The Locker Room

December 14, 2004

Re: Yes, We Know What Causes That

Posted by Paul Chesser at 3:34 PM

Hal's post reminded me of an e-mail message from several months ago from friend Charles Bevel, who lives in Lumberton. He was writing about how Germany suddenly realized the folly of limiting family sizes, and their desire of some Germans to reverse that trend:

The Germans (at least their conservatives) are realizing that the drive to limit family size due to "limited resources" ("Oh we just can't AFFORD to have any more children!") was and is really driven by selfishness. The scriptures say that children are a blessing from the Lord. Since when do people try to put a limit on blessings? Answer: When blessings require a protracted time of delaying gratification.

Tony Evans (a pastor in Dallas) at a Promise Keepers conference preached on Psalms 128 where the scriptures say that your children shall be like olive plants around your table. He explained that, first of all, olives were Israel's number one cash crop in ancient times. He explained that this would be the equivalent of saying, in modern times, that your children will be like oil wells, or like gold mines, or like money machines around your table.

Secondly he explained that olive trees required about fifteen years of cultivation before they produced any fruit whatesoever. However, once they started producing one could expect forty years of productivity per tree. Wow! I think God is being pretty blatant here. If you cultivate your children properly they will contribute to the family fortune for years to come and be able to care for you in your old age.

That is, of course, if it is indeed you, the parent, who has done the cultivating. However, since most American children are practically wards of the state as far as their upbringing is concerned by virtue of their attending government schools, they end up paying the state back for cultivating them by paying taxes for forty plus years instead of taking care of their parents. In reality the parents are providing for the cultivation of their children through paying taxes. Furthermore the children are caring for the parents through paying taxes into the social security system. However, all this familial care is passing through the hands of a very expensive middle man who is exacting exorbitant financial as well as emotional fees for his services. On top of that he is being praised to high heaven for doing a subpar job. Ninety-nine percent (a figurative rather than scientific number) of parents whose children attend public schools do not realize that their children could attend private school for as little as half of what the government spends to miseducate and/or fail to educate their children. Yet the emotional price is even higher.

My oldest son who is now thirteen years old, learned how to read when he was about three and a half or four years old. He attended public school only about one full year in his lifetime, from February to December 1997 when he was six. During that time a family friend who was impressed with how well he read remarked, "Wow, you read very well for your age. Who taught you?" My son responded by naming his first grade teacher Mrs. Jackson. I was flabbergasted! After all I had done for him, how quickly he had forgotten.

I had read to him religiously every night since before he was two years old, both he and his brother who is 14 months younger. Now after just about 3 or 4 months in public school they had brainwashed him and his loyalty and appreciation for his parents had taken a back seat to giving honor to the almighty government (at least that's how I saw it).

Needless to say my lobbying efforts towards my wife increased dramatically from that point on and in less than a year my precious sons were out of the clutches of evil Uncle Sam for good. In all seriousness, when children believe that it isn't their parents who are sacrificing to see them prosper but rather that their success is due to government programs, they feel less indebted to their parents. "What did you ever do for me?" they say. "It was my fourth grade teacher who taught me long division. It was my high school guidance couselor who got me through those tough teenage years. See? It is the government who takes care of all of us. Thank God and Uncle Sam for public schools and Social Security."

Here's another anecdote if you will suffer me. A good friend of mine who is a homeschool dad and a Christian missionary to Romania used to sell retirement plans to government employees. He tried to get an appointment with one professor who, as fate would have it, was originally from Africa and had not discarded his African culture as far as family life was concerned. This professor, the father of what most Americans would consider an inordinate amount of children (seven or eight if I recall correctly), rebuffed my friend's advances with this simple response: "My children are my retirement plan."

The German conservatives have just realized that the statement "my children are my retirement plan" is not just one man's opinion or one choice from a bevy of retirement plan options but rather that this is the plain and simple reality for ninety plus percent of society. Unless you can live out your days on wealth accumulated during your prosperous and prudent youth (isn't prudent youth is an oxymoron?) then you will by default depend on your children's, or your children's generation's, productivity to help you maintain some sort of dignity as far as financial sufficiency is concerned. German conservatives have just realized that it is not that we cannot afford to have any more children. Rather another statement about children turns out to be true. We cannot afford to have as few as we're having.

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A Case Against Regulation

Posted by Paul Chesser at 3:04 PM

In today's Wall Street Journal, there is an article about the Federal government's new mandate that requires the disclosure of trans fats in food sold in grocery stores. Assuming that all the test data to date about the harmful affects of too much trans fat in our diets is correct, I still don't see the need for the new law which goes into affect next year. The law is frivolous, costly, and unnecessary.

