Monday, April 18, 2005

Links!

I thought Kathleen Parker's column on The American Society of Newspaper Editors Annual Meeting was terrific:
There's something kind of adorable, in an odd way, about the elite media trying to decide if they're elitist. It's sort of like inmates in an insane asylum considering their circumstances and concluding: "You don't look crazy to me." With a few exceptions, journalists tend to think mostly alike about most things, and they generally tend to be more liberal than mainstream America. This isn't a criticism necessarily -- there's no Fourth Estate conspiracy -- it's just the nature of the beast. After all, what kind of person wants to labor long hours in exchange for public contempt and low pay? Brilliant people, obviously. The problem is, when you spend most of your time with people who essentially mirror your attitudes and beliefs, you begin to get a distorted view of the world. You look around and conclude: "You don't seem elitist to me."
This IT story on internet2 and piracy seems to suggest that the MSM's worries about the new media world are legit. What's less obvious is why we should care about preserving the MSM and copyright law as they exit now.
I also found some interesting stuff by Steve Sailor this weekend, including this provocative (and possibly true) essay on the Larry Sommers affair at Harvard. Sailor asks why it is that some men pile on people like Sommers. Sailor answers that:
Paradoxically, this is typically because of how little these nerds appreciate women. They don't like females the way they are. They want a vast societal effort to remold women into liking the same nerdy things they like. That way, maybe, nerds can finally get dates. It's roughly the same reason you see so many butt-kicking babes in movies aimed at male teenage comic book geeks such as "The Matrix," "X-Men," "Charlie's Angels," and "Tomb Raider" franchises. It's always hyped in the press as female empowerment. But it's driven far more by the adolescent male's wish that sexy girls would stop being interested in all that boring girl stuff like relationships and start being interested in cool guy stuff, like kung-fu fighting and really big guns.
Sailor also has a number of very interesting posts up about how abortion has altered U.S. society since Roe in 1973. Consider some of the following:
  • In an article excepted from The American Conservative, Sailor writes: "Why did the abortion rate and the illegitimacy rate both skyrocket during the Seventies? Isn't abortion supposed to cut illegitimacy? Roe largely finished off the traditional shotgun wedding by persuading the impregnating boyfriend that he had no moral duty to make an honest woman of his girlfriend since she could get an abortion. The CDC noted, 'Among women aged 15-29 years conceiving a first birth before marriage during 1970-74, nearly half (49 percent) married before the child was born. By 1975-79 the proportion marrying before the birth of the child fell to 32 percent, and it has declined to 23 percent in 1990-94.'"
  • Arguing against Steven D. Levitt's hypothesis that it was the culling effect of Roe that lead the urban crime rate to drop in the 1990's, Sailor writes that "This sounds plausible until you look at the illegitimacy rate, which continued to skyrocket. Instead, what happened was that more women got pregnant outside of marriage, and more boyfriends refused to marry them on the grounds that they could get an abortion instead. Some got abortions, some didn't, and the percentage of babies unwanted by their fathers went up. But [Levitt] says the correlations are clear: crime declined earlier in the states that had legalized abortion before Roe v. Wade, and it declined more in places with high abortion rates, like New York. ... Levitt wins minds by framing the debate as why the murder rate went down instead of why did it first go up and then go down? But why not ask why the teen murder rate went up first in the places like New York that had lots of abortions in the early 1970s? It's logically bizarre to focus on purported later effects of abortion and resolutely ignore potential earlier effects.
  • He takes on the WSJ's James Taranto on the "Roe Effect," ie. Roe has resulted in Democrats killing their future. Sailor disputes that but comes back with a terrible if true factoid: "most conceptions ended by abortions would never have happened in the first place without legalized abortion. According to Steven Levitt, in the 1970s conceptions went up by 30% but births decline by only 6%. So, the demographic impact of legal abortion is significantly smaller than the enormous raw numbers (almost 1.6 million abortions per year in the 1980s and about 1.2 million per year in the 1990s -- page 2 of the Guttmacher report) would suggest."
  • This post, also on Levitt's book, has some graphs that can help in understanding the trends in question.

Finally, a very different sort of link. Brandon has written up a fine post about the science fiction writing of Jules Verne. Verne, it seems, was Catholic, and his faith, Brandon suggests, informs his fiction in a manner not dissimilar to the way it affected J.R.R. Tolkien:
Jules Verne was throughout his life a devout Catholic; and the Verne-style of scientific fiction was developed in great measure as a reaction to Poe's explicitly materialistic scientific romances. Verne liked Poe's work, but disliked Poe's tendency to make up science -- and what he disliked most about it was that Poe made up the science in order to avoid supernatural explanations. So Verne wrote a different kind of scientific romance, one that respected the natural and moral order established by Providence. The curious resulting paradox, which has often been noted, is that Poe, the materialist, is famous for his stories about the supernatural; and Verne, the Catholic, is famous for stories that have no explicit supernatural intervention at all.
In Verne and Tolkien, in other words, God is not primarily presented as an extraneous force (a deux a machina). He is woven into the workings of the world itself.

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