Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Media Bias, National Security, Politics | Tags: Senator John Kerry, Senator Marco Rubio, The Debt Crisis
This young Senator is an impressive addition to the Senate.
We’ve got three things going on. One is, of course the debt limit. We have to raise it to allow the government to borrow enough to pay the bills that we have already racked up.
Senator Rubio clarifies the second. The government is spending $300 billion a month. The government receives $180 billion each month. And each month they need to borrow $120 billion. These are round figures, but close enough.
The third element is the rating agencies who have said that they will downgrade our credit rating from AAA if we don’t get our spending under control. They aren’t interested in the debt ceiling, but only in seeing that we are making a serious effort to get the spending under control.That shouldn’t be difficult with our bloated, wasteful government.
The battle continues.
Filed under: Freedom, Law, News of the Weird, Politics | Tags: Everyone is At Risk., Federal Criminal Laws, Nobody Knows How Many!
For decades, lawyers, academics and government officials have attempted to count the total number of federal criminal laws. The best attempt was way back in 1982, when Justice Department lawyers undertook the effort as part of a long and ultimately failed campaign to persuade Congress to revise the criminal code, which by the 1980s was scattered around among 50 titles and 23,000 pages of federal law. They were trying to expose the idiocy of the system.
The effort spanned two years, and in the end produced only an educated estimate of something around 3,000 criminal offenses. Subsequent efforts by computer searches didn’t produce a specific estimate.
John Baker, a retired Louisiana State University law professor who has tried just counting the number of new federal crimes created in recent years said:
There is no one in the United States over the age of 18 who cannot be indicted for some federal crime. That is not an exaggeration.
Even those who have never attended an auto race, like me, are probably familiar with the name Bobby Unser, three-time winner of the Indianapolis 500. He also survived sub-zero blizzard conditions in the mountains and faced down every challenge until he encountered the U.S. Forest Service.
Uh huh. Eddie Leroy Anderson of Craigmont, Idaho is a retired logger, a former science teacher and now a federal criminal. In 2009, the 68 year-old Mr. Anderson and his son went hunting for arrowheads near a favorite campground of theirs. They didn’t find any arrowheads that day, but unfortunately they were on federal land. The law, the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979, doesn’t require criminal intent and makes it a felony punishable by up to two years in prison to attempt to take artifacts off federal land without a permit.
The two men, faced with that reality pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and got a year’s probation and a $1,500 penalty each.
The Andersons are two of hundreds of thousands of Americans who are charged and convicted in recent decades under federal criminal laws — as opposed to state or local laws — as the federal justice system has dramatically expanded its authority and reach. As the laws have increased, it has become ever easier for Americans to end up on the wrong side of the law. Many laws set a lower standard for conviction than in the past. Prosecutors don’t necessarily need to show that the defendant had criminal intent.
The first federal criminal statute, signed into law April 30, 1793 listed just a few offenses: treason, counterfeiting, piracy and murder, maiming and robbery in federal jurisdictions. It’s easy for legislators to respond to the cry of ‘We need a law,” and much more difficult to pause and realize that perhaps we don’t really need another law. And when Big Government grows so bloated and intrusive that ordinary citizens become federal felons over something that they had no conception could even be a law— can we whittle down the size of government and particularly the intrusiveness, or are we doomed to all end up in prison?
There are many organizations working on trying to remedy the situation, and several authors have detailed the problem. If you want to see if you are at risk:
One Nation Under Arrest by Paul Rosenzweig and Brian W. Walsh
Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent by Harvey Silvergate
Go Directly to Jail: The Criminalization of almost Everything by Gene Healy
The House of Representatives has passed the Boehner bill authorizing a limited increase in the $14.3 trillion debt limit in exchange for more than $900 billion cuts in spending. The vote was 218-210 after Speaker Boehner (R-OH) agreed to revise the legislation to condition a second increase in the debt ceiling on congressional passage of a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution.
The debt ceiling must be raised so that we can pay off the balance on the federal credit card. They have already spent the money, and we have to borrow more money to pay the bills.
