Tuesday, December 20, 2005

CORRECTION TO BELOW
I do recall one team that was bult using a highly drafted running back. The team was the early 90's Cowboys, the running back was Herschel Walker, and the Cowboys build up their team by trading him away.

Monday, December 19, 2005

TALES FROM RETAIL
Like others I know, I'm doing some retail work during this holdiay season, inspiring the following quiz:

You receive an e-mail coupon entitling you to 30% off a single item. The coupon clearly states that a single customer may use one coupon per day. You have ten items to purchase from this store. Do you...

A. Print off one copy of the coupon, let it be applied to your most expensive item, and move on wtih life.

B. Print off several copies, and visit the store on separate days, remaining within the letter of the coupon.

C. Print off several copies, and get in line several times to apply the coupon, or visit different stores applying the coupon each time. While this is not within the letter of the coupon, it would not likely be detected.

D. Print off 10 copies of the coupon, bring them to the cash register with your 10 purchases, but take your medicine when the cashier explains that he will have to ring them each as separate transactions in order to apply each coupon, since he is allowing you to bend (actually, explicitly break) the rules of the coupon.

E. Print off 10 copies of the coupon, bring them to the cash register with your 10 purchases, and get indignant when the cashier explains that he will have to ring them each as separate transactions. Lament that at some point, "common sense ought to prevail over policy" while completely ignoring that common sense ought to tell you that the intent of a "30% off one item" coupon is not to have you print off 10 copies and apply it to 10 different items.

F. Forget your coupon and end up paying full price.


Correct Answer:Anything but E.

Friday, December 16, 2005

ESCAPING THE TRUTH
Jonah Goldberg shows the flip side of the problem. Other conservatives, and I susepect Goldberg himself, don't like the death penalty all that much, but like death penalty opponents even less.

I'm beginning to re-think the problem, though, and I'm not sure I agree anymore that the solution is for advocates for life to clean up their act. Sure, it might not help that some advocates display intellectual inconsistencies or advocate for life as part of a package that includes less attractive issues.

Reading Goldberg's column, though, it seems that he's desperately trying to avoid what he knows is the truth. Kind of like pro-choice people who say that it shouldn't be George W. Bush's choice what happens to a baby. I think these commentators see the truth, recognize that accepting it will be accepting a cross they may not want to carry, and then grasp at straws to find an excuse not to do so.

So long as the pro-life movement is made up of humans, it's going to have some elements that are a tad unsavory. And even if we were all perfect, there would be aspects of it that are unappealing. A cross is a cross, and we can't pretend otherwise. Opposing the death penalty means advocating on behalgf of vicious murderers, and telling some families of murder victims that they can't have what they want. Opposing abortion means saying that some babies might be born into some pretty crummy circumstances at considerable sacrifice.

So I'm not sure making the pro-life movement more appealing is the answer. In fact, as Goldberg observes, it can backfire. Tookie Williams was a murderer, and pretending otherwise doesn't change things.

What we have is a culture that is allergic to sacrifice. People value their aesthetic impressions of movements more than they value their correctness. Changing that is going to take a lot of work over a lot of years. I don't think that pretending that a death row inmate is innocent or a redeemed saint is going to do it, any more then pretending that every aborted baby would have lived a trouble-free life.

Monday, December 12, 2005

EXACTLY WRONG
Jonah Goldberg writes that we should be OK with torture because it's protrayed sympathtically by Hollywood, or maybe just Hollywood types should be, or something like that.

You know what? Hollywood executives are in the business of making money. If they can make money and promote their values at the same time, that's great, but the main goal is to make money. And that means putting entertainment on the screen that people want to see. And people enjoy seeing some villain get it handed to him.

That doesn't mean it's morally right, only that it feels good to watch it, and the Hollywood is willing to give us what we want. McDonald's would be willing to sell me 5 Big Macs everyday if I want to buy them, even though they know as well as I do that it's not good for me. That's not a knock on McDonald's, just an acknowledgement that they're in the business of selling hamburgers, not promoting proper dietary habits. So jut because Hollywood is willing to give us our fix of righteous vengeance doesn't make it morally OK. And since when do we take our moral cues from what is shown on movies and TV anyway?

Goldberg continues...

In other words, it doesn’t matter what the person you are coercing did or why you are coercing them in the first place. Torturing an evil man to save innocent lives is no greater a sin than torturing a noble man in order to snuff out innocent lives, or just for the fun of it. The way Sullivan and those who agree with him see it, torture is torture is torture — and torture is always wrong, even when defined as intimidation and “smacky face.”


Yup, that's pretty much it. For the same reason that I can say it's not OK to destroy a "mere cluster of cells" even if that could cure a horrible disease.

It does surprise me that there is so little intersection between opposition to embryonic stem cell research and torture (or "coercive interrogation techniques"). Both are standing against those who wish to dehumanize some for the benefit of others. Both rely on appeals to nationalism. Both try to paint those opposed as opposed to the ends rather than the means.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

GIVING UP HOPE
There's a commercial running here in Missouri urging people to sign a petition to put funcding of embryonic stem cell research up for referendum. It includes a child victim of diabtes I think, and her mother, urging us to not "give up hope."

I would argue that moving forward with this research is in fact giving up hope that cures can be found in a more ethical manner.

Monday, December 05, 2005

THE "REGGIE BUSH SWEEPSTAKES"
There's a lot of talk about the bottom of the NFL angling for the No. 1 pick so they can take Reggie Bush with the first pick in the NFL draft.

Bush seems to be a wonderful player, but I can't recall a championship team being built around a highly drafted running back. The Patriots got by with Antowain Smith and Kevin Faulk before signing Corey Dillon last year. The Bucs had Michael Pittman and Mike Alsotott. The Eagles have been getting by with Brian Westbrook. The nearest counter-example is the Ravens with Jamal Lewis, but that team wasn't so much build around Lewis as it was their defense. The Ravens have has Lewis since then, and not gone far.

I'm sure Bush will help whichever team drafts him, but if they're looking for him to turn them into a championship team, it's probably not going to happen.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

AMERICAN CATHOLICS' GUIDE TO READING CHURCH DOCUMENTS
Are you an American Catholic and curious about how to receive documents coming from the Vatican or the USSCB? Here's a handy guide:

  • If you are inclined to disagree with teaching, parse the teaching carefully for phrases that could be construed as bigoted or in conflict with previous teachings. Then, disregard the teaching on that basis.
  • If you are inclined to agree with the teaching but disagree with other teachings, then parse the statement for signs of softness, and keep that locked away. Then when the teaching you disagree with comes up, compare the softness on the issue you agree with, and question the bishops' priorities.
  • If you have been arguing for this teaching then search for the strongest statement in teh teaching, and use it to call those you have been arguing with heretics.
  • Whatever you do, do not consider the teaching an opportunity to learn, do not pray about how you might incorporate the teaching into your life, and do not consider this teaching before offering an opinion and judegment on it.


Remember, the purpose of the bishops's teaching is either to expose them as bigots and unfaithful, or the make you feel good about yourself at the expense of Those People Over There. Not to instruct the failthful, especially a faithful as smart as we American Catholics are. Look how successful we've been at hoding the Culture of Death at bay.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

ONE MORE TORTURE POST
Another popular objection one sees to torture legislation is that it's unneccessary, that there are already laws against torture; additional legislation is not neccesary.

But I seem to remember last year Catholics being urged to vote for constitutional amendments defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

Clearly, expecially when the standard is being tested, there is some value in restating what the standard is.
TICKING QUESTIONS
Those who favor strong unambiguous policies against tortue and coercive techniques are often confronted with the ticking time bomb scenario.

Let me play a long with it.

Presumably those against policies say there should be no rules in a situation where we know a suspect has knowledge that could prevent the desturction of a large city. Let's stipulate that this is true, even if we do so with a long face.

But let's say that it takes a 2-part combination to disable the bomb, and we know that the suspect only knows half of it, and there is no direct plan to obtain the other half. What tactics are acceptable there? What if it's a 10-part combination? 100? 1000?

I think the situations we are likely to face are much more analogous to what I laid out here that the classic "ticking time bomb" scenario. Suspects have bits and pieces of information that are only useful when combined with other pieces of information obtained from other sources. Under pressure to gain information, a soldier, who is human, might convinve him or herself that this is a true "ticking time bomb" scenario, when it really is not.

Which is why I think we need clear guidelines. I think the men and women deserve to be freed from explicit or implicit pressure to perform acts at are intrinsically evil.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

SAD OBSERVATION
I think one of the saddest things about public discourse (even private discourse) nowadays is how quick we are to avoid listening to each other. If the speaker once said something stupid, or can fit into a deragatory label, or said some magic word, then he can be safely dismissed and we don't have to listen to him.

