Thursday, December 30, 2004

Season of giving

Victor Davis Hanson has an interesting column today giving advice to the Left on how to comprehensively reformulate its approach to foreign policy. Among the suggestions: stop reflexively crediting the moral superiority of continental Europe and the UN, because they've demonstrated a distinct lack of credibility (understatement) in foreign affairs. In cooperation with and support of tyrant regimes and futility in many areas, these groups just aren't worthy of deference. Hanson's overall message is that the Left needs to discard its anti-Americanism where that is baseless. As regards the current tsunami devastation in South Asia, Hanson also advises people about the supposed "stingy" nature of the American people:

Ignore most grim international reports that show the United States as stingy, greedy, or uncaring based on some esoteric formula that makes a Sweden or Denmark out as the world's savior. Such "studies" always ignore aggregate dollars and look at per capita public giving, and yet somehow ignore things like over $100 billion to Afghanistan and Iraq or $15 billion pledged to fight AIDS in Africa. These academic white papers likewise forget private donations, because most of the American billionaires who give to global causes of various sorts do so as either individuals or through foundations. No mention is made of the hundred of millions that are handled by American Christian charities. And the idea of a stingy America never mentions about $200 billion of the Pentagon's budget, which does things like keeping the Persian Gulf open to world commerce; protecting Europe; ensuring that the Aegean is free of shooting and that the waters between China, Korea, Taiwan, and Japan are relatively tranquil; and stopping nasty folk like the Taliban and Saddam from blowing up more Buddha monuments, desecrating Babylon, or ruining the ecology of the Tigris-Euphrates wetlands.

I'm sure the New York Times doesn't consider any money spent on the defense budget as contributing to global development; this morning's editorial glosses over that to look at nonmilitary aid. But Hanson is right -- spending money to help bring democracy, freedom, and infrastructure to Iraq, or to depose the Taliban, has helped improve the condition of a great number of people in the world. The Times also ignores private donations, which as many are noting are pouring in for victims of the tsunami -- and which go to support causes all over the world all the time. We should be involved in giving foreign aid: I believe it is a moral obligation. But I also don't think the government should be responsible for all the giving we should do -- rather, private citizens should and do give enormous amounts to charity -- and I think it's unfair for American critics to look only at select measures of government expenditures when considering our generosity overall.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

And that's the way it was

It's the end of the year, which can only mean . . . it's time for Dave Barry's Year in Review column. Excelente. Sadly, it's probably his last column, since he's about to go on indefinite hiatus, but in the meantime, it's nice to have this one. A few samples (which is equal opportunity, bipartisan, and all that :) of Barry's unique brand of humor:

AUGUST: In other bad news, the Department of Homeland Fear, acting on credible information, raises the National Terror Index Level to "EEEEEEEE," which is a level so high that only dogs can detect it.

SEPTEMBER: With more bad news coming from Iraq, and Americans citing terrorism and health care as their major concerns, the news media continue their laser-beam focus on the early 1970s. Dan Rather leads the charge with a report on CBS's "60 Minutes," citing a memo, allegedly written in 1972, suggesting that Bush shirked his National Guard duty. Critics charge that the memo is a fake, pointing out that at one point it specifically mentions the 2003 Outkast hit "Hey Ya." Rather refuses to back down, arguing that the reference could be to "an early version of the song."

NOVEMBER: As the nation enters the holiday season, the festive mood is dampened by the intrusion of grim reality, as 137 Americans die in vicious predawn aisle-to-aisle combat over deeply discounted post-Thanksgiving Christmas sale items. Congress vows to remain on recess.

Abroad, the big news is the presidential election in Ukraine, where the government, citing exit polls, declares that Viktor Yanukovych has defeated Viktor Yushchenko. Hundreds of thousands of outraged Ukrainians take to the streets, protesting the fact that they cannot remember which Viktor is which. Many threaten to move to Canada.

You should definitely read the whole thing. Enjoy :)

Gone in 60 minutes

Well, he did it: Peyton Manning broke Dan Marino's season touchdown passing record on Sunday against the Chargers, and in pretty impressive fashion: with a last-minute come-from-behind scoring drive to send the game into overtime. It was, it must be admitted, pretty darn cool. Len Pasquarelli sums up the drive and the last play:

Indeed, the history of the NFL includes The Drive, The Catch, The Fumble, The Holy Roller and The Immaculate Reception, among its greatest plays. On Sunday afternoon, with the Colts trailing 31-23 and just one minute remaining in the fourth quarter, the ever-resourceful Manning authored another memorable Kodak moment.