Because we have already spent more money than we can afford, Republicans are demanding that we cut back on spending money that we don’t have, but have to borrow. They are asking for a balanced budget amendment—something that most states have—to force some discipline on Congress and keep them from running up more credit card bills.
Remember that the government has no money of its own. Government money comes from taxpayers — you, and the Democrats want more. Republicans think people are taxed enough, and the problem is a spendaholic government. that needs to be forced to cut back a little.
The Democrats simply want to continue their spending spree, and are furious that the Republicans are trying to make them stop. Verum Serum did a helpful roundup of the new tone the Democrats have adopted during the debate:
•Rep. Nancy Pelosi – “We’re trying to save life on this planet as we know it today.”
•Rep. Nancy Pelosi – “They want to destroy your rights.”
•Sen. Harry Reid – “The time for ideological extremism should end.”
•Rep. Rangel – “These people don’t care about our country.”
•Comm. Director Dan Pfeiffer – “…could potentially put us towards a depression because House Republicans…are unwilling to compromise.”
•DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz – “This is almost like dictatorship.”
•Rep. Garamendi (D-CA) – “They basically want to terminate the American Dream.”
•Rachel Maddow – “shameless, craven, unprincipled, partisan hackery”
•Tom Friedman – “If sane Republicans do not stand up to this Hezbollah faction in their midst, the Tea Party will take the G.O.P. on a suicide mission.”
•Rep. Hoyer – “They want to shoot every bullet they have at the president.”
•Van Jones – “They want to repeal the 20th century. They want to smash down every American institution our grandparents fought for…”
•Joe Klein – “Osama bin Laden, if he were still alive, could not have come up with a more clever strategy for strangling our nation.”
•Steve Rattner on MSNBC – “It’s a form of economic terrorism…These Tea Party guys are like strapped with dynamite standing in the middle of Times Square at rush hour saying either you do it my way or we’re going to blow you up, ourselves up, and the whole country with us.”
Is this the way it goes at the kitchen table in your house? The credit card bill gets big enough that you realize that you’re in trouble. You demand that the rest of the family pay attention, recognize the problem and agree to hold off on spending until you get the bill paid off, and recognize the need to change their ways a little.
Do the wife and kids start screaming that you’re trying to destroy their lives, ruin everything the family has ever stood for, that you don’t care about them? Can you identify the children in this scenario?
The Democrats have no plan. The president has offered no plan. (The Harry Reid “plan” includes “cuts in spending” that say—if we were to keep the War in Iraq and the War in Afghanistan going for another 10 years it would cost $1 trillion . But we’re not going to do that, we’re withdrawing our troops in 2014, so we would have $ 1 trillion in savings.) See Paul Ryan (R-WI) explain the Democrats spending cut gimmicks here.
The battle isn’t about the debt limit. The battle is about the Democrats desire to keep right on spending, and the Republicans desire to make them cut back a little. The flaming language defending their spending spree is hard to understand — strangling the nation, dictatorship, destroying your rights?
The other news today is slower growth for the economy, more mass layoffs, a downward revision of growth estimates for last month, the stock market down another 100 points. Republicans really want to get back to a growing economy. Why don’t the Democrats want that?
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Energy, Science/Technology | Tags: The Polar Bear as Symbol, The Science of Global Warming
Five years ago, Charles Monnett was one of the scientists whose observation that several polar bears had drowned in the Arctic Ocean was quickly latched onto by the global warming movement. Now the wildlife biologist is on administrative leave and facing questions about scientific integrity issues.
The 2006 article about the bear spawned more controversy about melting Arctic ice, and the effects of global warming.
Myron Ebell, of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, says the case reinforces the group’s position that people should be more skeptical about the work of climate change scientists. Even if every scientist is objective, “what we’re being asked to do is turn our economy around and spend trillions and trillions of dollars on the basis of” claims about climate change.
In 2004, Monnett and researcher Jeffrey Gleason were conducting an aerial survey of bowhead whales, and saw four dead polar bears floating in the water after a storm. Low-resolution photos show floating white blobs.