I think this causes us to miss out on a lot.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

MY ONLY COMMENT ON THAT DOCUMENT
I wish there was this much anticipation among the laity about documents from the Vatican and the bishops that spoke to how we as the laity actually should go about living our lives, as there is about this one which directly concerns you only if you are in a gay man considering the preisthood or have some influence in seminary admissions. I would guess that accounts for less than 1% of lay Catholics.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

INTERNET DISCOURSE DEFINED
Scott Adams very neatly summarizes the state of discourse on the internet.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

WORST. GAME. EVER.
For the first time in about seven years, it looks like I will have no rooting interest in the NFC playoffs this year, as both the Rams and Eagles are 4-5 and looking up at the standings at teams that do not appear to be on the brink of a collapse.

At this point, I think the Eagles should shut McNabb down, and completely focus on winning the Super Bowl next year while they still have this core of players. This season is lost, with the T.O debacle, the lack of an inside running game (which is why they passed up by 6 with 3 minutes to go, resulting in the interception TD), and McNabb's injuries. But this core and coaching staff can win a Super Bowl. The rest of this season should be spent finding out what the young players have to offer.

Monday, November 14, 2005

YUP, THAT'S ME
Mark Shea ran one of my comments on the torture debate.

There was a post a while ago on Disputations that I can't find that pretty well captured where I think people's thinking on this issue goes wrong. People consider the Church's moral rule against torture like they would consider a rule in sports.

So, in football, there's a rule against pass interference. Defensive backs are taught not to commit pass interference if they can possibly help it. But if the pass is in the air, and the receiver has a step on him and would likely score, then the thing for the DB to do is to commit pass interference, take the penalty, and prevent the touchdown.

But that's not the way Christian morality works. The moral law is the guide for how God wants us to live our lives. If we trust in God, we would never want to do otherwise. Yes, there is penance and forgiveness of sins, but that doesn't mean we purposely sin and then look for forgiveness while still thinking we did the "right" thing. It means that God never stops inviting us to unite our wills with his.

Our response to that is not to do what we want to do, or what we think we have to do, take our penalty, and continue knowing that we would do the same thing again if similar circumstances presented themselves.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

SHUT UP, STATHEADS
Probably one of the best things about the White Sox winning the World Series is that it will shut up all the sabremetricians whoe were gloating that Red Sox 2004 Series win was due to GM Theo Epstein's devotion to sabremetrics.

The impulse is understandable. The Oakland A's, the poster boy for the stathead revolution, had enjoyed considerable regular season success but had failed to win a playoff series. Probably the most striking blow came when Derek Jeter, on whose defesive limitations much sabremetric ink has been spilled, nailed Jeremy Giambi, a prototypical sabremetric player (power hitter, low average, takes a lot of walks, no particular defensive position) at home plate with a spectacular defensive play in which Giambi failed to slide. And those with an interest in holding back the sabremetric revolution enjoyed pointing the A's lack of postseason success out.

I think that the theory that the stathead approach has some merit. Plate discipline and waiting for walks and running up a high pitch count on starters works great in the regular season when teams have to play every day and use their entire rotation. But in the playoffs, when you're usually facing a good team's best three starters (say, Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens, and Roy Oswalt), waiting for a walk probably isn't the best strategy.

The sabremetric answer to these criticisms is that a three games out of five divisional series divisional series is not a large enough sample size on which to judge these tactics. Which is a fair enough point.

But I'm not sure even the statheads believed it. One of the common criticisms the statheads would make of teams is that they make decisions for sentimental reasons that aren't linked to results on the field. For example, the Astros's current contract with Jeff Bagwell, and their continued use of Brad Ausmus as their starting catcher is subject to much criticism, since Bagwell will probably never be a productive player again, and Ausmus is not a good hitter. So, it seems strange that they would continue to back a srategy that had such poor postseason results. The object of baseball is to win the World Series, and the Oakland A's really hadn't come close.

Enter Theo Epstein and the Boston Red Sox. Epstein took the sabremetric approach to Boston and Voila!, the Red Sox won the World Series, and the curse of the Bambino was lifted! Sweet vindication!

Not so fast.

First, the Red Sox had the second highest payroll in the major leagues, had done so for some time, and third place wasn't that close. If that payroll is spent in even a moderately intelligent way, eventually the team is going to break through and win a championship. It doesn't take advanced analysis to know that Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon can hit, and that Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez can pitch -- it takes money to sign them.

Second, it's not as if the Red Sox made a quantum leap in success once Epstein took over (as admittedly, the A's did under Billy Beane). They were perennial playoff contenders before; they're perennial playoff contenders now. If the playoffs really are a crapshoot, or too small a sample size on which to judge things, then the Sox 2004 World Series victory of last year shouldn't have changed the analysis.

But now we have the 2005 White Sox, and their manager, Ozzie Guillen. The sabremetric way says the fields manager should pretty much be a cipher -- simply executing the GM's plan. (Moneyball has a passage in which Billy Beane is furious that Art Howe is using a differnt reliever that the one Beane said should be used in a certain situation.) Before the season the Sox traded Carlos Lee, a hulking slugger, for Scott Podsednik, a leadoff hitter who steals a lot of bases.

And they won the World Series. And I'm glad.

It's not that the sabremetric approach is wrong -- I think they're actually correct about most things. On base percentage is critically important.

But too often, they forget that baseball is played by men, not machines, and that these men, like any men, respond to changes in their environment.

The White Sox used a lot of "small ball tactics" during the year. In the playoffs, some analysts pointed out that the White Sox offense isn't built around taking extra bases, it was reliant on the home run.

But that misses the point -- the occasional use of small ball tactics created anenvironment where everybody was expected to do whatever it took to help the team win. If that meant the clean-up hitter would bunt, then the clean-up hitter would bunt.

It was interesting to read Baseball Prospectus analyze the differences between the Sox's expected and actual 2005 performance. Pretty much, the hitters as a whole performed as expected, except everybody played a little better than expected on defense, which helped the entire starting rotation over-achieve. Hmmm -- defense in baseball is a lot about effort and concentration -- couldn't it be due to Guillen creating a winning attitude?

Since I started drafting this, Paul DePodesta was let go as Dodgers GM, after trying to build a team around Heep Sop Choi, Jeff Kent, Milton Bradley, and J.D. Drew.

It's not that I'm happy to see DePodesta go down. But I think it will be good to see the sabremetric crowd approach the 2006 season with a dose of humility.

Friday, October 07, 2005

MEIER = BUSH
I think one of the problems with the Meier nomination is that it seems Bush used similar criteria to select Meier to those that were used to select poltical candidates like Bush himself. And, Katrina and Iraq has demonstrated that this won't cut it anymore.

Bush was selected for "electability." He has a natural affability, and personal charm. He came from a family most people had a positive regard for. He had an appealing personal story of dependence and redemption, and an apparent religious faith. He did not have a long record of accomplishment, but he professed the right principles, and fit the right profile.

Similarly, it looks like Meier was select for "confirmability." She doesn't have much of a record on Constitutional issues, but she's a woman, which will make her hard to oppose, she's an evangelical Christian, plus she seems, and everyone professes that she's a really nice lady.

But that's not enough for the Supreme Court, or president or governor or mayor, either. We need people who can do the job, not nice people who fit into the right categories and have an appealing story.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

HERE'S HOW I FEEL
I hate to add to the metaphors about the Meiers nomination, but...

Imagine your family is on a tight budget, but your spouse really wants a family vacation. You are told you should agree to this, since there is nothing more important than spending time with one's family. But then, once you arrive, your spouse spends the entire time on the golf course.

That's kind of how I feel. Last election we were told, ignore all that unjust war, capital punishment, concern for the poor crap. You have to vote for Bush because nothing is more important than abortion. Now, it's apparent that Bush wants to use his office to reward his friends, and if the scourge of abortion ends as a byproduct, that's great.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

AND ANOTHER THING
Is there any chance that Bush would nominate someone to a foreign policy post whose views on the invasion of Iraq are unknown?
HELLO, DEMOCRATS...
Have any of you figured out how you could reverse the margin of the last presidential election? There is a gorwing number of voters who would love to vote against the Republicans but can't vote for youy because they find our position on abortion so despicable.

Pop quiz, what do you do?

A. Appoint as your leader someone who professes to hate pro-lifers, and refers to those who disagree with him with poorly disguised contempt.
B. Continue to try to get the nominees to come out against Roe v. Wade, on the assumption that this will be a viable reason to vote against them.
C. Kick off the election season with an event at NARAL
D. Soften the stance on abortion, nominate some real pro-life candidates.


The path to victory is clear, if they were willing to take it.
I'M BEING SILLY
I should probably realize that it would be impossible to get a justice in the mold of Scalia or Thomas confirmed. After all, when they were confirmed, the culture was much more open to pro-life arguments. And those presidents had been pushed to victory by the pro-life vote. And the Republican party was in a weaker position in the Senate.

Whoah, wait a minute...
"STEALTH" NOMINEES
There's a lot of commentary like this saying that pro-lifers shouldn't be upset about nominees like Harriett Miers who don't have a paper trail against Roe v. Wade since with the culture the way it is, that's the only way things can change.

Bull.

I think there's a tendency to see the pro-life movement as a chess game where the end is to overturn Roe v. Wade. So, even if we do it by being really sneaky and tiptoeing around the opponent's defensive line, that's fine, because we would have accomplished our goal.