For lack of something better, we'll call it The Whisper, and file all of the appropriate copyright documents first thing Monday morning . . . .

With the game on the line, and needing a different twist against a San Diego secondary that played a deceptively aggressive zone much of the contest, Manning flipped through his voluminous mental inventory. He told Stokley to fake the corner route and then break the pattern to the post.

Touchdown. Record.

Dr. Z looks at some of the top seasons by QB's in NFL history, figuring Manning will probably end up ranking alongside these. Still, for Manning himself, records don't matter so much as wins, and despite the nice season the Colts are having it's going to be hard to make it out of the AFC to the Super Bowl. The Pats and the Steelers are going strong -- personally, I think the Steelers can take the Pats at home. Or maybe I just get a kick out of Irish RB Jerome Bettis :).

Common carriers

When looking at the disaster that often is airline travel today, it's hard not to conclude that some airlines want to go out of business. "No, really," they're saying, "we don't even want to be in this industry. Y'all go on and fly Southwest." In the case of US Airways (which lost football fields' worth of baggage and cancelled numerous flights over Christmas) and Comair (a Delta carrier, which owing to some major computer snafu cancelled all its flights over Christmas and will only be fully back up and running this Friday), passengers might be about ready to take up this offer and start taking their business elsewhere:

US Airways' reliability problems over the weekend could cost it dearly as business and leisure travelers begin weighing the risk of being stranded against supporting the struggling airline . . . .

US Airways spokesman Chris Chiames said operations were back to normal Monday and emphasized that "99% of our people came to work when they were supposed to, and that many, many of them volunteered to work extra hours and work extra flights to help solve the problem."

But, "Consumers won't forget being inconvenienced at Christmas," says AviationForecasts analyst Vaughn Cordle.

I like US Air (particularly the fact that they compete with Delta on the direct route to Reagan National) and I do know the company would prefer to retain customer loyalty and stay afloat, but it's just not looking likely right now. It might be easy to say "good riddance," but I don't think we necessarily should. While carriers like Southwest really are much better options in terms of reliability and efficiency -- plus their employees seem to like working there! -- they can't handle all the routes the major carriers do, so it still matters who the big guys are and whether they can stay in business. But it's not clear that a government investigation can do much to fix the problem, and the airlines themselves don't seem to be doing much self-help, multiple bankruptcy filings notwithstanding. So, it may be time to figure out what to do with my flier miles, as the NYT is reporting that the airline headaches are only likely to worsen in the next year:

With the six big airlines expected to lose another $5.5 billion this year, every one of them -- American, United, Delta, Continental, Northwest and US Airways -- has announced plans for deeper cuts in 2005. All told, the slashing will reach $7.5 billion in spending and at least 20,000 jobs . . . . For passengers, the irreversible retrenchment by the airline industry, which has shrunk by a quarter since the start of the decade, has meant the loss of food service, a reduction in routes, flight delays, lost baggage and other headaches.

Both my grandfathers and my father used to work for airlines (and my brother's a pilot, though making career decisions away from commercial aviation), and my earliest childhood memories are of the Atlanta airport -- the long escalators, the computer synthesized voice on the concourse shuttles :). Flying was fun. My memories next in time there, though, are of the Eastern union picketers marching with their orange signs in front of the main terminal. So I suppose the process of separating out the profitable airlines from the weaker and unprofitable is nothing new. I guess we'll have to wait and see which airlines the present shake-up leaves standing.

EDIT: I like this line from Dave Barry's year in review column, from his September events summary: "In aviation news, US Airways files for bankruptcy for a second time, only to have a federal judge rule that the airline can't possibly get any more bankrupt than it already is. Meanwhile, the Transportation Security Administration, acting on credible information, announces that it will be requiring additional airport screening for commercial airline passengers who are 'wearing clothes.'" Heh.

