all sorts of bad consequences.

20) How coffee fueled the Civil War.  My sense is that stimulant drugs have fueled soldiers whenever and wherever they have been available.

21) You all know about my love for apples.  Turns out, I’ve really got to get my wife to start eating more.

Practice (and good genes) make perfect

I read a terrific book this past spring that I meant to blog about at least a half dozen times.  A quick check of the archives, though, finds that I failed to do so.  So, even though it’s beach vacation week, The Sports Gene by David Epstein gets its due.  I was inspired by a Vox post (shared by DJC on FB) that emphasizes just how little of success is explained by practice:

Over the past 20 years or so, some psychologists have been arguing for an appealing idea about expertise and success: they’re hugely dependent on putting in lots of practice time. This idea is a nice one, because it suggests that successful people earned their expertise, and that many people have a shot at becoming successful if they work hard enough. It gained especially wide attention through a rule it inspired in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers: that to become really, really good at something, you have to intensely practice at it for around 10,000 hours, the “10,000-hour rule.” But this is an area of active dispute among psychologists — and over the years, dozens of studies have collected hard data on the link between practice and top performance in all sorts of fields. A new statistical analysis of 88 of these studies comes to the exact opposite conclusion: success mostly reflects other factors (probably things like innate talent and opportunity) rather than hours and hours of practice.

Of course practice matters, all else being equal.  But all else isn’t equal as simply looking at an NBA or NFL roster will tell you.  In fact, my favorite factoid from Epstein’s book is that literally only two players in the entire NBA have an armspan to height ratio of less than 1.o.  (One of them being Duke great JJ Reddick).   The average adult male is about 1.01; the average NBA player is 1.06 (Josh Levin has a nice piece building off Epstein’s book).  That’s just genes.  No amount of practice in the world is going to make you 6’5″ or give you freakishly long arms. As mentioned in the Vox post, a lot of people just get the 10,000 hour thing wrong (and I think go far beyond what Gladwell intended when he popularized the notion– here’s Gladwell in response to Epstein’s book).

All this soccer has had me thinking about a book I read last year, The Numbers Game which purports to be a Moneyball of soccer.  It’s pretty good, but I couldn’t believe it when the authors basically said, well, yeah, all these Premier League and La Liga players put in their 10,000 hours and that’s that.  Seriously?  Genes, anybody.

The Sports Gene has all sorts of good stuff about body type, training, gender, race (!), etc., but what really stuck with me was the idea of baseline versus trainability.  Some people have genes for an amazing good baseline, i.e., could run a 5 minute mile with little training.  Other people of good genes for high trainability, i.e., maybe start at a 7 minute mile, but respond very well to training and end up at 4 minute miles in far less than 10,000 hours.  Obviously, the truly elite in most sports have the genes for both.  But it is important to recognize that they are separate things (nicely discussed by the author on Fresh Air).

In fact, when Evan wanted to give up soccer after 3 seasons this past spring, I had to admit that he was simply lacking in trainability at the sport.  Other kids had clearly progressed significantly more with roughly the same amount of practice.  If he still loved it, of course, we’d stick with it.  But I wasn’t going to make him play soccer just because I love to coach it.

Evan’s failed efforts as a soccer player, though, had me thinking about trainability.  And one area where my children should have high trainability is music.  My mom was a piano teacher and terrific musician; my dad an all-state clarinetist.  I was pretty good piano player and percussionist myself and Kim was an all-district clarinetists.  The kids ought to be able to play some damn music.  Well, Evan’s been playing piano for 4 weeks now and I don’t really have a lot to compare him to, but I’d say his musical trainability is pretty high– sure puts his soccer trainability to shame.

Wow, that’s a heck of a long blog post for being at the beach.  The least you could to is put The Sports Gene in your reading queue.

Quick hits

1) Derek Thomspon on how college is like sunscreen (a basic protection from the vicissitudes of the modern economy).  On a related note, Americans think we have the best colleges– we don’t.  Actually, our elite universities really are the best.  But on average, we’re not so special:

When President Obama has said, “We have the best universities,” he has not meant: “Our universities are, on average, the best” — even though that’s what many people hear. He means, “Of the best universities, most are ours.” The distinction is important.

2) I so want this camera.  From what I can tell, pretty much everything you could ever possibly want in a camera you can easily take with you anywhere.   Bokeh with a truly pocket-sized camera!