But our goal is bigger than that. We need to change the culture so that abortion is not only illegal, but also unthinkable.

And overturning Roe v. Wade by sneaking in a couple justices who would overturn it isn't going to be a part of the cultural change we need. Need I remind people that such a decision would not ban abortions, but only make it possible for states to make it illegal?

I know, I know -- our opponents in the culture war are more than willing to run where the fields is open and use whatever the most advantageous court is to achieve their goals. That's them.

We're right. We don't need to sneak around. Republicans have a 55-45 majority in the Senate, and a president who was elected on the margins by pro-lifers. If we can't take on the pro-choice culture now, when will we?

I don't want to see a nominee squirm and try to reveal as little as possible. I want someone who will look Diane Feinstien in the eye and tell her why Roe v. Wade is a bunch of crap. We have the soldiers for this fight. Are we willing to unleash them?

But, after last election being told in no uncertain terms that abortion is the only acceptable issue to determine one's vote, and that things like torture and wars are not so important, I am not willing to accept squishy half-measures on this issue.

It is very telling what things this Administration is willing to fight for.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

RANDOM NOTE
I haven't enjoyed Dr. Pepper so much since I found it its distinctive flavor is prunes.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

PROBLEMS FOR CONSERVATIVES
The efforts to keep blame for the post-Katrina screw-ups away from the president and on to local officials are going to result in some serious problems for conservatives.

The Schiavo problem



If the Administration's defenders are going to continue this game of shifting blame to Louisiana and New Orleans officials, then they better be prepared to address this argument, which I'm surprised I haven't seen. (I set it off in quotes because I wouldn't personally make this argument, though I recognize its appeal.

In March of this year, the federal government took extraordinary actions, overruling 10 years of decisions by a state court, change the jurisdiction of a private domestic matter to the federal courts. They justified this by saying that the woman's life was at stake, so the federal government must get involved.

Now, this same administration is saying that thousands of people living without necessities and in chaos is a local problem, and not something for which the federal government should be held accountable for.

Why must the federal government get involved in the Schiavo case, while abdicating resposibility for those stranded in New Orleans? Does it have something to do with the color of the victims' skin? Or maybe the Administration prefers mindless people who won't cause any trouble over poor people who demonstrate the failures of its policies.


As I said, I don't buy that argument. But the federal involvement in the Schiavo case (which I agreed with) positions the federal government poorly to say that it would have really liked to have taken over and led the rescue effort, but federalism prevented it from doing so.

There could also be a parallel argument using Bush vs. Gore.

Federalism



This defense also makes it impossible for anyone to credibly argue for federalism again. After all, if taking five days to get bottled water into a city is the result of federalism, then what's so freaking great about federalism? If state and local officials are corrupt and incompetent, then why should they be trusted to settle important issues?

A new term



Building on my success with "Ratzenfreude," I propose that those who attempt to shift blame off the Administration to state and local officials be referred to as "foul weather federalists."

Friday, September 02, 2005

I'M GOING TO SAY IT
I have never been so ashamed to be an American as I am right now.

The fact that we are essentially leaving thousands of people to their own devices with no food or water is an embarrassment of the first order.

And Orin Kerr is right. This all comes down to the president.

In my opinion, the president should, at a minimum, be telling Americans what they can do to help. He should be aware of and telling us what supplies are needed and where. Is there a shortage of buses? Could some districts have closed school today so there buses could be used for evacuations? Or would that cause more problems? People don't know, and it's the president's job to make sure they know.

And somebody needs to be running things at the convention center.

I remember when John Paul II was here, we all had to take buses to the dome for the papal Mass, and we all 100,000 of us were out of there about an hour afterwards. Now I know there are drastically different circumstances, and the planning for this even began months in advance, but it still strikes me as insane that it takes days to get about the same number of people out of New Orleans.

I also wonder if when selecting our leaders, we should spend less time wondering where they stand on "non-negotiable" issues, and what is a non-negotiable issue and what is not, and more time examining whether the candidates can actually do the job.

Monday, August 29, 2005

MORAL HAZARD
Mickey Kaus rounds up a couple of articles aiming to debunk the "moral hazard" theory of medical insurance -- that a lot of medical insurance increases the consumption of medical care to inefficent levels.

One thing unaddressed by either article, or Kaus, is how the moral hazard theory might apply to risky behavioral patterns -- smoking, obesity, hazardous jobs, etc.

One theory is that a lot of medical insurance would lead to an increase in these behaviors. If I am not expected to bear the medical cost for a few extra chesseburgers or a smoking habit, one would expect more of it -- more obesity, more smoking. (This would be hard to isolate, though. Someone with no insurance would see the doctor less often, and thus may not be advised to quit smoking or lose weight).

On the other hand, if society is bearing the health care costs of risky behaviors, then we would also expect more social pressure against those behaviors. If I'm going to be expected to pay for your heart surgery, than your smoking habit is my business in a way that is isn't if I'm not. I'm not sure how strong this force would be, but I wonder (without evidence) if this contributes to the higher rate of obesity in the US than in Canada or European nations.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

WHY WE LOVE BASEBALL
Peter Gammons shows why he's a Hall of Famer with this great article about his experience of Hall of Fame weekend.

Monday, August 01, 2005

ANNOUNCING MY FREE AGENCY
After seeing the Missouri State governement's priorities, and Bill Frist's announcement, I am no longer going to allow myself to be bullied into voting in Republican candidates based on "intinsically evil" arguments.

Let's face it, Frist gets to keep his leadership job despite his support of embryonic stem cell research. I doubt he'd get to keep his job were he to oppose the invsion of Iraq, or criticize US treatment of detainees. It's obvious that creating a culture of life just isn't a priority for the Republicans.

At some point, don't we have to look beyond the simple binary "position" on issues, and look into what priority that take up for a candidate?

Monday, July 25, 2005

"BRAIN DRAIN"
One of the most insulting arguments against pro-life policies is that adopting them will lead to smart people moving out or not wanting to live in this community.

The commonly comes out in the embryonic stem cell research debate. We're told that we must support this on a national level, or risk falling behind countries like Korea that have. Or that Missouri must support the research, or risk a brain drain to states like Illinois and California who are subsidizing this research despite budget crises. More recently, on the local PBS talk show Donnybrook, during a discussion of what might happen if Roe v. Wade were overturned, one of the panelist was saying that it would Missouri to pass serious restrictions abortion, since then the "best and the brightest" people and businesses would not want to deal with Missouri.

This is insulting on so many levels.

First is the naked snobbery apparent in this position. The assumption is that all smart people have no problem with abortion and embryo-destroying research, and indeed are hostile to those who disagree. All pretense of respect for the adversary's argument is dropped. But this seems to be the pro-choice movement's best argument nowadays -- that "all the cool kids" are pro-choice, and if you're not, you won't get to sit with them at the cafeteria.

Second is the thought that those who think that abortion an embryonic research or abortion amount to homicide would drop their objection for their own economic self-interest or for state or national pride. We abhor the destruction of embryos, but only if doing so doesn't put as at a disadvantage compared to neighboring states? Anyone proposing this argument doesn't understand the first thing about the pro-life movement, and isn't even trying to do so.

Finally, this argument is frequently proposed by the same people who sneer at mentions of a "culture of life." But if it's reasonable to propose that restrictive policies on research would impact who would do business in Missouri, why is it so unreasonable to propose that not protecting the unborn would impact how we treat those who are born? Might there be people who would not want to live in a state that does nothing about, or even subsidizes, the destruction of the helpless and vulnerable in the hope that it would benefit those who do have a voice?

Why should we prefer to bring people to our state who are fine with, or even prefer, not to protect the weakest and most vulnerable among us?

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

A TREND I'D LIKE TO SEE STOP
One of the tings that always bugged me about Clinton was how whenever he signed a somewhat controversial bill, he would surround himself with the most sympathetic beneficiaries of that bill. So, if he were to sign a bill limiting appeals for death row inmates, he might surround himself with the families of murder victims. If he were to veto it, he might surround himself with people whose murder convictions were later reversed. The message was, "You can oppose me if you want, but then you'd also be opposing these poor people here, and you wouldn't want to do that, would you?"

It seems that Bush has taken this tactic to the next level, by doing his "address to the nation" from a military base surrounded by soldiers. The implicit message is, "If you oppose what I'm saying here, you're opposing these great men and women who are working hard and risking their lives." And I think it stinks.

I wish presidents would let their words speak for themselves, rather than feel the need to draw capital from good people.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

ON THE CCD EXPULSIONS
As a PSR teacher, I can say that very few things are as frustrating as teaching lessons to kids when you know those lessons aren't being reinforced at home. This is especially frustrating teaching 7th and 8th grade, which is the end of the line in PSR, knowing that it might be the end of the line for these kids. And it's not fair to the kids and parent who are interested in learning, and do reinforce the messages. We have to speak at a "lowest common denominator" level, which isn't going to be that exciting to kids who know this stuff. So, I can understand the sentiment behind the policies.

