Category Archives: youth

The Republican Money Pits

money whirlpool So, how many ways can the House GOP find to waste taxpayer money? Let’s start with the House Oversight Committee which wasn’t pleased with the FBI’s conclusions on their manufactured outrage narrative concerning Secretary Clinton’s emails – now they want to haul the FBI director in for a grilling. [TPM]  However, this is only the latest.

Meanwhile, it’s estimated by the Department of Agriculture that 15.3 million children in the United States under the age of 18 live in homes where they don’t have consist access to enough nutritious food to sustain a health life. [FA.org]

It was reported yesterday that House leadership was meeting to discuss whether to launch a formal investigation into the sit-in staged by House Democrats over the failure of the leadership to bring a gun safety bill to the House floor. [TPM]

Meanwhile,  every day 7 children in the United States die in gun violence, and another 41 survive being shot in assaults (31), suicide attempts (1), and accidental shootings (8). [BC.org]

Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) continues to pump for more investigations into … Planned Parenthood. Who would have guessed? Not that the committee hasn’t soaked up some 80% of the supplemental funds for the House Administration Committee, that would be $790,000.  [Esq]

Meanwhile,  the CDC reports that between 2011-2014 the prevalence of children with obesity aged 2-5 yrs. was 8.9%, 17.5% among children between the ages of 6 and 11; and, 20.5% among adolescents aged 12 to 19. [CDC pdf]

The House Republicans racked up approximately $7,000,000 in expenses for its interminable Benghazi hearings.  [BBN]  The State Department spent about $14,000,000 trying to process and present information requested by the Committee, the Pentagon reported about $2 million in expenses associated with the “investigations.”

Meanwhile,  when the FAST Act expires at the end of FY 2020, the Congressional Budget Office projects the average annual shortfall to the federal Highway Trust Fund will grow to $16 billion, [TRIP scrib] and we have a backlog of pavement projects of about $59 billion, and another $30 billion needed to improve and maintain bridges.  This isn’t even county the $100 billion we need for highway system expansion and enhancement. [TRIP scrib]

Is it not reasonable to conclude that the House GOP is far more interested in political scandal mongering than it is in … investigating why 15.3 million children aren’t getting enough nutritious food to eat? Or, why 20% of our teenagers are suffering the health effects of obesity? Or, why we’re losing 7 children every day to gun violence?  Or, why we’re only spending 61% of what we should be allocating to the repair and maintenance of our national highway system?

Is there to be no investigation into why there isn’t adequate affordable housing in one single county in the entire United States? [Fortune]  Why aren’t members of the Congressional leadership interested in hearing why the gender pay gap is the widest for blue collar women? [Detroit News]

Instead, the House GOP seems entangled in the past, engaged in corybantic fits of furor over all but imaginary “threats” while veritably ignoring the very real economic, health, educational, infrastructure, and commercial interests of this country.  A person can reside in the past only so long as the future doesn’t catch up.

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Filed under Gun Issues, Health Care, Infrastructure, Republicans, youth

Could we get off their backs? A Rant in several pieces

Teens

I’m going to read about one more piece on “Kids These Days!” and start yanking at my ever-thinning gray hair.  Here’s why:

There’s this argument that the modern social media technology is making them less empathetic.  Less empathetic than what?  Whom?  Than those kids who volunteer to make homeless youngsters’ life a little easier at a D.C. shelter?  Or, the ones who help out at their local library? Or, maybe it’s just the big kid who encourages the little one to join a pickup basketball game?  Sometimes it’s the big issues that count, like teens involved in the prevention of bullying, sometimes it’s the little ones like making sure the little guy gets to take at least one shot.  At any rate they’re all measurably more empathetic than the last lament I heard from an oldster about “they just have kids and then expect everyone else to pay for them.”

We can all figure out who “they” are, it just takes a total lack of empathy to disregard their humanity.

