Sunday, December 28, 2003
Does anyone on the Vikings staff know the Heimlich maneuver? I mean really.
Side note: The Packers, apparently, needed either the Seahawks or the Vikings to lose this week in order to get into the playoffs. Here's my question. The Packers are 10-6. The Seahawks are 10-6. The Pack BEAT the 'Hawks in week 5, but still (apparently) didn't have the tiebreaker over them. How is head-to-head not the first tiebreaker? Didn't it used to be? Just asking.
UPDATE: I found the rules, and my mistake, here.
I didn't realize that the Cowboys, having lost, were also 10-6, and the rules are different if there are three teams tied. Had the 'Boys won, they'd have been 11-5 and got the first wildcard spot. If there are three teams from different divisions, the first tiebreaker is head-to-head, but only if one team has beaten or lost to both other teams. Dallas didn't play either Seattle or GB.
Next is conference record. Dallas and Seattle were both 8-4, GB was 7-5, so Seattle would have gotten the second spot. Happily, Arizona took care of it for us.
Had Minnesota (choke) not blown it, the tiebreaker also would have gone to conference record. The Vikes and Pack would have had equal division records (4-2) and common-opponent records (5-3 outside the division). But Minnesota would have ended with 8-4 in the conference and taken it.
I don't know why that was such a mystery to me.
Fisking the God Squad
I was going to write about something else today, but recently I ran across this (don't ask me how I found it; I don't always pay attention to where I'm going when surfing the blogosphere), and I changed my mind. I'm going to try something here, and post my bit in pieces. It's in order, so just keep scrolling. [Blogger's post/edit functions are a little ponderous.]
A few quotes. From paragraph six: “For example, we are now told that concern for sexual abstinence is just another imposition of a Christian morality. Planned Parenthood and the proponents of teenage sexual activity oppose abstinence-based sex education as "inherently religious." That is, the only arguments against teenage sexual promiscuity are based on religious convictions--which are forbidden grounds for public consideration.”
I hate this whole paragraph. I hate it when people use phrases like ‘we are now told.’ Told by whom? Three things are implied here: the source has, or arrogantly assumes it has, the authority to make such statements; it is widely heeded although it lacks moral credibility; thus it places people like the writer in the position of victim. I hate it when people play victim. And ‘proponents of teenage sexual activity?’ I guess if you think that abstinence is the only way to go, you might say that someone suggesting birth control was opposing abstinence (even though the two aren’t mutually exclusive), and if he’s opposing abstinence then he must support promiscuity. This is the same logic that says if I am not fully opposed to abortion rights then I must be in favor of people having abortions. You know what? I hate that.
The rest of the article uses the sex-ed example as well, to argue that any idea that smacks of religion is automatically ruled out. I’m sure there are people out there who would like God and faith to vanish completely from public discourse, and probably some of them are sounding off in the sex-ed debate, so I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt. However the sense of victimization is so pervasive in this article that I can’t help thinking the writer is magnifying the problem and ignoring other possible motives; in this case, that teaching abstinence to young people is a fine idea but may not be completely effective, so let’s have a backup plan (I know, saying ‘abstain, but if you absolutely can’t abstain, put one of these on’ sounds like giving up on plan A straight off, but …).
Since the article is about morality’s dependence on god, not sex education, I won’t belabor that point.
Paragraph four: “Of course, this begs the question of character itself. How do we know what character is without an objective reference? If human beings are left to our own devices and limited to our own wisdom, we will invent whatever model of 'good character' seems right at the time. Without God there are no moral absolutes. Without moral absolutes, there is no authentic knowledge of right and wrong.”
Friedrich Nietzsche, in Beyond Good and Evil, suggested that the Christian religion was such a boon to American slaveholders (by acting as a sop for slaves’ woes) that had it not existed they might well have invented it. Plato, in the Republic, advocates the promulgation of certain superstitions in order to justify the rulers’ monopoly of power. Many societies throughout history (ancient Rome, feudal Japan) have held their leaders to be divine or related to the gods, thus providing automatic credibility to their reigns. This paragraph says we need a god to bestow the power to define ‘morality’ and ‘character.’
Paragraph five: “According to the new American secular orthodoxy, no reference to God or faith--no matter how vague or distant--is allowable in public conversation, much less in governmental policy making. The end result is a total collapse of moral conversation. All that is left is a burlesque of moral nonsense with endless debates going nowhere in particular, except away from Christianity.”
