Friday, April 29, 2005
Thursday, April 28, 2005
Does abortion fight crime? Um... not really. And not directly at any rate. There are some interesting findings for the decline in the U.S. crime rate between 1991 and 2001, but ...
Let me back up a bit.
Steven Levitt is an economist. But instead of rhapsodizing over the nuances of compounded interest, Levitt is more interested insuch real-world issues as:
What key words in a housing ad correlate with higher prices?
Which ones correlate with lower prices?Levitt's penchant for sifting through data to find practical relationships lands him squarely in the realm of sociology, and his latest book, Freakonomics:A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, is certainly sociological to the core. And, boy, is it being hyped! (I just checked, and it is #3 in book sales at Amazon.com. When was the last time you saw an economist's book on social issues climb the bestsellers list? I'll tell you: Never!Somebody is hyping this thing somewhere). What does this any of this haveto do with abortion and crime? Well, beforethis morning, I might not have been able to attempt ananswer. But today I heard Michael Smerconish interview Mr. Levitt onhis morning radio show. I was about to switch stations when Smerconish baited me: "Next, we'll talk Freakonomics with economist Steven Levitt, who has published a book that claims the legalization of abortion is the single largest factor contributing to the declining crime rate." I actually froze and thought: Man, I gotta hear this.
Now, before I go into the segment, and relate the discussion, I want to mention the book again. I think this information will serve to explain how Levitt ended up on Smerconis's program. You see, in addition to its nifty title, Freakonomics has chapter titles that seem geared toward raising hackles, eyebrows, or both. And even if the titles fail to get a rise out of readers, the suggested answers will certainly be cause for some debate. For example:
- Do Schoolteachers and Sumo Wrestlers Have In Common? (Answer: It's cheating, and it will surprise you)
- How Is the Ku Klux Klan Like a Group of Real Estate Agents? (Answer: Haves abusing the have-nots)
- Why Do Drug Dealers Still Live with Their Moms? (Answer: A strange commonality with the "You want fries with that?" crowd)
- What Makes a Perfect Parent? (Answer: Be instead of Do)
- Where Have All the Criminals Gone? (Answer: Roe v. Wade)
Yup, Levitt claims that the legalization of abortion in 1973 had the most impact on the decline of crime between 1991 and 2001. This is probably the most inflammatory topic in his book, and it is likely the sole reason that Smerconish invited Levitt to be on his show. After all, Smerconish is a conservative radio host on 1210AM in Philly -- the same station that proudly blares Rush "I'm-louder-and-righter-than-you" Limbaugh and Sean "Can-you-believe-I'm-gainfully-employed?" Hannity. Ah, but Michael Smerconish is much classier -- and more intelligent, I'll wager -- than either of those Neo-con blowhards. And while I don't always agree with him, I do appreciate the way Smerconish treats his guests (i.e., he doesn't shout them out of the studio or off the phone), and I think he is sincere in his attempts to understand a different side of an issue. Such was the case here.
After introducing Levitt with suitable fanfare to pique the interest of the show's core fans, Smerconish went right into the background of Levitt's Criminals chapter. In case you didn't know, there are many explanations for the dwindling crime rate in the 1990s -- many of which were proposed by the same folks who actually expected an increase -- ranging from "Innovative Police Tactis" to "Strong Economy" to "Tougher Gun Control". But Levitt wasn't buying into any of them. Too many, too varied. So he did a search on the LexisNexis database to find the most common theories and rank them. (In English Rules' book review, you can see the chart of explanations and the number of times each one cited). Levitt addresses each one of these commonly held reasons and debunks them all. Instead, by looking at the data, he finds that the legalization of abortion, by the Roe v. Wade case in 1973, had the biggest impact.Some folks get into quite a twist over this. Conservatives accuse Levitt of being a callous pro-choice poster-boy who is advocating murder. Liberals, uncomfortable with some of the perceived implications of this study, say that Levitt speaks of eugenics. But, as Levitt explained on the radio, he is neither.