We’re going to hell in a hand basket…just listen to their music. I would, but I’m not all that much into bass. And, besides I still like listening to that music that was going to send us all to perdition a generation or so ago. You know, the stuff with the rolling hips, swinging skirts, rolled arm T-shirts, and steady back beat – that was supposed to be catering to our instincts to dive into the back seat and do …. whatever.   But, but, but, …

THEY are plugged into their headphones and ear-buds!  And, precisely which generation was it that paid close attention to much around them during their adolescent years?  It must have been the one before they put doors on rooms.

Some of them are listening to someone because there are teen groups advocating tolerance, promoting Gay-Straight Alliances, and working for the preservation of voting rights.  Frankly, it’s not the kids who scare me; it’s the elders who pine for the days when they could pat Janie on the butt down at the garage and not get called out for it.  It’s the grumpy goof who who has to “think” before he uses the N-word, previously a much loved epithet in his limited vocabulary. It’s the older person who having gotten through college when tax money supported those institutions now believes that spending money on someone else’s kid is a “waste of taxpayer dollars.”

But mostly, it’s just a tired whine diluted by eons of overuse.

“My grandpa notes the world’s worn cogs
And says we’re going to the dogs.
His grandpa in his house of logs
Said things were going to the dogs.
His grandpa in the Flemish bogs
Said things were going to the dogs.
His grandpa in his hairy togs
Said things were going to the dogs.
But this is what I wish to state:
The dogs have had an awful wait.” [Ask]

Finis.  Meanwhile,  I’ll place my bets on the kids in Michigan who decided to build their own airplane from scratch, and the Texas youngster who created his own digital clock, and all the other ones handing out meals, and clothing, and pamphlets…

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Venus Rising?

girls soccer One of the ESPN documentaries which deserves another look now is “Venus Vs,” the 2013 film narrating how Venus Williams took on the titans of tennis – the financial titans – and won.  It took until 2007 for women to receive the same prize money at Wimbledon as men, and it required Venus Williams to draw the line at what was acceptable in her Times op-ed.  Now, the parade for the US Women’s National Team is over, and presumably the cake’s been eaten and the ceremonial key to the city handed over. However, when the debris from the parade is cleared the economic prospects for women will be essentially the same as they were before the ride through Manhattan began.  Nor are we close to training and coaching the young people we need to develop the talent required to maintain our rankings.  We could use another Venus rising.

We’re Number One!

The disparity in men’s and women’s financial support in athletic endeavors is in too many ways illustrative of our perspective on sports in general: We expect to win, but we really aren’t all that excited about financially supporting youth development programs.  The parsimonious way in which we support after-school activities in general (for both boys and girls, academic and athletic) contrasts sharply with our expectations of the national teams which later represent us.  Since we’re speaking of soccer, let’s look at those statistics.

In 1974 there were 103,432 youngsters enrolled in youth soccer programs, and as of 1995 there were 2,388,719.  55% of that number were boys, 45% were girls. [usyo]  Somewhere in that 2209% increase in participation were members of the 1999 World Cup winning women’s national soccer team.  Further, if we drill down we find the members of that trailblazing crew came from collegiate programs – including Portland, UMass, Cal, Notre Dame, Central Florida, Stanford, and of course UNC.  Title IX worked.

As of 2014 there were 3,055,148 youngsters participating in youth league soccer, and we’d have to guess the breakdown was close to the 2008 reporting – 52% boys, and 48% girls.  Again, from this group came the ladies who enjoyed the parade in NYC.  School programs, youth/community programs, and collegiate programs contributed to the talent pool from which this team was drawn.

TV commentary made much of the “16 year drought” since the ‘99 World Cup match in women’s soccer, and when the US men’s basketball team placed 3rd in the Seoul Olympics (1988) one might have expected the sky to shatter at any moment – a problem corrected by sending the Dream Team to Barcelona the next round.  When the 3rd place finish repeated in Athens (2004) the response was to send in the Big Guns again in 2008.  We expect the national men’s team to excel, to win, – to crush opponents. We expect the women’s soccer teams to rank in the top five – and we expect to win.