3) Is it just me, or do soccer players trade jerseys less than they used to.  I love this tradition.  From this great NYT story on jersey trades from the last World Cup.

4) Just to get some attention, Ann Coulter went on an anti-soccer rant.  Here’s why she’s right to fear the World Cup.

The core problem with embracing soccer is that in so doing, America would become more like the rest of the world.

Which is why Coulter should be very afraid. Because America is embracing soccer…

Worse, from Coulter’s perspective, Americans like soccer for the very reason she loathes it: It connects us to the rest of the world. Earlier this year, I wrote an essay entitled “The End of American Exceptionalism,” which argued that on subjects where the United States has long been seen as different, attitudes in America increasingly resemble those in Europe. Soccer is one of the best examples yet.

5) As two of my favorite shows ever, I loved this Slate piece on how Seinfeld actually set the groundwork for The Sopranos and subsequent great television.  Seriously!

But Seinfeld’s impact resonated beyond comedy. Its serene belief that characters did not have to be likable as long as they were interesting foreshadowed a change in TV drama that wouldn’t settle until the late ’90s, when HBO turned a show about violent gangsters into an award-winning hit. We tend to forget that the first coldly expedient hero to anchor an influential, long-running series named after him wasn’t Tony Soprano. It was Jerry Seinfeld.

6) Joseph Stiglitz argues that extreme inequality is not inveitable.  Rather, it is a policy choice.

7) With all the attention to the facebook experiment (my take: every time you log into your feed, facebook is “manipulating your emotions.”  It’s always been a non-random sample that FB will tweak as they like) here’s a nice piece on how FB decides what’s in your feed.  Always a good idea to “like” stuff you actually like and ignore or hide stuff you don’t.  I “like” Wired and “New Yorker” and certain friends and see a bunch of them.  I’ve never “liked” a photo of food and I never will.

8) The rise of DIY abortion in Texas.

9) I enjoyed telling my teenager about this “why teenagers act crazy” piece in the NYT.

10) Finland’s school kids get a lot of recess.  David Greene would be so jealous.  Is this a key to their educational success?  Maybe, maybe not.  But it is interesting and certainly shows you can have high achievement with lots of time for breaks.

11) Want somebody to like you more?  Ask them to do a favor for you.  Seriously.

12) Fascinating story of a mentally ill bonobo and how human psychiatry helped him.

13) How Lionel Messi is just amazing via an exhaustive 538 statistical analysis.  Interesting how there’s Messi and Ronaldo and then everyone else way below.  Also, Messi gets it done without actually even running all that much.

Alright, 13 is enough for one go.  Back with some more tomorrow.

Quick hits

1) On the fashions of World Cup soccer coaches.

2) New Republic has a new Jonathan Cohn-led policy blog.  I’m looking forward to good stuff.

3) Really wanted to give this own post since I’m always fascinated by IUD policy, but it’s just not happening.  Anyway, good Slate story about an Ohio legislator who wants to ban coverage for IUD’s (while admitting he doesn’t actually know anything about medicine).

4) So, what do those extra thousands for a premium DSLR lens really get you anyway?

5) How Americans pronounce common tech words (I had no idea some people say “wiffy.”)  And it’s .gif with a soft “g” damnit!

6) Sticking with language, love this on words that are most known to only men or only women.  Two thoughts… Paladin!!  and damn, I thought I’d know more of the “women” words.

7) I’ve only remembered to try this with a paper towel once, but it didn’t quite work.  Maybe I need to shake more.

8) Nice NPR story on trying to be a better parent.

9) It’s really kind of pathetic that it has taken this long to have the technology in place to allow planes to have consistently descending glide paths in their landings.  The good news is that it finally is and that it saves a ton of jet fuel.

10) Loved this on the under-performance of top NBA draft picks.  And 538 makes the case that teams should draft college sophomores (I just don’t think freshman year is always a good enough sample size for prediction).

11) Yes, sports heavy week.  Loved this Atlantic piece on the siblings of World Cup players, especially Clint Dempsey’s big brother.

12) The relationship between political attitudes on guns and abortion.  Richard Nixon brings it all together.

13)Science, politics, and NC beaches.  Personally, I just hope Topsail Beach lasts long enough for me to take my grandkids there.

