Sunday, April 14, 2019

Rooting for Tiger, rooting for myself.

It is somewhat curious that we find ourselves rooting for, and moved by the victory of, an elite athlete who has well-documented incidents of less than admirable behavior, and never was particularly socially conscious. I was crying as I watched him charge off the 18th green and hug his children, and I know I wasn't alone.

So, why is it?

In general, I think it's because we know him so well, and have been watching him for the past 20+ years, and we're familiar with him. Kind of like how we root for the local sports team, regardless of the character of the players or quality of the ownership and management (I say, as I root for this 76ers team that I don't particularly like that pursued a strategy I am diametrically opposed to.)

But for me, it goes a little deeper than that.

I am almost exactly as olds as Tiger Woods -- he was born a little more than four months after me.

Like him, I think my career started with a series of victories (though my successes were obviously less notable). Like him, I have encountered personal difficulties, some of which I have contributed to, which have made those victories less frequent and less impressive. Like him, I have seen a number of talented younger people enter my profession.

And I wonder. Can I still hack it? Do I still have any great victories left in me? Should I continue to invest in myself, or would it be better to focus on developing the next generation?

What Tiger's victory represents to me is hope. Obviously I am not as talented in my field as Tiger is in his, but there is still hope for me, there is still the possibility that I can again create something great. That there will come a time and situation where my experience and wisdom will be more valuable than pure talent.

And so I celebrate Tiger's victory. Even if his adversaries have demonstrated greater character. Even if much of the adversity he's had to overcome is self-inflicted. If he can work his way back to victory again, maybe I can too.

That's worth rooting for.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

What leadership looks like in the Trump era

Before I return to the Covington case, I want to address a couple of tweets from the Catholic governor of New York on the occasion of his signing the Reproductive Health Act, which among other things, legalizes abortion essentially up to full term:



Now, whatever you may think of the theological story Governor Cuomo tells himself to justify going against the clear teaching of the Church (and I don't think much of it), there is also the matter of what it means to so publicly spike the football in the face of one's co-religionists.

Because, when it suits him, Gov. Cuomo still leans into his Catholic identity, as he does here on an issue in which both the Church and I agree with him:



So, Gov. Cuomo must realize that many of his constituents (to say nothing of the unborn ones), this Act is something less than a victory.

But what is his tone? Is it a somber allowance for the harsh realities of the world? No, it's a "celebration." Light up the biggest building in the city. Act like there is no legitimate opposition, and that any opposition must be based on misogyny.

This drives us apart every bit as much as President Trump's rhetoric. And the next time Gov Cuomo invokes the Holy Father to support his policy, he may find it doesn't work quite as well.

If Governor Cuomo's conscience compels him to expand access to abortion, I guess I can't tell him it's not. But I can tell him that the way he is going about doing so is tearing his Church and his country apart.

I hope he cares.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Covington 1 -- My accounting

The Covington case has sparked several thoughts from me. I will start what I hope everyone who helped fan the flames of this incident will do, and consider my own actions and their motivations.

I found out about this from a series of tweets from other conservative commentators. The first ones I saw mentioned the MAGA hats, but not the pro-life march. Knowing the pro-life march had just happened, I looked into it, hoping the boys involved were not from the pro-life march, but suspecting they were.

The tweet that I retweeted was of Prof. Robert George retweeting Fr. James Martin condemning the incident, and that it is not what the March For Life is about.  For those not in the know, Prof. George and Fr. Martin are both pro-life Catholics, but agree on little else. If they agreed on this incident, that was good enough for me. I hoped the criticism would center on the MAGA hats rather than the pro-life aspect. I avoided social media for most of the rest of the weekend, correctly suspecting it would get ugly.

Why did I feel compelled to join in? I understand that the right answer is that I was horrified by the incident itself, but to be honest, it is likely because I sensitive to the criticism that pro-life people do not care about any other issue and are motivated by hatred. I felt the need to distance myself, and the pro-life movement in general, from this.

Why did I believe it? Well, I was once a teenager bused into Washington for the March for Life, and I am aware that those doing so are not necessarily motivated by an abiding seamless garment respect for life in all its stages, or even opposition to abortion. It was a day off school and a trip to Washington with my friends. I also have two teenage daughters and teach Confirmation class to teenagers. They're good kids, but would not be my choice of spokespersons for the cause (more to come on the prudence of this strategy).

Either Fr. Martin or Prof. George deleted the tweet I retweeted, making it unnecessary for me to do so. I also tweeted questioning the prudence of busing teenagers in for the March For Life, which I am even more convinced is something we need to reconsider.

So, for me, I think my mistake was hypersensitivity to the "you pro-lifers only care about people until they're born" criticism.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Yes, I voted. But it's not enough.


I did send in my ballot yesterday.

I think voting is important, and it is even more important to protect the right to vote, but I've become increasingly uncomfortable with the cult around it.

My feelings about President Trump have not improved since the election. He is a terrible leader who drives people apart rather than bringing them together. He brings out the worst in us. Any conventional candidate would be a better president than he, and the day someone else is president will be a good day and cannot come too soon.

On the other hand, I think Trump is a continuation of trends and habits of thought that have been in place for a long time. Trump has accelerated them, and brought them a step further, but if he didn't exist, we'd still be facing the same problems.

So, while I am sympathetic with the notion that Trump's race-baiting must be rejected, I do not agree that simply voting for Democrats is the best means to do so.

The Democratic party, and those who speak for them, do not seem to have learned anything from Trump's victory, content to write it off as racism and ignorance. Nor have they grappled with the effect that declaring that the unborn are outside the protection of the law, and defending that notion more than anything else, has had on the culture.

Sure, voting is a more positive step than trading videos about how terrible conservatives are. But it is the beginning. The culture needs to be healed from the ground up. That work continues.