Still, I find this troubling (and like many commentators, I'm confident this policy was enacted as a last resort). The main thing is the discussion of parish boundaries -- from what I've read about people, the parish boundaries aren't about binding individuals to attend a certain parish as they are about binding the parish to minister to the people in that area. And it's hard for me to see how simply kicking the kids out of CCD is fulfilling that obligation.

True, parents made a promise at their children's baptism to be the "First Teachers" of the faith. One hour a week of catechism class isn't supposed to be the sum total of a child's religious education. Very true, very true. But just because a situation doesn't conform to the ideal doesn't mean we abandon them. We don't stop ministering to a single parent family just because their situation is ideal. We don't refrain from feeding a hungry child because she should really be fed by her parents. It seems to me in those situations, we should be doing more, not less.

Maybe, these children should be "tracked" into a CCD class held on Sunday morning that includes attendance at Mass. It would take more work by the parish, and I'm sure the parents would complain, but it seems like this would be an approach more consistent with the parish's mission. (Again, maybe this was tried and failed; I don't know).

Just my $0.02; I could be wrong.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

WHAT SACRIFICE
I think lot of the rhetoric about how this is a war being fought only by the poor and wealthy is overcharged.

But I'm getting increasingly annoyed reading blogs by commentators who in one post scream how "This is war, damnit!!!" and while it golly sure would be nice if we could fluff these detainees' pillows and read them night-night stories, the fate of our nation and my cute daughter is at stake, so everyone needs to put aside their moral objections and be OK with us kicking a few detainees. Then in the next post, talk about the shipment of DVD's that just arrived at their house, or complain about some very minor irritation compared to being shackled to the floor in your own filth, or display pictures of their vacation taken with their brand new digital camera.

Am I wrong to detect a bit of dissonance here? Now, it would not be a simple matter to translate fewer DVD purchases into a more effective war on terror. Nevertheless, it seems strange to me that our moral principles, our commitment to civil rights, must be the first thing many of us will sacrifice for the war effort. And that this sacrifice is borne mostly by those who aren't so sure these military options are such a great idea.

I'm just not inclined to respond favorably to requests that I set aside my moral principles by people who are not making any apparent sacrifice themselves.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

HAPPY FATHER'S DAY
Can you imagine a stroy like this running the opposite way running on Mother's Day? Nope. I can't.

I've said this before -- it's a great message we send to young men. We want you to be dedicated fathers and husbands, but if you do, you have to remember that you will always be in second place, even on the day set aside for you, and be given a guilt trip for the generations of me that go before you.

And then we wonder why we have a problem of absent fathers in this country.

Monday, June 20, 2005

NOTE TO JAMES LIKEKS
Just because some liberal critics get overblown and compare Guantanomo to the Soviet gulags, or Nazi concentration camps, or Saddam's prisons, does not make "not as bad as the gulags" or "not as bad as Nazi concentration camps," or "not as bad as Saddam's prisons" the new moral standard for how prisoners are treated.

Cherry-picking some passages...


There was just something ineffably sinister about a detention camp. Never mind that the people sent there were “Unlawful combatants,” a phrase that would seem to bestow, well, a lack of adherence to the very notions of international law the Gitmo-detainee advocates hold dear.


The problem with this designation is that it's a tad tautoological. Who's "illegal?" Whoever we say is.


nyway. Here’s the deal. We decide what constitutes torture, and identify it as the following: insufficient air conditioning, excess air conditioning, sleep deprivation, being chained to the floor, and other forms of psychological stress. The United States is free to use these techniques against hardened terrorists. Those who disagree with the techniques sign a register that records their complaints. When the terrorist finally spills the details of a forthcoming attack, on, say, Chicago, the people who signed the register and live in Chicago are required to report to the Disintegration Chamber. Very simple. Everyone’s happy.


Huh? So, the deal is that the US gets to use these techniques, and we get to die if they work? What, pray tell, is the consequence if thse techiniques are applied to someone who is not a actually a "hardened terrorist?" (there's another one of those tautological terms again). What are the consequences if using these techniques turns more law-abiding citizens into "hardened terrorists?" What if one of these "hardened terrorists", desperate to end this hostile treatment, gives false or misleading information, wasting the US's time and resources?

If I were a proponenet of the Iraq war, I'd excercise a little bit more humility before expecting people to take my claims of who is a hardened terrorist, and "When the terrorists finally spills the details..." at face value. Maybe we should find Saddam's WMD's first before spelling out what your critics should do when your next claim turns out to be true.

Oh, that's right...

Friday, June 17, 2005

NBA FINALS THOUGHTS

  • I wish Al Michaels would spend less time trying to convince me why I should be excited about the series, and more time actually being excited. Is it too late to bring in Marv Albert?
  • There must really be a dearth of interesting stories on the Pistons. Last night's supposedly heart-rendering tale about the Pitons' 12th man was quite thin indeed. And before that, we got the same, "Rip Hamilton's from working-class Coatesville, PA, and he hasn't forgotten it, which might explain why he plays with such relentless energy" story we got 10 times last year.
  • Did anyone else barf when Stuart Scott remarked how Larry Brown "always puts family first" because he interrupted an interview with him to chit-chat with David Robinson? Isn't this the same Brown who has worked in 10 different cities in the last 25 years, and is contemplating another move? How is that putting his family first?
  • Ok, if you're Hubie Brown, you just finished coaching, and you're back doing TV analysis for the first time in a few years. You want to make a good impression, and show that you still know what you are doing, so you do all of your analysis in the second person. (Yes, stolen from Bill Simmons, but it's hard to think of anyone who talks that way so consistently.
  • Interesting story about Robert Horry in Slate today, even though it follows the Sports Nut formula of telling sports fans they're stupid to get excited about something. But one point is that it's hard to think of a someone being labeled a "goat" in basketball for missing a shot, or even for making a stupid coaching decision. Nick Anderson is the only one that springs to mind. Baseball and football are full of them -- Bill Buckner, Scott Norwood, Donnie Moore, Mitch Williams, Grady Little, Eugene Robinson, etc. But if you brick a game-winning shot in basketball, everyone just shrugs.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

SEARCHING FOR MIDDLE GROUND
There's got to be some middle ground between James (if it's not as bad as what the terrorists do, then it's OK) Lileks, and Sylvester (if liberal groups are complaining, then it must be a dark time in history) Brown, Jr.

As for Lileks, here's a typical barb...

This is how articles are written, conventional wisdom chopped pressed and formed: the techniques Rumsfeld Â?balked atÂ? Â? meaning, I assume, did not permit Â? did not include actual suffocation, but the use of a wet towel that would induce the misperception of an emanation of a penumbra of suffocation. NEVERTHELESS. Key word, that. Lines crossed not in fact but in spirit. He balked at fake suffocation, aye; NEVERTHELESS the climate of pain and retribution did not forbid men from freely dumping bottles of Dasani on the heads of the detainees. Why, it was a game to the interrogators. Â?Drink Water or Wear it.Â? Spiritually, itÂ?s a first cousin to SaddamÂ?s game, Â?Use Tongue Then Lose It.Â?


Is that the standard now? If Saddam did something demonstrably worse, then it must be OK for us to do it?

Sorry, if you're looking to defend the policies and actions of the US, you're going to need a better measuring stick than Saddam Hussein.

Lileks wants to have his cake and eat it to. He wants to paint Saddam and others as depraved and unquely evil, justifying merciless tactics, and at the same time use them as a standard by which to measure our own action. No sale.

And then, just when I'm ready to cast my lot with the anti-war croidiocy see idocy like this...


Under former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, the FBI was given sweeping new "domestic spying" powers that allow agents to monitor political gatherings, Internet sites, chat rooms, libraries and churches without evidence of criminal wrongdoing. The ACLU has documented and challenged thousands of cases, including those in Missouri, where it says the new rules infringe on civil liberties and attempt to silence dissent.

The FBI's covert actions against American citizens in the past were fueled by paranoia. We've been here before. Hopefully, when talking with my grandchild, it'll be a discussion about another long-gone era when America went nuts.


Now, it's the ACLU's job to challenge very case, push every boundary, and complain about everything. That doesn't make them bad, but it also means that it would be incorrect to use complaints by the ACLU as a basis for concluding that we're living in dark, "nuts" time in history. Was there a time when the ACLU wasn't complaining about something?

This passage is telling...


Jones' office e-mailed me information about some of the local people involved in the lawsuit. The stories are disconcerting. Familiar names from local faith-based and political organizations and environmental groups fill the pages. There are tales of mysterious white vans following activists, police and FBI infiltration, strip searches and illegal confiscation of personal property


This looks like just plain lazy reporting to me. Basing a column of an e-mail form a source with an axe to grind, taking all allegations at face values, not investigating the other side of the story. And it makes him an easy target for someone like Lileks, who can demonstrate that Brown's rhetoric is out of perspective, thus we don't need to be concerned about torture.

Is there a middle ground. Aren't there people who are a bit troubled by the actions of the government, but don't think that means that we're no better then Nazi Germany?