The two detailed their observations in an article published in the journal Polar Biology. In the peer-reviewed article, they said they were reporting, to the best of their knowledge, the first observations of bears floating dead and presumed drowned while swimming long distances. They said their observation suggested the bears drowned in rough seas and high winds. They added that the findings “suggest that drowning-related deaths of polar bears may increase in the future if the observed trend of regression of pack ice and/or longer open water periods continues.”
The article drew national attention,and green groups seized on the polar bear as a symbol of the “disastrous effect of warming” on the Arctic. In 2008, the bear was classified as a “threatened species”, even though their numbers had been increasing sharply.
Polar bears can swim long distances. I’ve seen numbers as high as 60 miles. The Arctic ice melts in the summer and expands in the winter. Some years it melts more, others less. The alarmists want to point to any open water as a sign of doom for the world. And more particularly, they want to use the polar bear to keep oil companies from drilling in Alaska or off the Alaskan coast. They probably care more about the latter than the former.
There are a lot of suppositions and politics in those assumptions. Clearly, the polar bear is not threatened or endangered. Their numbers have increased too much. Satellite surveys of Arctic ice indicate that the Arctic has not melted. The new paper from UAH’s Spencer and Braswell has blown a fair sized hole in global warming theory. It is a good thing to step back and check the science and the assumptions derived from the science. The federal government has taken a good many actions based on flawed science that have cost jobs, livelihoods and the public’s pocketbook. Insisting on truth and accuracy is good politics.
Filed under: Energy, Environment, Global Warming, Science/Technology | Tags: Climate Change, New NASA Satellite Data, Not So Much
New NASA satellite data from the years 2000 to 2011 show that the Earth’s atmosphere is allowing far more heat to be released into space than the computer models of the IPCC have predicted. A new study reported in the peer-reviewed science journal Remote Sensing indicate that increases in atmospheric CO2 trap far less heat than alarmists have claimed.
The observations suggest that “there is much more energy lost to space during and after warming than the climate models show.,” said study co-author Dr. Roy Spencer, a principal research scientist at the University of Alabama at Huntsville and the U.S. Science Team Leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer flying on NASA’s Aqua satellite. “There is a huge discrepancy between the data and the forecasts that is especially big over the oceans.”
Spencer and UA Huntsville’s Dr. Danny Braswell compared what a half-dozen of the IPCC’s climate models say that the climate should do with satellite data showing what the atmosphere actually did during the 18 months before and after warming events between 2000 and 2011.
Not only does the atmosphere release more energy than was believed, it starts releasing it earlier in a warming cycle—more than three months before the warming event reaches its peak.
And all that stuff about the “greenhouse effect,” nevermind.
Filed under: Capitalism, China, Economy, National Security, The United States | Tags: "The New Normal", "The New Urbanism", Straight Line Thinking
Investors Business Daily has a column today suggesting that the burgeoning theme in Washington, quietly whispered among the power brokers is — the “new normal.” I recognize that one. We’ve been here before. The American Dream is over, Japan is Number One. Oh wait — that was way back in January, 1990.
I have seen articles suggesting that unemployment is destined to remain high—permanently. Manufacturing will continue to shrink. A home is not a good investment. There will be no more high paying jobs (well, except in government of course, where all the bright people are). The U.S. is not going to be a fast-growing superpower, and we need to stop acting like one. We need more government agencies run by the best and brightest to take care of all the people who are displaced by the ‘new normal.’ It is unfortunate, but we must resign ourselves to double-digit unemployment.
The world is running out of energy, so we must live more sustainable lives. We must use less energy, less precious water. We can no longer afford to squander space and energy and wealth on strip malls and suburbs. We need more sustainable communities and more sustainable lives in more compact sustainable cities. All stuffed in there, cheek to jowl. That’s “the new urbanism.” Another lefty dream. See this interesting graph!
China could pass the United States as the world’s largest economy as early as 2016. The International Monetary Fund said that back in April. This assumes that if China is growing at 10% today, it will always grow at 10%. China made a big mistake with its one child policy. By 2040, China’s elderly population will exceed the total population of Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Japan. Every elderly person will be supported by two workers. Good luck with that. Will they dispose of their elderly as they have disposed of those unfortunate girl children? And what about all those young men who cannot find wives? Will they fill up their empty cities?