Friday, September 28, 2018

To expand on below

To make this more personal, if we assume Kavanaugh is a rapist based on the evidence at hand, this is the message, I as a man, will receive:

How you behave doesn't matter. It doesn't matter what you've accomplished or how you've treated women. If one woman comes forward and makes an accusation against you, no matter how vague or difficult to corroborate, we will believe her, and assume you are a rapist, assaulter, or abuser. There is no amount of goodwill you can bank that will protect you from this.

Maybe it's worth it. Maybe this is better or a just comeuppance for the fear women have had to live with.

But it is a real cost. And not all men will respond to this by being super-careful. We are removing an incentive to behave well.  If I'm going to be considered a rapist anyway, why not?

I'm not saying this is how I would personally respond, how how men should respond. Basic human decency and compassion should lead to men treating women with respect. But obviously that hasn't worked for everyone, and for the type of man on the margin of treating women badly, we're removing a reason to exercise restraint.

Again, I'm not saying this is the only or most important concern. But it is a real concern

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Why They Fight For Kavanaugh

I'm writing this as the testimony is going on. I am open to the possibility that it could be convincing of Kavanaugh's guilt, clear him, or leave us in the same uncertain place we are now. But I think the feeling I have right now is worth capturing.

As I posted below, I don't think anyone is indispensable, and I am generally of the opinion that it is better to risk a possible innocent candidate to be denied a big job than to risk a victim being denied justice. The world doesn't owe Kavanaugh a Supreme Court seat, just as the world didn't owe Hillary Clinton the presidency. We have the right to pass over someone with doubts, even if those doubts are less than certain. We have the right to have high standards for our leaders.

At the same time, it is a little scary to see how little it takes for someone who may be innocent to be disgraced as a rapist. It is still within the realm of possibility that he is guilty of nothing more than getting drunk at high school and college parties, writing an off color inside joke in his high school yearbook, and having classmates and friends who were guilty of worse.*  It's not clear that anyone can establish that Kavanaugh has even ever been in the same room as his accusers. It seems like since then, he has represented himself honorably in both is professional and family life, and put in the effort to get to this point in his life. It is a real concern to think that one could do everything right, and it still isn't enough to prevent you from being ruined, if people are motivated to do so.

I'm not saying this is the only concern.  It must also be balanced against the rights of victims. I'm also aware that this is a possibility that less privileged people face in a variety of contexts, and maybe this experience will teach people to be more sensitive to that.

But it is a real concern that cannot be simply be brushed away. So, if people are wondering why people are so hell-bent on defending this nominee in the face of credible accusations, this is why.  It doesn't mean they're right, it doesn't mean we need to confirm him anyway, but it is why people are concerned.


* I'm aware of the antipathy for the "boys will be boys" defense. I think it is wrong when applied to the behavior of adult men, or criminally violent behavior. I think it is reasonable to not condemn a middle aged man for drinking too much or making inappropriate jokes in high school.

Monday, September 17, 2018

My Kavanaugh Thoughts

My thoughts, before they get swallowed up in the spin cycle.

First, before these revelations came out, I was mildly in favor of Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court. I am pro-life, which for me means that the lives of the unborn should be legally protected. I like neither the result of Roe v. Wade nor how it has poisoned our politics, and am eager to see it overturned.

While I am not a fan of President Trump, or his politics, Kavanaugh struck me as a fairly conventional conservative nominee, which was fine with me. I found much of the antics opposing his nomination to be absurd.

Now, here are my thoughts.

Character Matters

It matters what type of people we elevate to the highest positions in our country. This sends a powerful signal to the rest of us about what types of behavior are celebrated, tolerated, and rejected.

I think this is apparent in how we feel about our country with Donald Trump as president versus how we felt when someone with impeccable character like Barack Obama was preside his nt, even though I disagreed with many of President Obama's positions and policies.

Furthermore, should Judge Kavanaugh be confirmed, his time in the Supreme Court will most likely be defined by cases we do not know about and aren't currently anticipating. How he decides those will be determined by his character more than his carefully prepared answers to questions about known cases.

More pragmatically, if Judge Kavanaugh were to be the deciding vote overturning Roe v. Wade, those opposed would be even more likely to believe and propose that this was a vote against women by men looking to control them than a vote to protect unborn life. And I can't say with confidence that they'd be wrong.

Teenage Indiscretions

There is an argument, that I am somewhat open to but not convinced by, that even if the accusations against Judge Kavanaugh are true, that things that we do as minors, even terrible things like attempted rape, should not haunt someone throughout their adult life. Statutes of limitations are there for a reason, as are limits on the punishments given to minors. People should be able to reform themselves and repent.  The character of Judge Kavanaugh is better revealed by his record of giving opportunities to female law clerks, etc. over his career than this once incident from when he was in high school.

In general, I support this attitude. But I think that as we apply this attitude, people like Judge Kavanaugh should be at the end of the line of those we extend this mercy to, rather than the beginning.

One of the things that bothered me about Hillary Clinton's candidacy was this sense that she was entitled to this presidency, and things like the e-mail scandal represented a nefarious plot by the patriarchy to deny her what was rightfully hers. No, for me, I think we deserved a president who does not consider herself above the law.  There are millions of people in this country who will never be president, most for worse reasons than that they didn't think they should have to follow the same rules everyone else does.

Likewise, there are millions of people who will never be a Supreme Court Justice. Most for worse reasons than that they attempted to rape someone as a teenager. I managed to navigate my adolescence without ever coming close to doing something like what Judge Kavanaugh is accused of. If we limit the pool of Supreme Court Justices to those who have not attempted rape as teenagers, I don't think we'll be eliminating every possible qualified candidate. 

And if this really was a standard feature of growing up as an elite, then maybe we need to look elsewhere and just nominate women for a while. It's worth it to establish that this isn't something we tolerate.

Many people face much more dire consequences for mistakes they made as a teenager than not becoming Supreme Court Justices. Let's fix that first, before worrying about someone who managed to rise to become a Federal Judge.

