Monday, April 29, 2002

From Cardinal Bevilacqua's statements:

There's a difference between a heterosexual candidate, what his choice of celibacy is, and that of a homosexual celibate. When a heterosexual celibate chooses to become a celibate in the priesthood, he's taking on a good - that is, his own desire to become a priest - and he's giving up a very good thing, and that is a family and children that could follow. That would not be true of a homosexually oriented candidate. He may be choosing the good, but... he's giving up what the church considers an aberration, a moral evil.

Rod Dreher sees this as a sign that Cardinal Bevilacaqua "gets it." I tend to disagree.

First of all, I was taught (and I've been teaching) that there are three vocations -- the clerical religious life, marriage, and the dedicated single life. All are equal in grace, and no one is preferred over the other.

Bevilacqua's comments run against that -- he's saying the the married family life is where all the "good" stuff is, so a heterosexual's vocation is more authentic, since it entails giving up this "good" stuff.

But that's not the only alternative -- there;s also the dedicated single life, which is also open to gays (and, apparently some would have that be the only vocation open to gays). Isn't it possible that a deveout gay Catholic would be giving up this dedicated single life for a life in the priesthood? And don't we believe that this dedicated single life is "a good thing?"

What I think is most telling about these comments is the absolute lack of compassion for gay Catholics. In fact, the Bevilacqua seems to be saying to them that they are doomed to pursue "an aberration, a moral evil."

The Church really needs to honestly and compassionately deal with the reality of gays in the Church. They're not going away, and we've begun to accept them. But we continue to send these signals that we're not so happy they're here.

I'm sot sure what this will look like -- I'm still unsure about gay "marriage", but I'm pretty darn sure it doesn't look like referring to the life of a gar Catholic as "and abberration, a moral evil."

Last, week I took issue with a Slate headline that said that the Church was trying to excuse its own behavior by blaming gays. Tony Andragna (who has some great thoughts on these issues at QuasiPundit) disagreed with me, and said that some clerics are indeed blaming gays. I'm beginning to think we was right.

Wednesday, April 24, 2002

Of course, Ramesh Ponnuru had to go and criticize Krauthammer's anti-cloning arguments, allowing Glenn Reyonolds to slap Krauthmmer's good arguments away by referring to Ponnuru's article. Then, Reynolds dismissed Ponnuru's argument since it relies on religious beliefs. Talk about killing two birds with one stone! Not only does Reynolds get off without really engaging Krathammer's arguments, but he gets to paint the entire anti-cloning movement as based on religious beliefs that we can't expect everyone to share.

I think that anti-cloners have to realize that arguing from the personhood of embryos is a losing argument in today's culture. It opens us up to reductio ad absurdum arguments, and it's not what we believe in practice. We're not willing to take heroic actions to save a balstocyst from spontaneous abortions like we would to save a child or adult from death. We simply aren't. The public isn't buying th "blastocysts have all the rights of humans" argument.

Arguments like Krauthmmer's have a better chance of gaining traction in American culture. Yes, it's a little more difficult, but it's closer to the truth. Just because a blastocyst doesn't have all the rights of adults doesn't mean it doesn't have any rights at all, most notably the right not to be killed.

Ponnuru furthers the notion that anti-cloners are moral simpletons guided by religious zealotry. I think we can have a more honest dialogue if we stop pretending that we regard blastocysts as equivalent to children and adults. And we stop criticizing sound arguments like Krauthammer's just because they don't come from the same view of when a person gains all the rights of personhood.

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

For several years now, baseball sabermetricians (like those at Baseball Prospectus)have been advancing the notion that on base percentage(OBP) is the most important offensive statistic both for teams and for players. It is significantly more important than over-valued statistics like batting average, RBI, and stolen bases. The second most important statistic is slugging percentage (total bases divided by at bats -- a home run is four total bases, a triple three, etc.). The sabermetricians combined those statistics into one -- OPS (On-base Plus Slugging) to create a crude short-hand for a hitter's effectiveness.

They're right, of course. The Oakland A's built their team around these principles, and have managed to be moderately successful despite low revenue.