Matters of life and death

I'm much overdue in posting this link, but I hope it's not too late to mention it. A few weeks ago Professor Berman made this post about a recent Ohio Supreme Court case, State v. Yarbrough, in which the death sentences imposed for the 1999 murder of two Ohio college students was overturned because of a lack of jurisdiction; the murders were committed in Pennsylvania. Chris Muha, a Yale law student who is the brother of one of the victims, wrote to Moritz bloggers asking them to publicize the story somewhat; Chris (and neurosis, though I can't find the link) did so. I can't add any insight to the jurisdictional question at issue here, but I did want to mention that Chris Muha wants people to know that, even as there is a motion to reconsider in the Ohio case, as Catholics he and his mother are both against the death penalty. I also oppose the death penalty except in the rarest of circumstances (which qualification does not cover most of the impositions of the death penalty in this country today). Catechism (2266-67) teaches that while "legitimate public authority has the right and duty to inflict punishment proportionate to the gravity of the offense," nevertheless if "nonlethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person."

The most interesting take on Christian attitudes towards the death penalty I have read recently was by Professor Budziszewski in First Things; he argues that murder deserves death in return, but proper application of mercy counsels in favor of not always giving what is deserved:

The argument against capital punishment runs as follows. True, the purpose of retribution is served by the murderer’s death, but under certain circumstances retribution might interfere with other purposes of punishment: it might prematurely put an end to his rehabilitation; it might undermine deterrence (say, by so angering his compatriots that they, too, commit evils); and it might not be necessary for the physical safety of others. Therefore, it would be better not to kill him, but to protect society by other means—perhaps by locking him up forever. The difficulty with this argument is that it seems to regard the secondary purposes of punishment as sufficient to overturn its primary purpose. Rehabilitation, protection, and deterrence cannot justify doing more than what retribution demands; how can they justify doing less?

Fortunately, this is not the end of the story; mercy and justice can, in fact, be reconciled . . . . To the question, “Is it ever permissible to show mercy?” I also answer “yes,” but for a different reason. The faith I hold recognizes the dilemma that utilitarians ignore. Justice is inexorable; evil must be punished. This would seem to make mercy impossible; yet there is mercy. As the Psalmist says, “Great is thy mercy, O Lord; give me life according to thy justice” (Psalms 119:156). Somehow the irreconcilables meet and kiss.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Appointments clause

Good news for us "antiabortion" types: two new solid pro-life senators have been appointed to the Judiciary Committee. NARAL is reduced to overblown metaphors, naturally, while pro-life groups are heartened:

Antiabortion groups hailed yesterday's appointments, while advocates of keeping abortion legal expressed dismay. "The color code for potential threats to the Constitution just went from orange to red," said Ralph G. Neas of People for the American Way. "It's hard to believe the Judiciary Committee could go any farther to the right, but it just did."

Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said: "It appears the far right is massing troops on the border of Roe v. Wade."

Conservative groups see it differently. "I'm very pleased with it, obviously," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice. "Sam Brownback and Tom Coburn are friends of ours."

I haven't been as concerned about these nominations since Specter pledged not to block the president's nominees, contra Daschle; to judge by his own words (particularly in the WSJ) I think he was sufficiently chastened by the conservative campaign against his chairmanship to hold now to his word, even though it may have been made as a pragmatic attempt to keep power. Still, having Coburn and Brownback will help.

Requiem for the records

As Peyton Manning continues to display serious class (passing up an opportunity to get Marino's TD record at the expense of the Ravens at the end of Sunday's game when it was already won), he also continues to display extraordinary ability. He's got two more games to get just two TD's to set a new record, and with the way he's been playing all season with multiple scores per game (with a nod to the Ravens' nice defensive scheme Sunday), he should shatter this record. Marino seems to be taking it all in stride -- couldn't happen with a nicer guy, right? Well, I've liked Manning since he was at Tennessee, so I don't mind him blowing past this record. But I have to admit being bummed that Manning is also set to break a couple of my all-time favorite player's records as well. Steve Young has the record for single-season passer rating (112 -- Manning's currently at 126 (!)), and he and Jerry Rice have the most touchdowns for a QB-WR combination in history (85, but Peyton and Marvin Harrison are at 82). It appears these marks are not long for this world. Can we please have a moment of silence? :)

Friday, December 17, 2004

one ... more ... test ...