Friday, June 10, 2005

COMMON GROUND ON THE DEATH PENALTY
I think that cops should be allowed (even encouraged) to shoot murder suspects on sight. If those opposed to capital punishment are really interested in reducing the number of executions, then they should get behind this initiative. If they fail to, it will demonstrate that they're just basking in their own righteousness, and don't care all that much about reducing the number of executions.
MORE ON THE PROBLEM
William Saletan almost gets it. He recognizes that the million abortions a year are a moral tragedy. He sees a lot of the pro-choice rhetoric as the bunk that it is. But he just can't make the leap...
Then Keenan's communications director, David Seldin, leans in with a better answer. "Responsibility isn't something that's enforced by politicians," he says. "It's personal."

Now you're talking. For the first time, I'm hearing my reason for keeping abortion legal. I've always agreed with pro-choicers that the government is incompetent to regulate abortion. But I've never liked their aversion to moral judgments. If they'd just admit that abortion's legality doesn't make it right, or that some women take it too lightly, or that every abortion is tragic, I'd be so relieved. "Responsibility" gives me something to hold on to. It reassures me that the moral substance of life, which ought to take place in the personal and family spaces where government has no wisdom, really is taking place thereÂ?or at least that pro-choicers think it should. It's much easier to say no to legislation when conscience, not complacency, is the alternative.


Whew -- That was close -- Saletan almost had to align himself with the likes of Tom DeLay. But now he's got this responsibilityy" straw to grasp, so he can pretend to recognize the horror of abortion while maintaining his pro-choice views.

This is I think our main problem -- people don't like abortion, but they like pro-lifers even less. So they grasp at straws and come up with any excuse they can to maintain a pro-choice view in the face of this Truth. And nothing gets done.

I'm not sure what it would take to turn these folks around. Surely, the media is complicit by portraying most pro-lifers as rabid mouth-breathing extremists, but blaming the media isn't going to do it. Any ideas?

Friday, June 03, 2005

JUUUUST CURIOUS
What would be the reaction if it were Mel Gibson, coming from his Traditional Catholicism, rather than Tom Cruise, coming from Scientology, who said something like:

"When you talk about postpartum, you can take people today, women, and what you do is you use vitamins. There is a hormonal thing that is going on, scientifically, you can prove that. But when you talk about emotional, chemical imbalances in people, there is no science behind that," the actor told Access Hollywood.

"When someone says [medication] has helped them, it is to cope, it didn't cure anything. There is no science. There is nothing that can cure them whatsoever," Cruise said.

But Scientologists don't oppose abortion or contraception, so this type of misogyny and insensitivity is OK.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

ONE MORE THING
Remember all those folks who were so deeply concerned that the Palm Sunday legislation establishing federal jurisdiction over the Terri Schiavo case was the end of federalism and the separation of powers? And wondered how Congress could pass legislation that would only be applied to one person?

Well, where are these folks now when COngress passes legislation funding a very specific form of medical research, in direct vonflict with a standing executive order?

UPDATE: I should add the "mere cluster of cells" argument makes having special legislation about using it for research even more specious. If there's nothing special about the embryo, what's all the fuss over?
HMMM
Via HMS blog, one thing that bugs me about Kathryn Jean Lopez's commentary on NRO is that she seems to be a conservative first and Catholic second. Thus, she stresses the importance of electing a Republican pro-life incumbent over a Democratic pro-life challenger.

I'll use my energies in promoting pro-life candidates over pro-choice ones. (Even thought that doesn't seem to get us anywhere.
AFFORDABLE FAMILY FORMATION
I'm late to this (I have a good reason), but this article that seeks to explain the GOP's success in red states only gets half the picture.

The article states that the success is due to Republican policy's that make it more affordable to buy a house and raise a family. It discounts "values issues," and proposes tighter immigration policies as what the GOP should take to ensure its future.

But that's only part of it. There's more that makes it difficult to raise a family than just the monetary cost. If the public school is handing out condoms everyday, doesn't that make it more difficult to raise a child with more traditional sexual values? Or if abortion is universally celebrated as a "right"? Or if marriage laws say that same sex couples are the same as their parents' relationship?

There's more to life than pocketbooks.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

EAT YOUR VEGETABLES
Ian O'Connor has the typical PC post scolding the sports community for noticing that Danica Patrick, who finished fourth in the Indy 500, is attractive. He quotes Billie Jean King below...

When people talk about how we look," King said, "that's what kills us as athletes. Just once, talk only about our accomplishments. That's all we ask."

Apparently King and her court are asking for too much. Patrick had to be covered differently, as she delivered the best female finish ever at the 500. That's history. That's news. But the fact she might be described as a "babe" by a demographic overdosing on bimbo beer ads has nothing to do with her performance behind the wheel of a machine traveling 226 miles an hour.

I'm calling BS here. Do O'Connor and King really want Patrick to be covered just like previous fourth place finishers at the Indy 500? I couldn't name any of the last 5 Indy 500 winners let alone fourth-place finishers. In the sporting world, finishing fourth in the Indy 500 just isn't that grand an accomplishment.

You can't have it both ways -- you can't want special attention do be paid to Patrick because she's a woman, and then expect everyone to pretend not to notice she's attractive.

O'Connor goes on...


Ty Votaw, the LPGA commissioner, junked Title IX in favor of Titleist IX in 2003, ordering his players to improve their appearance and hiring hair stylists, cosmetics czars and fashion editors toward that end. Annika Sorenstam sat there and listened to the experts tell her how to look more attractive on the golf course. Could you imagine Tiger Woods being subjected to that?

Of course not. He's a man, and men only need to worry about birdies and bogeys and checkered flags.


Oh, BS again. You're telling me that every bit of Tiger Woods's appearance and public persona isn't meticulously managed and maintained?

I'm not buying the double standard argument -- image matters in men's sports as well. The NBA just gave the MVP award to a player who's all but useless on defense because he's a 6'1" white guy. Andre Agassi was always more popular than Pete Sampras, in spite of Sampras's superior record. Why isn't Bobby Abreu a household name? You don't think Tom Brady's good looks have helped him?


Just let the women burn rubber without telling the world how hot they looked doing it


Just let me watch the sports I want to watch, without lecturing me that I'm watching it for the wrong reasons.

Look, in an ideal world, would the coverage of Patrick wouldn't mention her looks. But Indy car racing isn't exactly the most popular spectator sport right now. The sportswriters are probably dropping these mentions hoping some folks will tune in because of it, then might get hooked on the action.

American sports fans have never taken too sports, or categories of sports they've been lectured to enjoy. Look at soccer. For years, we've been told how we Americans ought to be embarrassed that we don't share soccer enthusiasm with the rest of the world. And what's it gotten us? Failed league after failed league. It's gone the way of the metric system.

People watch sports for enjoyment not for social betterment. And a fourth place finish in the Indy 500 is not all that exciting in itself. If you want to attract viewers, eye candy might go further than spooning vegetables in our face.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

WANTED TO GET THIS OUT
Remember the last election? When Catholics were told that they must base their votes on "non-negotiable" issues, or "intrinsically" evil actions? That we must favor a candidate who opposed same sex marriage, but favored a war of annexation and execution of all homicide convicts because the former is intrinsically evil and the latter is not?

Well, here's the fruits of that thinking, at least here in Missouri. Lots of business breaks, massive cuts to health care for the poor, but no abortion legislation, because the legislature didn't quite get around to it.

I've said this before, if Catholics are going to be expected to vote solely based on these non-negotiable issues, then the representatives that are elected based on this thinking should be held to the same standard. But they're not. And when we try to, we're told not to make the perfect the enemy of the good, to be happy with what we have, and that it's better than the alternative.

But I'm not happy. 1,000 more unborn children are going to be killed today. And I am beyond tired of being told that this must be my only priority on Election Day every two or four years, but that I can't expect it to be a priority for others the rest of the time.

Monday, May 23, 2005

COMMON CORRECTIONS
Social conservative values are often depicted as straw men by the media, so I figured I'd save these corrections for later.

  • We're not against all stem cell research; we're against research that destroys embryos.
  • We don't believe that all war is less evil than all abortion or same sex marriage; it's that the latter are intrinsically evil, wrong under all circumstaces, and the former are not.


    I'm sure there's more to come..
  • Thursday, May 19, 2005

    ALL I'LL SAY ON THE NEWSWEEK THING
    I think this particular Administration is positioned poorly to be makeing judgements against others for acting too boldly on suspect information resulting in the loss of life.
    THEY'RE BOTH WRONG (ANBD RIGHT)
    Andrew Sullivan and Glenn Reynolds have been arguing about how important the torture revelations are to the war on terror. Reynolds says Sullivan is naive; Sullivan says Reynolds is callous.

    I think Sullivan is right about Reynolds. The revelations of torture (or if you prefer, coercive interrogation techniques) severely compromise the moral authority of the US in the war on terror, and make it much turn others against us. Every clinic bombing is a severe step back for the pro-life movement; every revelation is a big step back for the US.

    But Reynolds is right about Sullivan as well. It is extremely naive to put hundreds of thousands of troops into a country where people are trying to kill them and expect nothing like this to happen.