The problem? Building a team around these metrics results in an extraordinarily boring brand of baseball. These metrics emphasize two activities -- walks and home runs. So what you have is a a bunch of hulking sluggers standing at the plate looking for the perfect pitch that they can drive into the bleachers. If they don't get it, they're happy to take their walk and trot over to first base. Since the umpires don't want to call the high strike, pitchers end up trying to nibble the corners for a perfect pitch, often resulting in deep counts. Even certified saber-metrician Rob Neyer has admitted the A's aren't fun to watch. And it's going to get worse -- as more teams imitate the A's path to success.

But it's worse than that. These ptichers nibbling the plate work up high pitch counts. As the sabermetricians are fond of pointing out, it's a not a good idea to let pitchers rack up high pitch counts. So, we get a lot of four, five, and six run outings from even the best pitchers. Baseball fans end up seeing a lot less of Matt Morris, Kerry Wood, Pedro Martinez, and Bartolo Colon, and a lot more of Luther Hackman, Paul Assemacher, Dennis Cook, and Jason Christiansen. These gentlemen are good at what they do, and have a right to make a living, but most fans aren't showing up at the ballparks to watch middle relievers toil.

Then the sabermetricians wonder why team carry 12 man pitching staffs -- it's a direct result of teams following the advice of these same sabermetricians (along with admittedly, some irrational pitching changes for platoon advantage).

What can be done about it? Efforts to get the umpires to call the high strike have been unsuccessful.

Here's hoping the next wave of innovation in baseball strategy results in a more exciting, rather than less exciting game.

Monday, April 22, 2002

How's this for a disturbing search engine hit?
Glenn Reynolds ate at McDonald's twice thise weekend to counter the anti-globo demonstrations.

I did, too, but I'll admit it wasn't meant as a political statement. I even bought a J.D. Drew bobblehead. I usually only visit the Golden Arches once a month or so, so maybe there was something moving in my subconscience,

Friday, April 19, 2002

Charles Krauthammer makes some great arguments against cloning. I especially liked his answer to those who support "theraputic" cloning, but oppose "reproductive" cloning, and insist one won't lead to the other:

A law banning reproductive cloning but permitting research cloning would then make it a crime not to destroy that fetus--an obvious moral absurdity.

I also liked Krauthammer's echoing of my contention that you can say that embryos ought not be killed without asserting that they have all the same rights as children and adults. The pro-cloners have no time for this moral complexity, yet they continue to accues the pro-cloners of being the moral simpletons.

Im not sure I agree with all of Krauthammmer's "Brave New World" predictions, but I do think they cannot be dismissed without some thought.

Makes you wonder if Gelnn Reynolds will continue to assert that nobody's made a serious case against cloning.

Thursday, April 18, 2002

Another favorite insult hurled at those who oppose embryonic research is that we're moral simpletons who lack the capacity for nuance and moral complexity to tell the difference between an adult and a "cluster of cells."

Then, in the next breath, they'll say that the anti-cloners are the truly immoral ones, since we would "kill" all these people with terrible diseases for this principle. Some have gone so far as to call us murderers.

Now, who's being morally simplistic? Are you telling me that you make no moral distinction between actively killing someone and failing to perform research that has the possibility of curing her disease.

Note to the pro-embryonic researchers -- The diseases are killing these people, not pro-life activists. And, as I've mentioned before, we don't "hold the moral status of cells above the moral status of human beings." (scroll down to "Bush on Biotech"). Nobody is arguing that we kill children and adults to cure spontaneous abortions, which we would if we had the strawman moral perspective the pro-researchers assign to us.

It's interesting that many of the bloggers who make this point are the same ones who convincingly and correctly argued that there is a moral distinction between targeting civilians and accidentally killing them while pursuing military objectives. Why could they see this moral distinction, but are blind to the the distinction between killing someone and failing to perform research that has a chance of curing someone with a disease.
Over at NRO's Corner they've been discussing the inadequacy of the term "homicide bomber", as I had argued earlier.

Wednesday, April 17, 2002

Contrary to what Virginia Postrel would have you believe not all opposition to cloning comes from hicks who are afraid of research.

Bryan Preston points out a great post from Eve Tushnet answering some points from the pro-cloners.