I've really been struggling to get the studying for this one done over the last few days. Which, considering I thought it would be the most straightforward, only adds to the frustration. Anyway, I will be back! Just have to get through this one today. See y'all soon.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

It was only business

When I first saw the pictures of new ND head coach Charlie Weis (see here for instance), I couldn't help but think he looked sort of like the guys you always see in the movies sitting in the front of The Family's restaurant who are there to look vaguely threatening and to size up any visitors who might be stopping by to meet the Godfather. As it turns out, Weis is from New Jersey, and he's promising a new, "nasty" style of Notre Dame football (also "intelligent" and "hard-working," of course). Along these lines, Lucas Sayre posts an entertainingly reworked baptism scene, of the imagined fallout from the events of the past two weeks. E bene :)

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Come together

Someone found my site this morning by Googling "immigrant marriage Philippines." I don't think I've ever written about those three things in tandem, but thanks to an intensive week of studying (immigration and administrative law) I think could answer any questions about it now -- file an I-130, wait for it to be approved to file an I-485 to get the beneficiary spouse a green card, but depending on whether the petitioner spouse is a citizen or a permanent resident you'll either have to wait for a turn in the quota to come up, or not . . . Well, I'm glad to realize something stuck, anyway :) But now I'm in DC for a few days, and the first order of business is: to take a nap.

In the meantime, a few interesting posts around the blogosphere recently: Tony Rickey on liberals in academia, Professor Bainbridge on same (here also), Carey Cuprisin on why winning isn't everything, and Jim Geraghty on the anti-"Happy holidays" backlash.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Finding a Notre Dame man

ESPN is reporting (eschewing a snarky tone, which is appreciated given the high level of snark in most stories about the Irish over the last week) that the Irish are going to interview Bills offensive coordinator Tom Clements today. This looks like a smart move by the Irish, and I hope they handle it well. Clements is a Double Domer -- he was on the national championship team in '73, and then came back to get a law degree from the school in 1986. He's got the Bills on a decent win streak right now. Here's how Sean at Blue-Gray Sky assessed Clements the other day:

As for the reasons I think he would be the ideal choice - first of all, he wants the job. He wanted it in 2001, and I'm guessing that hasn't changed. This is not someone Notre Dame is going to have to hard sell on coming to Notre Dame and then overpay to get them. Clements will come immediately and at a reasonable price.

Second, there is no danger of Clements asking the administration to lower the admission standards. He will know and embrace these standards because he has played and coached under them before . . . .

Fifth, and most importantly, this would be a tremendously popular move with the alumni base. THIS is the move they should have made three years ago after the O'Leary thing blew up in their faces. Keep it in the family. Clements has his fair share of advocates within the high powered alum, which will help. I think this is a move, given how the Meyer thing went sour, that would be tremendously popular. I'm picturing Clements at the press conference announcing his acceptance of the job and I'm picturing him talking about the spirit of Notre Dame and how special a place the university is, and truly MEANING it. Not just saying it because his paycheck says "University of Notre Dame" on it, but saying it because that's how he truly feels and always will feel. And I get excited about having a guy who can go out and re-sell Notre Dame without having to be sold on it himself.

Would like to write more, am realizing I do in fact have a test this afternoon. Doh! All right . . . I better go study more and worry about the coaching situation later :)

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Kecharitomene: full of grace

Today, in the Catholic liturgical calendar, is the feast of the Immaculate Conception, which many people (including, unfortunately, many Catholics) think refers to the conception of Jesus, but which actually refers to the conception of Mary. We believe that God's grace touched her from the moment of her conception, so that she was redeemed by Christ from the beginning and preserved from original sin. As the Ark of the Covenant was sanctified as the vessel which contained the symbol of God's first covenant with man (the Ten Commandments), so was Mary sanctified as she who would carry within her the New Covenant: Jesus Christ.

Mark Shea, an evangelical convert who's on hiatus from blogging to write a book about how he came to discover Mary in the Catholic tradition, has a good article on the same subject in this month's Crisis. John Mark Reynolds recently wrote a very nice reflection on Mary's meaning to us at Christmas. Finally, Fr. William Saunders writes about the bases in Scripture and tradition for our understanding of this doctrine and points out why we reflect today on the grace given Mary by God:

In a homily on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception delivered in 1982, Pope John Paul II wrote, "Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who filled you, Virgin of Nazareth, with every spiritual blessing in Christ. In Him, you were conceived Immaculate! Preselected to be His Mother, you were redeemed in Him and through Him more than any other human being! Preserved from the inheritance of original sin, you were conceived and came into the world in a state of sanctifying grace. Full of grace! We venerate this mystery of the faith in today's solemnity. Today, together with all the Church, we venerate the Redemption which was actuated in you. That most singular participation in the Redemption of the world and of man, was reserved only for you, solely for you. Hail O Mary, Alma Redemptoris Mater, dear Mother of the Redeemer."