This is way over the top. Again, I’m sure there are people out there who think this way, but I have not observed any retreat from the public dialogue by the religious sector. ‘Burlesque of moral nonsense?’ Wow. ‘Endless debates?’ I suppose if god could just tell somebody what he wanted us to do, we wouldn’t have to debate anything ever again. But it would have to be someone we all trusted, right?
Let’s recap. An unnamed authority is conducting a siege on religion and religious ideas, and will not permit any use of them in public debate. Therefore god and god’s law are no longer informing that debate which is leading us to a society that is not merely secular but openly hostile to religion (okay, he didn’t really say that but the entire article was infected with that kind of paranoia). This will inevitably result in a breakdown of morality and decency, insofar as god’s law is the basis of those things, and humanity will devolve into no-rules every-man-for-himself chaos.
First, something that isn’t apparent to the writer, and may not be apparent to other religious folks. As an atheist, religious arguments don’t work on me. You can’t quote scripture or church doctrine or anything like that, because I’m an atheist, and if I don’t believe in god you can’t expect me to accept as fact the teachings revolving around that god. It’s not that I want you to reject those teachings. It’s not that I want you to shut up about it (okay, I admit it, I do, but that’s not the point). It’s just that in order to convince me, you’re going to have to find an argument that appeals to my beliefs.
It seems obvious beyond mentioning that referrals to religious concepts don’t fit that bill. That’s the basis of the ‘new American secular orthodoxy.’ You can talk about it all you want. Nobody’s stopping you and nobody wants to. But if you want to win a debate, you’re going to have to adapt your message to your listeners.
Second, with regard to the origin of ethics, I naturally place the credit with humanity. Mock the ‘social contract’ all you want (and I have a good friend who did, but he’s still a good friend), but there you have it. We devised our own moral code as a way of getting along; any group of people is going to need rules. Organized religion did eventually claim those rules as their own invention, and did a good job of promoting and propagating them, but their true origin lies with us, not with some ineffable god. My sense of ethics is little different from any other American’s, religious or not, and is unlikely to change even without an outside agency to enforce it, whether god’s law or man’s.
Couple more quotes. Paragraph 14: “There is no secular morality of any substance,” and paragraph 19: “Now that God is off limits, we face the morality of the cultural elites and media celebrities.” I agree that ‘cultural elites and media celebrities’ have more influence on our society than their contribution to it warrants. But I’m an independent, critical thinker. I don’t have to blindly follow whatever I see on TV and neither does anybody else, and it’s unfair to claim that those elites and celebrities have the deciding vote on what ‘secular morality’ is.
Thursday, December 25, 2003
Addendum to last post: Merry RamaHannuKwanzMas! Heeheeheehee!
(from the very, very end of the list.)
Thanks to Tim Blair (apparently an Aussie) here:
• "The use of sexual toys to enhance foreplay is permissible on condition that these toys do not cause any harm or contain any forbidden ingredients. Similarly, these toys should not be inserted into the female private part, except in the case of dire necessity."
From an Islamic advice site. I kid you not. Look here.
And: "We have people from every planet on Earth in this state. We have the sons and daughters of every of people from every planet of every country on Earth." -- terminated California governor Gray Davis.
Actually, I kinda like that one. Every planet on Earth.
Mr. Blair, who as far as I know claims no relation to the Mr. Blair in London, has a year's roundup of quotes from his own blog at the first given link. These two are both from September.
Wednesday, December 24, 2003
Christmas shopping. So what's worse: aimlessly wandering around crowded stores hoping to come across something that someone on your list would like, or having a specific, perfect item in mind and not being able to find it?
Monday, December 22, 2003
Open letter to Brett Favre:
Brett, I want you to know how sorry I am about your father's death. He was too young. I'm sure all of Packerdom is with you right now.
I also need to say this: as much as I want to see you play tonight, as much as the team and the fans need you on the field, no one will blame you if you don't play.
No one will blame you if you do, either. But it's just football. Go be with your family.
UPDATE: Forget I said anything. What a game.
Friday, December 19, 2003
Here's a letter to the NYT from December 16 calling for food aid for North Korea, particularly from A Certain Hegemonic World Power. The last, and most important, sentence:
Food aid must not be politicized.
Go tell it to Jong-Il.