The Response

In terms of the facts, I am satisfied with the following:

  1. Prof. Ford was assaulted at a party.
  2. She believes it was Judge Kavanaugh who did it.
I am not satisfied that I am positive it was Judge Kavanaugh who did it, but she did provide enough details that there are questions that demand answers, both from Judge Kavanaugh and independent investigations.

If Kavanaugh responds by smearing the accuser (or stays silent while surrogates do) that will be disqualifying on his character.

If he is guilty, and responded with something along the lines that this did happen, he immediately felt terrible about it and went straight to confession, and has worked since then to make amends in how he lives his life both professionally and personally, and did not mention it because he is ashamed, then I could be OK with his nomination going forward.

In short, even if one buys the argument that Judge Kavanaugh shouldn't pay for the crimes of his adolescence as an adult, it still matters if he has actually moved past that or dismisses it.

And even if he is innocent, how he responds matters. Facing unfair accusations is part of being a public figure. It matters how one responds.

Monday, September 03, 2018

Why I Need Answers

No, I am not leaving, but I am not happy.

Bishop Vigano's testimony demands a fact-based answers. Yes, it appears he is opposed to some of what Pope Francis is doing and has some axes to grind. But pointing that out is not a sufficient response.

Speaking for myself (aware that mine is likely not the most important perspective), here is why I need a response:


  • I have tried to lead my life according to the Church's teachings. My marriage is now separating. I intend to continue to live according to the Church's teachings, but it appears it will be a lonely road (as it is for many others in different circumstances). As I do, I would like to know that the Church's leaders are holding themselves accountable to the same standards.
  • I am living in a city and working in and industry that regards Christianity with suspicion, and considers religious people well-meaning dupes. I would rather not give people additional reasons to consider me foolish. Absent answers, people will fill in their old stories. I may do so charitably; the rest of the world will not, nor will they hold themselves to the facts on offer. To them, we are a Church populated my sexual predators and enablers. While I know this isn't the truth, staying silent makes it more difficult to say so.
  • I am raising two teenage daughters, and would like them to have the support of the Church as they grow in to adults. I want to be able to credibly tell them that the Church, while flawed, is an organization worth dedicating themselves to and has leaders worth following.
  • I teach Confirmation class and do other things to support our parish's youth ministry. As I talk to them about chastity, it will be helpful if I know that the Church's leaders also believe in chastity and take these teaching seriously.
  • I also help teach First Communion class. I want to be able to tell the parents that they are wise to bring their children to Church, and that we are trustworthy with them.
This isn't about liberal and conservative agendas. This is about supporting someone who is trying to serve God in a difficult time. 

I suspect I am not alone.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Why Remain?

As we Catholics are greeted this morning with more bad news about those who would be our leaders, we hear this in the Gospel:

As a result of this,many of his disciples returned to their former way of lifeand no longer accompanied him.Jesus then said to the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?" Simon Peter answered him, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believeand are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."
And yes, this a big reason why I remain Catholic -- because I believe what the Church proclaims to be true, and that it is the path to eternal life for myself, my daughters, and others I come into contact with. That doesn't change based on the behavior of bishops, no matter how bad.

More personally there have been times in my life when the Church was the one voice saying to me that I had intrinsic worth, beyond what I look like or what I accomplish or what the rest of the world says about me. I need that, and I want my daughters to have that.

I understand that this is not what everyone's experience of the religion in general and the Church, specifically has been, which brings me to my final reason. I am here to serve Church at least as much as the Church is here to serve me. Right now, that is more difficult but no less necessary. If the Church is to fulfill her promise, it will require people like me to serve it faithfully, and to help bring about renewal and spreading the Good News.

Each person's experience is different, and I'm not claiming that this should suffice for everyone. But it is why I remain.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Americans Finale

A look at my Twitter feed indicates that I am in the minority in being underwhelmed by last night's finale of The Americans. So, I figured I'd lay out my thoughts here.

First, I have to praise the show in general. In addition, to producing tense and exciting entertainment, it made the following difficult choices:


  • It did not present the USSR as not so bad, or even as bad, but the US is just as bad, as would have been the fashion at the time. The threat was presented as real. The Soviet agents may have been likable characters, but their cause was never presented as just, or as one of a number of equally bad choices. Yes, the FBI did some shady things, but the entire premise of the Jennings's mission was evil, and the consequences were presented in a straightforward way.
  • When the public (or prestige-drama watching public) mood shifted to a more anti-Russia place, the show did not fall into the trap of making itself "essential" or "timely" by adjusting the show to more closely mirror current events. Not every cultural artifact has to be a reminder that Trump Is Bad.
  • It presented the father as the parent more emotionally connected to his children, and not blinded by ideology.  Yes, Elizabeth was more "badass," particularly in the final seasons, but that didn't serve her or her family well until it was directed correctly. The stereotype is that men would be the ones blindly committed to ideology, and that women would be the ones considering what impact this is having on children. It was nice to see a show presenting that this is not always the case.
I also acknowledge that the showrunners had a very difficult task is presenting and resolving tension in a story we already knew the ending of, one way or another.

I think my main problem comes from the treatment of the character Stan Beeman.

Yes, it takes a certain amount of obliviousness to live across the street from undercover Soviet spies for five years before starting to suspect them. And his involvement with Nina was certainly a misstep. But he was never presented as a fool. He had attained a position at what must have been an elite team in the FBI, and had been presented as a valued and trusted member, brought in to consult even after moving to a different detail.

But when he finally concludes that his neighbors are all spies responsible for a trail of deaths, he confronts them alone in a parking garage???  From what we've seen of Elizabeth, I'm pretty sure she alone could have disarmed him by herself in no time. Letting them go was probably the best possible outcome of that encounter for Stan. (And if he didn't represent the Jenningses only possible connection with Henry, he would almost certainly be dead). 

And then the show sentences him to a lifetime of uncertainty over whether his wife is also an undercover agent. It just seems that he's as smart or dumb as the plot requires. Which I find a bit disappointing.