As we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception and as we continue our Advent preparation, may we invoke the prayers of our Blessed Mother, Mary Immaculate, to draw ever closer to our Lord, her Son, this Christmas.

Monday, December 06, 2004

ND notes

Brand new blog by six Domers (I'm assuming) who are following the current coaching saga and offering their own news and insights. The posts are all really interesting so far (particularly the one detailing the standard bash-Notre-Dame storylines that the media love to trot out whenever possible). This one by Sean may have been written while under the influence, but (and so?) is a really useful evaluation of different guys we could/should be looking at, with one overall principle that should be guiding the search:

I'm not sure how Urban Meyer would have done as the Notre Dame head coach, nor how he will do at Florida. My guess is he will have them in the SEC Championship game next year, at a minimum. They have a TON of talent. I do know the reasons why I thought Meyer would be a great fit, and it wasn't so much the prolific, wide open offense that he runs nor his renowned motivational skills. Now more than ever, the University of Notre Dame needs someone who can passionately sell the school to recruits. Someone who bleeds blue and gold, and who assembles a staff that bleeds blue and gold. Urban Meyer, I thought, fit this bill.

My main concern now is that we need to hire someone who loves Notre Dame.

Sean thinks we should hire Bills offensive coordinator Tom Clements. Michael likes Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino. I'm not sure what to think right now, but I agree we need someone who loves the Irish. I hope we take the time to find that person; now that we've already got the usual critics piling on, we might as well. We owe it to the players and the school as a whole.

This strange place called a "library"

Well, it turns out that 3L's are actually required to take exams, despite a complete lack of any motivation or interest that I can detect on the part of said 3L's. (I think that lack of motivation should have some relevance as to whether we have to show up, but no one asked me :). Accordingly, I must go reacquaint myself with the public library, where I haven't spent much time since last school year, and turn my attention toward some serious outlining for exams at the end of this week. In the meantime, if I may direct your attention to two excellent posts from Justin Katz -- one on playing God, and one on the "anti-abstinence crowd" and what drives it. Good stuff.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Scientific philosophizing

Via The Corner, this link to a TCS article on what the larger debate over embryonic stem cell research is really about: philosophy. Essentially, the author argues, knowledge of science doesn't automatically bring knowledge of how to put science to use. Rather, ethics and philosophy govern (or should, at any rate) the use of science. Proponents of ESCR shouldn't claim that because we can do human embryonic research, therefore we must, Q.E.D. -- the "must" (and its necessary dismissal of moral or ethical objections to that research) is really a philosophical claim that bears more scrutiny:

Some philosophical system must adjudicate the interaction between science and human endeavors. There is no way around this. Science, when it aspires to step outside itself and explain how its fruits should be put to use, is no longer science but philosophy. The scientific enterprise tells us how a discrete question is to be answered; it does not tell us how to apply that answer to life . . . . Bereft of first principles, Science is nothing but a mass of unconnected facts, an organ with no mind to command it. Practically speaking, the demand for decisions to be made on the basis of science alone has meant that while profounder schools of philosophy are excluded, a sort of utilitarianism reigns, a dull calculation of pleasure and pain which scorns all concerns about the wider social state, much less the wider moral order.

The author thinks the philosophical sides boil down to utilitarianism and natural law theory. I think this is essentially correct, but then again, a whole lot more than just the debate over ESCR comes down to those two schools of thought . . .

Friday, December 03, 2004

What an embarrassment

Back in the spring, assessing the utter disaster that is the John York-managed San Francisco 49er team, I essentially decided to go on strike as a Niners fan. I have loved that team since I was little, but over the past few years in particular the management has done just about everything it possibly could to alienate fans and drive the team into the ground. (No, this was not a fair-weather fan thing -- I've stuck with the team through down years before, but this year I was just too ticked at the management to bother.) Here, the Chronicle's Kevin Lynch and SI's Michael Silver detail the ruin that is now a 1-10 season. In the event, while I feel bad for the players this year, I have been happy to follow two of the teams I thought I'd switch to for the season -- the Colts and the Steelers. Fun division, the AFC is :)

But switching from one complete disaster to another, Urban Meyer has apparently accepted at Florida, not ND. I sure hope Kevin White has some sort of backup plan, as he now has to head around the country again on another head coach search during recruiting season. True, some are saying ND is better off without Willingham or Meyer, but at the moment, the whole situation just looks like a joke -- on us. Oh well. Tune in next season.

