Tom and Jerry: Defenders of All Things Right and Good

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Folks With A "Solution" In Search Of A Problem

Tom has, on a couple of occasions, weighed in with his thoughts about the ongoing debate over Anthropocentric Global Warming (AGW). Some of you might be thinking "Hmmm. Jerry usually has something to say about everything, whether anyone's interested in hearing it or not. I wonder why he hasn't chimed in here."

The reason is simple. I honestly do not give a damn.

Now, I can hear the tsk-tsking: "Don't you care about what kind of planet you leave your children? Don't you care about your Christian duty to be a good steward of the earth? Aren't you concerned about the health of the environment?"

My answer to all these questions is "Yes". I just do not give a damn about Anthropocentric Global Warming.

Now, I do not count myself among the AGW "deniers", as I have neither the scientific background nor judgment to sift through the arguments of climatologists, researchers, and politicians in regards to what degree of a threat AGW is, if any. However, that the primary evidence cited in favor of Anthropocentric Global Warming (AGW) continues to be computer models raises this software engineer's eyebrow. You will struggle to find a group of people less likely to be swayed by computer models than software engineers. Computer models are just too easy to manipulate, and designing a completely thorough and completely reliable one is something that is rarely possible without some form of desired outcome in mind. Still, arguing about the reliability of this specific model or that specific model is something I will happily leave to others, as for even a nerd like me, incessant talk of algorithms and variables makes my head hurt.

However, while I can foresee no certainty coming from computer models, I can say with certainty that the proposed "remedy" for this supposed oncoming catastrophe looks awfully damn familiar: the same tax-heavy, government-involvement-and-spending-heavy, regulation-heavy, environmentally-puritanical, economically-crushing, and, yes, socialistic measures that were the proposed "cure" for the (supposedly) eminent "population bomb" and the coming "ice age" touted in the '70s. Adding to the sense of deja vu is that the proposing is largely being done by the same groups then as now. Neither the "ice age" or "population bomb" came remotely close to being realized, and now the same socialistic measures are being proposed to address AGW. And just like with those eminent threats from the latter days of bell-bottoms, we are being told that not only must the US and world adopt their "solution", we must do it RIGHT NOW OR ELSE, because there is NO TIME TO DEBATE ABOUT IT. I would be thought a fool if I were to be taken in by such tactics from a car salesman, but I should heed to them when considering adopting massive socialistic economic and environmental policies? Why should anyone be cowed by admonitions for adopting radical measures made in such a fashion? Oh, because they say their data "overwhelmingly" supports it. Right. The data largely extrapolated from computer models. Round and round we go.

All that being said, however, I still can't even claim to be a skeptic, as though the question as to what degree of a threat AGW is, if any, had any importance to me, and I was simply withholding judgment. No, I simply do not care. I do not care because I do not believe that the "concern" over AGW has anything whatsoever to do with concern for the environment or humanity. The AGW debate is, at bottom, a political debate between those who wish to implement their vision of a socialistic utopia and those who are not so keen on the idea. If AGW is a real threat, the "remedy" proposed by the AGW crowd will have longer-lasting and more damaging effects than the problem, as socialistic government policy has never failed to take a bad situation and make it exponentially worse. However, proving AGW is not a threat will not offer a reprieve from those wishing to impose these socialistic measures. If AGW is not a real threat, the present-day AGW alarmists will no doubt move on to the next "problem" that they insist requires immediate adoption of their "solution". Wash, rinse, repeat.

Regardless of whatever the supposed "threat" in whose name the call for implementation of socialistic measures is being made, I will continue to oppose, with great fervor, the implementation of said socialistic measures. Therefore, whether AGW is real or not is entirely besides the point.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Oh yeah, this is much better.

Remember all the hubbub last year when 15 year-old megastar Miley Cyrus posed topless for Vanity Fair with nothing but a sheet covering her breasts? Her fans were outraged, the public was squeamish, her father, Billy Ray, was lambasted in the press, and everyone involved pretty much expressed regret and declared "Lesson Learned!".

Good to hear. As you can see from a recent photoshoot, they've really become sensitive to charges of sexualizing a minor:

Nothing says "We don't want to sexualize a minor" like photographing her riding bareback on a horse with her legs wrapped around it.

Excuse me, but I now feel like I need to resume building my ark.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Abstinence Ed. vs. Contraception Ed.: Getting To The Heart Of The Matter

The overriding difficulty with the Abstinence Ed vs. Contraception Ed. debate is that both positions stem from opposing moral positions, and these positions are rarely, if ever, acknowledged as the engines which drive the opposing camps.