In any case, that's just my opinion. Others seemed to like it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Welcome the Innovation?

Since the Rockets have now been eliminated, I'll go ahead and publish this month-old post....

With my 76ers suffering perhaps the worst loss of my history of sports fandom (some of those Eagles NFC championships and the 1993 World Series may come close), I'll turn my attention to bigger picture issues.

Mark Titus tackles the question of whether the Houston Rockets are fun to watch.  The body of his article had me arriving at the same conclusion -- that the strategy may be entertaining from the Rockets, but would not be if it were universally adapted. A separate but related question is whether the innovations in strategy that the Rockets have made are ones that should be encouraged, discouraged, or allowed to run their course through the league, a question I find interesting.

Baseball is probably further down the road on batting and pitching strategies reducing balls in play. The NHL faced this with the neutral zone trap.

In considering this, I think there are some relevant questions.

Does the innovation result in an aestheically superior game?

Which is the question Titus's article sought to answer.  Some tangential questions:

Does this change reward athletic skill? Effort? Discipline? Luck? Are these they types of skills we want to see more of?
Does it put the game more in the hands of players or coaches?
Does the innovation reward effort? 
Does the innovation have any impact on player safety?
Does the innovation enhance or diminish the impact star players can have on the game?
What if this innovation were adopted universally? And in lower levels of the game?

This probably isn't a universal standard. But in general, we want sports to reward talent and effort, favor putting the game in the hands of players more than coaches, be as safe as possible, and give its stars a chance to shine. The neutral zone trap fails these tests. I'm not sure about the Rockets.

For some, it can be difficult to tell. It seems that it should be obvious for the NBA to embrace the individual greatness and fierce competitiveness that Michael Jordan brought to the game. But, he became the template for all future stars. He launched a series of hero-ball that we're still not quite out of.

If you determine that the innovation is harmful, then there's the decision of whether to intervene. Which leads to further questions:

Is it likely this tactic will be imitated? Does it rely on unique or rare skills from a certain player or group of players?
Is there a counter other teams can deploy to neutralize the tactic?
Are the interventions likely to cause more harm than good?

Hack-a- is an annoying strategy that requires little skill to execute, and either takes start players out of the game or has them doing the thing they do poorest. But is has multiple counters (including making the damn free throws) and interventions may cause more harm than good.

In the Rockets' case, the main rule is the 3 point line. When it was put in, it was not with the anticipation that teams would take 50 3 pointers a game. It seems there's some adjustments that could be made without impacting the soul of the game

Monday, March 19, 2018

One more thing about UVA

Mark Titus posted this after Syracuse upset my championship pick, Michigan State:

First, as I replied, and I've said before, this style works to level the playing field. The slow, deliberate style makes an anomalous result, like UMBC beating Virginia, or Syracuse beating Michigan St., more likely.

This doesn't mean "Virginia has no chance of ever finding NCAA tourney success," but I think it does mean that they don't enter what should be a mismatch with all the advantages a team like Duke does.

But the contrast with Syracuse points out another problem.

When I was growing up, it was Jim Boeheim's Syracuse team that was a perennial tournament disappointment. They had talent like Pearl Washington, Rony Seikaly, Sherman Douglas, Billy Owens, and Stephen Thompson, but only had one deep tournament run. They lost in the first round to Richmond as a #2 seed. They were notoriously poor free throw shooters.

Now, their typical pattern is to underachieve during the regular season, and then make a run in the tournament with their gimmicky defense that teams ought to be ready for but somehow aren't.

And I wonder if a team like Virginia enters the tournament mentally tapped out. As many commentators noted, they did not blow anybody out. Yes, their games were "over" once they established an 8 point lead in the first half, but only because they could be counted on to maintain their defensive intensity. They had to grind for 40 minutes every night to achieve the record they did. And then they weren't able to kick into a higher gear for the tournament.

Syracuse jogged through the regular season and conference tournament, but then was able to dial it up in the tournament. And for teams like Villanova and Duke, half their games were over before the ball was tipped. They could coast on their superior talent. (And sometimes they couldn't, and lost to St. John's, but no biggie) Virginia didn't do that.

Now, this isn't a hard and fast rule. If you re-ran the tournament 10 more times, I'd bet on UVA reaching the Sweet 16 more times than Syracuse pretty confidently. But it explains why the tournament performances are out of sync with their regular season performance.

--

It gives me no joy to say this. I'd like to believe that hard work and discipline can win out over talent. And maybe we should celebrate Virginia's dominant regular season rather than pick apart their failures.

But for tournament success, it seems right now like having at least some overpowering talent is a clearer path to a championship than a great system.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Tentative theory on why a team like UVA was the first to lose to a 16 seed.


I would have expected the first loss to come from a team built on lottery talent like the Fab Five or Tark era UNLV or DC era Syracuse or a Coach Cal team looking past their first round opponent. (the Mourning-Mutombo Georgetown team that almost lost to Princeton as a template). 

But it was a disciplined defensive "system" team that dominated the toughest conference in the country. It may be that UVA was built to neutralize talent disadvantages against the likes of Duke, North Carolina, etc. Which is successful, but negates their advantage when they play a team like UMBC. The playing field is leveled. So teams like Duke and Villanova roll over their early round opponents on the strength of their talent, but UVA has to grind it out. And if a team like UMBC hits their shots, an upset is in play, whereas lottery pick teams can just run over them. I don't really like this, but I think it makes sense.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Not getting better....

I saw the original Tweet Ruth Marcus pitching article I discussed yesterday::
and it occurred to me that I was probably guilty of the exact behavior (though I was more criticizing a response to the article than the article itself) so I figured I'd check it out.

First, I want to note the work this tweet is doing. Effectively, it pre-empts any criticism her article might receive as uninformed shouting. That she posted this on Twitter, where over-reacting to out of context quotes and uncharitable paraphrases is the normal past time, this is somewhat rich. If people want slightly more restrictive immigration policies, they can be dismissed as racists. Those who are skeptical about whether gun control will end school shootings don't care about kids. But people should keep their cool when someone advances eugenics.