So .... Peyton Manning's looking pretty great this year, huh?

Thursday, December 02, 2004

By what authority?

After the Third Circuit struck down the Solomon Amendment (which requires schools to allow military recruiters on campus as a condition of receiving federal funds) the other day, Harvard Law School wasted no time in reinstating a ban on military recruiters. Now, I thought the Third Circuit's decision, made on free speech grounds, was rather absurd (see Anthony Rickey's site for a good critique of the ruling). But agree or disagree with it, I'm not clear why it applies to Harvard. My understanding is that Harvard was not a party to the suit, even though HLS faculty members signed on to an amicus brief -- FAIR, the group bringing suit, doesn't publically disclose its members, but Harvard isn't ever mentioned among those that have been named, like Stanford and Georgetown, and I think Harvard specifically declined to join this suit. The attorney arguing the case for FAIR says that the court's ordered injunction applies nationally, but that's not clear from reading the opinion. Last year, Marty Lederman of SCOTUSblog considered the question of whether one circuit court's injunction can apply to non-parties, in the context of federal injunctions of the partial birth abortion ban:

The real question -- which district courts and courts of appeals occasionally answer incorrectly -- is whether a district court's (or court of appeals') declaration that a statute is unconstitutional has the effect of enjoining the defendant from enforcing the statute against parties not before the court. The answer to that should be "no." Absent a special statutory review provision allowing a single party to obtain a judgment restraining enforcement of a statute in its entirety, and in the absence of class certification, prevailing plaintiffs are entitled only to a judgment that declares a challenged statute unlawful and/or enjoins its enforcement or application as to those plaintiffs. See, e.g., U.S. Department of Defense v. Meinhold, 510 U.S. 939 (1993); Virginia Society of Humane Life v. FEC, 263 F.3d 379, 392-94 (CA4 2000); Meinhold v. U.S. Department of Defense, 34 F.3d 1469, 1480 (CA9 1994); Ameron v. Army Corps of Engineers, 787 F.2d 875, 888 (CA3 1986); National Center for Immigrants' Rights v. INS, 743 F.2d 1365, 1371-72 (CA9 1984). Indeed, a district court's decision would not even collaterally estop the government from enforcing the statute against nonparties, in the extremely unlikely event the government would choose to do so. See U.S. v. Mendoza, 464 U.S. 154 (1984).

So my question is, is HLS just going ahead and acting in the expectation it could also win an injunction in the First Circuit? Or does it really have good justification for acting so quickly? Just curious.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Behind the scenes

I had it on some authority (all right, it was about fifth-hand information, which is why I didn't pass it on this morning :) that the Irish had already gotten an agreement from Urban Meyer to coach at ND, that that's why they fired Willingham yesterday, and that Meyer was going to be announced today. So much for that last part, which never seemed all that likely, with a major bowl for Utah coming up. Still, is it possible that Meyer and the Irish are just holding out a little longer? In a thoughtful article, John Walters considers what was really behind Willingham being dumped:

Ty Willingham was not fired because he failed to win a national championship. Ty Willingham, who by every account is a man of impeccable integrity and character, a man possessed of both wisdom and intellect, was fired because 1) under him the Irish no longer had any fight and 2) Notre Dame did not want to miss out on a chance to hire Urban Meyer.

It wasn't Willingham's 21-15 record that did him in so much as the manner in which Notre Dame so often lost the past three seasons. The Irish have lost by 30 or more points 20 times in their more than 118 seasons. Five of those 30-point losses occurred during Willingham's tenure . . . .

For those of who attended Notre Dame and regularly check the "Cannot Attend" box on invitations to weddings that take place in autumn (unless it's specified in the invite that a big-screen TV has been secured for the reception hall), the past two seasons have been especially ignominious (see, I attended a bastion of academia!) . . . .

You can make the argument that Notre Dame does not have the talent to match up with those teams, and maybe you're right. But the margin of those losses suggest something more insidious than a disparity in talent; those routs suggest that as a team (not as individuals, but as a team), Notre Dame lacks strength of character. And that flaw goes back on the coaches.

