Children’s right to buy violent videogames

Kiddies, you are now free!  Free to play Grand Theft Auto!  The Supreme Court has ruled that you have the constitutional right to play violent video games!

States cannot ban the sale or rental of ultraviolent video games to children, the Supreme Court ruled Monday, rejecting such limits as a violation of young people’s First Amendment rights and leaving it up to parents and the multibillion-dollar gaming industry to decide what kids can buy.

The high court, on a 7-2 vote, threw out California’s 2005 law covering games sold or rented to those under 18, calling it an unconstitutional violation of free-speech rights. Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia, said, “Even where the protection of children is the object, the constitutional limits on governmental action apply.”

Scalia, who pointed out the violence in a number of children’s fairy tales, said that while states have legitimate power to protect children from harm, “that does not include a free-floating power to restrict the ideas to which children may be exposed.”

Justices Stephen Breyer and Clarence Thomas dissented from the decision, with Breyer saying it makes no sense to legally block children’s access to pornography yet allow them to buy or rent brutally violent video games.

“What sense does it make to forbid selling to a 13-year-old boy a magazine with an image of a nude woman, while protecting the sale to that 13-year-old of an interactive video game in which he actively, but virtually, binds and gags the woman, then tortures and kills her?” Breyer said.

Video games, said Scalia’s majority opinion, fall into the same category as books, plays and movies as entertainment that “communicates ideas — and even social messages” deserving of First Amendment free-speech protection. And non-obscene speech “cannot be suppressed solely to protect the young from ideas or images that a legislative body thinks unsuitable for them,” he said.

via Can’t ban violent video sales to kids, court says – Yahoo! News.

OK, but there is a difference between reading about violence and what you do to play a video game, in which you actively though virtually commit the violence.  I wonder too what other constitutional rights children can claim over and against what their parents say.

The great comic book bubble

Jonathan V. Last offers a fascinating mashup of two of my favorite topics:  comic books and economics.   Not only that, he draws lessons that apply to the recent popping of the housing bubble:

In 1974 you could buy an average copy of Action Comics #1—the first appearance of Superman—for about $400. By 1984, that comic cost about $5,000. This was real money, and by the end of the decade, comics sales at auction houses such as Christie’s or Sotheby’s were so impressive that the New York Times would take note when, for instance, Detective Comics #27—the first appearance of Batman—sold for a record-breaking $55,000 in December 1991. The Times was there again a few months later, when a copy of Action Comics #1 shattered that record, selling for $82,500. Comic books were as hot as a market could be. At the investment level, high-value comics were appreciating at a fantastic rate. At the retail level, comic-book stores were popping up all across the country to meet a burgeoning demand. As a result, even comics of recent vintage saw giant price gains. A comic that sold initially for 60 cents could often fetch a 1,000 percent return on the investment just a few months later.

But 1992 was the height of the comic-book bubble. Within two years, the entire industry was in danger of going belly up. The business’s biggest player, Marvel, faced bankruptcy. Even the value of blue chips, like Action Comics #1 and Detective Comics #27, plunged. The resulting carnage devastated the lives of thousands of adolescadolescent boys. I know. As a 12-year-old I had a collection worth around $5,000. By the time I was ready to sell my comic books to buy a car—such are the long-term financial plans of teenagers—they were worthless.

The comic-book bubble was the result not of a single mania, but of a confluence of events. Speculation was part of the story. Price gains for the high-value comics throughout the 1980s attracted speculators, who pushed the prices up further. At the retail level, the possibility that each new issue might someday sell for thousands of dollars drove both the sale of new comics and the market for back-issue comics. It was not uncommon for a comic book to sell at its cover price (generally 60 cents or $1) the month it was released and then appreciate to $10 or $15 a few months later.

But the principal cause of the bubble was the industry’s distribution system.

via The Crash of 1993 | The Weekly Standard.

Mr. Last goes on to spell out how the distribution system both inflated the comic book market–not just collectibles but the whole industry–and then brought it crashing down.  Marvel Comics actually went bankrupt in 1996.

The market did recover somewhat. In 2009, thirteen years after bankruptcy, Marvel was bought out by Disney for $4 billion.  And Action Comics #1 now sells for $1.5 million.   But the money today comes not from selling magazines on woodpulp but from intellectual property:  the movies that get made from comic books–as well as the accompanying toys and merchandise–make them valuable.

I lived through what Mr. Last describes.  In my years of reading comic books as a kid, I accumulated some titles that actually became rather valuable.  In the early 1970s, as a college student perennially in need of money, I sold them.  Soon the money was gone and a few years later I was kicking myself at how those titles had skyrocketed in value.  Now I just wish I had them so that I could read them again and re-experience my childhood imagination.

HT: Tom Hering

Couch rebels

Is today’s information technology a revolutionary force or the opiate of the people?  The verdict is mixed in the Middle East uprisings:

Two years ago, Iranian activists used social media sites as engines to organize massive anti-government demonstrations. But now, activists say, the limitless freedoms available online are proving to be a distraction from real-world dissent.

Instead of marching in the streets, the same doctors, artists and students who led the demonstrations in 2009 are playing Internet games such as FarmVille, peeking at remarkably candid photographs posted online by friends and confining their political debates to social media sites such as Facebook, where dissent has proved less risky.