This is straight line thinking. If unemployment is high today, it will always be high. If we are short of energy today, we will always be short of energy. Nothing will ever change. You will notice that men are still wearing powdered wigs and writing with quill pens. The ships that ply the ocean are propelled by canvas sails, and it takes a long time to get anywhere. And we are still a small nation of 13 states. Nothing will ever change.
We have an unusual number of people invested in predicting the future, not only in silly media columns. They have devised computer models to predict the climate in 50 years and 100 years, and are busily trying to make regulations and laws to prepare for the future predicted by their computers. Odd, when our best weather forecasters have trouble predicting the weather for the following week. Seven days is about their limit.
America was settled by people who had the courage and independent spirit to pack up and cross a vast ocean in a voyage that lasted months rather than days. They knew little about the wilderness that awaited them. They built their own communities and made up their own rules. And once the towns got too big or the rules too onerous, they packed up and moved on to where they could again build their own communities and make up their own rules.
Because it was a new country, they had to find ways to adapt, to create and invent to cope with a new land and new surroundings. There was no heavy hand of government to spell out what they could and could not do. They started out trying to create what they already knew, and as they changed the land, the land changed them. American exceptionalism derives from that creative, independent spirit. How odd that our current president should see this country as no more exceptional than any other.
How very strange that the left insists that the American Dream is to be found in “the new normal” and in “the new urbanism.” Have to stamp out all that independent spirit! The government will nurture the creativity, we just need an agency to direct it into the correct path.
Ignorance of the past leads to folly in the present. Freedom and democracy require a modicum of truth to survive. I like these lines from Bruce Thornton’s Plagues of Mind:
The importance of history lies in its ability to give a sort of visual depth to our expectations and ideas, to place them in the only context that matters—the dense and intricate record of what humans have thought and attempted and experienced, their successes and failures, their nobility and pettiness. History gives us ideals to strive for and failures both practical and moral to avoid. By familiarizing ourselves with the record of humanity’s deeds and crimes, we achieve a critical distance from the manifold passions and interests of the present, and we win a calm space in which we can judge with a cooler eye, the hectic novelties and temptations bombarding us. Without that, we fall into the trap of judging everything from the standards and “knowledge” of the present.
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, National Security, Politics, Taxes | Tags: An Unserious Administration, Barack the Borrower, The Problem is Spending
President Barack Obama is not serious about cutting federal spending. He has offered no plan, put nothing on paper. He insists that his party is offering serious spending cuts and wants to reform entitlements. He likes to talk about “shared sacrifice” and “balance” which are euphemisms to him for raising taxes. The Wall Street Journal noted that:
Mr. Obama’s final offer in the Biden talks was a $2 billion cut in 2013 nondefense discretionary spending. The federal government spends more than $10 billion a day.
Not serious, not concerned about the country. Why, given his record-setting spending binge over the last 2½ years would anyone expect Barack the Borrower to be serious about cutting back on spending?
Given Jay Carney’s performance in the most recent press conference, the media is beginning to recognize the lack of seriousness.:
“When you put forward a position… it becomes charged politically and your chances of actually getting an agreement diminishes significantly. That’s how it works. You know that’s how it works. You don’t? Well you should. Others do.”
And yet, this whole time the President hasn’t put a plan on paper because he didn’t want things to get “politically charged” he has been going out and accusing Republicans of wanting to protect rich, corporate jet owners with tax breaks.
The Democrats are not serious —Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced imperiously:
This is an excuse. The budget deficit is an excuse for the Republicans to undermine government plain and simple. They don’t just want to make cuts, they want to destroy. They want to destroy food safety, clean air, clean water, the department of education. They want to destroy your rights.
That’s an amazing example of sheer delusion. She obviously didn’t read the bill to find out what’s in it.