You'll notice that Postrel will link anybody who makes a case for cloning, but nobody who offers an opposing point of view. You'll also notice that Preston, Tushnet, and I link liberally to pro-cloners arguments. So what if Ramesh Ponnuru failed to link to you? Postrel wants to create the impression that all reasonable people oppose a cloning ban. Linking to others whom make lucid arguments for a ban among other reasonable posts would be counter-productive to this goal.

While I'm at Postrel's site, I also don't buy her argument against permanent post links. Why should I have to jump through hoops and look at the source code for her site to get the anchor for each of her posts? You know what? I just won't bother at all. And BTW, my perma-links work fine, since I fixed them. Postrel also admits that anchor links won't work once a post is archived.

I understand that it's probably harder to make them work on a home-spun site than on Blogger, but she can just say that and not try to sell us this anchor link snake oil. It is not a superior solution, and it's unreasonable to expect would-be linkers to do this.

In fact, to use Postrel's words, I would say that making people use anchor links from your site's source is quite "stasist," while providing permanent post links is "dynamist."

Tuesday, April 16, 2002

In response to the hubbub over CAIR's poll on Sharon. I created my own poll over on the QuasiPundit Forum with the same question. I promise I won't take it down if I don't like the results.

Vote early and vote often!
There's been a lot of complaints that this term is deceiving, and that attacks that have been referred to by this term should rightly be called "homicide bombings," since the goal of the attack is to kill others rather than the attackers.

I disagree -- almost all successful bombings are homicide bombings. Oklahoma City was a homicde bombing. The word "homicide" doesn't add all that much to the meaning of the term.

In these attacks, the attackerr kills himself in the course of the attack which is somewhat different (though not morally distinguishable) from other bombings. And I can't think of a more economical way of saying that than "suicide bombings."

Of course on problem with this is it puts the cart before the horse. The first word is suicide, when the attacker's death is just a side effect of this method of attack. Still, as a consumer of news, this is something I want to know, and this information does help us reflect on the morality of the attacks (e.g. are they brave martyrs fighting for a cause or brainwashed children sent to their deaths by uncaring leaders?)

Believe me I was as disgusted as anyone when the news started referring to the terrorist hijacking of planes and flying them into buldings with the gntle "events of September 11th". But I can't get too excited about "suicide bombings." The term is informative, and not euphemistic. Until someone can come up with a short term that conveys the same information, I see no reason to change it. Especially when the alternative is the redundant "homicide bombings."

Monday, April 15, 2002

Glenn Reynolds and Virginia Postrel are touting the fact that "40 Nobel Laureates" signed a petition opposing the cloning ban.

Hmmm... didn't 103 of these fols just sign a petition endorsing a leftist global agenda? And didn't this include "holders real Nobel Prizes, not mere holders of the discredited Peace Prize?" And didn't InstaPundit link approvingly to P.J. O'Rourke's takedown of this petition, linked above?

I guarantee you that if anti-cloners had a similar petition supporting the ban signed by just as many or more Nobel Laureates, Reynolds and Postrel would be out talking about how it doesn't mean anything, Nobel Prizes are a joke, and nobody cares what a, say, literature prize winner says about science, anyway.

But since the Nobels are on their side, Postrel and Reynolds think it means something. Sheesh..

Friday, April 12, 2002

One of the favorite insults hurled at anti-cloners is that we're "luddites", flat-earthers who want to see people suffer and avoid all progress. But it's the pro-cloners who are trying to move us against the tide of history.

Even a cursory look at history will show that society has been moving towards greater inclusion of people who have rights. When this country was founded only white male land owners had any rights at all. Over the last 225 years, all those requirements have been dropped, and the rights of citzenship have been extended to all.

Now, those favor of embryonic research want us convince us that embryos don't qualify for rights because they're tiny and microscopic and lack whatever best serves their cause (a beating heart, sex organs, a central nervous system -- you see all these trotted out depending on where the author is trying to draw the lone). In fact they don't even have the most basic right of all -- the right not to be killed. So, it's OK to create and destroy then, and coerce them into whatever behavior we see fit, so long as it benefits us who have rights.

