Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

Tuesday, February 05, 2002

Is there a “Just War?”

Is there a "Just War?" Charles Murtaugh writes regarding the differences between Islam and Cristianity, and in the course of his blog, opens an interesting question:

This debate continues today, whenever thoughtful Christians are called to war. The prevailing tradition of Just War doctrine, first articulated by St. Augustine to defend the use of force, continues to rub up against the teachings and example of Christ himself. Many Christians, forced to defend themselves, their families and their countries, would probably agree with Orthodox priest John Garvey, who writes in Commonweal:

"I can't buy into the just-war theory as it is usually presented; I have always found it impossible to accept as a Christian argument one which does not need at any point to mention Jesus Christ...[W]e must as Christians communicate the idea that even a war which seems necessary is tragic, and we involve ourselves in a mystery of evil. Just as Oedipus was defiled by sleeping with a woman he did not know was his mother, and by killing a man he did not know was his father, we participate in an evil, however necessary it may be, when we kill people for whom Christ died."

Garvey is defending the military response to Sept. 11, but at the same time, quoting Neil Young's song "Let's Roll," he says, "I hope that we're forgiven / for what we've got to do."

I am forced to agree with Father Garvey. The doctrine of a "Just War" is an excuse for our failure to live up to our ideals. War may be necessary for our survival, and a secularist would say that is all that matters. But as a spiritualist, I should be able to see that the material world is the least valuable part of reality, and is not worth killing to protect. However, the animal in me still rules, and I will fight to defend my family, my country, my values. I cannot excuse my weakness with hypocracy; I can only ask for forgiveness.

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Just when you think there’s no hope:

Just when you think there's no hope: The judge phones in a reprieve. Maybe only temporary, but every minute we squeeze out before going over the edge is another minute in which to find an alternative.

The French plan envisages three main stages towards a peace settlement.

First would be the declaration of an independent Palestinian state, swiftly followed by general elections under international supervision - the idea being to give the Palestinians a newly mandated and more democratic leadership.

Only then would final status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians take place.

The French have presented their ideas to other European countries, but have yet to receive firm backing.

Get rid of Arafat, elect a new government, and try and negotiate in good faith. Sounds wonderful

Only one problem....who is going to bell the cat?

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Jim Traficant.

Jim Traficant. Here we go! The trial of Jim Traficant is about to start. This is going to be more fun than the circus and the county fair rolled into one.

Traficant is going to defend himself, which will make for a colorful trial, even if the outcome is largely predetermined. Congress is going to lose a little color when Traficant is convicted.

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Catholic Judges and the death penalty

Catholic Judges and the death penalty Antonin Scalia has gone on record as disagreeing with the Catholic Church's position on the death penalty. He goes even further, by stating that any Catholic judge who agrees with the Church's position should leave the bench.

In Chicago on Jan. 25, Scalia said, "In my view, the choice for the judge who believes the death penalty to be immoral is resignation rather than simply ignoring duly enacted constitutional laws and sabotaging the death penalty." His remarks were transcribed by the event sponsor, the Pew Forum.

Scalia said Monday that "any Catholic jurist (with such concerns) ... would have to resign."

"You couldn't function as a judge," he said.

Tell you what. I'll agree with him as long as he renounces his faith as a Catholic, since he willfully acts against the tenets of that faith. I was raised Catholic, but left the Church due to doctrines that I disagreed with. I figured if I wasn't going to accept the precepts of Catholisicm, then I shouldn't call myself a Catholic.

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That’s it!

That's it! We are now officially the pinnacle of all creation!

What a bunch of tripe! I really love the following bit....

"According to Darwin's theory, individual animals best suited to their environments live longer and have more children, and so spread their genes through populations. This produces evolutionary changes. For example, hoofed animals with longer necks could reach the juiciest leaves on tall trees and therefore tended to eat well, live longer, and have more offspring. Eventually, they evolved into giraffes. Those with shorter necks died out."

Except for the zebras, and the gazelles, and the antelope, and so on.

Natural selection isn't that simple. It's not solely an either/or proposition. In fact, most often, it's both. The giraffe did evolve a longer neck to fill an empty ecological niche. By finding a food source with less competition, they flourished. This in no way impacted the short necked quadrupeds, who also flourished, since their food supply had to support one less group.

The rate of human evolution has slowed, because of our extreme adaptibility. Think about it. We inhabit nearly every ecosystem on the planet, not just due to our technology, but our adaptibility as well. Only one other species has been able to do this without fracturing into several new species. Can you guess which one?