    The question neither will ask is whether it's worth it. I say no. Reynolds writes, "I do confess that I think that winning the war is much more important than Abu Ghraib, and that viewing the entire war -- and the entire American military -- through the prism of Abu Ghraib is as unfair as judging all Muslims by the acts of terrorists." I disagree with the first statements, and think the second statement is a non sequitur. It may not be fair to judge the entire war through Abu Ghraib, but pointing that out doesn't change the fact that some people will. And that those who want others to jusge against the war will encourage them to do so. It seems disingenuous to say that atrocities are a part of war, the cry "foul" about people are judging the war.

    Tuesday, May 17, 2005

    SURVIVOR AND INEFFICENCIES
    For the first time in its history, we have a winner of Survivor who seemed to objectively be the best player. This leaves the question of why it took so long, and why it's happening now.

    Previous winners have exploited irrational behavior that led to inefficiencies in the game. In the original Survivor, most of the players thought it was somehow unsporting or unfair to form voting alliances, so Richard Hatch was able to cobble together an alliance of four people and ride it all the way to victory.

    Later winners survived by exploiting other players' loyalty to an alliance, and spiteful voting patterns by the jury.

    But now, all bets are off. Voting alliances are good for just that week. Furthermore, the jury seems to understand that. The result is that for once, the best player is winning.

    I wonder if something similar is happening in baseball. Billy Beane was able to put together a winning baseball team in a small market by exploiting some inefficiencies in the system. But now, Theo Epstein has taken this same approach, merged it with a more generous payroll, an won a World Series in Boston. Does this mean we're back to having the richest teams win all the time, or are there further inefficiencies that can be teased out?

    Thursday, May 12, 2005

    DUNG DUNG
    Last night's Law & Order kinda ticked me off.

    The plot involved new evidence that led to the resolution of a murder nine years ago. The perpetrator had since had a sincere conversion to Christianity, and his defense lawyer sought to dismiss the charges on the basis of this conversion.

    Throughout the episode, lawyers on both sides and judges kept lamenting that "the way things are going in the country nowadays," such a motion could be successful, and if not, the jury could nullify what should be a conviction. I suppose it was supposed to be a cautionary tale about creeping theocracy eroding the separation of church and state,

    Nonsense. I would be call myself a "social conservative," and if I were on a jury, I would never acquit a murderer only because of his repentance in the meantime. We do not seek to substitute God's judgment for the judgment of the law. We simply think it's reasonable that our laws reflect the values we share, and that the country was built upon.

    As Ramesh Ponnuru put it yesterday, there's a false choice being proposed here -- either we strip our laws of all Christian values, or we start letting murderers go free if they've really repented to God, since God is the ultimate judge.

    I reject that choice, and I think most "social conservatives" do as well.

    UPDATE: Jonah Goldberg had similar thoughts.

    Wednesday, April 27, 2005

    THE AGONY
    Betty Cuniberti describes the arduous process a woman had to got through when one pharmacy did not stock morning after contraception.

    Here's a map which will show you the tremendous journey she had to make. The Schnucks that did not carry the perscription is #6; the Walgreens that filled it is #3. (This is a temporary location; it will soon be in #7, which would have somewhat alleviated the journey). As you can see if Walgreens refused her, she might have had to travel even further...

    There's a couple other beauts here as well...


    Last year, a condom broke while Jennifer and her boyfriend were having sex.


    Wait -- I thought condoms where the answer to every problem! That Pope Benedict XVI will be personally responsible for all AIDS deaths in Africa if he doesn't change the Vatican's policy of opposing condoms. But now they break...


    For those who believe life begins and becomes equal to the woman and every other human being at conception, the difference between conception and pregnancy is moral hair-splitting. There was a time when they were entitled to their moral code, and Jennifer was entitled to hers. But as the country shifts toward theocracy, those days are dwindling.


    In other words, when her side was winning, "choice" was great. Now that the other side is asserting their choices, maybe "choice" wasn't such a great idea.


    Decreasing the number of abortions by preventing unwanted pregnancies is an area in which pro-choice and pro-life advocates should be striving to find a meager patch of critical common ground.


    This is the line that really ticks me off. Here's some other common ground -- give pregnant women free access to ultrasounds so they can make an informed choice. Someting tells me Cuniberti would eschew that common gorund as well.

    Monday, April 25, 2005

    WELCOME READERS
    Having received the Cathoic equivalent of an InstaLanche (maybe I should try to come up with a clever term for that as well), I see I'm getting some additional readers, so I thought I'd clarify what this blog about.

    Generally, this blog as a few quick bursts of activity when I get passionate about something, surrounded by weeks of little or no activity. I have two daughters under 2 years old, so I usually don't have time to formulate and put down my thoughts on atopic while it's still hot. Thus, the lack of posts on the death of John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict XVI. I didn't have much to say that wasn't being said elsewhere.

    As to how I feel about Ratzenfreude, I think it's an understandable reaction, but one that we shouldn't dwell in.

    I think Andrew Sullivan's reaction is revealing in that it exposes his rehotrical "style" -- pick someone on the other side, label him and "extremist", then try to associate all other adversaries with this "extremist." The problem comes when you actually have to work with the person that you've made into a bogeyman. Then you have to deal with the flesh and blood human person, and not the caricature you've been presenting.

    In any instance, I think it's good that people won't be able to pretend anymore that the Catholic teachings weren't some idisyncratic whim of John Paul II, but the teaching of the whole Church. I won't be happy if people decide to leave, and I pray that we won't, and I will also pray and work that the Church teaching be presented to the world in a way they can hear it.

    Thursday, April 21, 2005

    COINING A TERM
    Ratzenfreude -- The expression of joy about others's dismay about the election of Pope Benedict XVI

    UPDATE: Welcome NYT/Amy Welborn readers (and thanks for the link). I've moved to here now.

    Friday, April 08, 2005

    WE'VE GOT A PROBLEM
    It's a very sad thing that many people's reaction to something like this is not outrage at the situation, but skepticism because this is being brought up by that "pro-life" crowd.

    We've got a credibility problem. And I'm not sure it can all be laid at the feet of the biased media. But it's hindering our ability to effectively witness.

    This poses a problem for me in how to react to stories like this. I want to say "Screw Federalism! Screw the separation of powers! Screw the Constitution! Screw the law! If these are the results, then why should I respect them?"

    But then I remember that this is perfect fodder for those inclined to dismiss the witness of pro-lifers as the ravings of extremists.

    So, I'm in a bind. Is the current system salvagable? Do we need to be more extreme, since the current culture is so depraved, or less so we can be more effective at working within it?

    Saturday, March 26, 2005

    COUPLE MORE SCHIAVO THOUGHTS
    I can't get behind this. As I've documented, a lot of the reaction calling the Palm Sunday Compromise an affront to the rule of law and seaparation of powers was grandstanding. But if either Gov. or Pres. Bush were to intervene in this way, it would truly be an affront to the rule of law. I think it would be very hard for any social conservative to be elected again -- the charges of "theocracy" would have some teeth to them.

    Jeb and Gerorge Bush were elected governor and president, not king. They have no more right to take custody of Terri Schiavo than any of us. In other words, if it's the right thing for them to do to intervene in this way, then it's right thing for us to put together a mob of our own and forcefully take custody. And I'm not sure it is.

    --

    One more hypothetical -- imagine that in every gubernatorial and presidential election in which they ran, Michael Schiavo had cast two votes, including a vote for the Bush brothers on Terri Schiavo's behalf, since they had had some conversations in the past in which Terri had expressed admiration for the Bush family, and he was sure that she would want to vote for them. Let's say news of this broke out around mid-November, 2000.

    Do you think Michael Schiavo would be portrayed as a loving husband dutifully carrying out the wishes of his wife? Would we be so quick to wave off the second family he had started? Would it never be referred to as "adultery" without scare quotes? Would a series of judicial decisions upholding this double voting be held in regard, rather than an example of political corruption? Would a congressional action establishing federal jurisdiction over this matter be called an affront to states' rights, federalism, the separation of powers, and the rule of law?

    I kind of don't think so.

    And this would be over a single vote in a hotly contested election. But when it's this woman's very life, we pretend it's all OK.

    Friday, March 25, 2005

    THE SADNESS
    Amy Welborn has a good post about the sadness of the Schiavo debate.

    What I find most sad, besides the simple fact of a woman starving to death, is the deep poltical polarization that this case has made manifest. It seems a lot of people would rather see an innocent woman die than be on the same side as Tom DeLay.

    There's the consistency "gotcha" games that are driving me mad. Dahlia Lithwick, who I took down below, followed that up with another article, on a theme I'd seen around the 'Net a few times saying that conservatives are inconsistent for wanting to re-insert the tube, since they favor the "sanctity of marriage." (I should not here that Slate also posted a wonderful article in favor of the feeding tube here.)

    First, nobody would support a "she was asking for it" defense of spousal abuse. Second, it's dismissively these writers wave off the second family Michael Schindler has started in the meantime. If the only witness in a capital case was the accused's spouse, and that spouse had since started living with somebody else, that would be relevant, wouldn't it? Would it be "judgemental" to note, and check against this conflict of interest?

