Tuesday, December 20, 2005

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.
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.