Anyway, given this pitch, I was expecting to see an argument, that might not convince me, but that I might be slightly sympathetic to.

Nope.

To give some credit, Ms. Marcus does go out of her way to validate the experience of parents of Downs Syndrome children (and, I suppose, other genetic diseases), and that she understands why they may find her position abhorrent. And I am not highlighting this to attack Ms. Marcus personally, but that the citation of this as "courageous" is a notable data point in the state of the culture. The line of thinking she outlines is a product of the sick culture we live in, just like school shootings and "President Trump."

And I am not alone. More than two-thirds of American women choose abortionin such circumstances. Isn’t that the point — or at least inherent in the point — of prenatal testing in the first place?
We have the technology. If we don't use it to kill undesirables, we're putting it to waste. Let's hope we don't apply this to nuclear weapons.

This is how she justifies her position:

I’m going to be blunt here: That was not the child I wanted. That was not the choice I would have made. You can call me selfish, or worse, but I am in good company. The evidence is clear that most women confronted with the same unhappy alternative would make the same decision.
She doesn't want it, and lots of other people agree with her.

As if this type of thinking has never before been used to justify all sorts of evil.

From there she goes on to discuss the particular Constitutionality and enforceability of laws aimed at protecting Downs Syndrome children, given Roe v. Wade, and she may well be right about that.

Think about it. Can it be that women have more constitutional freedom to choose to terminate their pregnancies on a whim than for the reason that the fetus has Down syndrome? And, to the question of enforceability, who is going to police the decision-making? Doctors are now supposed to turn in their patients — patients whom they owe confidentiality — for making a decision of which the state disapproves? 
Emphasis added by me.

Gun rights advocates are challenged to consider the impact of their absolutism in handgun violence and mass shootings. Yes, perhaps the Founders may have written the right to bear arms into the Constitution, but we know more now about how that plays out in the modern world, and should be able to make some necessary corrections.

Not so for abortion, apparently. The Court decided for abortion on demand 40 years ago. If people are using it to eliminate people with certain genetic disorders, our response can be little more than the shrug emoji.

In other words, though he didn’t put it in these exact words, the state can hijack your body.
If you're going to pitch your story with a plea against shouting, I don't think you should be allowed to put words like "hijack your body" in your adversaries mouths.

The rest is pretty much standard pro-choice rhetoric -- it's a woman's decision, in conference with her doctors. She, not government officials (this isn't the time for "government is the name we give to things we choose to do together" talk) is best positioned to make this choice. Etc.

It also is so common that it is almost not worth noting that there is no place for the father in this decision making process.


---

So, again, I do not mean to highlight as Ms. Marcus as uniquely evil. She is probably correct that most Americans share her views. Which makes the categorization of her column as "courageous" all the more ridiculous. As Mark Shea might have said before turning is blog into how much he hates Trump, it's a case of "bravely standing to face the applause."


Saturday, March 10, 2018

Gun control won't fix this....

As I have observed people generally freaking out over Trump and about school shootings, I have not joined in. I struggled to come up with exactly why, but it is encapsulated in this tweet:
This is what is celebrated in our culture today as "courageous" -- confessing that one would have killed a hypothetical defenseless baby because she had a mental disorder.

Not a sad but necessary accommodation to the difficulties that exist in the world. "Courageous."

I suppose it is somewhat sickeningly gratifying that the Planned Parenthood is  getting back to its eugenicist roots.  Never mind that they kill thousands of children a year and were founded by a racist eugenicist. They do cancer screenings, so we should #standWith them, and wouldn't it be fun if the local WNBA team had a night to support them! Who could possibly have a problem with that?

And then...


  • We have the nerve to act surprised that some people support a buffoon from reality TV for president because he fights for them.
  • We dare to act surprised that some teenagers who are produces of this culture have received the message that violence is a reasonable solution when life hands you more that you think you can handle, and act accordingly.
  • We dare to act surprised that people don't see ties to racist people and organizations as disqualifying.
  • We have the nerve to act shocked that some people value their liberty to own guns over a possible reduction in mass shootings.
--

I am not opposed to gun control. It seems that, at a minimum, it would limit the damage mass shooter can enact.

But I will not make and idol out of it. It will not solve the deep spiritual and moral sickness that has invaded our culture. I will not pretend that this will solve the deep moral sickness that celebrates the "courage" of those who would kill a Downs Syndrome baby rather than care for it.

Acknowledge this, commit to changing this as well as our gun laws, and I will gladly join you.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Stumbling blocks for me in the push for gun control

As a pro-life and socially conservative person for the past couple decades, I have seen arguments similar to what I list below successfully deployed and often win arguments over the past several years:
  • You shouldn't try to legislate morality, especially when you don't have a clear majority in place.
  • If you try to make something illegal that people really want to do, all that will accomplish is to lead those people to fulfill this desire outside of the law, likely with disastrous consequences.
  • Rather than ban some action you disapprove of, you should work to create conditions such that this will no longer be seen as an attractive or necessary choice.
  • If you do support banning something for some reason, you are morally obligated to support every issue that could plausibly be linked to that issue, or else have your movement compromised by charges of hypocrisy.
  • The moral character of leaders is not a relevant concern for voters, in particular their consensual sexual behavior.
  • It is unreasonable to expect people to curtail their personal freedoms for greater societal benefit.
  • You should look past an organization's involvement in morally reprehensible acts if they can present a plausible case that their other activities are beneficial.
  • It is simple-minded to be a "single-issue" voter. Voters should weigh "proportional reasons" rather than disqualify candidates based on their position on a single issue, no matter how reprehensible.
  • Vivid images of the barbarism of some practice are manipulative and should not be deployed for your cause.
  • Attacking organizations that are deeply implicated in a practice you oppose is a dirty, divisive tactic that should be avoided.
So. despite being disposed to believe that some gun control could at least limit the loss of life from these type of attacks, it is moderately annoying to see tactics that are considered improper when deployed against the killing of unborn children being used with no apparent consequences.