However, we don’t necessarily DO what it takes to expand the talent pool from which we derive these teams.

Penny Wise Pound Foolish

We’ve left some after school programs in general languishing on the vine, both for academic and athletic interests:

“In the Afterschool Alliance’s 2012 survey, although a majority of afterschool program providers revealed that their program’s budget is inadequate to meet the needs of the students and families in their community, this number is even higher among Latino majority programs and African-American majority programs.  Additionally, African-American majority programs and Latino majority programs were more likely to report that their funding is down from three years ago.” [asall]

Not only is funding strained for after school programs but we’re not addressing a crucial factor for African American and Latino youngsters, safe transportation to and from program venues.

“Transportation, safe transport in particular, is a significant hurdle to enrollment in afterschool programs in African-American and Latino communities.  African-American parents and Latino parents were both much more likely to cite that their children did not have a safe way to get to and from afterschool programs as a barrier to enrollment than parents overall.  Additionally, approximately half of African-American and Latino parents of kids not enrolled in an afterschool program indicated that transportation to and from afterschool programs factored into their decision not to enroll their child, compared to less than two-fifths of parents overall.” [asall]

All too often we’re pleased to lecture parents on how their children need more exercise, more academic assistance, more Story Hour, more Anything After School – but we’re obviously not willing to invest in the transportation which would enhance those enrollment figures.   If we drill down to athletic activities, the money issues become ever more evident.  Consider the implications of the following ESPN graphic:

Age entry sports graph The single largest factor in establishing when children start participating in youth activities is whether or not the parents are earning over $100,000 per year.

Here’s another ESPN graphic which sheds a bit more light on the subject.  Whose children are more likely to participate in a variety of after school exercise/athletic activities?

most likely playing on teamsIf you noticed “Suburban/Affluent” across the “most likely groups” and urban/low income across the graphic for “least likely groups,” you’ve gotten the point.

Should we continue to constrict the talent pool to suburban/affluent families, to those families which can afford transportation, to those families which can come up with the cash for equipment and other necessities, then we’ve artificially constrained our own cohort of prospective talent – and yet we still demand that the outcome in world competition be the same – we crush opponents in soccer and basketball.

Was Title IX supposed to fix all this, especially in women’s sports?  The law itself can’t fix the disparity in resources illustrated above.

“Most importantly, Title IX hasn’t managed to extend the enormous social and health benefits of sports to all girls equally. In 2008, a national survey of third- through 12th-graders by the Women’s Sports Foundation found that 75 percent of white girls play sports, compared to less than two-thirds of African-American and Hispanic girls, and about half of Asian girls. And while boys from immigrant families are well-represented in youth sports, less than half of girls from those families are playing.*The gender gap is also worse in urban schools and among kids from low-income families.

These disparities in youth sports persist at the collegiate level. African-American women are underrepresented in all sports except Division I basketball and track and field, and Latinas make up just 4 percent of female athletes in the NCAA. As Benita Fitzgerald Mosley, an Olympic gold medalist in track and field, recently explained to the New York Times, “[I]n the grand scheme of things, Caucasian girls have benefited disproportionately well, especially suburban girls and wealthy Caucasian girls.” [MJ]

The disparities we find in programs for very young children continue through collegiate competition.  And, here we go again – the gap is wider between the affluent suburbs and the urban, less affluent communities of color.

Thank you from a grateful nation….

And here we return to the money question.  If we can expand the talent pools for our national teams, and if we can get more youngsters involved in healthy activities at earlier ages, and if we can get more young girls involved, and if we can get more young girls from less affluent neighborhoods – what happens?

“This year’s (World Cup) tournament featured a generation of American women who have not lived in a world without Title IX and did their jobs elegantly and professionally: They won the game, defeating a longtime rival in Japan; and as they did during the 2012 London Olympics, they won with high-caliber athleticism, class and sports-womanship along the way.