In the radio interview, Levitt claims he was pro-choice prior to the study but is somewhat ambivalent now. He feels strongly that his results are right: "I keep saying that if you give me 30 seconds I can help you understand this." But even he is less sure of the message it sends.Here is more or less how he explained it on the radio (no direct quotes ... just what I remember):
You have to look at it this this way. Between 1973 and 1975, a number of unwanted children children were aborted. That is the only way to refer to aborted fetuses -- they are unwanted children. This is not a value judgment, it is a statement of fact. If the child was wanted, no abortion would have occurred. But, since free, easy, and legal abortion was (and is) available, fewer children of unwed mothers are out on the street. This means there are fewer children most likely living in poverty. This further means that, fifteen years down the road (getting into the 90s now), when those kids would have been entering adolescence -- the age for budding criminals -- they are simply not there.It is rather oversimplified, but it makes sense. If there are fewer children being born into the conditions that foster criminal activity, then the crime rate will go down. And the fifteen year gap is probably why it has not been seriously considered before.
Now, this is not a rubber stamp on the morality or necessity of abortion. Nor is anyone, least of all Levitt, championing abortion as a means of keeping the crime rate low. It's just an interpretation of data. Levitt actually seems somewhat disappointed or saddened after finding these results. If anything, Levitt feels that the results speak volumes regarding the value of a wanted child and of having loving parents.
Me? I personally feel that Levitt's results lend much needed credence to my own philosophy that both the pro-choice and pro-life camps are not only ill-named, but they are looking at the issue entirely wrong. By focusing on abortion, both camps are missing the most important piece here: The fact that every child conceived should be a wanted child. How do we get there? If I knew that, I probably wouldn't be just another goofball with a free blog. But I think this kind of thing has to start with the parents and be continued in our learning institutions. Kids of all ages (and I am referring to college kids and young adults under the "all ages" banner here, too) need to learn to be responsible with and have respect for the reproductive powers of their bodies. This society needs to stop treating sex like a dirty activity that has to be kept under wraps. True, it is a private, intimate act. But it is also just about the most natural and beautiful thing on this planet. But all the guilt and hush-hush surrounding sex has led to a booming porn industry, increased infidelity, and soaring teen pregnancy rates. Oh, not to mention all the STDs that are now available.
Please know that I am in no way so naive as to think that I actually have a solution. Nor do I think my so-called solution will affect abortions inthe short term. But, again, I am not focusing on abortion per se. I am talking about a shift in emphasis. A positive one at that. Our wholesociety must shift focus from the legal/moral fight over abortion, and insteadfocus on people and our behavior. I want to empower people with education.
I'm talking about personal responsibility, I am talking about teaching the consequences of sex, I am talking about advocating abstinence and providing birth control. I actually believe that abortion can still be kept free, safe, and legal. But that we as a society can eventually come to a point where its use wanes to become almost unheard of.But, you may say that I'm a dreamer and all that.
The Book in Question:unabridged audio CD that comes out May 1.
Reviews, Musings, etc. on Freakonomics and/or Related Theories:
- voluntaryXchange: Freakonomics
- Hatful of Hollow: Adoption Vs. Abortion
- Running Scared: Ending Crime One Fetus at at Time
- NPR: Freakonomics
- Aaron Swartz: The Weblog -- Freakonomics
- Vision Circle: Freakonomics Misses the Mark
- On Point Radio: Myth Busting by the Numbers
- Letters from the Global Province
- RightGrrl: Does Abortion Prevent Crime?
- NBER: The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime (Abstract)
- Read Excerpts
- Freakonomics Blog
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Each Needie has a custom developed electronic nervous system that they use to talk, sing, and feel hugs.Oh, just click the link, you know you want to!
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
Monday, April 25, 2005
Hmmmm... Let us count the red flags in this recruiting email. (1) It is addressed to an address I never use for job-hunting, (2) it is riddled with grammar problems such as "We are working out software", (3) the sender's email address does not seem to match the individual's stated name or the company (mail15.com does not equal necomputers.com ... or any reputable recruiter that I have heard of), and the kicker (4) they suggest making a financial "treaty" with them.
Oh riiiight. Like that's going to happen. That last item would be enough to send this message to the trash heap, but since there are over three strikes, I have to delete it as soon as possible. And that is right after I take a screen shot for posterity.
- Don't bother waiting for Jesus to return because the Second Coming has already happened. And if the Second Coming weren't enough for this sinful world, there are [currently] seven Sons of God and seven antichrists on the planet.
- Putin is the reincarnation of the Apostle Paul. Like St. Paul 2000 years ago, Putin has come to the world to convert as many people as possible to the real faith.
- Alexy II, a Russian Patriarch, is Pontius Pilatus: His new mission ... is to protect the new Christ and keep him from a second crucifixion.
