The child “immigration crisis”

It doesn’t take too much reading to learn that the child immigration crisis is a refugee crisis as much as anything.  So many of those kids are fleeing incredibly dangerous countries right now.  Of course, that doesn’t stop Krauthammer from claiming this is all simple.  Jonathan Cohn responds and provides context:

Hey, everybody. You can stop struggling with the moral and practical complexities of the border crisis. Charles Krauthammer has it all figured out.

On Friday, Krauthammer’s Washington Postcolumn carried the headline “The Immigration No-Brainer.” Sometimes headlines are too simplistic. This one wasn’t. “Stopping this wave is not complicated,” Krauthammer wrote, referring to the tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors arriving from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. All it would take, Krauthammer said, was changing the 2008 law that forbids U.S. officials from returning these kids immediately, as they do routinely for kids that show up from Mexico. “A serious president would go to Congress tomorrow proposing a change in the law,” Krauthammer wrote. “When the first convoys begin rolling town to town across Central America, the influx will stop.” …

There’s another part of the storyone that Krauthammer and a lot of his conservative buddies barely acknowledge.

The conditions in those three countries really are brutal, in ways that are nearly unique. Gang violence and the miseries we associate with failed states have made El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras three of the deadliest countries in the world. As my colleague Danny Vinik has pointed out, the homicide rate in San Pedro Sula, the second largest city in Honduras, dwarfs the rate of even the most violent American cities…

These conditions don’t simply tug at the heartstrings. In many cases, they trigger provisions of U.S. law that grant asylum or special immigration status to juvenilesprovisions that have been in existence for a long time, because they are consistent with American values of compassion and promotion of human rights…

Addressing the border crisis won’t be easy. We don’t want to turn away kids fleeing dreadful conditions, particularly after such a harrowing journey. But we can’t possibly let in all would-be immigrants fleeing poverty or violence. And we don’t want to encourage more parents to send their kids in the first place. Finding the right balance among these imperatives requires, first and foremost, acknowledging the complexity of the situation. That’s why Krauthammer, and those making similar calls, are doing us such a disservice.

What– you mean it’s complicated?  No simple magic bullets to solve the problem?  Damn liberals– can’t they just see that the world is nicely simple, black and white?

What can the World Cup can teach about U16 Rec soccer?

So, I’ve just spent a huge amount of time the past month watching the best soccer players in the world compete at the highest level.  It’s been awesome.  When I hit the practice field again in about a month, I will have a group of 14 year old boys with very modest skills.  The vast majority of kids in our area who have decent technical skills are playing at the Challenge or Classic level.  There’s very few players left in Rec who are good on the ball or have a knack for scoring.  There’ are a few, though, and the Blasters have had more than our fair share which surely accounts for our success more than my coaching.  That said, the league is generally full of modestly-talented players who are some pretty good athletes and understand soccer reasonably well, but are generally lacking in a lot of key soccer skills.  So, that said, what in the world could I as a coach at this level possibly learn from the World Cup?

A few thoughts– and mostly I just want to bounce them off the soccer fans among you.  I think they basically come down to this– let skilled offensive players beat you (because there’s just not going to be many of them).

1) A high defensive line.  This was one of the keys to the German approach (nicely summarized here by Michael Cox aka Zonal Marking).  Push the whole team far up the field and leave the space behind the defense, not in front.  This is something I’ve already been pushing for years, but now I think I understand why it works for us and why I am going to emphasize it even more.  A skilled and speedy offensive team can potentially be murder on a high defensive line (look what Netherlands did to Spain and what Algeria would have done to Germany if not for Manuel Neuer).  But we don’t really face speedy and skilled offensive teams.  There’s not a lot of pretty through balls in U16 Rec soccer.  Furthermore, we have assistant referees that are actually pretty good at calling offside, making it all the more harder to get the timing down on a nice through ball.