    Second, so what? Implicit in any accusation of inconsistency is the assumption that the argument is being made in bad faith, and there's some alterior motive in play. But I fail to see what possible alterior motive there could be for keeping Terri Schiavo alive. It's not going to result in a billion dollar contract for Halliburton. Really, who is it that stands to benefit from keeping Schiavo alive?

    I can sort of understand why some people might feel this way about abortion, because there are some (though certainly not most) pro-lifers whose opposition from abortion stems from a misogynist view of women rather than an abiding respect for unborn life. But in this case?

    If it's the sanctity of marriage, rather than keeping Schiavo alive that you have a problem with, then we can debate that. If you think the Schiavo case illustrates that the emphasis on the importance of marriage is inappropriate, we can discuss that. I'll disagree, but not as much as I'll disagree with you starving a woman to make a political point.

    It's just sad. And I know it seems I'm pointing fingers here, but I acknowledge that actions by people like DeLay have led to this rift. But I can't imagine hating one's political opposition so much that you'd want to let an innocent woman starve to stick it to her.

    And I don't know how to fix it. But we better figure it out soon.

    Monday, March 21, 2005

    IT'S TAKEDOWN TIME
    Dahlia Lithwick has a "legal analysis" of the Terri Schiavo law that might as well just say "I don't like pro-lifers." We're going to give it the whole treatment, since it contains many of the fallacious arguments out there.

    Whether Terri Schiavo will live or die in the coming days has come down to this: Can federal district judge James Whittemore set aside virtually every bedrock constitutional principle on which this nation was founded, just so members of the United States Congress may constitutionalize the nowhere-to-be-found legal principle that a "culture of life" is a good thing?


    This paragraph alone ought to disqulify Lithwick. "Virtually every bedrock constitutional principle?" Please... And while the phrase "culture of life" doesn't appear in the Constituion, "life" is prominently included in the Fifth Amendment as well as the Fourteenth amendment, and the Declaration of Independence, for that matter.

    So, already we have two errors that are almost photo negatives of each other. First Lithwick asserts something as universal that is not, then she asserts the absence of the something that is present.


    This morning's decision by Congress and President Bush—to authorize new federal legislation that will obliterate years of state court litigation, and justify re-inserting a feeding tube into Terri Schiavo, based on new and illusory federal constitutional claims—is not about law. It is congressional activism, plain and simple; legislative overreaching and hubris taken to absurd extremes.

    Let's be clear: The piece of legislation passed late last night, the so-called "Palm Sunday Compromise," has nothing whatever to do with the rule of law. The rule of law in this country holds that this is a federalist system—in which private domestic matters are litigated in state, not federal courts. The rule of law has long provided that such domestic decisions are generally made by competent spouses, as opposed to parents, elected officials, popular referendum, or the demands of Randall Terry. The rule of law also requires a fundamental separation of powers—in which legislatures do not override final, binding court decisions solely because the outcome is not the one they like. The rule of law requires comity between state and federal courts—wherein each respects and upholds the jurisdiction and authority of the other. The rule of law requires that we look skeptically at legislation aimed at mucking around with just one life to the exclusion of any and all similarly situated individuals.


    All right, then I should expect this piece to be a dispassionate legal analysis free of biases and appeals to emotion...


    And what is the overwhelming constitutional value that supersedes each of these centuries-old legal notions? Evidently, Congress has a secret, super-textual constitutional role as the nation's caped crusaders—its members authorized to leap into phone booths around the world and fly back to Washington in a single bound whenever the "culture of life" is in peril. Republicans acknowledged this weekend that their views on "the sanctity of life" trump even their convictions about federalism. Or, as Tom DeLay put it, when asked how he reconciles this bill with conservative calls to keep the federal government out of state matters, "We, as Congress, have every right to make sure that the constitutional rights of Terri Schiavo are protected, and that's what we're doing."

    This congressional authority to simply override years of state court fact-finding brings with it other superpowers, including the power of gratuitous name-calling: Members of Congress unable to pronounce Schiavo's name just last week are denouncing her husband as an adulterer and common law bigamist who withheld proper medical care from her. I wonder what they'd say about my parenting—or yours—if they decided to make a federal case out of every domestic-custody dispute currently resolved in state court proceedings.


    Ok, so ad hominmem claims about one's adversaries are also out of bounds. Got it. Of course this begs the question of what the ability of members of Congress to pronounce a name have to do with the legal facts of this case, but we'll give a pass.


    Members of Congress have apparently also had super-analytical powers conferred upon them, as well. Senate Majority Leader, and heart surgeon, Bill Frist felt confident last week—after reviewing an hour of videotape—in offering a medical diagnosis of Schiavo's condition, blithely second-guessing the court-appointed neurologists who evaluated her for days and weeks. His colleagues are similarly self-appointed neurological experts. Years of painstaking litigation, assessment, and evaluation by state courts are dismissed by Tom DeLay as the activist doings of a "little judge sitting in a state district court in Florida." Only the most extraordinary levels of congressional hubris could allow a group of elected citizens to substitute their personal medical, legal, and ethical judgments for those of the doctors, judges, and guardians who have been intimately involved with this heartbreakingly sad case for years.

    You can just tell that Lithwick's heart is breaking at this opportunity to take shots at DeLay, Frist, and everyones else who supports a culture of life.

    Also, at least the members of Congress are accountable to the people they represent, unlike the doctors, judges, and guardians Lithwick says we should defer to.


    And shouldn't we worry—just a bit—when in the name of a "culture of life" Congress enacts legislation that singles out just one Florida family for special legal standing? Frist calls this "a unique bill" that "should not serve as a precedent for future legislation." Yet Schiavo is just one of up to 35,000 people in this country in a persistent vegetative state as the result of trauma, drug overdose, or other medical complications. Remember what happened to Élián Gonzáles when the federal government decided to embroil itself—just this once—in a custody dispute? Why does Terri Schiavo alone warrant the legislative intercession of these self-appointed crusaders? (Not because this is a "great political issue" that would appeal to the base and defeat a Florida Democrat, according to a one-page memo distributed to Republican senators last week.) The last time Florida had to contend with a good-for-one-ride-only legal intervention of this sort was in Bush v. Gore.


    The memo was admittedly a poor move, but what does that have to do with cold, legal analysis? Isn't bringing it up just an appeal to people's emotions to get the to dislike those opposed to removing the tube?


    Take a peek into any chat room (or this Fray in 15 minutes) and you will find hundreds of individuals who personally know that Terri Schiavo is—despite voluminous testimony by her doctors and her guardians ad litem and the findings of multiple judges—capable of laughter and responsiveness and a full recovery. How do they know these things? The same way their elected representatives do: They watched a video clip. And because anyone who disagrees with the video is a murderer and torturer, the state court judge in this case requires constant police protection: The standard-bearers of the "culture of life" keep threatening to kill him.


    The hyperlinks didn't transfer, but if you go to the original you can see that Lithwick sprinkles her piece with hyperlinks to support the assertions in her piece, except she doesn't do so with this one.

    But even if it's true, what does it have to do with the legal analysis of this action? That's right, it doesn't -- it's just an attempt to get the reader to think poorly of those who want to keep feeding Ms. Schiavo.

    And wasn't Lithwick just pooh-pohing us bringing up Michael Schiavo's adultery (sorry, but that's the clearest word for a married man sleeping with another woman)? Why are these "death threats" admissable but Mr. Schiavo's obvious conflict of interest not?


    The reason we have courts, the reason we traditionally assign these brutal fact-finding responsibilities to those courts, is that intimate legal custody and life-or-death decisions should not be determined based on popular referenda. They need to be rooted, as much as possible, in rock-solid legal rules.




    This is not a slippery-slope case, where it's a short hop from "executing" those in persistent vegetative conditions to killing anyone with a disability. This is a case in which an established right-to-refuse-treatment claim, litigated for years up and down through the appeals courts, is being thwarted by parents with no custodial claim to their child. By stepping in merely to sow doubt as to whom Terri Schiavo's proper custodian might be, rather than creating some new constitutional right to a "culture of life," Congress has simply called the existing legal regime into doubt without establishing a new one. This new law offers no clarity about what the new federal claims might be. It just forum-shops for a more tractable judge.

    You can put aside the doctrine of federalism for Terri Schiavo, and the principles of separation of powers, and comity, and of deference to finality and the rule of law. But you'd want to be certain, on the day you do so, that what you're sacrificing them for some concrete legal value that matters a whole lot more. Subordinating a centuries-old culture of law to an amorphous, legally meaningless "culture of life," is not a decision to be taken over a weekend.


    So, first, the law is to narrow, then it's too broad? Lithwick first chastises Congress for not creating a new right, and limiting it to one person, and then she accuses them of rashly grafting "culture of life" into the Constitution.

    As I said below, lecturing social conservatives about federalism and states's rights isn't going to be very convincing after Roe vs. Wade.