- This was written for a Coca-Cola commercial to be sung by The New Seekers. Considered one of the most effective ads of all time, it featured a group of children from various countries singing this together on a hilltop.
- When the commercial became a hit, radio stations got requests for the song, but the only place it could be heard was in the ad. Coke put together a group called The Hillside Singers to record a full version adapted from the commercial. The song had a country sound and hit US #13. Then they had the New Seekers record a version which was also released. Both versions were on the charts at the same time.
- When this was made into a full length song, the line, "I'd like to buy the world a Coke, and keep it company," was replaced so radio stations would play it.
- The original title was "True Love And Apple Pie."
- William Backer worked for Coke's advertising agency. He was putting together radio commercials for The New Seekers to sing and came up with the line "I'd like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company" after seeing travelers at an airport having a good time over a Coke. For the story of how the Coke commercial came together, read Backer's book The Care And Feeding Of Ideas.
- This was first used as an unsuccessful radio commercial. Backer then convinced Coke to use it in a TV spot.
- In 1985, Coke brought this back when they introduced a new formula for their soda. "New Coke" was a huge flop, and is considered one of the biggest marketing failures ever.
Friday, April 22, 2005
Thursday, April 21, 2005
Go check out their Gallery. By the way, the work of Brandon Merkel (the eye behind Mustard Gas Party) is featured there, too.
Ars Subterranea is comprised of artists, historians, and urban explorers working to create an intersection between art and architectural relics in the New York City area.
Our aim is to instigate unique perceptions of New York's history by constructing narratives around the city's forgotten relics. Ars Subterranea encourages its audiences to interact with the city's neglected and ruinous locations by recreating obscure but fascinating aspects of its urban development. Our projects include art installations, history-based scavenger hunts, unusual preservation campaigns, and much more.
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
"Baby chimps pick up habits by mimicking adults and we think he started mimicking smokers at his enclosure which probably led to smokers throwing him cigarettes," spokesman Daryl Barnes told SAPA [SAPA News Agency].
Read the story here. According to the report, the chimp is actually showing signs of nicotine addiction. Human interaction has forced addiction upon this innocent animal!
Oh man, just what do you say when one species is able to corrupt another one like this? Yeesh! Well, I guess it's a good thing that the chimps didn't have access to television. Can you imagine the affect that televised advertisments for smoking might have had?
A tearful member of the Iraqi parliament, Fattah al-Shaikh, stood up before other MPs and told the story of how he was attacked and detained by US troops when he attempted to enter the Green Zone, the heavily fortified area near downtown Baghdad where parliament is held and the US embassy is situated. Wire services report that he said, '“I don’t speak English and so I said to the Iraqi translator with them, ‘Tell them that I am a member of parliament’, and he replied, ‘To hell with you, we are Americans.'" ' Al-Hayat reported that al-Shaikh, a member of the Muqtada al-Sadr bloc, said the US troops put their boots on his neck and handcuffed him. The Iraqi parliament was thrown into an uproar by the account, and demanded a US apology from the highest levels of government. Others demanded that the site of parliament meetings be changed. (This is not the first complaint by a parliamentarian of being manhandled). Parliament speaker Hajim al-Hasani condemned the assault, saying that members of parliament are symbols of national honor and must be respected. Parliament adjourned on hearing the news.You may not know this, but Iraqi male politicians rarely weep. Yes sir, nothing boosts international relations like roughing up a governmental representative from time to time.