The debate goes something like this:

Abstinence:  We want to prevent our kids from getting pregnant and/or getting STDs.  The most effective way of achieving this end is to teach them not to engage in sex.

Contraception:  It is naïve to think that teenagers won’t have sex.  What happens when they give in to the temptation, as we know they will?  They need to know how to protect themselves when they are having sex.

Note:  At this point, it would be interesting if the Abstinence Ed. supporters would pursue the option of pointing out the Contraception side’s contradictory premises:  that a) teenagers do not possess the self-control to refrain from initiating sexual intercourse 100% of the time, but simultaneously possess the even greater self-control required to, after initiating sexual intercourse, 1) Stop 2) Pull out a condom 3) Apply it correctly, and to do this 100% of the time.  However, I have yet to see this in public debate, though it has come up in private conversation.

Abstinence:  The message of

"The safest way is to not have sex, but if you do engage in sex, which we’ll be talking about at great length for the rest of this and every presentation, here’s how to reduce the risk."

is akin to the message of

"The safest way to stay out of trouble (with your parents, teachers, authorities, whomever) is to not do something you shouldn’t do.  However, if you decide to do something you shouldn’t do, here’s how to avoid the consequences."

Both messages are saying the same thing:

"The safest option is to not [do something you are tempted to do but shouldn’t], but if you [do something you are tempted to do but shouldn’t] here’s how to avoid the consequences."

Anyone with an ounce of experience knows that a teenager (or pretty much anyone, for that matter) will be inclined to opt for the second choice in each of these messages.  What parent in their right mind would make such a statement to their child?

Contraception:  You’re making a values statement, equating teenagers having sex with them doing something they shouldn’t do.  You can’t enforce your values/religious beliefs/morals on everyone!

Abstinence:  So you’re saying that teenagers having sex is not something that they should discouraged from doing?

Contraception:  It’s up for each person to decide.

While the Abstinence side makes some good points, on the surface the Contraception side seems to have carried the day with "You can’t enforce your values/religious beliefs/morals on everyone!" and "It’s up to each person to decide.", which, in our increasingly relativistic society, tend to serve as debate-enders.  However, there are multiple flaws in these statements.

For starters, while the "You can’t enforce your values/religious beliefs/morals on everyone else!" charge has been very effective at cowing folks into silence and even acquiescence, it contains a superfluous and erroneous over-reach:  the rightness or wrongness of teenage sex (or any sexual matter) is not a "religious belief", but a moral position.  It is true that one’s religious beliefs can and do inform one’s moral position; however, there nothing unconstitutional about one’s religious beliefs informing one’s moral positions, as to prevent such a thing would be nigh impossible.  Everyone has religious beliefs - atheism is a religious belief, even "I don’t give a fig about religion" is a religious belief – and these beliefs shape our individual moral outlook whether we acknowledge that fact or not.

So the statement made by contraceptive ed. proponents, if they are concerned with accuracy, should be "You can’t enforce your values/morals on everyone else!"  This statement, however, is undermined by two things:

Their response to "So you’re saying that teenagers having sex is not something that they should discouraged from doing?", because "It’s up for each person to decide" is itself a moral position.  No one would say that whether to cheat, steal, or harm someone is a moral matter that "It’s up for each person to decide", because those actions are inherently wrong in a moral sense.  Therefore, to say that "It’s up for each person to decide" whether teenagers engaging in sex is bad, good, or neutral is to say that it is not inherently wrong.  This is a moral position.  Therefore, "You can’t enforce your values/morals on everyone else!" amounts to the statement "You can’t enforce your values/morals on everyone else while I’m trying to enforce my values/morals on everyone else!"  This statement is either intellectually dishonest or hypocritical, depending on whether one could actually believe such a thing.

As I understand it, Sex Ed. (of either variety) is not optional in public schools, and comes as either Abstinence or Contraception Ed., depending on which way the local school board is leaning.  Therefore, students are being force-fed either Abstinence or Contraception Ed.  Following on #1, in schools where contraception ed. is taught or being proposed, the contraception ed. folks apparently have no objection to enforcing their values/morals on students, which vitiates both "You can’t enforce your values/morals on everyone else" and "It’s up to each person to decide."


So at the bottom of all this back-and-forth is the reality that the debate is between folks who hold the moral position that teenagers having sex is an inherently wrong act and those who take the moral position that teenagers having sex is not an inherently wrong act. The shriek of the latter group that those of belonging to the former are "pushing their morals/values" on others is hypocritical, self-serving palaver.