    The entire piece relies on the reader sharing Lithwick's visceral allergy to the term "culture of life." It's in scare quotes six times. As I've noted elesewhere, scare quotes have never convinced anyone of anything. Their inclusion is a good sign that the writer is engaging in choir preaching rather than actual persuasion.

    In short, it's meant to divide rather than unite.

    Friday, March 18, 2005

    "GOVERNMENT INTERFERENCE"
    One of the barbs that's often thrown at the pro-life movement that drives me bonkers is that we're not true conservatives because we want the governement to interfer on life issues. Andrew Sullivan has a fairly typical example:

    So it is now the federal government's role to micro-manage baseball and to prevent a single Florida woman who is trapped in a living hell from dying with dignity. We're getting to the point when conservatism has become a political philosophy that believes that government - at the most distant level - has the right to intervene in almost anything to achieve the right solution. Today's conservatism is becoming yesterday's liberalism.

    Speaking, for myself, I'm much more concerned with being an authentic witness for life than I am to secular conservatism. To the degree that I align myself with the conservative movement, it is only because the conservative movement stands with me in protecting life. If favoring the governent preventing starving people to death, and preventing 3000 killings of the unborn each year makes me a big government liberal, I can live with that.

    Second, in the Schiavo case, who is enforcing the removal of the feeding tube? Oh, that's right the government. Who forced Terri Schiavo's parents to leave her dying daughter's bedside? Yeah, the government. Without all these lawsuits Schiavo could be cared for by her parents. But no, a judge says she must die, so her feeding tube is removed.

    This "small governemnt" drives me up the wall. What it pretty much translates to is that social conservatives have to bend over and take it will their opponents use every government tool at their disposal to meet their goals. Judges redefining marraige? Can't pass an amendment upholding the traditional definition of marriage; that would be a government reach. Millions being killed by abortion? Can't pass a partial birth abortion ban; that's not part of Congress's powers.

    Tell you what, you can have "small, limited government." True conservatism is about preserving institutions that have served us well. If government has to get bigger to defend the unborn, to keep inconvenient people from being starved to death, and the keep marriage meaning the same thing it's always meant, then maybe government has to get bigger.

    As Peggy Noonan points out, Republicans, conservative, the people we voted into office because they support our moral values, are in charge. If they can't use that power to save a woman's life, but instead choose to use it to revamp Social Security, ship more "detainees" to other countries where they can be tortured, or launch preemptive wars, then maybe we don't need to send them back again.

    If being a conservative means I have to sit idly by while others reshape the culture and literally kill people, then I don't want to be a conservative.

    Wednesday, March 09, 2005

    RE: THIS DISCUSSION
    Let me get this straight...

    Catholics must ignore all other issues in order to vote for "pro-life" Republicans. Anyone who doesn't is motivated by a desire to saw baby's skulls in half, and should seriously consider his worthiness for communion. They should shut up about things like Abu Ghraib, preemptive wars, slashes to medicaid, and capital punishment since the alternative is a party that celebrates sucking babies' brains out. After all, Catholic teaching doesn't perscribe specific policies on these issues, so Catholics should ignore them.

    But these Republicans need not sacrifice in order to advance the pro-life agenda. If it will be polticially costly to nominate a truly pro-life justice, then we should understand if they do not. And we sholdn't expect a right to life amendment. The press is hostile after all. There's only so much you can do. They can parade pro-choice politicians in prime time during the convention, and save their pro-life rhetoric for the afternoon when nobody's watching. The abortion rate can continue to rise while their in power. But we shouldn't expect more from them.

    Let me repeat -- I am not suggesting the current Democratic Party as a viable alternative for Catholics. I am saying that Catholics who've had to swallow a lot of crap to vote Republican because of the abortion issue should expect the same level of commitment from those elected. And when we ask for it, we deserve better than to be called sympathizers for baby killers.

    Monday, March 07, 2005

    THE TENSION
    Refelcting on my post below, it ocurred to me that a reasonable reading of the Gospel would argue that my responsibility to the retiring senior citizen in Washington ought to be as binding as my responsibility to my daughter. "Who is my neighbor?", etc. (Whether the state ought to enforce this reponsonsibility, while not enforcing that unborn children should not be killed is another matter...)

    But it occurs to me that this is what the culture war is about. If we want to make these reponsibilities equal by raising our concern for others, that's good. But I see us going the opposite way, making our family relationships less special, less honored, and that's not a good thing.

    And so we have the scourge of abortion, where we say that a mother has no particular responsibility to her unborn child. We introduce same sex marriage, which asserts that all loving relationships are equal, and that committed procreative realtionships should not be held in particular honor. We shuttle kids to day care and nannies, telling ourselves that it doesn't matter to kids that their parents aren't their primary caregivers.

    These are bad things, but I guess I'd like some help in how the Gospel says family relationships should be due a particualr honor. Jesus told the man not to bury his father before following Him.

    One answer is the sacraments. My relationship to my wife is sacramental through marriage. My relationship to my daughter and sister(who is my goddaughter) is sacramental through the promises I made at their Baptisms, as (going the other way) is my relationship to my parents and godparents. Thus, these relationships are due a particualr honor.

    I'm sure I'm missing something, since I don't think Jesus would approve of this losening of family ties.
    OK, ONE POST
    James Lileks notes how those opposed to Social Security reform are drawing a moral equivalency between taking care of one's children and supporting everyone's retirement.

    And this is why I'm not a liberal.

    Because the people making this argument are the same folks who would say that any restriction on abortion are terrible because people have the right to determine for themselves wheter or not to make the commitment neccesary to raise a child.

    Now they're saying that nobody can opt out of this welfare responsibility. In fact, the decline in the number of children justifies this.

    Am I wrong that there's something a bit anti-family here?

    Sunday, March 06, 2005

    I HAVE A GOOD REASON FOR NOT POSTING!!!
    We're waiting on the birth of our second daughter. You can find out the latest here.

    Thursday, February 24, 2005

    YELLING AT THE TV
    On the Today show this morning, a British commentator spoke about the Holy Father's new book, and said that he was trying to directly impose private Roman Catholic morality on the civil law, making it tough for Catholic politicians.

    Argh! What the Holy Father wants is for the civil law to respect the honor and dignity of all human life. We are all seeing the fruits of not doing so. He does not want the criminal law to require Mass attendance on Sundays or meatless Lenten Fridays.

    Of course, this commentary was greeted by a deferential nod from Katie Couric...

    Wednesday, February 23, 2005

    FLORIDA STORIES
    While one Florida man fights the state to let her starve his wife, in the same state, my cousin Kevin, who had been working tirelessly to save his wif Micehele's life, lost her this weekend to brain cancer. They had just reached their ninth wedding anniversary. Please pray for him and for her.

    Eternal rest grant to her soul, O Lord
    And let perpetual light shine upon her
    May her soul and all the souls of the faithfully departed
    Through the mercy of God
    Rest in peace
    Amen

    Monday, February 14, 2005

    RITE OF ELECTION
    There are few things more powerful and affirming than seeing the sactuary of the cathedral overflowing with people who desire to join us in the fullness of faith on Holy Saturday, especially knowing that this is just a third of them, just in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

    Let others write about how the Church is dying, etc. Nothing speaks louder to me than the witness of the elect and candidates.

    Friday, February 11, 2005

    WHERE'S MY RAGE??
    I am going to try to put this delicately, but I think raging against the bishops while disengaging from parish life is the easy way out.

    As Mark and others have pointed out, I can't be very effective in confronting Church governance. So I can type my angry comment box entry, maybe fire off a letter, and be pretty confident that I've done all I can do.

    But if I engage in parish life, I might find out some more. I might find about about the family whose daughter is pregnant and isn’t sure what she’s going to do. I might find that the catechism program needs good teachers. I might find out that there’s a lot of fellow parishioners who are just barely getting by. I might find out about the widow in my neighborhood who recently lost her husband who never learned how to drive and could use a ride to Mass each week. And so on. This is true regardless of how empty the homily is.

    It seems to me that Mr. Dreher is inviting us to withdraw from an arena in which we can be effective – parish life, into one where we’re less likely to be effective – Church governance

    Sunday Mass isn’t just for filling our own needs – there’s another side too – it calls us to something more. Part of how it does that is by making us aware of the needs of the people around us. It’s not just about what’s in it for me.

    Maybe some people are called with a charism to fight for better Church governance, and maybe Mr. Dreher is one of them. But I don’t think that’s the case for most of us. Most of us are probably called to live the works of mercy to those around us. And there are few better ways to learn about that than attending Sunday Mass.

    How do I better serve my daughters? By raging from my St. Louis home about the Bishop of Dallas’s behavior? Or by working to make my parish a lively, spiritual community where they can encounter and learn about God?

    I know my answer.

    Wednesday, February 09, 2005

    "CHEAP GRACE"
    One term that will rarely fail to get me to stop listening is the term "cheap grace," as in this quote.

    Grace, by its very definition, is a free gift from God. The implication of the use of this phrase is that most of us have earned our grace, but not this other person.

    The other side is that no grace is cheap. It was purchased with our Savior's blood. And our acceptance of, but not our access to, that grace may demand of us nothing less.