Has this type of thinking ever produced good? I raised this question once, and the response I got back was meat-eating. Hmmm -- do we need any more proof that this research is dehumanizing, since its advocates are citing meat eating as moral justification? Aren't embryos closer to the "himan life" end of the continuum than animals?

Maybe somebody needs to ask the pro-cloners why they want to turn back the clock -- why do they wish to deny rights to embryos, when the historical trend is to expand rights.

From Charles Murtaugh's open letter opposing a cloning ban:

In a country in which abortion is legal, and in which human ES cell research is widely supported, it seems ridiculous to deem cloned early embryos, which cannot develop outside the womb into anything more complex than a ball of cells, worthy of special legal protection. I hold this view in spite of the fact that I am not at all comfortable with our country's lax view on abortions, precisely because abortions are performed at much later and more complex stages of embryonic life. People who would conflate the destruction of a fetus with the destruction of a blastocyst-stage embryo are knowingly distorting the facts.

More importantly, those who consider an open door to embryo cloning as an invitation to cloned babies are neglecting the scientific facts.

Murtagh goes on to relate how difficult it would be for would-be reproductive cloners to hide their practice, since ther would be so many miscarriages.

But I don't really care about that. I care about Murtagh's reasoning -- since abortion and embryonic research are deemed OK, why not embryonic cloning? Ok, let's say the "thereaputic cloning" bogs down, and scientists decide that only reproductive cloning would generate the organs needed to deliver the cures promised. Is it not apparent that this reasoning could be used again to support this practice? We'd be asked: Is this distinction worth a young girl's life? We'd get another round of testimony from sick celebrities, and we'd cave in yet again. And the assault on preborn life would continue.

From a "right to life" persepctive, theraputic cloning is actually more troubling than reproductive cloning, since the "clone" is always destroyed. But we're fooling ourselves if we don't think we're opening the door to further abuses.
Of course, that won't stop pro-cloning bloggers like Virginia Postrel, Rand Simberg, and Glenn Reynolds from trotting out this strawman and smashing it by pointing out that embryos are just a "tiny cluster of cells," while in the same breath decrying objections to cloning as "based on aesthetics."

The only right we think embryos have is the right not to be killed. This is the most basic and fundamental right, on which all others are based. And I think their right not to be killed takes precedence over adults' "right" to live free of disease, even if they're cuddly celebrities like Chirstopher Reeve or Michael J. Fox or Michael Kinsley. And I don't see why this position is so "immoral" as the pro-cloners would say.

Wednesday, April 10, 2002

point to the lack of recent bombings as evidence that the occupation is working. Now that there has been a bombing, some are pointing to it as evidence that the occupation must continue. Are there any circumstances that would not be evidence for occupation?

Tuesday, April 09, 2002

Jim Caple lays out some of sports' unwritten rules. It's a fun piece, though I have to say I preferred Rick Reilly's treatment of the subject a few years ago.

Only problem is, his first example, Pedro Marinez fraternizing with the opposition, is acutally a written rule.

Rule 3.09
Players in uniform shall not address or mingle with spectators, nor sit in the stands before, during, or after a game. No manager, coach or player shall address any spectator before or during a game. Players of opposing teams shall not fraternize at any time while in uniform.

Emphasis mine. Anyway, the rule isn't often enforced, but it is an actual writtern rule, not an "unwritten rule."

Ann a Quindelen says it's OK that boys aren't include in Take Our Daughters To Work Day, since that will teach them a lesson on what it feels like to be excluded.

If this is such a valuable lesson, and women are no longer being excluded in theworkplace (as Quindlen admits), then why should girls be denied this valuable "lesson." Seems to me like it would be more important for girls to learn this, so that they will never again allow themselves to be excluded from the workplace.

But Quindlen's not really interested in teaching valuable lessons -- she's interested in revenge, and the targets are today's young boys.

Monday, April 08, 2002

is referring to the current Church's scandal as "pedophilia" rather than "pederasty."

But if Dreher wants to look for someone to blame, maybe he should start in the mirror. When Dreher first wrote about this uncovering Cardinal Law's cover-up of Fr. Geoghan's abuses, he banged the pedohpilia drum. First sentence: "The Catholic Church in America has a pedophilia crisis" Towards the end of the article he expresses concern about trusting his children to the Church's care.