It is already the case that many food producers are including their trans fat count. Amazingly, the producers who choose to post their trans fat count find that, by revealing this information by posting it on their products' containers, consumers actually buy more of their product. By posting this information, consumers -- who may not know exactly how much trans fat is bad, or what adverse affects trans fat's may bring -- realize that whatever company would freely post this information, obviously has room to boast.

And, what's more, most of the consumers who will be paying attention to trans fat content will be a health-conscious shopper who understands the role of trans fat in the development of bad health. Also, most of the current products that list trans fats are competing for the health-conscious shopper.

By forcing all producers to list trans fat stats, the consumer is left with more numbers to comprehend. And more than not, most consumers won't take the time to find this information out. So, the costly enactment of this legislation is really not worth the bother.

Moral: you can't force people to be healthy by posting a number on a box.

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Yes, we know what causes that

Posted by Hal Young at 1:10 PM

David Brooks' NYT column in today's Raleigh News & Observer but also readable here, looks at a "natalist" movement of couples who are quite willingly raising large and growing families. While I've never used the term for myself, like Martin Luther accused of following Jan Hus, if the discussion continues I just might; we welcomed our seventh child in October.

Brooks got part of the story right. This is definitely a spiritual movement, in that most -- well, all -- of the large families I've met recently came to that belief as a religious value. People frequently ask if we're Catholic; when we say no, they next assume Mormon. Actually, we're Reformed Baptist, and like many of the large families we know, our decision to welcome more children rather than fend them off is rooted less in church directive than in personal conviction; for example, our church doesn't teach on it, but most of the families there are in sympathy with it. Most of us would agree that the Bible specifically calls children a blessing and says that a large family is God's particular reward to His servants. And that in itself is rooted in a philosophy of life much broader than how many kids you have; for one thing, that philosophy means I really don't care about "sophisticated movies", fancy dining, and the like, as if that were even a reasonable trade off -- more grandchildren, or more movies … hmm, which way do I go? For that matter, I don't hear many of the one- and two-child families wintering on the Riviera now, though they do drive smaller cars.

I have to differ with him on the "identity" question. Brooks treats it like an anthropologist -- the "natalist" label and the categorization "defined by parenthood" are the phrases of an outsider, not those he describes. I think most of us would say our true identity is in the total of our religious belief, of which childbearing and child rearing are only one facet; after all, faith informs the believer on his role in the community, his duty to country, the use of his finances, and the daily disciplines of life. It's part of the same package that leads many of us into homeschooling (indeed, the National Center for Educational Statistics reported that nearly two-thirds of homeschooling families had three or more children -- which has other interesting ramifications).

I also grimace at the "fertility" tag Brooks and others have tried to stick on their demographics. The implication of that is agricultural, as if talking of cattle. Of course, the trend of the left-leaning pundits has been to demonize religiously-motivated voters this year, and so the step to dehumanization would not be far behind. I don't think that was Brooks' intent, in fact I found his tone respectful if a bit bemused, but the mindlessness of fertility statistics doesn't do justice to the considered and intentional course these families undertake.

One final thing Brooks missed may be the most telling. This value-driven community extends well beyond the families with full-size vans. There are many couples who share our beliefs exactly, but due to circumstances (whether late marriage, infertility, or decisions repented of too late) they don't show up in the multi-child statistics. They tell us that if they could, they'd have larger families too. If the liberal pundits are going to make the "natalists" into their next electoral bugbear, they're in for even more than they've counted already.

And wait until the off-year election of 2022, when my daughter and her six older brothers will all be voting. If we're doing the job I think we are, I can predict which way those votes will go. Take that !





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Fun Transit News!

Posted by Chad Adams at 10:48 AM

From Seattle: Expensive new hybrid diesel-electric buses that King County, Wash., transit officials said would use less fuel are getting worse mileage than the buses they are replacing.

From Boston: A quarter-billion-dollar effort to provide sleek new Italian-made trolleys for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's Green Line has collapsed in recriminations

And from Pittsburgh: The Port Authority transit board surprised its own administration with a proposal to maintain present fares and service levels until the cash-strapped agency goes broke, probably in March, betting that someone in Harrisburg will come to the rescue fast enough to avert a shutdown.

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The separation of baseball and state

Posted by Dr. Roy Cordato at 10:35 AM

My friend Ben Powell out at San Jose State has written an excellent article explaining why John McCain and his meddling pals in Washington should keep their hands off baseball. Writing for the Independent Institute Ben concludes that:

"Baseball is a business that responds to consumer demands. Senator McCain should have no more influence over what policies the organization adopts than any other fan. The senator is free to attend games or not. There should be no special role for government in determining what type of policy gets adopted. The government’s only role should be to commit to not using major league players’ private test results for public prosecution."

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Planner 1, Citizens 0

Posted by Jeff A. Taylor at 10:29 AM

Hooray! It is a "victory" for Charlotte's planning director when the city council turns down a request to add retail to the I-485 and Albemarle Rd. interchange. But some citizens had lobbied for the added retail saying they wanted more stores and restaurants nearby.