Yet the total payout for the Women’s World Cup this year will be $15 million, compared with the total for the men’s World Cup last year of $576 million, nearly 40 times as much. That also means that the Women’s World Cup payout is less than the reported $24 million to $35 million FIFA spent on its self-aggrandizing fiction film, United Passions.” [Politico]

Yes, and two members of the USWNT were living with Jeff Van Gundy and his family because the salaries paid in the professional leagues make finding accommodations a real problem. [USAT]  The salaries in the US for women players range from a measly $6,000 to $30,000. [STFAnother graph may tell part of the tale:

Air timeAt this juncture we have a Chicken and Egg argument of sorts – do we have to have air time before people get engaged sufficiently to attract more corporate and advertising sponsorship? Or, if we have more corporate and advertising sponsors will the women’s side of the ledger get more public interest? What will crack the egg or chase down the chicken?

“Most of us have been socialized to accept men’s sports as dominant, and somehow automatically more interesting. The problem is that once society has internalized this falsehood — and let’s face it, it’s a falsehood that’s millennia in the making — it’s not so easy to correct it. Women have been fighting for decades, centuries, to be seen as equals to men both on the playing field and off of it.” [BusInsider]

There are some glimmers of hope on the horizon.  EA Sports will include women’s soccer in its products, Fox Sports did a good job of broadcasting this latest World Cup tournament and was rewarded with high ratings for the final game, and advertisers dipped their toes in the water – even Clorox got into the act. Nike sold jerseys, and no doubt other firms will find ways to capitalize on the market.  However, it may not be all sexism and short attention span theater issues, there’s also the problem of longevity.

As long as investors in women’s sports leagues continue to demand immediate returns there will be problems – just as there are with short-termism in other markets such as our financial ones.  Even a league as formidable as the NBA has had its problems – remember the original Denver Nuggets? Few do. Or, the end of the ABA in 1976? Or, the much traveled Hawks from Moline, to Milwaukee, to St. Louis to Atlanta?  Or, the struggles and travels of the Philadelphia Warriors and the Syracuse Nationals?  Obviously,  some patience is required.

Now What?

While it would be nice to have some powerful voice like that of Venus Williams championing more compensation for female athletes, we probably can’t afford to wait for that day.  Instead, if we truly want to see continued top level, world class, performances by our players and teams we need to:

  • Invest in after school activities for young people, and not just those in the affluent suburbs, with attention to such quotidian problems as transportation for the children so they can participate safely.
  • Encourage the development of youth programs, both academic and athletic for urban and rural youngsters, and be willing to staff and maintain these efforts.
  • Encourage and invest in programs for youngsters from ethnic minority groups – leave No Child’s Behind Left on the Couch.  To accomplish this we’ll need to invest in creating safe public spaces for kids to play on safe grounds with adequate and up to date equipment.
  • Get over the idea that a game between East Deer Breath State’s men’s team and the Wolverines of Western Boonie U. will automatically be more interesting than a match between the University of Connecticut and the University of Notre Dame’s women’s basketball teams.  Or, South Carolina? Or, Tennessee? Or, Stanford? Or, UCLA? Or LSU?
  • See some heavy-duty marketing campaigns establishing a positive brand for women’s teams in local and regional areas.
  • Develop some patience – no league (or any other enterprise) will yield immediate returns.

Finally, it will be a fine day when we stop perceiving children as an “expense,” and start visualizing them as “investments.” Every after school activity, every sports team, every youth league, every school extracurricular activity, every neighborhood playground, every city park, every local library is an investment in healthier more productive future citizens.  Yes, kids are expensive – but they’re well worth it.  We have proof of that in the eloquent words of one Venus Williams on June 26, 2006:

“I believe that athletes — especially female athletes in the world’s leading sport for women — should serve as role models. The message I like to convey to women and girls across the globe is that there is no glass ceiling. My fear is that Wimbledon is loudly and clearly sending the opposite message: 128 men and 128 women compete in the singles main draw at Wimbledon; the All England Club is saying that the accomplishments of the 128 women are worth less than those of the 128 men. It diminishes the stature and credibility of such a great event in the eyes of all women.” [Williams]

We can add some stature and credibility to our interest in athletics by adding a few more blows to that glass ceiling, and allowing more youngsters to dream of playing at Wimbledon, at Maples Pavilion, at BC Place, or Madison Square Garden….