This doesn't invalidate the case for gun control. But it does represent a stumbling block for me supporting it, that I have to move past. It is possible I need to move past it anyway, but it would be helpful in doing so if some of those making these arguments acknowledged that they may have been wrong in the past about how our laws influence behavior, whether someone needs to be morally perfect themselves to support restrictive policies, and that an organization's involvement in a reprehensible practice can make it unacceptable so support.

It would also be helpful if these activists would acknowledge that gun control is addressing a symptom of a deeper spiritual sickness in our culture and not a root cause. We have had lax gun laws for years; we have not had regular school shootings until recently.  This sickness has produced a number of symptoms -- the opioid epidemic, family breakdown, the election of a reality show huckster as president. Gun control may mitigate one symptom, but leave a lot of hard work to be done, hard work that may impact people more sympathetic than the NRA.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Championship Observations

From my survey of championship teams:


  1. It appears that championships now come early in the success cycle, on a team's first deep run in the playoffs.  The old narrative where a team built up playoff experience before they were ready for a championship doesn't seem to be operable.  If you've got a young team that could make a playoff run, you may as well go all-in for a championship, since it may be your best chance. This could be bad news for teams like the Vikings and Indians that have been lingering around.
  2. Unexpected championships seem fun, but are ultimately less satisfying than ones with a solid build-up behind them. 
  3. It's hard to find a champion with a bad, or even average, coach or manager. Maybe Charlie Manuel? Coaches do seem to matter.



Monday, February 12, 2018

Championship Teams in Reverse Chronological Order

I grew up in South Jersey, went to college in St. Louis and lived there until moving to Seattle five years ago. This has given me the opportunity to root for a few championship teams, ending with the current Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles. I thought I would walk through these and consider what made them appealing or memorable, or not so much.

2017 Eagles (NFL)

Coach: Doug Pederson
Key Players: Carson Wentz (injured before playoffs), Nick Foles, Fletcher Cox, Malcom Jenkins, Zack Ertz
Championship Game: 41-33 Super Bowl victory over the defending champion New England Patriots, featuring scoring the winning touchdown with 2 minutes left, and a pass to the quarterback on 4th and goal.
Other Key Victories: Win in the divisional round over defending NFC Champion Falcons that came down to 4th down stop with less than a minute remaining. Blowout win over 13-3 Minnesota Vikings in NFC Championship Game. Week 3 win over Giants on 60+ yard FG as time expired. Blowout win over Cowboys on Sunday Night Football. Comfortable win over Redskins on Monday Night Football. Close win over Rams in game when Wentz got hurt.
Bummers: Wentz injury, followed by unimpressive win over Raiders and final week loss to Cowboys. Loss in Seattle on Sunday Night Football
Best Team?  Most likely. Their playoff road included every serious challenger, with the possible exception of the Saints.  And they won them all without their franchise quarterback.
Hunger Factor: First Super Bowl victory, first NFL championship since 1960
Championship Experience: 9.5/10   Eagles are the team I have the most visceral connection with, and this is probably true for most Philadelphia fans. Team was a joy to root for -- class guys all around, and some real solid characters like Chris Long. And a wonderful Super Bowl victory

2016 Sounders (MLS)

Coach: Midseason replacement Brian Schmetzer.
Key Players: Clint Dempsey (out with heart condition for playoffs), Nicholas Lodeiro, Jordan Morris, Chad Marshall, Ozzie Alonso, Goalkeeper Stefan Frei
Championship Match: Shootout victory over Toronto FC
Other Key Victories: No individual victories stand out, but team went on a tear after replacing Sigi Schmid with Schmetzer and acquiring Lodeiro
Bummers: Dempsey medical condition, Slow start resulting in Schmid's departure
Best Team? Probably not. Toronto outplayed them in final match, but couldn't get a goal and lost on penalty kicks. Toronto soundly beat them the next year. Few are convinced that MLS Cup playoff system successfully identifies best team.
Hunger Factor: First MLS Cup for Sounders, but team was only in MLS for a few years. In MLS almost equal weight is given to Supporters Shield for regular season record. Plus, team should be good given its revenue advantages
Championship Experience: 6/10 Winning on penalty kicks is dramatic, but it's manufactured drama from necessity. Team can be hard to root for at times.

2016 Villanova (NCAA)

Coach: Jay Wright
Key Players: Phil Booth, Ryan Arcidiacono, Jalen Brunson, Kris Jenkins, Daniel Ochefu, Josh Hart
Championship Game: Defeated North Carolina on a buzzer beater 3 pointer by Jenkins after the Tar Heels had tied it with a miraculous shot.
Other Key Victories: Blowout victory over Oklahoma in the Final Four. Close Elite Eight Victory over Kansas
Bummers: Midseason loss to Virginia, Big East Tournament Final Loss to Seton Hall
Best Team? Who's to say. As entertaining as the NCAA tournament is, I'm not certain it is an effective means of finding the best team. The KU and UNC games could have gone either way.
Hunger Factor: First NCAA victory for Villanova since 1985, and coincidentally the first win for a non-Duke private school in that time.
Championship Experience:  7/10 Time and distance makes my personal connection to this team a bit tenuous, though I know some alums. It is interesting how Villanova has found success by zagging while others zig in the one-and-done era .

Wow, I've cheered for 3 champions in the past 2 years. This must be what it was like to be a Boston sports fan in the 2000's.