The Secretary of the Treasury,Timothy Geithner, went on television and threatened the old folks, tried to scare everyone else, and essentially lied about default on the debt. The position of Treasury Secretary is supposed to be one of the most responsible and serious of any in the administration. But this is not a serious administration.
Victor Davis Hanson summed it all up masterfully in “The Ten-Trillion-Dollar Man.” A piece not to be missed.
Filed under: Domestic Policy, Economy, Junk Science, Law, Liberalism | Tags: Chasing Wayward Particulates, The EPA Kills More Jobs, Unnecessary Regulation
The president promises to do everything he can to create jobs to get the unemployment rate down from its disastrous 9,2 level. Concurrently, the Environmental Protection Agency, under the direction of Administrator Lisa Jackson, issues a new set of standards designed to kill jobs right and left.
John Engler, president of the Business Roundtable warns that:
there is nothing reasonable or balanced about the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to tighten national air-quality standards for ozone emissions at this time. For one thing, it’s premature, coming a full two years before the EPA is scheduled to complete its own scientific study of ozone emissions in 2013.
The EPA’s new standards are currently under review by the Office of Management and Budget but could end up on the president’s desk in the next few days. If implemented, they would reduce the existing 0.075 parts per million (ppm) ozone standard under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards program to 0.070 ppm or even 0.060 ppm.
The EPA has stated that considering economic effects and jobs is not part of their assignment. That is abundantly clear. They do estimate that these new standards could cost business anywhere from $20 billion to $90 billion annually. New businesses would need to get emission offsets and install controls. Existing businesses would face retrofit requirements just to keep operating the way they have for years.
Businesses are already complaining about excessive regulation made without consideration of its real world effect on business. This kind of new regulation is sure to seriously affect economic expansion and to discourage capital investment in the counties affected. Higher costs, more uncertainty means not only layoffs, but marginal businesses would be closed and new facilities would be likely to be sited elsewhere, including outside the country.
Numerous studies indicate that the air is consistently growing cleaner under existing standards, and the EPA’s quest for ever finer particulates becomes more excessive. The president’s claim that he is reviewing government agencies to remove excessive regulation that harms business expansion is belied by EPA actions. At least new rules should await the scientific review now under way.
And I thought the banning of CFCs in primatene mist inhalers for asthmatics was excessive!
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Energy, Junk Science | Tags: One Hundred Billion Dollars, The "clean economy", The Brookings Institution
The Brookings Institution recently reported that nearly 2.7 million people brought home paychecks in 2010 from working in the “clean economy.” That would be a 3.4% increase in “green jobs” since 2003, and it sounds like excellent news for Obama until you realize that the economy as a whole grew at a 4.2% rate over the same period.
Turns out that Brookings got its figures by including all mass transit workers as working in green jobs even if they didn’t drive electric buses. They also included nuclear energy workers and organic farmers, even though the Greens never included nuclear energy as “clean.” A goodly number of the “green jobs” exist in the public sector like the Department of Energy and the EPA, parks departments, fish and game, utilities. If you cast your net widely enough, there’s no end to how many you can include under the green umbrella.
Of course the “green jobs” to be found in the wind farm and solar array field have been shown by Spain’s experience to kill 2.2 jobs in the regular economy for every ‘green energy’ job simply because of the increased cost of energy.
Energy costs relate directly and indirectly to disposable income and the standard of living. It is similar to a tax increase. Politicians are, in effect, declaring that prosperity can be achieved by lowering the disposable income and standard of living of the general public.
But here we are worrying about the debt crisis, and I’m talking about “green jobs.” Wait—there is a connection.
According to the General Accountability Office, the U.S. government, alone, has spent over $100 billion as of October, 2010, in the cause of combating global warming, or delaying climate change, or whatever the euphemism of the day is. Trying to eliminate CO2! One Hundred Billion Dollars! Those responsible for spending all that money are going to be furious when they discover that CO2 is not the principal cause of climate change.
Climate Change. We have listened to the sufferings of people on the East coast and in the middle of the country with sympathy, and wished they would send us, in the Northwest, a little of the heat. It did get up to 82° yesterday for the first time this year, but today it is back down to 63º and raining again.