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Filed under basketball, football, media, sexism, Title IX, Women's Issues, youth

What’s Wrong With The Kids? Frankly, not much

1950 Teen Boys

Nothing quite heats up the gray hackles so much as the whinnying of elders who shout “Pull Up Your Pants!” at young protesters – or at young people in general.  This command is all too often followed by, “Get A Job!” Excuse me, old timer, but was it all that long ago that the insults hurled were, “Get A Haircut?” “How’d you get into those pants?” And, then necessarily — “Get A Job!”

How engaging to hear individuals who may have worn their obligatory T-shirt under a school jacket, above the tight “dungarees,” topped off with a duck-tail hair cut, address the saggy pants kids with derision!  Ladies, remember those four inch hems on the skirts? The  “circle skirt?” Or, worse still the infamous Poodle Skirt?  Remember the man’s dress shirt worn with tight fitting capri pants or pedal pushers?  The young ladies’ attire may include a short skirt now – but note please, she can actually get her body into a school desk without cramming two (or more?) layers of stiff petticoats into the school furniture and avoid looking like an unmade four poster bed beneath  a canopy of pin-curls.

Oh, yeah… then there’s the music.  Remember when:

“Rock and roll sent shockwaves across America. A generation of young teenagers collectively rebelled against the music their parents loved. In general, the older generation loathed rock and roll. Appalled by the new styles of dance the movement evoked, churches proclaimed it Satan’s music.

Because rock and roll originated among the lower classes and a segregated ethnic group, many middle-class whites thought it was tasteless. Rock and roll records were banned from many radio stations and hundreds of schools.” [USH]

Spare me.  If the righteous elderly find the modern lyrics incomprehensible then perhaps we might dwell for a moment on that wonderful bit of lyricism from a bygone era: “Boop boop dittum dattum wattum, choo
Boop boop dittum dattum wattum, choo
Boop boop dittum dattum wattum, choo
And they swam and they swam all over the dam
…”

Again, spare me, before I launch into “Mairzy Doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey, a kiddley divey too, wouldn’t you?” [ILP]

Now that we’ve had our trip down Memory Lane, what’s wrong with young people taking an interest in the major issues of our day?  The kids DO care about their peers – and the way their peers of color are treated by local police departments. Witness the Die-Ins  all across the country [HuffPo] including the University of Nevada at Reno. And, they are right to do so.

The statistics on the excessive use of force should be alarming for everyone:

“Of the 6,613 law enforcement officers involved in reported allegations of misconduct that met NPMSRP criteria for tracking purposes, 1,575 were involved in excessive force reports, which were the most prominent type of report at 23.8% of all reports. This was followed by sexual misconduct complaints at 9.3% of officers reported then theft/fraud/robbery allegations involving 7.2% of all officers reported.” [Cato] (emphasis added)

And who was on the blunt end of the use of force?

“A widely publicized report in October 2014 by ProPublica, a leading investigative and data journalism outlet, concluded that young black males are 21 times more likely to be shot by police than their white counterparts: “The 1,217 deadly police shootings from 2010 to 2012 captured in the federal data show that blacks, age 15 to 19, were killed at a rate of 31.17 per million, while just 1.47 per million white males in that age range died at the hands of police.”  [JR org]

So, go ahead kids… have your say, and don’t let the Duck Tail Hair Cut, Poodle Skirt Crowd get you down.