14) Jeffrey Toobin on when the Constitution itself gets it wrong and (again) the folly of Scalia’s originalism.

Modern parenting (life is risk)

I decided this one was too good for a quick hit.  Essay by a mom who ended up pleading guilty to endangering her child after leaving him locked in the car (on a cloudy 50 degree day) with an Ipad for 5 minutes while she ran an errand.   The kid was on the verge of a major tantrum (refusing to get out of the car) and she was rushing to catch a flight.  Now, I would not have done the same thing, but only because I myself would have been afraid of a “do gooder” videotaping and giving it to the police who somehow found this worthy of prosecution, not because I think it is actually at all dangerous for the child.  I lovethe author’s interview with the founder of the Free Range kids blog:

“Listen,” she said at one point. “Let’s put aside for the moment that by far, the most dangerous thing you did to your child that day was put him in a car and drive someplace with him. About 300 children are injured in traffic accidents every day — and about two die. That’s a real risk. So if you truly wanted to protect your kid, you’d never drive anywhere with him. But let’s put that aside. So you take him, and you get to the store where you need to run in for a minute and you’re faced with a decision. Now, people will say you committed a crime because you put your kid ‘at risk.’ But the truth is, there’s some risk to either decision you make.” She stopped at this point to emphasize, as she does in much of her analysis, how shockingly rare the abduction or injury of children in non-moving, non-overheated vehicles really is. For example, she insists that statistically speaking, it would likely take 750,000 years for a child left alone in a public space to be snatched by a stranger. “So there is some risk to leaving your kid in a car,” she argues. It might not be statistically meaningful but it’s not nonexistent. The problem is,” she goes on, “there’s some risk to every choice you make. So, say you take the kid inside with you. There’s some risk you’ll both be hit by a crazy driver in the parking lot. There’s some risk someone in the store will go on a shooting spree and shoot your kid. There’s some risk he’ll slip on the ice on the sidewalk outside the store and fracture his skull. There’s some risk no matter what you do. So why is one choice illegal and one is OK? Could it be because the one choice inconveniences you, makes your life a little harder, makes parenting a little harder, gives you a little less time or energy than you would have otherwise had?”

And here’s the problem:

We live in a country of gated communities and home security systems. My sister has both, though she lives in a subdivision with about a dozen neighbors. We’re told to warn our children not to talk to strangers. We walk them to school and hover over them as they play and some of us even put GPS systems on them, confident, I guess, that should they get lost, no one will help them. Gone are the days of letting kids roam the neighborhood, assuming that at least one responsible adult will be nearby to keep an eye out. I’m told there are still things like carpools and babysitting co-ops, but I’ve never found one. In place of “It takes a village,” our parenting mantra seems to be “every man for himself.” Faced with this gulf between my own childhood and the environment in which I was raising my kids, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was good that I’d been taught a lesson, reprimanded for something stubbornly naive or careless in my nature.

Great stuff.

Men: do the dishes and the laundry to help your daughters

So, this is pretty cool research:

Dads who want their daughters to aim for prestigious professions should start by doing the dishes or loading the washing machine, a new study suggests.

The study, to be published in the journal Psychological Science, found that fathers who perform household chores are more likely to bring up daughters who break out of the mold of traditionally female jobs and aspire to careers in business, legal and other professions, CTV reports.

Alyssa Croft, lead author of the study, and a doctoral candidate at the University of British Columbia, said the study suggested “girls grow up with broader career goals in households where domestic duties are shared more equitably by parents.”

I do a decent job, but it’s mostly the dishes and it’s after Sarah is in bed.  I guess I better do more of this while she’s still awake.

What I really wonder, though, is how much of this is correlation versus causation (and despite my best attempts, could not find the article on-line).  Here’s my thinking… liberal progressive dads are more likely to do more chores and to instill these broader values in their daughters directly and through a host of family dynamics.  The chores are just a blunt measure of these values that affect the daughters.  What about families with these ideals where the dads are lazy slackers?  Of course, having these ideals should mean living them.  Anyway, I’m do my part so that Sarah wants to grow up to be a scientist rather than a princess.

Super Mega Quick hits

1) If you read one thing this week, read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “The Case for Reparations” in the Atlantic.  Seriously.  I knew it was still pretty bad how official policy treated Blacks for most of the 20th century, but I didn’t appreciate how bad.  Really a disturbing and an amazing article  that I think pretty much every American should read.