Now this high defensive line will give away more than it’s fair share of breakaways, but giving the paucity of strong offensive players, many of these breakaways will be thwarted by good defense, good goalkeeping (two areas where my teams have been strong) and by mistakes from the offensive player.  We’ll surely give up some goals this way (and have in the past), but I strongly suspect we would give up far more goals by setting up our defense further back on the field.  The truth is, there’s going to be lots of mistakes– it’s the nature of our players.  I want these mistakes to happen as far from my goal as possible.  Our defenders are not Greece or Costa Rica who can just face wave after wave of crosses and offensive attacks and fend them off because we have 9-10 players organized deep behind the ball.  We’re never going to be all that organized giving constant substitutions and 90 minutes of practice a week and, regardless, there’s going to me plenty of physical and mental errors.

2) Press, press, press.  It’s in the nature of the players to attack the ball, not fall back into organized line of defense (which again, is going to be hard to successfully coach in limited time, even if I had a good sense of how to do that).  I read one comment that Chile’s constant pressing requires a huge amount of energy and is just not cut out for an extra-time game.  Our games are 70 minutes and have unlimited subs– let the kids burn up their energy attacking the ball whenever they can.  Now, as with the high defensive line, a few skillful passes strung together can put your poorly-organized press to shame, but we just don’t see a lot of “a few skillful passes strung together” at this level.   I also think that decent team-work and positioning on the press, i.e., pressure-cover-balance, can probably be taught fairly well with small-sided practice games.

3) Formation.  My teams play a 3-4-3 with a diamond midfield.  I think most teams play four on defense.  Watching this World Cup and learning more about formations (courtesy Michael Cox), I think that’s probably a mistake.  These days, at the elite level, your two outside defenders (fullbacks) are expected to be offensive threats who push the ball up the side and make crosses.  Nobody  in U16 Rec is doing that.  There’s really only two full-time defenders in an elite 4-x-x system.  The teams that play 3-x-x actually have a more defensive-oriented system as those are typically three full-time “central defenders.”   I think this is probably one reason a lot of teams at our level struggle to score goals– there’s four kids who basically never get involved in the offense.  It’s a rare kid told they are playing “defender” who goes up much past the center line, even on corner kicks.  Take one of those defenders and make him a defensive midfielder, and now you’ve got an extra attacker (not to mention more protection in the center of the field).  Partly it is the talents of my players, but often, my best player on the field is my defensive midfielder, serving effectively to both break up opposition attacks and as a deep-lying playmaker.

Now, this isn’t World Cup related, but as long as I’m on my coaching approach… So, why three forwards?  That’s simple.  There’s pretty much always going to be at least one weak player out on the field (obviously not a problem at the elite level).  Play him at outside forward and his mistakes will not cost us goals given up and we’ll still have two forwards for the attack.

So, soccer/football aficionados, what do you think?

Chart of the day

This is pretty cool, Gallup has charted the Party ID break by age.  Makes the current generation gap quite apparent:

Party Identification, With Leaners, by Age

Also interesting that the cross-over seems to happen right around my age (I’m 42).

Photo of the day

The Telegraph brings us the 60 most iconic World Cup photos (so, guess this will probably be my last World Cup photo for 3 years and 11 months):

I’ll go with this one, since it’s pretty much my favorite goal ever.

World Cup 2014: Thrills, spills and lots of drunken Chileans

Magic moment: Robin van Persie scores the goal of the tournament with his outrageous, gravity-defying leap and headerPicture: GETTY IMAGES


Here’s the moving gif of the goal, if you somehow haven’t seen it:

Van Persie Header Goal GIF

Millennials are not the only one’s “confused” about politics

Apparently Reason (a Libertarian magazine) conducted a recent poll of Millennials in which they tout the results to claim that Millennials are basically libertarians.  Cherry-pick your data much?  Anyway Vox’s Dylan Matthew’s responds, mostly appropriately, that Millennials are just confused.  He provides a host of contradictions, a sampling of which are here:

  • 65 percent of Millennials think it would help the economy to cut spending…
  • …but 62 percent and 58 percent think it’d help the economy to boost spending on job training and infrastructure, respectively.
  • 58 percent think that it’d help the economy to cut taxes…
  • …but 66 percent think it’d help the economy to raise taxes on the wealthy.
  • 73 percent agree that “people should be allowed to keep what they produce, even if there are others with greater needs”…
  • …but 58 percent agree that government should “spend more on financial assistance to the poor, even if it leads to higher taxes.”