2014 Seahawks

Coach: Pete Carroll
Key Players: Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, Marshawn Lynch, Doug Baldwin, Earl Thomas, Cam Chancellor, Michael Bennett, Percy Harvin
Championship Game: Blew out Peyton Manning and the Broncos in the Super Bowl
Other Key Victories: Defeated 49ers in NFC Championship Game on Richard Sherman's tip to an INT to stop the final 49ers drive.
Bummers: Sometimes the jawing from the defense made this team not so much fun to root for. 
Best Team?  Almost definitely. Indeed, it is disappointing that this team's window appears to be closing with only one title.
Hunger Factor: First Super Bowl Title, first title for city since 1979 SuperSonics. Bitter over officiating errors in only other Super Bowl appearance.
Championship Experience: 9/10. It was my first full year out here, and enjoyed the ride.

2011 Cardinals

Manager: Tony LaRussa
Key Players: Albert Pujols, Chris Carpenter, Lance Berkman, Yadier Molina, David Freese
Championship Series:  Won World Series over Rangers in 7 games, after facing elimination multiple times in Game 6, one of the most memorable games in history. 
Other Key Victories:  Defeated heavily favored Phillies in divisional round, with Carpenter winning a 1-0 game over Roy Halladay in Game 5. Overcame double digit game deficit to claim wild card spot.
Bummers: Ace pitcher Adam Wainwright missed the year and playoff run with a shoulder injury. La Russa's  over-managing could get annoying. Pujols left for the Angels as a free agent after the year.
Best Team? Probably not. Carpenter was their only reliable starter.  Under the current rules, where the wild card team has to win a play-in game, this would have likely proved to be a fatal flaw, since they wold have had to burn Carpenter there. That Phillies team was stacked.
Hunger Factor: Had won in 2006, so not terribly high.
Championship Experience: 8.5/10 Probably darkened by one of the postseason victories coming against my original favorite team. Miraculous run, clutch performances, still a sense it was a bit unearned.

2008 Phillies

Manager: Charlie Manuel
Key Players: Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, Jamie Moyer, Brad Lidge
Championship Series: Five game WS win over Rays in a rain-interrupted fifth game.
Other Key Victories: NLCS win over Dodgers won with key HRs by Matt Stairs and Shane Victorino.
Bummers: The rain-interrupted clincher was a bit of a downer, as well as the underwhelming opponent.
Best Team? Yeah, most likely.  Another team where it's kind of disappointing they only won one. title. Steadily dropped out of contention one step per year.
Hunger Factor: First title since 1980, first pro title for city since 1983 Sixers
Championship Experience: 9/10 The World Series was less than captivating.

2006 Cardinals

Manager: Tony LaRussa
Key Players: Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen, Chris Carpenter, Jeff Suppan, Adam Wainwright, David Eckstein
Championship Series: Five game WS win over Tigers, in a Series the Tigers lost at least as much as the Cardinals won.
Other Key Victories: Seven game NLCS win over the Mets, capped by 7th game with Endy Chavez's catch off Scott Rolen's drive, Yadier Molina's HR, and Wainright's series-ending strikeout of Carlos Beltran. 3-2 victory on next to last day of season over Brewers to clinch on Scott Spezio's 8th inning triple.
Bummers: 83-78 regular season record, team dysfunction populated by La Russa and Rolen not speaking to each other in postseason, David Eckstein winning WS MVP and bringing out the worst in stat head vs. traditionalist debates, ads for embryo killing.
Best Team? I sure hope not.
Hunger Factor: First title since 1982. Previous two (vastly superior) teams came up short.
Championship Experience: 3/10. I'm sure my contempt for this team is leaking through. I hated this team. They very nearly blew a huge lead down the stretch.  This team was the living embodiment of the Cardinals "we're in the NL Central; all we have to do is win 85 games, then the playoffs are a crapshoot" approach. And it worked this time.

1999 Rams

Coach: Dick Vermeil
Key Players: Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce, Az-zahir Hakim, London Fletcher, Kevin Carter, Todd Lyght
Championship Game: Defeated the Tennessee Titans in the Super Bowl on Warner's 80 yard TD pass to Isaac Bruce with 2 minutes left and Mike Jones's tackle of Kevin Dyson at the 1 yard line on the final play of the game.
Other Key Victories: Defeated Bucs in NFC Championship game on late TD pass to Ricky Proehl. Steamrolling almost every other team in the schedule.
Bummers: Trent Green's preseason injury that cleared the way for Warner's magical season. Otherwise, pretty much a dream season.
Best Team? Almost definitely.  Another one that should have won more titles.
Hunger Factor: First Super Bowl for Rams. But had just gotten to town in 1995.
Championship Experience: 9/10. This was pretty much the ideal. The team came from nowhere, was ridiculously entertaining (Marshall Faulk remains my favorite athlete I have rooted for), and had an unbelievable story in Kurt Warner. Only demerit was their recent arrival in town and thus lack of attachment to the city. Not really a long-suffering fan base. But that wold change.

1985 Villanova

Coach: Rollie Massimino
Key Players: Ed Pikckney, Dwayne McClain, Gary McLain
Championship Game: Defeated Georgetown led by Patrick Ewing in one of the greatest upset wins ever.
Other Key Victories: The UNC "pasta" game.
Bummers:  None, really. Although history has not been kind to the members of this team, including Gary McLain's SI cover story of his drug activities.
Best Team? Eh, probably not.
Hunger Factor: Nobody expected them to win until the clock showed zeroes in the final game, so probably not much.
Championship Experience: 8/10. The completely unexpected upset nature is fun, but there's not much build-up, and everyone kind of knew it was a fluke. 

1983 76ers

Coach: Billy Cunningham
Key players: Moses Malone, Julius Erving, Maurice Cheeks, Andrew Toney, Bobby Jones
Championship Series: Swept the Lakers in the Finals
Other Key Victories: None stand out, other than the Sixers falling one loss short of Moses's Fo-Fo-Fo prediction.
Bummers: Harold Katz essentially bought the championship by signing Moses to a contract the Rockets couldn't match, and then pulling a heist of a trade. The Lakers suffered a number of injuries before the Finals, and were a shell of themselves.
Best Team? Almost definitely.
Hunger Factor: Last title was 1967. But Sixers had lost in the finals in 1977, 1980, and 1981, so there was some urgency to win this one.
Championship Experiences: 7/10 They were supposed to win, and again, probably should have done more with the talent at hand.