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Filed under Politics, racism, youth

>Amplification: An Immediate Need

>

The Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth needs gift and calling cards for its clients, as is explained in this post from The Sin City Siren. The NPHY runs exemplary programs such as Project Safe Place: “On January 2, 2002, Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth launched the nationally acclaimed Project Safe Place in Southern Nevada. Project Safe Place provides access to immediate help and supportive resources for young people in crisis through a network of sites sustained by qualified agencies, trained volunteers, and businesses.”  Organizations attempting to assist the homeless are usually found scrambling to find resources to fund their programs, and the NPHY is no exception. The program assists those youngsters who have been thrown out, tossed away, or have removed themselves from abusive situations. Although foster care is available in Southern Nevada, some youngsters have found “the streets” a preferable option, perhaps in part because the foster care system itself is already under strain.

A 2006 study (pdf) on homeless youth in the region found: A 61.5% increase in the number of referrals to Child Haven facilities between 2000 and 2005; and, Child Protective Services which investigated 6,350 cases in 2000 investigated 9,706 in 2005. The study concluded that there were approximately 1,647 youngsters who were homeless at least part of the year in 2006 in the Las Vegas area. 52% of those young people were between the ages of 15 and 17. Approximately 36% were African America, 28% white, and 20% were Hispanic. About 40% were still enrolled in school, and 78% wanted to finish high school. A majority, 54% had attempted to get help with their education while they were homeless.  When survey respondents were asked why they were not with a parent or legal guardian, 27% cited physical abuse, 4% cited mental/emotional abuse, 2% cited sexual abuse, and 22% reported they had been “kicked out.” 

Interestingly enough, only marijuana use was reported as a common form of drug abuse, (74% had tried it) but only 34% reported using it regularly, among homeless young people in Southern Nevada.  Only 32% reported smoking, and only 28% reported drinking and of that group only 4% used alcohol daily.  As might be expected homeless young people are more likely to engage in self-destructive behaviors like drug and alcohol abuse.  However, in 2010 the CDC reported 24% of high school aged young people nationwide had been involved in binge drinking, and 21% reported using marijuana. 20% of young Americans had experimented with prescription drugs and some OTC products.

The CDC/MMWR report (long pdf) issued in June, 2010 found that nationwide about 46.3% teens had tried smoking, with only 11.2% doing so on a regular basis. About 72% had tasted alcohol at some point in their lives, with the median across the states being 39.3% in the current use category (one drink in the past 30 days). The bottom line appears to be that the homeless young people in Southern Nevada seem to be much like their peers, albeit more likely to indulge in some self-destructive activities; but what we can hope is that the youngsters in the NPYH program are not like those described in the CDC/MMRW report as those who:” During the 7 days before the survey, 77.7% of high school students had not eaten fruits and vegetables five or more times per day, 29.2% had drunk soda or pop at least one time per day, and 81.6% were not physically active for at least 60 minutes per day on all 7 days. One-third of high school students attended physical education classes daily, and 12.0% were obese.”  It’s well noted that among the items sought by the NPHY project are bottled water, Gatorade and Juices.

The NPHY describes its program: “For the past five years, NPHY has been advocating for Nevada’s homeless youth. The organization is dedicated to offering first-time services to an adolescent population that has been either overlooked and/or underserved by the current system. Usually, homeless and transient teenagers do not have the same substance abuse addictions and mental health disorders that afflict homeless adults. Homeless babies, toddlers, young children and adolescents should not have to live in cars and alleys or eat out of dumpsters. The youngest of these children are the true victims of homelessness. They have no voice and are subjected to living conditions that most people cannot comprehend or would even want for their household pets.”  The description makes a crucial point, facilities and programs for ADULT homeless populations aren’t necessarily suitable for assisting young people.

Those wishing to make donations may use this link.  The younsters can always use:  Weather-Appropriate Girl’s & Boy’s Clothing, All Sizes, Hygiene Products, Snack Foods, Bottled Water, Gatorade, & Juices, Back-to-School Supplies, Grocery Gift Cards, Target, Walmart, & Walgreen’s or other such retail outlet Gift Cards. In short, there are approximately 1,647 young people who might be helped by programs such as the NPHY, and a moment of our time, and a bit of our money, would go a long way.

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Filed under homelessness, youth