Climate skeptics, and I am one, do not believe that there is no global warming. They believe, to the contrary, that the globe is always warming and cooling. It has been much warmer in the past, and much cooler as well. We have evidence that proves that there was a Medieval Warm Period which was supposed to be the finest weather known to man. We have evidence of the Little Ice Age. So you might ask yourself —What is the right temperature? And — How do you know?
That —How do you know?— is a tricky question. Warmists will tell you that it’s the “consensus.” But consensus has no place in science. 10,000 scientists could agree that X is true, but if one lonely dissenter can prove through observation and evidence that X isn’t true., then so much for the consensus. So, back to — How do you know?—The next answer is apt to be that their computer model tells them so. A computer model of the climate (do they know enough about climate cause and effect to make a model?) is supposed to trump observation and evidence?
The skeptical purveyor of evidence gleaned from observation will discover that the truth of his findings will be determined by whether or not he received funds or encouragement from Exxon-Mobil or Chevron. This is the Economic Fallacy. The truth or falsity of the research has nothing to do funding. Truth or falsity will be determined by checking thoroughly for veracity.
Can you think of anyone who believes more deeply in the need to be alarmed by the prospect of global warming than Al Gore? Yet Mr. Gore does nothing that exhibits that concern. He jets to speaking engagements and conferences all over the world, spewing vile CO2. He has an immense house in his home state that uses more energy than whole towns. He fears the rise of the seas, yet he has bought a waterfront condo. And every time he makes an important speech somewhere, it starts snowing. They call it “the Gore Effect.”
So there you go. One Hundred Billion Dollars for what? Subsidizing wind turbines made in China? Subsidizing training for green jobs that never appear? Subsidizing Solyndra with $535 million stimulus cash to hire 1,000 workers for “green jobs.” The company has never shown a profit, but the company’s majority owner was a top fundraiser for the 2008 Obama campaign. And that story is not unusual.
The “green” involved in the “green economy” is more about the color of the wasted dollars.
Filed under: Capitalism, Democrat Corruption, Economy, Energy, Law | Tags: Attack on Individual Liberty, Efficiency Mandates, Sheer Crony Capitalism
In just 5½ months, the 100 watt incandescent lightbulb will become illegal in the United States. 12 months later, 75 watt bulbs will become illegal, and 12 months after that, ordinary 60 watt and 40 watt bulbs will be illegal as well. Do most people know this?
Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby wrote:
The use of efficiency mandates to snuff out the standard light bulb was an exercise of unadulterated crony capitalism. It came about after the big bulb manufacturers, frustrated by their customers’ refusal to switch from cheap throwaway incandescents to the far more profitable compact flourescents touted by Greens, decided to play hardball.
Before Congress, a representative of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association testified in favor of the bulb ban scheme. He said “the entire discussion of ‘phase out of least efficient general service light bulbs’ has been at the industry’s initiative.”
On the surface, the purpose of the law is to increase energy efficiency by requiring that bulbs produce more light per watt. By setting these standards higher than the cheap, easily replaceable, common incandescent, the real world effect is government control of the lights in your home. The real purpose is more profit for companies who make lightbulbs in China.
The normal process involves putting your product in the marketplace and if people like it, they will buy it. So they put their twisty compact fluorescents in the stores, and people didn’t like paying way more money for a bulb they didn’t like.So Phillips decided to partner with radical environmental groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council to push for higher standards. “We felt that we needed to …show that the best-known lighting technology, the incandescent lightbulb is at the end of its lifetime” said Harry Verhaar, the head of the company’s ‘strategic sustainability initiatives. You need to watch out when that word “sustainability” pops up. It’s a lie to begin with.
Liberals in Congress are claiming that they are “increasing consumer choice.” The Department of Energy has a Conservation Standards Enforcement division. It has threatened companies like Delta Faucet, Hudson Reed, Maytag, Target and Westinghouse for attempting to sell products that consumers want. There were not dangerous products, they simply function too well. So we now have washing machines that don’t clean clothes, Energy Star products that don’t save energy, showers that fail to deliver enough water for a comfortable shower, and a government that is attempting to do away with the internal-combustion engine.We need to eliminate the Department of Energy.