Thursday, December 18, 2003
There has been some criticism of the pictures of Saddam being examined by a doctor, of his hair being checked for lice, of his teeth being examined. I think maybe those particular shots weren't necessarily the best ones to release, but let me talk about the five S's for a minute.
The five S's are a mnemomic for the treatment of POWs: search, separate, silence, speed, safety.
Search: take everything the POW is carrying and evaluate it for intel value. Personal items, by law, will be returned to the individual, but only after they've been examined.
Separate: put the POWs in groups by rank.
Silence: make them shut up.
Speed: get them back behind our lines quickly.
Safety: once you take an enemy captive, you are responsible for his (or her) welfare. Don't let them get hurt, don't let them suffer unnecessarily.
This is what was happening to Saddam in those videos: he was being examined by doctors for physical problems. His health was being attended to. The pictures may have been undignified but they also show that he's being treated well. That's a good thing.
From this Washington Post article:
"Why didn't you fight?" one Governing Council member asked Hussein as their meeting ended. Hussein gestured toward the U.S. soldiers guarding him and asked his own question: "Would you fight them?"
The Army should immediately make this their new motto. Forget that "army of one" stuff. Think of it: "The United States Army: would you fight 'em?" Cool.
Tuesday, December 16, 2003
This came from a Washington Post column:
In March 2000, Dean told a Canadian public affairs program that 98 percent of the public does not vote based on a candidate's foreign policy views, "unless they are really a wacko."
Am I a wacko?
During the interview, Dean staked out new ground in several important areas. While Bush has tried to forge a five-nation coalition to confront the North Korean crisis -- and refused to hold direct talks with Pyongyang -- Dean said he would move immediately to bilateral negotiations with the communist nation. Dean's package deal would include economic aid, energy assistance and what he called a "nonaggression pact" in exchange for a dismantling of North Korea's nuclear program that was verified through "an intrusive inspection regime."
Pyongyang has called for such a package of incentives, including a nonaggression treaty. But Bush has rejected a treaty, offering instead written assurances of nonaggression. Bush also has been vague on what incentives, if any, he might offer once the nuclear programs are ended. "North Korea is an example of this president dawdling and dallying for 15 months because the hard-liners in his administration, of which apparently he is one, thought a small nation, a few tens of millions of people, could blackmail us," Dean said.
"Down the line," Dean said, North Korea "ought to be able to enter the community of nations. We have much better control over the rogue behavior of errant states if they are in the tent than not."
Generic I'll-do-something-ism. Finding a way to disagree. A while ago I wrote about the North Koreans. The thing is, to really deal with them you have to understand them, and they don't think like us.
It's not sufficient to have a policy; you need a policy that'll work. More on this soon.
Monday, December 15, 2003
Rarely have I been so eager to get to my morning paper. Packers win, Vikings lose! Ahman Green finally breaks the team's season rushing record - 1474 yards back in 1962. They only played a 14 game season back then, and Green broke the record in 14 games. Brett Favre broke a team record with his 23rd game with at least one TD pass. And Ryan Longwell is now the team's all-time leading scorer, passing Don Hutson who set the record with 823 points in 1945.
Oh yeah, and there seems to be some kind of big event over in Iraq. I haven't been able to learn much, but from pictures on CNN it appears that American soldiers have discovered Charles Manson hiding in a basement near Tikrit. More on this as information becomes available, oh loyal readers.
UPDATE: Instapundit scooped me on the Manson thing like 18 hours ago, but he blogs all day. Also, I predict that the most-uttered word on late-night talk shows this week will be 'spiderhole.'
Sunday, December 14, 2003
By the way: while cruising other blogs for comment, I ran across this, by far the best and most pithy answer to the post-9-11 breast-beating that we were the authors of our own fate (not saying it was written with that in mind).
If by our acts we brought this tragedy upon ourselves, then had we acted differently we would not have. Which means that we have a paternalistic obligation to control how everyone else in the world behaves, through our acts towards them. They will merely react to us; all responsibility is here. We are the only moral thinking people on earth and thus the only ones who can sin. If we can only bring ourselves to be sufficiently kind and generous to them, then they will live good lives. They are innocent, they cannot know sin, for they are not sufficiently sophisticated to do so. They are less than we are.
Acknowledgement: Steven Den Beste at denbeste.nu.