It seems to me a bit unfair for Dreher to have drummed up outrage with concerns about pedophilia, and now to be slapping anyone on the wrist who refer's the Church's "pedophila scandal" just because he's got an agenda against gay priests.
Michael Wolvertron raises a lone voice against a ban for body armor for batters. He says it will increase injuries.

This should be easy to check, since body armor is a relatively recent innovation. And it's the type of research Baseball Prospectus is good at. If arm injuries due to HBP have decreased in recent years (or the injuries per HBP, since HBP have been on the rise), then that presents a good safety case for body armor.

But Wolverton dosn't provide any evidence, even anecdotal. He just speculates that injuries would increase. I'm unconvinced.
DOIN' THE TAXES (There's a larger point in here, I promise!)
This was a ten hour ordeal thanks in part to my stupidity, but also thanks in large part to Turbo Tax working against me.

Our taxes should not be complicated. Since we don't own a home the only real complications should be that we have student loan interest (which we couldn't take a deduction for because our combined income is too high), and that my wife works in Illinois while working in Missourri.

The latter of these complications precluded me from using Turbo Tax's web interface, since that only allows you to file one state return. So off to the store I went to pick up the CD-ROM version.

Brought that home, and to Intuit's credit, I was able to load my web work on to it without much difficulty.

I completed the Illinois return for my wife, and then when I tried to take credit for the Illinois taxes on our Missouri return, it assigned the Illinois income to me , not my wife, since being the narcissist I am, I listed myself first on the tax return.

So, I went back and swtiched our names, SSN's and occupations, but when I finished it told me I had to re-enter our W-2 data, since her W2's wers associated with me and vice versa.

Completed all that, and found that I still had to mail in the Illinois return, since TurboTax only sends in one return. Plus, I had to send in three separate forms to get the rebates I was entitled to by Turbo Tax's efforts to price discriminate between cheapo customers like me who will bother fill out the forms, and others who won't (which should be a profitable strategy, since TurboTax's market is people who don't like filling out forms).

My point? As a software engineer, it really bugs me that a software product makes a task more, rather than less, difficult. All the snags I hit above were directly attributable to the fact that I was using the software for this rather than doing it by hand. If I was doing it by hand, it wouldn't matter how many state forms I filled out, or who I entered first on the forms, I could make it all work out. The software got in my way -- I knew what I wanted to do; the software wouldn't let me.

What does this mean? I guess it means that if your softwaremakes doing a task more difficult, or people using your software can't do things they normally can do without it, you're doing something wrong, and will likely lose customers.
Andrew Sullivan points to this NYT stroy about the Irish Church as a cautionary tale about what will happen in America. He titles it "How Churches Die" and warns that "It will happen here."

Except it's already happened here. Sullivan drastically overstates the article's conclusions about the Church. Yes, it has declined in prominence from near perfect attendance at Sunday Mass to prett much how things are here -- many still devout Catholics, some "every now and then Catholics" and many lapsed Catholics. The Irish Church is certainly nor "dead" or "collapsed." It faces new challenges, just like the American Church does.

I also take issue with the article and Sullivan's assertion that the hierarchy demands that people simply accept whatever the Church tells them without questioning. This is far from the truth -- the Church publishes solid theological and moral reasons for its doctrines. I would accept critics who attack those reasons. But all too often, critics don't even look into them. They see that they disagre with the secular culture, and just call the Church "out of touch."

I think critics like Sullivan aren't exposed to the many devout Catholics who see the great wisdom in the Church's teachings. They don't see the many people who realize that by serving the Church, we're not just serving the current hierarchy; we're serving Jesus, we're serving each other; we're serving all the Catolics who have come before us and all who will come after. That doesn't change because some priests are involved in sex scandals or the secual doctrines run counter to the prevailing culture.

I'm not saying the Church doesn't need to make some adjustements to modern culture, especially in its treatment of gays and women. It has always been this way -- the Church is a living body that must speak to the people of its time. But I don't think the Church is currently so out of step with its people that American Catholics "will have to move toward some kind of schism."