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
The good 'ol one-size-fits-all approach has been dropped. Taking its place is a collection of 12 different triangle shaped guides. Different strokes, er ... guides, for different folks' nutritional needs and lifestyles. The new program was unveiled today by Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns and pear-shaped fitness guru Denise Austin, who is a member of the President's Physical Fitness and Sports Council. In a radical move obviously intended to distance herself from the maniacal Richard Simmons, Austin shouted the entire audience to their feet for a stretching session: "You burn more calories standing than sitting! Everyone up!!" Food Pyramid Web Tools
- The New Pope Blog
- Chuck Currie, UCC Seminarian
- The Vatican in the New Millenium
- Tim Boucher
- Political Animal
- The Corner on National Review Online (dig through the entries)
- Rising Hegemon
- Talking Points Memo
- Brilliant At Breakfast
- Windy City Mike
- The Jerusalem Post (debunks Nazi story; free membership required)
- Tradition in Action: Ratzinger's Foxtrot
- In No Particular Order
- Newsday: Strong Reaction to New Pope
- Kansas City (via AP Wire): Students, Faithful Celebrate
- Christian Science Monitor
- Egypt Election Daily News - New Pope: Your Reaction
- ProfNet Experts Round-Up
Monday, April 18, 2005
Do you love television? Do you love watching television? Well, how would you like the chance to get paid to watch it ALL DAY LONG? This is not a dream. This is real. You can earn big bucks in the high-growth, fast-paced world of watching TV... Be a professional TV watcher! It's the job you were born to do. [link]Remember, this stuff is beamed all over Planet Earth. So don't tell me that it doesn't color other cultures' opinions of folks and life in the U.S. On top of that, those very same TV signals are carried out into space as well. So if you have been wondering why we have not been contacted by sentient life from another galaxy, wonder no more. It's Jimmy's fault. (And it's JR's fault that I know about this story.)
"Everybody laughs about it until they really start thinking about it," said Mesa Officer Sean Truelove, who builds and operates tactical robots for the suburban Phoenix SWAT team. "It would change the way we do business." Truelove is spearheading the department's request to purchase and train a capuchin monkey, considered the second smartest primate to the chimpanzee. The department is seeking about $100,000 in federal grant money to put the idea to use in Mesa SWAT operations.All I can say is this: You do not want a SWAT-trained chimp flinging poo at you.
Apparently, it's a tad too difficult to capture TJCG in focus. But that's just fine, because you can see the "preferred artiest renditions" of his other forms: the Lion of Judah, the Eagle, and his 33-year-old first appearance. If you visit the site, I have to warn that it is seriously (un)really hard to read. Let's look at some nuggets-o-wisdom and warnings that are posted there. Oh, here is a good one:
These are the Days of Ted and far too many are not taking TJCG seriously enough! Them too Possessed and Bad and Wicked and Evil are PROBLEMS for TJCG and some SECURITY PROBLEMS for TJCG! [link]Your calendar might not be in accordance with the Ted, but there you have it. And now that you know you are living in the Days of Ted, you'd best be careful if you don't want to end up "put on a Hell world." What else does the Ted talk about? Hmmmm.... Looks like Ted's site has been bedeviled on occasion (quite literally so!):
Ted will SWEAR that and in the future if or when POLYGRAPH TESTING will TEST TO BE TELLING THE 100% TRUTH that Ted has been getting DRASTICALLY HACKED for over 7 years and keeps getting told LOUD SPIRITUALLY that this is actual Demons and that Ted is getting PROTECTED more than any Christian Church.And speaking of spirits, the one true Ted finally clears up that whole "God in Three Persons" thing:
TJCG is God and the Holy Spirit that is represented by a Dove is actually inside of HIM while on World Earth and then HIS Spiritual when a Spiritual Living Thing.But for all that power, there are things that the Ted can't quite do himself:
Ted and Tedians NEED for MORE Mass Media Messages and Messages and Messages SENT in EVERYTHING POSSIBLE - This is now MORE IMPORTANT than Religious Dreams and Visions and Inspiration and does NOT and CANNOT replace True Prophets or any Instances of God and these future Comings! [link]Write Ted does as speaks Yoda, eh?
Rest easy now, folks!
- How to Witness Using Halo 2
- How to Winess Using Napolean Dynamite
- There is even a magazine that is dedicated to Christianity and Progressive Culture.
Friday, April 15, 2005
Hush little kitty don't mew a word Mama's gonna buy you a mockingbird If that mockingbird tastes stale Mama's gonna buy you a mousie tail If that mousie tail is dry Mama's gonna buy you a turkey pieHe complained even louder. Mrs. Brainwise stopped singing. Now, I was not at the vet (not for lack of volunteering, mind you), so I only caught the proceedings in snippets of phone calls and voice mails. But I do know the following:
- Otis was a very good boy for the vet. In fact, all the vet techs loved him.
- He has some kind of [medical babble] [blah blah dee dah] [and more medi-babble] urinary tract infection. Oh, I heard the medical babble, I just can't spell any of it.
- The doc had to squeeze Otis' kidney. Squeeze it! I don't even want to try to empathize with that.
- Doc ran some tests on the urine sample and found a bunch of odd things. Individually, no problem. But together, with our observations, it's all indicative of ... something. Not certain what that something is because other symptoms are missing. But somethis is definitely amiss.