2) NYT on the intra-party conflict between NC’s Republican governor and Republican legislature.  I liked this bit:

But Chris Fitzsimon, director of the left-leaning NC Policy Watch, called Mr. McCrory the “mayor” of North Carolina, saying the governor had been relegated to a quasi-ceremonial role. “He’s out somewhere every day touring a factory, cutting a ribbon, and yet he can’t get any significant policy through the General Assembly and he can’t stop things he opposes,” Mr. Fitzsimon said.

3) I’ve always loved the little bit of probability theory of how surprisingly common it is for two people to share a birthday.  I really need to try this out in my classes (much like one of my professors demonstrated to me 20+ years ago).

4) The birth of the Koch brothers as a political force.  It all started with the 1980 Libertarian VP nomination.

5) Loved this essay about admitting to our kids that the primary purpose of sex is actually pleasure.  David had understood the basic biology for years before we got around to the fact that his mother and I had “mated” more than the four times necessary for he and his 3 siblings.  He was so suprised.  And his questions were so funny– but where?  but when?  etc.

6) Great EJ Dionne column on Elizabeth Warren.

Warren tells of meeting with Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), a former FBI agent, to talk about the consumer agency. “After a bit,” she reports, “he cut me off so he could make one thing clear: He didn’t believe in government.”

That seemed strange coming from the graduate of a public university and a veteran of both the military and a government agency, though Warren didn’t press him then. “But someday I hoped to get a chance to ask him: Would you rather fly an airplane without the Federal Aviation Administration checking air traffic control? Would you rather swallow a pillwithout the Food and Drug Administration testing drug safety? Would you rather defend our nation without a military and fight our fires without our firefighters?”

How often are our anti-government warriors asked such basic questions?

7) Ezra provides the best explanation I’ve seen for Jill Abramson’s ouster– her boss just didn’t like her.

8) Paul Ryan’s take on poverty– back to the 19th century.

9) Awesome infographic on “what’s the difference” between oft-confused animals, e.g., alligator vs. crocodile.

10) The unknown environmental crime of the 20th century– Soviet whaling.  Great story.  And so disturbing.

11) Really nice essay about the role of force in rape and how we and victims think about the crime.

12) Remember that horrible chemical spill in WV where they had to bring in tons of bottle water.  Not surprisingly, the nearby prisoners were not a high priority for clean water.  Not surprising, but so very wrong.

13) The NFL and DirectTV are totally screwing the public.  The disdain for the fans is truly disgusting.

14) Albuquerque police seem to have quite the high number of “justifiable” shootings.  It basically seems that there is a culture where bad policing provokes suspects to the point where the police can legally shoot them.

15) Republicans are now making now effort to hide the fact that they don’t actually care at all about the basic welfare of poor children.  At least if they live in cities.

16) Matt Bai on our age of intolerance:

What’s happened is that we’ve effectively left behind the Age of Persuasion and ushered in the Age of Confirmation. It sometimes seems the whole world exists to re-affirm our conceptions of it; you can get through days, even weeks, without being at all discomfited, if you know which sites to visit and which channels to watch.

17) Political polarization– a nice summary of the asymmetry.

18) The next frontier for tackling your health through healthy bacteria– your skin.  We’ve basically made a commitment to completely washing away helpful skin bacteria which process sweat, etc., and keep our skin healthy.  What if we sprayed that bacteria back on our skin and gave up showers?   You know I’m thinking hard about this one :-).

Soccer, parenting, and elite youth sports

I just finished today coaching another great season of my oldest son’s recreational league soccer team, the CASL Boys U14 Blasters.  There’s simply no other major sport where luck plays such a role (due to the low scoring, goals are a fairly unreliable indicator of actual team performance) and that’s always driven me crazy about soccer.  All season our team has been good enough, that, for the most part, luck never made a decisive difference.  How bitter though, to lose a game 1-0 where the other team only took three shots total to our roughly 20 or so– multiple off the goal frame and others just wide.  Basically every good shot we had today went in in our 5-3 and 7-2 victories, but we could have used some of that luck in our 1-0 defeat.  Alas, a disappointing third place finish in an 8-team tournament where it was clear we were the best team.

