Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Please Consult Wikipedia Before Hitting Publish

It saves you from looking like a complete idiot. Like this Randall Parker post I'm going to charitably call "speculative", asserting that "the 20th century was a relatively mild, wet, and calm century as compared to the 19th century" on the basis of it having fewer earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and no massive solar storm.

Only, Wikipedia provides a handy list of historical earthquakes, and 20th century earthquakes, which tells us that the 19th century saw 16 earthquakes measured with an (estimated) magnitude above 7.5 on the Richter scale and 9 above 8, while the 20th century saw 51 earthquakes above 7.5, with 25 above 8.


Obviously, there was not a threefold increase in earthquakes from the 19th to the 20th century - this is an artifact of better record collection. Nevertheless, to claim that the 20th century didn't show us how devastating earthquakes could be in densely populated areas is particularly laughable in the light of this, this, this, and this, to pick out just a few examples.


What's hardest to read in this New York Times article on teenage runaways who end up working as prostitutes is that many of them seem genuinely to view selling sex under the aegis of abusive and controlling pimps as a step up from their previous living situation. Why is this not the real scandal - the terrible lack of options faced by children in abusive or dysfunctional families, such that their only choices are hellish group homes or employment in the black market?

This bit was pretty disgusting too:

Previously, said Sgt. Byron A. Fassett, who leads the department’s effort, girls working as prostitutes were handled as perpetrators rather than sexual assault victims. If a 45-year-old man had sex with a 14-year-old girl and no money changed hands, she was likely to get counseling and he was likely to get jail time for statutory rape, Sergeant Fassett said. If the same man left $80 on the table after having sex with her, she would probably be locked up for prostitution and he would probably go home with a fine as a john.

Ironic that opponents of legalization point to underage trafficking as an argument in favor of the current regime, when in fact it was de facto decriminalization that allowed the Dallas task force profiled to actually help girls and arrest pimps.

Not that I think legalization would actually solve all, or even many, of the problems these girls are facing, but it would at least make their least bad option slightly less bad.

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