- Doc gave Otis a little something to open him up. And, yes, Otis received the first dose at the office. (More on that in a bit).
Thursday, April 14, 2005
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Unless you are independently wealthy (and if you are, would you care to adopt me? Seriously, I eat light), here is something that nearly every blogger needs to know:
If you have not done so already, you may as well bookmark the Electronic Frontier Foundaton's site for future reference.
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
- Provide privacy.
- Call obscene amounts of attention to oneself.
Canellos goes on to say that this seeming friendship between Bubba and W is both genuine and opportunistic ... just like anything in the political arene. But on the Clinton side of the equation, Canellos plumbs some reasons that get downright touchy feely. And he may have some evidence to back it up:
...Clinton has found his surrogate family. He is part of a sprawling clan, legendary for its warmth and unity. It is a clan that is so accustomed to acquiring surrogate sons and daughters that adoption has become a part of its strength.
Clinton has become a member of the Bush clan.
Last week in Rome for the pope's funeral, the clan sat lined up in a pew: Laura, W., Dad, surrogate daughter Condoleezza, and Bill, all seeming more at ease than most families on Christmas Eve. Clinton may have looked a little out of place, like a Great Dane who thinks he belongs to a family of dachshunds, but his contented expression suggested he was exactly where he wanted to be.
Their friendship [Clinton and the elder Bush] blossomed on their trip last winter to raise funds for Asian tsunami relief. They became so close that former president Bush suggested to the Houston Chronicle that ''maybe I'm the father he never had."Canellos is a bit more cynical as far as W's motives are concerned:
Since last year's election, Bush has made a concerted effort to woo European allies. Having Clinton in his pew at the pope's funeral in Rome did more to boost Bush's reputation overseas than a hundred bows to Jacques Chirac.It's an interesting read.
Complaints and anxiety abound with every job that is sent overseas -- "Woe is us" we scream and whine and stomp up and down in the puddle of spilled milk at our feet. Few seem to recognize the opportunity and obvious strategy that will carry us back to the top -- it's the IDEAS, stupid. I had the opportunity this week to dial in to a live presentation given by Mr. Pink, and he gets it. And he puts it into terms that not only help everyone to understand the true paradigm shift (sorry for the buzzword, but I don't use it lightly) happening all around us, but will get you EXCITED about it. The presentation has been archived so that you can enjoy (and profit from!) it too.Read Don's complete write-up, which includes a little background into why he finds this concept so exciting. There is also a link to Dan Pink's "New Mind" presentation. Hey, I'm adding the book to my already over-taxed reading list.
Monday, April 11, 2005
Friday, April 08, 2005
All right. Now that I have purged my mind of the little ditty ... I can tell you that Mira has some cool photos of Friday's partial eclipse: good bit of info about the event. OK, sure ... it's over now. But she posted this stuff far enough in advance. So don't blame either of us if you missed the eclipse.
Gonna find my camera, and I'll hold 'er right Gonna have some Astrophotog blog delight My motto's always been 'when it's right, it's right' Why wait until the middle of a cold dark night? When everything's a little clearer in the light of day And we know the night is always gonna be there any way Partial eclipse in sight Astrophotog blog delight Astrophotog blog delight Astrophotog blog delight
- How close the ghost is (but not its exact location).
- Whether the ghost can move.
- How much of an effect it can have on people.
When I can look Life in the eyes, Grown calm and very coldly wise, Life will have given me Truth, and taken in exchange -- my youth. -- Sara Teasdale, poet (1884 - 1933)This seems rather appropriate for a Friday. Both in general, and because there was a high-profile funeral today. After all, April is National Poetry Month, is it not?
Yes, children's obesity rates are ... disturbing. But did they have to mess with the big, blue guy? Sigh. Another cherished childhood memory relegated to the dustbin. __________ Update: The folks at Monkeyfilter have quite a bit to say on this subject.
First PBS announced that "Sesame Street" would kick off its 35th season this week with a multiyear story arc about healthy habits. No problem there; childhood obesity rates are soaring. Then I learned of changes that turned my "Sesame Street" world upside-down.
My beloved blue, furry monster -- who sang "C is for cookie, that's good enough for me" -- is now advocating eating healthy. There's even a new song -- "A Cookie Is a Sometimes Food," where Cookie Monster learns there are "anytime" foods and "sometimes" foods.