You get the picture, but there’s nothing unique to Millennials about this.  Decades ago Zaller and Feldman argued that for most survey questions, Americans were not so much revealing true preferences as simply responding to survey questions.  All the contradictions rife in polls like this strongly support this thesis.  Rather than carefully thinking through an ideology and how it relates to the particular survey question, respondents largely answer on the context, word choice, etc., of that particular question, regardless of what they may truly “believe” at a deeper level.  It’s not necessarily about leading questions (as in this brilliant video below, which I always show when I teach polling), but simply the fact that different questions draw very different considerations to mind when answering a survey question.  Thus we shouldn’t really draw too many strong conclusions about what Americans (or any particular generation) believes from surveys like this.

Tea Party theology

A student sent me this nice piece on Tea Party as religion.  I have to say, it makes a pretty strong case.  Certainly to some degree, the Tea party sees their political values as similar to religious/sacred values, in which compromise is not political expediency, but rather a sacrilege.   In much the same way a pious Christian might reject any compromise that says “Jesus is mostly divine” as entirely against their faith, many Tea Party adherents seem to want to reject anything outside their orthodoxy in much the same way.  Jack Schwarz:

Religion here doesn’t mean theology but a distinct belief system which, in totality, provides basic answers regarding how to live one’s life, how society should function, how to deal with social and political issues, what is right and wrong, who should lead us, and who should not. It does so in ways that fulfill deep-seated emotional needs that, at their profoundest level, are devotional. Given the confusions of a secular world being rapidly transformed by technology, demography, and globalization, this movement has assumed a spiritual aspect whose adepts have undergone a religious experience which, if not in name, then in virtually every other aspect, can be considered a faith…

While a traditional political party may have a line that it won’t cross,the Tea Party has a stone-engraved set of principles, all of which are sacrosanct. This is not a political platform to be negotiated but a catechism with only a single answer. It is now a commonplace for Tea Party candidates to vow they won’t sacrifice an iota of their principles. In this light, shutting down the Government rather than bending on legislation becomes a moral imperative. While critics may decry such a tactic as “rule or ruin,” Tea Party brethren celebrate it, rather, as the act of a defiant Samson pulling down the pillars of the temple. For them, this is not demolition but reclamation, cleansing the sanctuary that has been profaned by liberals. They see themselves engaged in nothing less than a project of national salvation. The refusal to compromise is a watchword of their candidates who wear it as a badge of pride. This would seem disastrous in the give-and-take of politics but it is in keeping with sectarian religious doctrine. One doesn’t compromise on an article of faith.

This explains why the Tea Party faithful often appear to be so bellicose. You and I can have a reasonable disagreement about fiscal policy or foreign policy but if I attack your religious beliefs you will become understandably outraged. And if I challenge the credibility of your doctrine you will respond with righteous indignation. To question the validity of Moses parting the Red Sea or the Virgin Birth or Mohammed ascending to heaven on a flying horse is to confront the basis of a believer’s deepest values.

Consequently, on the issues of government, economics, race, and sex, the Tea Party promulgates a doctrine to which the faithful must subscribe. Democrats and independents who oppose their dogma are infidels. Republicans who don’t obey all the tenants are heretics, who are primaried rather than burned at the stake.

Plenty more good stuff.  You should read it all (it’s not that long).  Pretty spot on analysis.

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