There is also the strong possibility that developers will now just slide across the county line and build there, which would still "overwhelm" the interchange with traffic and drive shoppers even further out of the city's core, the two bad things that planning director Debra Campbell warned more retail at the site would do.

Oh well, she "won."

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Women rate Pride and Prejudice No. 1

Posted by Jon Sanders at 09:59 AM

Here's an interesting tidbit from The Guardian (UK): "Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen's salty-tongued commentary on the plight of women in the 19th century ... has won the Women's Watershed Fiction poll, it was announced yesterday on Radio 4's Woman's Hour."

It's an excellent choice. I recently read it, and was surprised at how much I enjoyed Jane Austen's style — it's very sly, witty, often sarcastic, and I think those traits are what make it resound even now, two centuries later.

Here's a passage I enjoyed very much, in part because I have shared in many such a moment described therein. Let me set the scene: The Bennet family receives a letter from a Mr. Collins, their cousin whom they've never met, and the letter is fully tedious and pompous. After suffering through a reading of it, Lizzie asks her father,

"Can he be a sensible man, sir?"

The reply:

"No, my dear; I think not. I have great hopes of finding him quite the reverse. ..."

Upon their meeting him, and weathering his conversation, which proved equal to his letter, there is this passage:


Mr. Bennet's expectations were fully answered. His cousin was as absurd as he had hoped, and he listened to him with the keenest enjoyment, maintaining at the same time the most resolute composure of countenance, and except in an occasional glance at Elizabeth, requiring no partner in his pleasure.

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State Incentives Sane, Local Incentives Insane

Posted by Paul Chesser at 09:36 AM

An editorial today again demonstrates The News & Observer's amazing capacity for self-contradiction and logic-defiance. The newspaper's opinion editors are glad that Dell Computers accepted North Carolina's $242 million in incentives to come here, but now find the competition between Guilford and Forsyth counties for the plant oh-so-distasteful:

Dell chose North Carolina, a relief. So the state should be excused for the raised eyebrows over how the company now is pitting governments in Guilford and Forsyth counties against each other to win the plant.

Greensboro and Guilford County may offer as much as $12.4 million if Dell builds a $100 million manufacturing plant there, while Forsyth and Winston-Salem have put together a whopper of a package of more than $27 million. Greensboro Mayor Keith Holliday rightly described his struggle with Forsyth as Dell dropping "the cheese on the floor and let[ting] the rats come get it." Where is the competition to stop?

For North Carolina, companies shouldn't be allowed to drive the incentives game to the local government level after they have negotiated deals with the state. In situations like Dell's, state economic development officials should set the terms of deals that companies could seek from local communities. Sensible boundaries, drawn with a view to what the state already had offered the company, would be in place. The rights of local governments wouldn't be preempted because they still could vie for companies that approached them, rather than the state, first.

Incentives may be a necessary evil in today's market, but the state ought to require a sane approach that keeps the process from getting out of hand.


"Sensible boundaries?" "A sane approach?" Sorry, but the Triad pushed for this knowing a local competition was coming. And why do local governments need to be protected from themselves by a state that clearly doesn't know what a "sensible boundary" is?

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Example Number Billion, If You Need Cops in Schools, Something Has Gone Horribly Wrong

Posted by Jeff A. Taylor at 08:06 AM

And the obsession with gangs, that's a nice little cottage industry isn't? Rather telling that it has morphed into a modern witch hunt in which the hunt is the truly dangerous thing.

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Public housing kids get the Statesville blues

Posted by Jon Sanders at 00:22 AM

Here's a snippet from Fox News:

STATESVILLE, N.C. — A public housing complex in North Carolina wasn’t feeling the holiday spirit last week when the manager turned away what many boys and girls wish for this time of year – Christmas presents.

That’s because in this case, “Santa” takes her clothes off for cash.

Last year, an adult nightclub called Teasers donated more than 500 gifts to kids in public housing for the holidays. ...


"They showed up with the gifts in a stretch limo with two of their dancers in the back," Statesville Housing Authority manager David Meachem said. ...

The pastor at the First Baptist Church said it's within the spirit for people of different backgrounds to come together and help the less fortunate.

And the manager at Teasers agrees.


==========

Also, I can't help passing along this snippet from the story linked in that article under the headline "Women Protest School Decision: Students upset that all-women's college will begin admitting male students":

But many of the young women at the Aurora, N.Y., school say allowing men to attend would compromise the tight-knit community.

"We all leave our doors unlocked. We can run around in our nighties. It's all girls and we feel really safe and that will change," said student Starbuck Hersey.


Girls running about willy-nilly in their nighties ... honestly, haven't all you men always suspected that's what went on at women's colleges?

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