Friday, December 12, 2003
At this time, Mr. Pterodactyl would like to announce that he is officially endorsing Senator Joe Lieberman for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. Senator Lieberman is the only (serious) candidate who has been completely consistent and honest about his positions, not pandering to the far left as others (I'm looking at you, Kerry, Clark, Gephardt... Oh, you know) have done, in particular on the Iraq war. The war on terrorism is too serious a matter to be reduced to a political ploy. Sadly, consistency and honesty do not fire the imagination of the angry liberal portion of the public which has embraced Dean. Nevertheless they are the very qualities, in fact the only qualities, that can lift up the Democratic party and bring it victory.
For those of you who see political opportunism in this endorsement, who envision an inevitable Pterodactyl vs. Clinton race in 2008, all I have to say is: it's not too soon to start sucking up.
UPDATE: I'm not saying I'll vote for Joe over GW, but I'll think about it, which is more than I can say for any of those other schmucks.
Sunday, December 07, 2003
Apparently some problems at Blogger today, so I couldn't get in until now. I was going to post prior to the game, to say the following. NFL-and Packer Hall of Famer Jim Taylor set the Packers' single season rushing record of 1474 yards in (contrary to a previous post) 1962. He got those yards in a 14 game season, with 272 carries. This year, Ahman Green had 1383 yards in 12 games and 262 carries. I was going to predict that today Green would break the record. It was only 92 yards, and after all, it's the Bears.
However, teams are starting to figure out the Pack's rushing game, and Green was held to 80 yards in 30 carries. Still, Packers 34, Bears 21.
By the way, did everybody (because this blog is read by millions) notice the block by Nick Barnett on McKenzie's interception return? If that kid isn't rookie of the year, I'm calling my congressman.
Thursday, December 04, 2003
Okay, look. I know nobody's reading this. Nevertheless I'm on my third post today, because I just read something I really liked. Here it is.
Go read it. Ignore all the ads for rightwing books.
So let's (finally) talk about North Korea, a subject near and dear to my heart. I recently read another screed by an aid worker and member of a Christian group, complaining about the conditions people are suffering there and the lack of assistance from outside, especially a certain hegemonic world power. The problem I have is this: people like him invariably want to help relieve that suffering, while ignoring its real cause. The cause is of course the North Korean government (it's hard to call it that with a straight face). No amount of aid is really going to help as long as Kim Jong-Il and his ilk are running things. But changing that is difficult and hazardous.
I see three ways it can go. First, we can try to salvage the Agreed Framework (I’m not so sure that it is salvageable, but for now let’s pretend it is). If we do this, we’re really doing two things. South Korean corporations have done about 600 million dollars worth of business in NK this year. Also, the NK black market has come out from under the table, with the approval of the regime. We would have to encourage this, subtly. Greater contacts with SK and exposure to free markets will improve matters. The other thing we’re doing is waiting for Kim to die, and hoping that the next guy is easier to deal with. I believe that the more chronological distance they get from Kim Il-Sung, the farther they get from his Stalinist/Maoist/guerrilla mindset, so I expect that subsequent leaders will be more open to detente. This also assumes further successful dynastic succession, as the alternative (loss of power by the Kim family) almost certainly would involve a coup or other violence, if not civil war.
The second possibility is to clamp down on NK. Monitor their exports, interdict criminal ones with the PSI, stop the illegal trade of weapons, drugs and counterfeit money. Convince SK to cease economic cooperation. Convince Japan to halt remittances from their ethnic Korean population. Isolate NK from any and all outside help, and wait. There are several difficulties. Japan, I think, would go along. SK might not, and China (currently NK’s biggest donor) is extremely wary of instability in NK. I’m not sure there’s any realistic way to convince them to stop, much less to open their border to refugees. Also, NK would probably become much more aggressive, stepping up their rhetoric and even increasing the frequency and intensity of provocations such as the NLL (Naval Limit Line) incursions, missile tests, and special forces infiltration.
In the first scenario, this could become a tit-for-tat; offer one new concession in return for another (but firmly). In the second, it should rather be an all-or-nothing; demand the entire package of reforms in exchange for the entire package of aid, while still strangling NK.
More later. I'm still thinking on it.
Maybe next I'll try to solve Israel.
Easterbrook's TMQ column is now on nfl.com. Obscure stats and cheerleader commentary. Aaah. But my favorite bit shows up waaay down toward the bottom: 'Buffalo tossed aside red, white and blue -- not too put too fine a point on it, but the single most successful color scheme in world history.'