Dreaming A Big White House Lawn Mowing Dream

Recently President Trump got a letter from Frank Giaccio, a sixth-grader from Falls Church, Virginia.  The youngster said he admired President Trump’s background in business and that he was starting a business of his own:  mowing lawns for $8.  He had a proposition for the President — he’d come and mow the White House lawn for free.

white-house-lawn-mowed-02-pol-jpo-170915The President heard about his letter, and last Friday he gave the 11-year-old his wish.  Frank came to Washington, D.C. with his Dad, mowed the Rose Garden lawn, posed for pictures with the President, and said a few words to the media.  The President even sent out one of his famous tweets about Frank, thanking him for a lawn-mowing job well done.

We’ve heard similar stories before, about a young kid with a dream who dared to think big, and found out that sometimes thinking big gets rewarded with big results.  And in this country, we traditionally want and encourage our young people to dream big.  It’s a classic American feel-good story, right?

Not so fast!  No, some people in the Twitterverse pointed out that, by allowing a young kid to mow the lawn — even equipped, as young Frank was, with safety goggles, ear plugs, and gardening gloves, by the way — the President wasn’t sending “a great signal on child labor, minimum wage and occupational safety.”

Seriously?  Have we really reached the point in this country where a young boy who wants to start his own little business and make some money can’t mow a lawn under the supervision of his father without somebody invoking the great National Nanny State that has to control everything people do?  Have we really reached the point where we feel that mowing a lawn is just too dangerous a job for a kid to undertake?

I’m critical of most of what President Trump does, but I’m with him on this one.  Show our young people that they should dare to dream, even about something like mowing the White House lawn, because sometimes those dreams come true.  And stop the incessant hand-wringing and caterwauling about perceived risks everywhere that discourage kids from doing anything other than hunching over their video games in the living room.

The Brewing “Baby Boxes” Brouhaha

There is a curious controversy brewing in Europe, about “baby boxes” and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

So-called “baby boxes” are locations, typically found outside a hospital, where a parent can leave an unwanted infant, ring a bell to summon someone to come to the child’s aid, and then vanish from the child’s life.  There are almost 200 such “baby boxes” spread throughout Europe, and since 2000 some 400 babies have been left in them.  Proponents of the practice say it is a regrettable, but nevertheless necessary, safety valve that protects a child’s life — apparently arguing that, without such an option, infants might die from neglect or an intentional act by a parent.

The UN contends that  “baby boxes” violate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.  That document says every child has a right to be known and cared for by his or her parents, and the state has a “duty to respect the child’s right to maintain personal relations with his or her parent,” even if they are separated.  A UN Committee is writing to European governments that permit “baby boxes” to urge that the practice be outlawed and replaced by improved state family planning and unwanted pregnancy services.

I obviously don’t support abandonment of infants — I can’t fathom what might motivate a parent to take such a drastic action — but are “baby boxes” really a top priority in a world where outrages against children are sickeningly commonplace?  At least the relatively few infants left in “baby boxes” are in a place where they will be found, and cared for, and ultimately made available for adoption.  Consider, by comparison, the countless children who are left to die from exposure in countries where there are limits on how many children families may have, or are physically mutilated as a result of primitive beliefs, or are sold into sexual slavery, or are pressed into military service by tribal warlords, or are forced to work under horrible sweatshop conditions?

In a world of finite money and resources, wouldn’t every penny spent on the issue of “baby boxes” be much better spent on trying to end the many more widespread, life-threatening problems that are bedeviling unfortunate children around the world?

Big Yellow Diamond

The BBC has a story about an exceptionally large, and therefore exceptionally rare, yellow diamond.  The tear drop-cut stone weighs more than 110 carats and is called the Sun Drop.  The BBC story explains that its yellow color is caused by traces of nitrogen in the carbon for the stone.  (Other colored stones are caused by the presence of other substances — boron creates a blue stone, for example, and radiation creates a green cast to a diamond.)

Why do some people lust for gems?  A diamond is a glittering object — but so is a well-cut piece of crystal.  How many people have the skill and knowledge to distinguish an actual diamond from cubic zirconium, or some other skillful knock-off?  Why is wearing a big diamond, or some other gemstone, so important to some people?  And how inflated are the prices charged by the jewelry store at the mall for their rings and pendants with diamond chips?  How much is the mark-up on the rings featured in those sappy romantic TV ads?

Diamond mining is an industry with lots of issues.  In some African diamond mines, child labor is common, working conditions are poor, and workers are terribly exploited.  Mining can ruin otherwise arable land, cause serious erosion problems, and contaminate drinking water with heavy metals and chemicals in the run-off from mining operations.  The physical dangers of diamond mining include collapsing walls, flooding, and explosions — to say nothing of potential visits from rival factions in war-torn African regions, looking to use diamonds to fund their purchase of weapons and other rebellious activities.

The Sun Drop is a pretty thing — but are diamonds really worth it?