Okay, I just had to get that off my chest, before commenting on this recent NYT post about “the arrogance” of the demands of soccer, e.g.,

The edict from my daughter’s soccer team manager arrived Monday morning: A state cup match had been rescheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday in Vancouver, Wash., a two-and-a-half hour drive from our home in Seattle. Families were expected to travel and check into a hotel Saturday night. Players were required to appear at a breakfast and pregame strategy session with the coach at 9 a.m. on Sunday.

Did I mention that my daughter and her teammates are just 10 years old?

The embedded presumptions here — that our family can afford a last-minute hotel stay, that we own a reliable vehicle with gas to burn, that the grown ups in the household don’t work weekends, that a sudden change of plans won’t adversely affect our other children, and that it is reasonable for a group of adults to direct so much time and money toward a single soccer match for fifth graders — is business as usual in the world of hyper-competitive youth soccer.

With an 11-year-old son and a 12-year-old daughter who also play, my husband and I have served as lackeys of the youth soccer machine for nearly five years. Soccer consumes our adult lives, which I find infuriating and exhausting, but we make the sacrifice because our children passionately love the sport. Through soccer, they’ve gained confidence, fitness, discipline and skill, but the truth is, if my husband and I weren’t blessed with financial resources and flexible, professional jobs, competitive play just wouldn’t be an option for them.

Please.  As if this were the only way to play soccer.  The key here, I suspect is the term “competitive play.”  Your typical soccer league in no way places such crazy demands.  My son’s team never travels more than 30 minutes away and all told we shell out maybe $150 for a season.  Of course, we are just “recreational” and not competitive.  Of course, there’s no college soccer scholarships in the future for the Blasters, but I very much resent the idea that this is some sort of elitism unique to soccer.  Given the lack of equipment, soccer is actually a cheap sport.  Any youth sport that demands families devote their entire weekend to the team most every weekend is elite and generally for rich people only.  But, that happens at elite levels of pretty much every youth sport I know of.  And it’s one of the reasons I love coaching Rec soccer where everything is in balance and my players also run track, play in the school band, orchestra, earn black belts in martial arts, etc.  Some of my players surely have the innate talent to play at elite levels if they were as devoted to the game as the family in this post.  But they and their parents have made other choices that focus on family life and balance.

Now, I suppose if your kid is really driven, really good, and really loves it and it doesn’t really overly damage the  rest of your family’s life (i.e., hello, siblings) this kind of elite sports participation is just fine.  More power to your talented kid.  But it’s a very clear choice families make that has nothing whatsoever to do with soccer in particular.

More quick hits

I had more quick hits than I could handle in one post.  Here’s more:

1) Great column from Tom Edsall on how SC decision are actually made (it sure ain’t “calling balls and strikes”)

In his study, Stone concluded that in these cases, the votes of members of the court’s right flank were “determined first-and-foremost by their own personal policy preferences.” The court’s conservatives “no doubt believe that they decide each case as it comes to them, like umpires calling balls and strikes. But given the strikingly ideological pattern of their votes in these cases, and the absence of any plausible theory to explain them, this is simply not credible.”

2) Despite free tuition, Swedish college students are taking on huge debt.  Why, the much greater culture of indepenence for young adults.

3) Josh Levin on the everyday evils of the NCAA.

4) Elizabeth Weiss on selling the myth of the Ideal Mother.  Happy Mother’s Day :-).

5) A teacher’s response to Louis CK on the Common Core.

6) Apparently there’s a couple dozen “ultraconserved” words that are about 15,000 years old (a year old, but new to me).  Cool!  I’ve always loved linguistics.

7) Always enjoy a good Scalia takedown.  Here’s  a nice piece on his dissent on an EPA case last week and how it reveals the extreme degree to which Scalia’s own political preferences shape his legal opinions.

8) Really interesting piece in the Atlantic about how much taller humans have gotten and why.  Nutrition is huge, but it’s more complicated than that.

9) Loved this on “diet cults.”  Especially enjoyed the takedown of the Paleo diet.   Good health is not complicated.  Most things in moderation, plenty of fruits and vegetables, not a lot of processed food, and exercise.  Everybody already knows this.

10) States with “pro-business” policies (here’s looking at you, NC) have worse economic growth.

11) We’ll conclude this Supreme Court-heavy edition with one more piece on how SC Justices don’t care so much about the law, as about what they believe– free speech edition.

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