1980 Phillies

Manager: Dallas Green
Key Players: Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Tug McGraw, Pete Rose
Championship Series: Defeated the Royals in 6
Other Key Victories: Won the NLCS despite being behind in the late innings in Houston against Nolan Ryan
Bummers: None that I recall, though I was five at the time. The fans' relationship with Schmidt was always a tad odd.
Best Team? Maybe. Royals fans believe this was their best team. Series were close enough that they could have gone either way. This series of teams was good enough to win a championship.
Hunger Factor: First World Series win in team history, dating back to beginning of National League. This team in particular had lost the NLCS in 1976, 1977, and 1978. So they were ready.
Championship Experience: 7/10? I was five at the time, so don't remember all that well.

Friday, December 29, 2017

The Greenies Defense....

I'm in a bit of a nasty mood with a laptop in front of me, so I'm going to channel it into something (relatively) harmless, the argument about whether known or strongly suspected PED users should be admitted to the Hall of Fame. Even if I will be largely repeating myself.

One of the most popular arguments for inclusion is something like this, posted shortly after Joe Morgan sent his letter opposing the induction of PED users:
Olney is referring to the widespread stories of players in the 1960s taking "greenies," or amphetamines to improve their performance.

This fails for a number of reasons.

  1. The use of greenies was much cloudier than the use of PEDs in the 1990s was. It is so even today. There was not a Congressional investigation. Nobody thinks that they fundamentally altered the game or how it was played. Nobody is seriously asserting that any players' achievements were greatly inflated by the use of greenies. This is a distinction adults should be able to make. This is an actual case of "false equivalence."  
  2. But, ok, let's accept the equivalence. Maybe the election of greenies users was a mistake, somewhere between innocent ignorance of what these players did, or willful avoidance of the truth. Does that mean we must repeat that mistake? If I get pulled over for speeding, and there's an unsolved crime, can I get out of the ticket on that basis?  We've elected slaveholders president; does that mean it can't be disqualifying now?
    This seems to be arguing that we can't possibly learn and be better than we were in the past. No, thanks. I certainly hope that our election of Donald Trump means that we can never again hold presidential candidates to high moral standards.

The only you get there is by (deliberately) misstating the position of the exclusionists --that they want a "pure" Hall of Fame, free from anyone who ever did anything wrong, and since it already includes various varieties of scoundrels, this is an absurd argument on its face.

But that is not the argument. Whom an institution chooses to honor is a serious decision about what that organization values. Things that might disqualify from one organization might not be disqualifying for others.

Joe Morgan has advanced the argument that for the Hall of Fame, using PEDs should be disqualifying.  He thinks the Hall exists for those who have worked hard to achieve a set of accomplishments, not those who took shortcuts. He may be wrong about that, and I myself probably have a softer stance.

But given what he has invested in both baseball and the Hall of Fame, he deserves a better answer than "but players in the 1960s used greenies!"

Saturday, September 23, 2017

My Hierarchy Of Anger

I am angry.

I am angry that we have a president who might be bungling us into war, isn't leading us as various parts of our country are devastated by hurricanes, and stokes resentment trying to get private companies to fire people for political activism.*

There is no shortage of targets for my anger. Here's the rough descending order of how worthy I think they are.


  1. Trump himself.
    Yes, his behavior in office has been pretty much the same as his behavior before he took office, which didn't stop him from getting elected. Nevertheless, it would be nice if he retained enough respect for the office he holds and the people he leads to use it for better purposes than picking fights with those who slight him. That he hasn't is a profound failure of character. An unsurprising failure, but a failure nonetheless.
  2. Trump's Supporters
    And here, I don't mean people who were economically devastated and who supported Trump in a misguided way.

    I'm talking about people who should have known better who wrote articles like this arguing that we had to support Trump if we wanted conservative principles to survive.

    Trump will poison any cause he is remotely associated with. He will make it impossible to advocate for them for a generation to anyone who remembers him. Nobody can ever take someone who would support such a figure seriously, in particular on matters of integrity.

    To pick one example, some supported Trump because he would confront the "PC culture." And I agree this is a problem in some quarters. But when your remedy is to support someone who as president, pressured for specific people to be fired by private companies for political activism,  you have lost all credibility on this issue.
  3. Democrats
    They could have beat him. They could have positioned themselves to make themselves acceptable to those who couldn't stand Trump. They chose not to do so.

    I didn't blame them at the time, since I figured they would win anyway.

    But they should have known better than me, both about what a disaster Trump would be, and the possibility of him winning.

    But they stuck to the script. The nominated a a candidate many of us couldn't stand and who considered herself entitled to the presidency, dismissed all concerns about her as sexism, and continued to stake out extreme cultural positions, and calling anyone who disagreed bigots. They were content to trade articles about how much smarter they were than others instead of actually helping people.

    And then, they couldn't beat this doofus. And they're continuing to whine about press coverage, James Comey, Russian interference, and sexism to avoid taking a hard look at themselves in the mirror and figuring out how to win.
  4. Republicans
    For generations, they've benefited from a core base of racism that they took votes from rather than confront. And then they accepted the support for an outside chance of winning the White House. And now they are using what power they have to try to take away people's health care.

    Our current choice of parties: the party that nominated Trump and the party that couldn't beat him.
  5. The Culture
    It is true that Trump has ratcheted up the coarseness of our culture several notches.

    It's also true that this didn't come from nowhere. That he is the endpoint of a cultural degradation that has been going on for some time. Look at the titles of TV shows. Look at who we celebrate and pay attention to. Look at what we share and read.

    Yes, criticize Trump for is crassness and vulgarity. But also ask yourself what contributions you have made to get us to where this is a possibility.
I'm sure there's some I've missed.

Of course, getting angry is the easy part. Channeling that anger into productive action is more difficult.