If Professor Jones is correct, then what does this say for humans? Well, I'll give you a hint. The last organisms that adapted themselves so perfectly to their envirnment that they stopped evolving were the dinosaurs.

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Why are we friendly with these guys?

Why are we friendly with these guys? Why is it that we will allow the Saudis to discriminate against women? Granted, things are getting better, but with Prince Abdullah about to take over completely, I wouldn't be surprised at all to see women's rights take a huge step backwards.

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Bush’s Budget

Bush's BudgetYou can read the budget here, but you'd better have plenty of coffee handy. I've read through the summary pages, and it seems to be a fairly decent first attempt. I think the priorities are right in line with where they should be. It will be interesting to see how the picture changes when Congress gets through with it.

I think it is funny listening to the same guys that argued that a defict was good, as it spurred growth, now condemning the proposed budget for its return to deficit spending. Of course, these are the same voices who voted against a balance budget amendment because we "needed the flexibility to spend whatever we had to in times of war."

Guess what? I think this qualifies as a time of war.

Personally, I would like to see a balanced budget, and would even be willing to give up some of the tax cuts we won last year to do it. However, I see no problem with the cuts Bush has proposed. When times are lean, you tighten your belt.

Cutting the advanced technology grants, for example. Let's look at one of the results of those grants, one which is close to home. Molten Metal Technologies, in Oak Ridge, received several of these grants. The company developed a way to reduce the volume of radioactive wastes produced from nuclear power plants. VP Al Gore held up MMT in a press conference as a sterling example of what government funding could accomplish. Unfortunately, the process was very finicky, and subject to frequent breakdowns. MMT never came close to achieving their designed throughput goals, or volume reduction targets. Once the governement teat dried up, the company went belly up. Yet, after bankrupting the company, the management of MMT walked away with nice golden parachutes, in large part courtesy of the tax payers.

When times are flush, losing a few millions backing a bad idea is not unacceptable, as the occasional reward will offset the failures. But, when times are lean, we must reorder our priorities, and insure that each dollar goes to where it is most needed.

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Monday, February 04, 2002

I watched the Roy Jones

I watched the Roy Jones Jr. and Bernard Hopkins fights on Saturday, and one thing was perfectly clear. Roy Jones is an amazing fighter, but Bernard Hopkins is a dangerous man, and he's hungry. Jones is ducking a fight between the two of them, and well he should.
The comparisons between the two were evident last night. Jones fought an unknown fighter, basically the same level as he has fought for the last several years.
Hopkins fought a challenger who may not have been at his level, but was a former world champion himself.

Jones hasn't been pushed in years.
Hopkins just won the middleweight tournament by destroying Felix Trinidad.

In Saturday's fight, Hopkins hurt the former champ so much that he quit, rather than answer the bell. To me, that says everything that needs to be said.

If the Hopkins and Jones meet, Hopkins will take Jones out.

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Sports for the day

Sports for the day The SuperBowl has enjoyed a decent run over the past couple of years. Last nights game went down to the wire, as did Super Bowl 34 when the Titans nearly won it all. The Patriots are no longer the Patsies.

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Friday, February 01, 2002

Ethics, Part 2

Ethics, Part 2 OK, we left off last week with the question, Are the ethics of self interest the highest we can aspire to?

We have defined ethical behaviors as those which tend to increase survival fitness. This would seem to indicate that self interest is indeed the sine qua non of ethics. But when we look around, we see that most people often act in a manner which decreases their fitness. Many of the human characteristics we prize most highly would appear to be in conflict with self interest. Compassion, loyalty, integrity, self sacrifice, and altruism are some examples of these behaviors.

Darwinists have come up with a term to explain these actions: reciprocal altruism. This is the practice of acting for the benefit of another in the expectation that the other will due the same for you. I believe Ayn Rand came up with a similar concept, enlightened self interest. I find this a much better term for this concept, since reciprocal altruism is something of an oxy moron. Altruism by definition requires no expectation of reciprocity. Darwinists limit the concept of reciprocal altruism to the kin group or family. Randites (randians?) expand it further, but both concepts require that the expectation for reciprocity be honored.

The vast majority of animal and human behaviors can be explained through enlightened self interest. The ability to see the future repercussions of our actions allows us to override inherited instincts which are of necessity focussed on the here and now. We can act in a way which reduces our immediate fitness, but which enhances our long term fitness. In fact, the advantages of acting as a group far outweigh the disadvantages.

As an ethical principle, "Screw you, I've got mine," is replaced with "Do unto others, as long as they do unto you."