It is not a governmental task to make consumer’s choices for them. It is not up to a Secretary of Energy, nor to Congress. If the technology is superior, and ready for prime time, no law is needed to get people to switch. People have switched from landlines to cell phones and from desktops to tablets, and are considering the switch from books to electronic readers without government help. Congress is working on a repeal. We need to keep their feet to the fire.
We must always, always push in the direction of individual liberty. The totalitarian impulse is forever present, with the urgent need to tell other people what to do.
Filed under: Architecture, Freedom, Fun n Games, Law, Sports | Tags: American Playgrounds, Safety or Challenge?, The Challenge of Tort Law.
There was an article in the New York Times a week ago about playgrounds, titled “Can a Playground Be Too Safe?” by John Tierney. Do follow the link, for there is a lovely picture of a real jungle gym. I searched Google images for a good picture of a jungle gym, and jungle gyms have not only disappeared from the nation’s playgrounds, but there aren’t apparently any old pictures of them.
The playground in one of my neighborhood’s parks has become so safe that it appeals only to two and three-year-olds. I don’t know whether at some point my city was sued successfully, or whether the city attorneys just warned of perilous possibilities. Some maker of playground equipment that runs to little houses with holes in the wall for kids to climb through apparently came to the city with a big dog and pony show, convincing city officials that kids would love to play make-believe in little houses.
Well, the little ones are too little for make-believe, and the bigger ones quickly get bored after climbing on the roofs of the little houses. Watching kids there, you can sense their boredom and frustration.
Boise, Idaho has a hot spring somewhere under the city. They once had a splendid set of two near-Olympic size pools adjacent to each other. The water was warm and the pools were popular. I suppose it was liability insurance that made the city fill them in and plow them under. Fullerton, California once had a privately owned set of pools, wading, soaking and swimming, that were lovely and popular, but the land probably became too valuable and the liability insurance too costly. All gone.
When my daughter was young, there were stables where little girls could take riding lessons and love horses devotedly. All gone. Mr. Tierney’s article quotes a professor of psychology from a university in Norway:
“Children need to encounter risks and overcome fears on the playground,” said Ellen Sandseter, a professor of psychology at Queen Maud University in Norway. “I think monkey bars and tall slides are great. As playgrounds become more and more boring, these are some of the few features that still can give children thrilling experiences with heights and high speed.”
After observing children on playgrounds in Norway, England and Australia, Dr. Sandseter identified six categories of risky play: exploring heights, experiencing high speed, handling dangerous tools, being near dangerous elements (like water or fire), rough-and-tumble play (like wrestling), and wandering alone away from adult supervision. The most common is climbing heights.
“Climbing equipment needs to be high enough, or else it will be too boring in the long run,” Dr. Sandseter said. “Children approach thrills and risks in a progressive manner, and very few children would try to climb to the highest point for the first time they climb. The best thing is to let children encounter these challenges from an early age, and they will then progressively learn to master them through their play over the years.”
Most adults have lost the perspective of childhood. They can’t remember the thrills and the challenges unless they were one of the many kids who tried to jump off the roof with an umbrella or by flapping their arms. Society has become much scarier. Backyards are disappearing along with vacant lots. There were lots of vacant lots in my neighborhood when my kids were growing up and neighborhood kids had unauthorized treehouses on most of them.
Playgrounds are designed so that toddlers won’t hurt themselves, thus depriving older children of healthy exercise. What happens in playgrounds is determined by tort lawyers. Asphalt surfaces are gone, replaced by bark and rubber surface. Some kids may hurt themselves, they may fall, they may break a bone. We have too many lawyers. Some people are too ready to sue. Loser pays would help. Surely we can find ways to make playgrounds that offer real challenges while removing the real dangers.
Perhaps childhood obesity is not due to kids eating too many happy meals. “Let’s Move” is good advice, but kids need better playgrounds on which to get moving. Somebody tell Mrs. Obama.