Folly of attacking outsourcing; Raising successful children; US leads in ‘real’ medals tally; Amazon’s new secret weapon — lockers

1 The folly of attacking outsourcing (The New York Times) President Obama’s assault on Mitt Romney for sending jobs overseas draws from a playbook used repeatedly by politicians of the right and left over the last two decades. What’s most revealing about the political assault on outsourcing is that while the critique of foreign commerce has moved decisively from the fringes into the political mainstream, our political leaders have yet to turn their rhetorical skepticism into policy.

Americans’ fear of foreign trade has grown sharply in the last 20 years, in tandem with a rising tide of globalization that has exposed American workers to overwhelming competition from labourers in developing countries. In 1994, the year Nafta went into effect, trade amounted to 22% of the nation’s gross domestic product. By the eve of the financial crisis in 2008, it amounted to 31%. Though our political leaders may feel workers’ pain, they have stopped short of following voters’ preferred prescriptions.

The political debate about globalization tends to get stuck between a couple of propositions: on the one hand, globalization tends to reduce prices of goods and services and bolster economic growth, helping companies become more efficient. On the other, it hurts the workers who are brought into direct competition with cheaper labor overseas. Yet the debate often ignores an essential fact: regardless of who wins and who loses from the process, it is pretty much irreversible. Businesses are too far along in the process of globalizing their supply chains, building international production lines that draw ideas, components and resources from wherever they are best, most abundant or cheapest in the world.

2 Raising successful children (The New York Times) Decades of studies, many of them by Diana Baumrind, a clinical and developmental psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, have found that the optimal parent is one who is involved and responsive, who sets high expectations but respects her child’s autonomy. These “authoritative parents” appear to hit the sweet spot of parental involvement and generally raise children who do better academically, psychologically and socially than children whose parents are either permissive and less involved, or controlling and more involved.

The happiest, most successful children have parents who do not do for them what they are capable of doing, or almost capable of doing; and their parents do not do things for them that satisfy their own needs rather than the needs of the child. The central task of growing up is to develop a sense of self that is autonomous, confident and generally in accord with reality. If you treat your walking toddler as if she can’t walk, you diminish her confidence and distort reality. Ditto nightly “reviews” of homework, repetitive phone calls to “just check if you’re OK” and “editing” (read: writing) your child’s college application essay.

3 Angry music of ‘hatecore’ (The New York Times) Data collected by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups, shows that “the number of ultra-right-wing militias and white power organizations has grown sharply since the election of President Obama in 2008. The recent shooting at the Sikh gurudwara also shined a light on an obscure cultural scene that is helping keep the movement energized and providing it with a powerful tool for recruiting the young and disaffected: white power music, widely known as “hatecore.”

For more than a decade, Wade M Page, a former soldier who the police say was the lone gunman — and who was himself killed by a police officer on Sunday — played guitar and bass with an array of heavy metal bands that trafficked in the lyrics of hate. Even in Mr. Page’s below-the-radar world, those bands — Blue Eyed Devils, Intimidation One and his own, End Apathy — provided a touchstone and a gateway to a larger cause, as they have for many others in recent years.

“It is one of the pillars of the white supremacist subculture,” Mark Pitcavage, director of investigative research at the Anti-Defamation League, said of white power music. “The message can motivate people to action, cause them to be proud of themselves and their cause. It can aggravate anger levels. It can rouse resentment.” Racist and neo-Nazi rock began as an offshoot of British punk in the late 1970s, appropriating both its shaved-head style and so-called oi sound featuring slashing guitar chords and barked vocals. By the 1990s, the music had become heavier, louder and darker, featuring violent diatribes against blacks, Jews and, later, gays and immigrants.

4 US leads China in ‘real’ medals (San Francisco Chronicle) Through 11 days of the Olympics, China leads the United States in the official IOC medal count. But in Fourth-Place Medal’s “real” medal count, a tally that ignores judged activities masquerading as sports, Team USA has a commanding lead over its Asian counterparts. Our real medal count ignores Olympic disciplines like gymnastics and diving and instead focuses on sports where winners are determined on the field of play.

When Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps wins a race, the result is objective and undeniable. Gabby Douglas winning the women’s all-around was one of the most memorable moments of the first week. But why did she win a gold over Victoria Komova? Because some judges said she was 0.259 better? It wouldn’t be so insulting if we weren’t the rubes who accept it like it’s real. Gymnastics wins aren’t victories, they’re subjective decisions based on objective-sounding rules.
So factor all of that out when talking about medal counts. China isn’t ahead, the United States is. When you factor out all the judging nonsense in gymnastics, diving, trampoline and judo, Team USA is the decisive leader. The bulk of the difference comes from diving and a trampoline. Chinese divers won five golds and six overall medals in London (compared to zero and three for Americans) and four overall medals in trampoline (Americans earned a goose egg).

We’ve heard the arguments: Tennis has chair umpires and basketball has referees. A bunch of judges peer at the target after every arching round to see whether an arrow is on or over the line. Every sport on the Olympic slate has some judge or official making decisions that can affect the final outcome. But except in very rare occasions they don’t pick the winner.

5 Amazon’s new secret weapon – lockers (The Wall Street Journal) Amazon is doubling down to combat a problem that has long bedeviled online retailers: failed package delivery. The web giant has quietly installed large metal cabinets—or Amazon Lockers—in grocery, convenience and drugstore outlets that function like virtual doormen, accepting packages for customers for a later pickup. Amazon began putting lockers in Seattle, New York state and near Washington, DC, about a year ago. And the company is now ramping up the service. In the past few weeks, Amazon has opened its first lockers sites in the San Francisco Bay area.

By adding the lockers, Amazon is addressing the concerns of some urban apartment dwellers who fear they’ll miss a delivery or have their items stolen from their doorstep. Amazon is also taking on some of its rivals who are shipping to appointed sites, such as other retailers or United Parcel Service stores.

“The home-delivery challenge has always been an issue for e-commerce in Europe and Japan, and is growing in the US, especially as thieves have moved into the game,” said Fiona Dias, chief strategy officer for ShopRunner, which facilitates two-day delivery at about 60 retailers. “It’s easy to follow a UPS truck around and steal packages from doorsteps.”

About joesnewspicks

This blog captures interesting news items from around the world for those strained by information overload and yet need to stay updated on global events of significance. The news items displayed are not in order of merit. (The blog takes a weekly off — normally on Sundays — and does not appear when I am on vacation or busy.) I am a journalist for nearly three decades.
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