Friday, April 05, 2002

I see this a lot when I see people point to Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount as the great escalating act of this confilict. People say, "Oh, he had to know that this would enrage the extremist elements of Palestine." And yes, we probably should have known that, and yes, it probably was unwise.

But there's a a subtle bigotry in this argument, too. Why couldn'y the Palestinians have recognized this as a crass polticial act rather than a provocation? Isn't the Temple Mount a place of religious significance to Jews as well? Isn't it more provocative to ban Jews from visting it than for a Jews to flaunt this ban?

I know, I know, I don't understand how significant the Mount is to the Muslim religion. If I did, then I would know how provacative this is. Porbably true. But I know that one party is hiding and the other part is shooting in the Church of the Holy Nativity right now, a place very holy to Christians, and I don't see Christians planning terrorist attacks on Jewish or Palestinian civilians.

Welch is right -- we do Palestians no favor by holding them to lower standards than we do the rest of the world.
about responsibility in the Middle East.

There's a subtle racism in the belief that terrorist are acting out of desperation, and have no other choice. This is my primary beef with most of what Robert Wright has put out since 9/11. The US and Isreali policies can be controlled; the response of Isalmic fanatics to it is purely reflexive.

But doesn't the US have it's own fanatics? Yes, but we capture them, arrest them, and punish them severely. Regular readers know I'm no fan of the death penalty, but I think it says something very good about our country that we punish people who commit atrocities like this in the name of "patriotism" with the most severe punishment available to us.

Wright has another point that I agree with though, which is the other side of this coin -- treating developing nations as adults should also include inviting them into prosperity with free and open trade rather than foreign aid. Treating these countries with dignity demands it.
Eric Alterman writes in that he doesn't dislike blogs, just Andrew Sullivan's.

If that's the case, I have a simple solution for him -- don't visit And if it's the day-in-the-life personal stuff he doesn't care for, he can visit the site and skip those posts. Nobody's standing behind him with a hot poker making him visit As far as I know, it's not the default home page for any Web browser.

I think what really rankles Alterman is that not reading Sullivan isn't an option, because so many other people do. A lot of people agree with a lot of what Sullivan says, and enjoy the personal anecdotes. And they're reading Sullivan's website instead of Alterman's great columns, such as his categorization of pundits on their Mid-East biases. Because of bloggers like Sullivan, Alterman may have to actually get off his butt and write something creative, rather than mailing something like this in. And he doesn't like it.

Here's the key quote:
A worthwhile, in my view, blog is one that sticks to topics that are likely to be of interest to significant numbers of people and treats them intelligently and (relatively) responsibly.

Again, if you don't find a blog worthwhile, don't visit it. If isn't worthwhile, the why is it worth publishing a screed about how un-worthwhile it is, while working in some personal attacks against the writer? Seems like it would be simpler just to vote with one's feet. Is column space in The Nation that cheap that it's worth wasting on running down an un-worthwhile web log?

Alterman seems to be saying that he doesn't mind blogs, provided the play by the same rules as print journalism. Sorry, this is a new media, and the rules are different. Whining about it won't change it.

Thursday, April 04, 2002

Thanks to blogger for enhancing the Archive interface.

Now you and I can look back at my NFL Playoff Predections, my feeble attempt at a daily feature, and my very first post, among other things.

Have fun!
on Catolicism you probably won't see covered in the nightly news.

Those with agendas, both on the left and right, seem to be reporting this story with breathlessness. They see it as validating their agendas. It's not that simple, though.

Tuesday, April 02, 2002

I guess Frank Beam would say I'm smart enough not to post everyday.
I think it was a stunt to create traffic on the Globe's website. You'll note the prominent ad in the middle of the article. Why else would Beam have e-mailed all the prominent bloggers telling them what he was going to do?

The reaction was predictable. All the bloggers linked to the articled and took it down, probably reulting in record hits for the Globe. (it's #6 on Blogdex).

My prediction -- you'll see a lot more of the hit-and-run pieces on blogs in the next few weeks.

Monday, April 01, 2002

I was intrigued by this post that AOL had acquired the rights to InstaPundit and others. Then I noted the date...