James Franco does the proper thing

In this Washington Post piece, he says McDonald’s was there for him when nobody else was.

What a pleasant departure from the all too typical vilifying of the fast food giant for not paying ‘living wages’ for jobs that were meant for teenagers to earn gas money and learn how to show up to work on time.

We should be more thankful for the opportunities we have.

Beware Silver Bullets

In his column, Don’t Go, John Stossel writes:

Politicians such as Hillary Clinton promote college by claiming that over a lifetime, college graduates “earn $1 million more.” That statistic is true but utterly misleading. People who go to college are different. They’re more likely to have been raised by two parents. They did better in high school. They’d make more money even if they never went go to college.

Politicians like to promise silver bullets. Silver bullets make for great campaign promises. But they usually confuse causes with signals. The world is usually more complex than the silver bullets.

Does a college degree cause higher earnings or is it just a signal of something people with higher earnings ambition do?

I like to reference the home ownership example.

Responsibility used to be a prerequisite for home ownership. First you established responsible behaviors, which led to savings for a down payment, good work history, history of paying your bills on time and a good credit score for a loan, then you became a home owner.

When politicians mistook home ownership as a cause, rather than a signal, of responsible behavior they believed they could create responsible citizens by eliminating responsible behavior as the pre-req for becoming a home owner. That did not end well.

Likewise, politicians like Hillary Clinton mistake college degrees as the cause, rather than the signal, of higher earnings.

Could it be that folks with higher earnings have a number of traits that lead to higher earnings? Might those traits include things like responsible behavior, grit, ambition, self reliance, delayed gratification, an openness to trying new things, getting along with a diverse group of people and abilities to handle stress, manage time and prioritize well from a host of choices?

If so, it is these behaviors that should be encouraged, not simply mimicking one signal of this group of people.

That’s about like dressing people up in a costume. Certainly, you can buy a costume that makes you look like the President, a movie star or even a witch, but just looking like one doesn’t make you one.

Staircase wit

Darn. I missed a good opportunity.

At a party recently, I was discussing Jack Black with a family member. The family member asked, “You like his stuff? Isn’t he the direct opposite of your politics?”

I thought the question was dumb, but so was my response (although it was meant to avoid a political discussion). I said I liked his work. We can separate someone’s politics and their work, right?

But, I immediately wish I would have asked, “He’s opposed to freedom?”

Why?

The Wall Street Journal writes about Why Children Are Abandoning Baseball.

After reading the article I don’t feel like I have a good sense for why they aren’t playing baseball, or several of the other sports included in the graph that also show declines: softball, basketball and soccer.

Tackle football is the only sport that shows an increase, but it’s marginal. Its increase doesn’t account for the massive decreases in other sports.

I thought that since participation in almost all sports is down, maybe the total youth population was down, something the article should have addressed.

A search on the US Census Bureau shows that there were about 61 million youth in the early 00’s and about the same amount as recently as 2012, debunking my theory.

The article offers some other explanations. Sports like lacrosse is on the rise, though according to this US Lacrosse Participation Survey, 750,000 participated in that sport in 2013, which doesn’t offset the 8-9 million decline in baseball, softball, basketball and soccer.

Another possible explanation in the article: the game has become less accessible to the casual player because the sport is being organized around the kids who specialize in one sport year-round.

I doubt that explanation. If enough kids (or parents) were interested in casual play, the more casual options would be there to meet their demand.

I have another theory: video games. The article says that one predictor of future fans is how many kids played the sport as a child. So, major leagues are concerned with the drop in participation rates.

But, as a youth soccer coach, I think they are missing something.

I think casual play has been replaced, in large part, by experiencing and learning the sports casually through video games.

Granted, kids play a fair amount of Minecraft, Clash of Clans and Call of Duty, but they also play a good portion of the video games that carry the same names as the major sports leagues. Why go through the trouble of actually playing when you can satisfy your desire and keep up with the leagues (like who’s on who’s team) through a video game?

Warren Buffett on the Minimum Wage

I mostly agree with Warren Buffett’s commentary on the minimum wage in the Wall Street Journal. Here’s one nice paragraph:

The poor are most definitely not poor because the rich are rich. Nor are the rich undeserving. Most of them have contributed brilliant innovations or managerial expertise to America’s well-being. We all live far better because of Henry Ford, Steve Jobs, Sam Walton and the like.

But, I have issues with this paragraph:

In 1982, 15% of Americans were living below the poverty level; in 2013 the proportion was nearly the same, a dismaying 14.5%. In recent decades, our country’s rising tide has not lifted the boats of the poor.

This is a good example of where statistics and real life can diverge dramatically.

How you perceive a rising tide depends on what you use to compare to. If you are on a tall boat, it’s no good to use a smaller boat to determine the effects of a rising tide as both go up. Yet, that’s what Buffett is doing. The American poverty level goes up and down with American prosperity.

To truly see the effects of a rising tide you need a better comparison. You need a GPS unit or a marker that is firmly connected to the ground so that you won’t be easily deceived like Buffett has been. This is what I like to refer to as a true measure.

So, what’s a true measure for American poverty? American poverty vs. American poverty at other times in the past or vs. poverty that exists in third world countries.

Given a choice to live in poverty today vs. poverty in 1982, most people would easily choose today for one simple reason: a rising tide has lifted all boats.The standard of living, even for the poor, has improved considerably since 1982 and that is not appropriately reflected in the statistic.

Given a choice to live in the U.S. in poverty or in third world country poverty, most people would choose the U.S. That’s yet another sign that the tide has lifted all boats in the U.S.

But, the rest of the article is worth a read.

Graduation Speech Nugent

Nice. Yep.

Here’s what he calls The Big Nuge 13:

  1. Life is not fair. Get used to it.
  2. Social justice is a commie scam. Read the drivel of Saul Alinsky and fight it with all you’ve got.
  3. Nobody owes you jacksquat. You will either earn your own way, or feel like a helpless leech. There is no middle ground.
  4. Economic equality is for sheep. If you really believe we are all equal in our capabilities you will go nowhere.
  5. The minimum wage is for minimum wage earners. If you believe you are worth more, go get it. Show by your productivity and professionalism that you are better than minimum. Upgrade awaits upgraders.
  6. The government cannot create jobs for you. You must create your own worth by proving yourself to be a gungho benefit for your employer. If you think you can do better, by all means, do better.
  7. Partying should not include dangerous or foolish behavior. Clean and sober always provides the most memorable parties without the danger of puking, stumbling, making an ass of yourself or passing out and dying.
  8. Peer pressure is for sheep. Stand up for what you believe in.
  9. The whole world sucks, but America still sucks less. Learn your history and be the best we the people participant that you can be.
  10. Don’t fall for the curse of political correctness. Feeling good is not as important asdoing good.
  11. Posture and hygiene matters. Carry yourself with dignity and treat others as you would have them treat you.
  12. Tell me who you go with and I will tell you what you are. Avoid losers for they will drag you down.
  13. Sometimes you give the world the best you got and you get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you got anyway.