I would offer the following solution:  If both Abstinence and Contraception Ed. were offered in public schools, which each individual student (and therefore, their parents) given the option of which to attend, there would not be much of a debate.  Frankly, I don’t see why this has not been seriously proposed.  For religious schools, I would hope (and for any school that hopes to get my tuition money, demand) that sex education be taught from the viewpoint and within the framework of the religion of that institution, which is their moral duty and their constitutional right.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A New Terrorist Threat

Yesterday, January 15, 2009, will be remembered alongside December 7, 1941 and September 11, 2001 as a day when America was attacked without warning. Thankfully, there was no loss of American life, unlike those two previous awful days. However, that fact should not detract from us recognizing our latest enemy.

I am, of course, talking about Canada.

Yesterday, a flock of Canadian suicide geese attacked a civilian passenger airplane, knocking out its engines. Their plan was foiled, however, by the pilots skillfully landing the plane in the Hudson River without damaging the aircraft, which stayed afloat long enough to have everyone onboard rescued.

Nevertheless, we must be vigilant against further Canadian suicide geese attacks, but more importantly, we must not allow our own feelings of fear and anger to result in retaliation against Geese-Americans, but to ask why this violence had been directed at us and to take a hard look at what we have done to inspire such an act. Why do Canadian geese hate us?

First of all, Americans have been oppressing geese for centuries: hunting and eating them, not giving them enough bread at the pond, etc. You could almost say we've been waging a Crusade against the Geese. Is it any wonder that a few brave suicide Geese (the Fowliban?) would seek revenge?

Secondly, they were Canadian geese; we are only reaping the rewards of our being condescending and insensitive toward our Northern neighbors:

How arrogant, how rude, how....American! Can we not see the cultural value of adding extra 'u's to words (colour, flavour, etc.) or ending every sentence with "eh?"

Thanks to Bush's ridiculous insistence that the US defend itself, America’s relationship with the world and other species couldn’t be worse. However, Hope and Change are coming. If Obama (Praise Be Upon Him) is willing to negotiate with Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas, I am sure that he will be able to find time to sit down with some Canadian geese.


Thursday, January 08, 2009

BCS Declares Germany the Winner of World War II US Ranked 4th

A little humor before the BCS Championship (from a forwarded email):

After determining the Big-12 championship game participants the BCS computers were put to work on other major contests and today the BCS declared Germany to be the winner of World War II.

"Germany put together an incredible number of victories beginning with the annexation of Austria and the Sudetenland and continuing on into conference play with defeats of Poland, France, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands. Their only losses came against the US and Russia; however considering their entire body of work--including an incredibly tough Strength of Schedule--our computers deemed them worthy of the #1 ranking."

Questioned about the #4 ranking of the United States the BCS commissioner stated "The US only had two major victories--Japan and Germany. The computer models, unlike humans, aren't influenced by head-to-head contests--they consider each contest to be only a single, equally-weighted event."

German Chancellor Adolph Hitler said "Yes, we lost to the US; but we defeated #2 ranked France in only 6 weeks." Herr #### has been criticized for seeking dramatic victories to earn 'style points' to enhance Germany's rankings. #### protested "Our contest with Poland was in doubt until the final day and the conditions in Norway were incredibly challenging and demanded the application of additional forces."

The French ranking has also come under scrutiny. The BCS commented "France had a single loss against Germany and following a preseason #1 ranking they only fell to #2."

Japan was ranked #3 with victories including Manchuria, Borneo and the Philippines.

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Update: Fr. Richard John Neuhaus died this morning.

Tom and I were both devotees of his magazine, First Things. I started reading it in 1997, though I didn't subscribe: I enjoyed going to Barnes and Noble, picking it up, and spending a leisurely couple of hours in their coffee lounge (though I don't drink coffee) digesting it. It was the only magazine that I read where I read the back section first - that was where Fr. Neuhaus' musings were compiled into a section called 'While We're At It'. He was insightful and slyly witty, and writing was a joy to read. His book, Death On A Friday Afternoon, a meditation on the words of Christ from the cross, is one of the few books I've read multiple times (along with Chesterton's The Everlasting Man and Pat Conroy's The Lords of Discipline).

Go on over to the First Things site, and read Fr. Neuhaus' 2000 article on death, which is posted on the home page just underneath the announcement of his passing.


Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Please pray for Father Richard John Neuhaus

Kathryn Jean Lopez reports that he is on his death bed.  Father Neuhaus' writings have had a profound influence on my life. Among other accomplishments, he is the founding editor-in-chief of First Things.  


Thursday, January 01, 2009

Merry Christmas

And have a happy Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God.