But this is still self interest at heart, and as such, is no different than the darwinst point at which we started. We are still dealing with the ethics of power. While each individual has tempered his survival instincts for the good of the group, he is still acting solely for his own benefit. If he finds a situation in which his survival benefits are increased by betraying the group, he will do so. In addition, group ethics actually enhance the ethics of power. Individuals who do not conform to the group are driven out, which places them at a severe competitive disadvantage. When two groups interact, conflicts will be resolved by force, with the stronger group assimilating the remnants of the weaker.

So, while enlightened self interest can explain much of human behavior, it is still alcking when we come to the qualities of loyalty, true altruism, compassion, and self sacrifice. It appears that there is a higher level of ethical behavior; one that encompasses our darwinian roots while transcending them, much like Einstein's relativity both encompasses and transforms Newtonian physics.

We'll start our exploration of this new level next week.

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The lighter side.

The lighter side. There are a few television shows worth watching, but I will set aside time for them if possible. My picks for must see tv:

Alias The best parts of this show are not the action sequences, which are good, but the scenes where Sydney is dealing with the realities of being a spy. This is really a character study and morality play masquerading as an action show.

Law and Order Topical and intelligent, and fairly even handed for a TV show. Besides what other show could replace its entire cast, and still be going strong?

Junkyard Wars It took the Wright brothers years of effort to build a flying machine. Two teams in a junk yard did it in 12 hours.Ya gotta love it!

CSI I have a theory. William Peterson played an FBI profiler named Graham in a movie called Manhunter. This movie, based on the book Red Dragon by Thomas Harris, marked the original appearance of Hannibal Lecter. Graham was the agent who captured Lecter, but almost lost his mind in the process. His talent was the ability to get inside the mind of apschopath, to feel how he felt, and think how he thought.

On CSI, William Peterson plays Grissom, the mysterious leader of the CSI team, with an almost uncanny knack for "seeing" patterns in the clues his team finds. I suspect that, at some point, we may find that these two stories will be linked in a crossover.

Favorite Guilty Pleasure: Blind Date. As a newly single man, it is comforting to see that there are people out there worse at dating than I am!*grin*

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Politics, philosophy, social commentary, and

Politics, philosophy, social commentary, and beautiful women in tight must be time for a Star Trek blog from Samizdata

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I stand corrected

I stand corrected. Two readers (Cool! I have readers!) sent me corrections to the story on Kurt Warner. Fortunately, the truth is even better than the rumor. I guess I should have checkeD snopes myself, but it never occurred to me that somebody would embellish what is already a wonderful story.

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Rep. Hans Dunshee, (D-Snohomish) of

Rep. Hans Dunshee, (D-Snohomish) of Washington State wants to remove a marker designating a portion of Highway 99 as Jefferson Davis Highway.

With a war and a recession, among other things, is this really the most important thing he can find to spend his time on? Without looking, I'm going to bet that he is up for re-election this year.

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The NCAA has declared that

The NCAA has declared that Donte Stallworth has lost his amateur status, and in so doing, has lost all credibility. No, they are not interested in what is best for collegiate athletics, nor are they interested in what's best for college athletes.

Stallworth vacillated all the way up to the deadline for declaring draft eligibility, then announced his eligibility at the last moment. He hired an agent, and borrowed money to fly his brother to town. Within 24 hours, he regreted his decision, returned the money, and started the process to get reinstated. The appeal was filed with the NCAA by the University on Stallworth's behalf.

Yesterday, the NCAA refused to reinstate Stallworth's amateur status. I have to ask myself, who benefits from this decision? Stallworth loses his last year of eligibility, and a chance to complete his degree. UT loses a good player. The only winner is the agent who signs Stallworth.

What message does this send out to other players? Does it say that the NCAA is interested in keeping kids in school? Nope.
Does it say that the NCAA is interested in what is best for the athlete? Nope.
Does it say that the NCAA is interested in doing what is right? Nope.
Apparently the NCAA 's only interest is in the free exercise of its power, and enforcement of its rules.

On the other hand, Stallworth does have to bear some responsibility. He did declare eligibility. He did sign with an agent, and he did accept money.Stallworth deserved some penalty for these actions. But, the fact that he changed his mind after such a short time and made restitution certainly should have weighed heavier in the NCAA's deliberations. We don't want to send a signal to athletes that they can change their mind at will, but we also don't want the athlete to pay an inordinate price for indecision.
A 3 game suspension would have been a more appropriate penalty in my opinion.

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