Online, Iranians now brazenly show the parts of their lives that they used to keep secret from the state and others. Pictures of illegal underground parties, platinum blond girls without headscarves and couples frolicking on the holiday beaches of Turkey, are all over Iranian social media.

In 2009, Iranians used social media to coordinate protests against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s contested election victory. Now, some activists say online tools are becoming a distraction from real-world dissent.

“We have become couch rebels, avoiding the dangers that real changes bring,” said a 39-old Iranian artist who spends most days juggling between two laptops and 1,300 online friends. “Our world online is like an endless party with no rules, and that keeps us very busy.”

The artist insisted that she be identified only by her first name, Jinoos, to avoid government retaliation. She said she had attended a demonstration in February but, on returning home, found that all of her friends had remained online, posting news about the protest from the safety of their homes.

via In Iran, ‘couch rebels’ prefer Facebook – The Washington Post.

Feeding frenzy over Sarah Palin’s e-mails

The state of Alaska, following a freedom of information request, has released some 24,000 e-mails from Sarah Palin.  Apparently giddy yet overwhelmed with so much information, the Washington Post is putting them online and asking its own readers to rummage around in them and help them look for dirt.  The  New York Times and the British newspaper the Guardian is doing something similar.  See Read the Palin e-mails – The Fix – The Washington Post.

Doesn’t this strike you as unseemly?  First, why this obsession over Sarah Palin?  The journalists look down on her, and yet they hang on her every word and  lavish more attention on her than they give the war in Libya.  Second, to turn this trove of private messages over to the public just seems wrong.  A journalistic request was legally granted, so let a professional journalist sift through all of the messages to see if they record any wrongdoing.  But for journalists to just efface their role as reporters to turn private correspondence over to the public seems highly unprofessional.   Do your job and don’t make your readers do it!  Am I missing something?

But here is the irony. What has emerged so far from the e-mails is that Palin comes off as a pretty good governor. From a finally sober article in the Washington Post:

Often blunt and frequently impatient, Palin derided “old school” politicians and bureaucrats and acted as a champion of populist interests on issues ranging from energy policy to women’s rights, the e-mails show. Her relations with fellow politicians, including many Republicans, were often strained, and she relied heavily on her husband, Todd, and a close-knit group of aides to help cope with crises and shape policies.

Palin felt passionately about issues of importance to her state, the documents show, and she waged battle with foes large and small. That included detractors on obscure government commissions as well as multinational conglomerates seeking access to Alaska’s vast oil and gas reserves. She twice refers to one major oil executive with a derogatory nickname and complains that phone calls with him did not go well.

And read this amazed account from Politico.com!

Updating myself at Redeemed Reader

J. B. Cheaney writes for World and for children.  With fellow children’s lit author Emily Whitten, she has a blog entitled  Redeemed Reader | Kids books. Culture. Christ.  They discuss kiddy-lit, yes, but also lots of other things, from homeschooling to our current cultural condition.  Anyway, they did an interview with me, which they are posting in two parts.  In addition to discussing classical education and vocation,  I take the occasion to update some of what I wrote in my books Reading Between the Lines and Postmodern Times.

Mollie Hemingway on her faith

The Washington Examiner has a series in which they interview people about their faith.  (They did that to me once, which I blogged about.)  Journalist Mollie Hemingway didn’t mince any words.  Read the whole interview.  Here is an excerpt in which Mollie explains vocation:

It seems in some ways that reporting on religion could lead to doubts about one’s own faith, or at least to confusion or pluralism. How has your journalism shaped or affected your own faith? Has it made you any more or less of an orthodox Lutheran?

That hasn’t been my experience at all. For one thing, my job as a reporter isn’t to advocate for one belief system over another. Rather, I aim to break news or explain trends, and allow individuals to tell their own story.

Lutherans study not just what we believe but what we don’t believe. So I already knew we held different doctrines as well as why. Nevertheless, I have found that learning more about other faiths has generally strengthened my own. I have seen new religious ceremonies and structures and met wonderful atheists, pagans, Druze, Jains, Muslims, Jews, Mormons, Evangelicals and Catholics. Some of my conversations with them have challenged me, but in general I’ve found that it makes me appreciate Lutheran teachings much more. The best example of this is that I used to be attracted to unbelief. While I still enjoy reporting on atheists and have many non-believing friends, learning more about atheism and its history has cured me of any attraction to it.

Many people consider a vocation to be an occupation — or maybe an occupation that’s especially satisfying. How does the Lutheran understanding of vocation extend beyond our careers?

Lutherans have a special understanding of vocation. It’s not limited to one’s job but every single relationship I have, including parent, child, friend, neighbor, parishioner and citizen. It’s any position in which I am the instrument through which God works in the world.

So, for instance, God heals us by giving us doctors and nurses. He feeds us by giving us farmers and bakers. He gives us earthly order through our governors and legislators, and he gives us life through our parents. God is providing all these gifts — but we receive them from our neighbors.

Luther wrote that fathers should not complain when they have to rock a baby, change his diaper, or care for the baby’s mother, but instead should view each act as a holy blessing. Everything we do in service to others is a holy blessing.

At your core, what is one of your defining beliefs?

I believe, with the Apostles, that Jesus Christ is the God-man who died to redeem the world from sin, rose bodily from the dead, and will raise me in the body on the last day.

via Credo: Mollie Hemingway | Leah Fabel | People | Washington Examiner.


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