Another columnist, with some weird characterizations of the administration (this isn't Halloween, and the writer's off-target there) simply points out that "the Domers are aware of the growing Urban Legend and forced out Willingham quickly so they can pounce on Meyer, whose innovative offense is a rabbit to the tortoise of Willingham and stuffy coordinator Bill Diedrick." Well, I guess we fans are left just hoping it works out -- for the Irish, and for Coach Willingham.

EDIT: Yesterday I was somewhat critical of ESPN's Mike Wilbon's comments that the firing was largely about race. I didn't have a link because his comments were on TV. But today Wilbon took a whole column in his paper, the Post, to expound on his theory (he takes issue with other college football programs as well, but is particularly focused on ND). One ND alum thinks Wilbon is being unfair to the Irish.

First do no harm

Yesterday the AP reported the seriously disturbing news that a Dutch hospital has already begun euthanizing babies. I've always understood the motivations behind the drives to allow such things -- everyone can sympathize with the case of someone being in serious pain and not feeling like he wants to go on living. But such an impulse, however sincerely intended, is morally misguided because it chooses death over life. Made permissible in the law -- sanctioned by the state -- euthanasia is morally disastrous. Once you make the legal allowance that some human life is simply not worth living despite death not being imminent, it's hard to draw and hold a line thereafter. The Dutch started out by promising that only terminally ill, fully conscious and cognizent adults, with the consent of at least two doctors, could make the decision to end their own lives. Precious few years later, that decision has been extended to people whose illnesses are not fatal and even to 12-year-old children (!) and, from the other end of the life spectrum, to infant children -- who could not possibly consent. Having jumped from one limited class of cases to another one entirely, the main Dutch doctors' association wants to further expand euthanasia to people "with no free will," including -- explicitly -- infants, children and the mentally retarded. Far from being a rare procedure with safeguarded limits, euthanasia in the Netherlands now involves -- predictably, one might add -- people with power to affect other people's lives making the decision that those other people's lives aren't worth living. What happened to the first duty of physicians, to do everything possible to save and improve a patient's life? We keep lines like the one against euthanasia in place because we must value all human life or else, shortly, value little of it. We don't want individuals to experience pressure to end their own lives (by feeling that they'd be an economic or emotional burden on others) and we don't want the state to be making judgments about how much, exactly, our lives are worth to continue (by making prudential economic considerations about human life). We don't want the disabled to feel that they aren't worthy of life because they aren't perfect and aren't guaranteed happiness (but who is?) -- and we shouldn't want the coarsened attitude toward human beings that such eugenic-minded devaluation brings on. Even more, here's part of why doctors' actions in the Netherlands should shock us:

Euthanasia Prevention Coalition Executive Director, Alex Schadenberg, said that this is not new news. "The British Medical Journal revealed, already in 1997, that eight percent of all infant deaths in the Netherlands are from euthanasia for fetal anomalies. This is clearly eugenic euthanasia, and has nothing to do with having a terminal illness," he said.

"The 2001 law made euthanasia legal only for consenting persons above the age of 12 and for children under 12 with parental consent," Schadenberg pointed out. What is new is the proposal to eliminate an age restriction and the need for consent for persons who are unconscious or unable to make the decision for themselves. "The reason it is eugenic euthanasia, is because these babies are being killed not because they are going to die, but because they are going to live."

By now, it's long been the case that pretty much anything goes in the Netherlands, morally speaking. And their culture's grown progressively weaker. It's not too late to stop the slide there, though it is going to require a lot of prayer and action to save that society. It's definitely not too late for us to act here and heed the Dutch example as a major warning sign for what could happen here if we were to allow, for instance, Oregon's little experiment to expand.

EDIT: Hugh Hewitt has more, and this post from John Mark Reynolds is also valuable.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Karl Rove strikes again

This quote, from a Georgetown poli-sci prof on the appointment of Kellogg CEO Carlos Gutierrez to head the Commerce Department, is too amusing to be insulting:

"I guess the significance when a … president appoints a minority to a Cabinet position is that he's trying to appeal to a specific group," said Stephen Wayne, political science professor at Georgetown University. "I don't know for sure, but one can imagine Karl Rove's hand on such an appointment."

Hey, professor: Maybe the significance, when the president appoints a minority to a Cabinet position, is that he's found a qualified person, who incidentally happens to be a minority, to hold a Cabinet position. I know Karl Rove is an evil mastermind and George Bush is an idiot, but maybe -- just maybe -- the president hasn't been manipulated into making important Cabinet-level appointments as a political sap to those easily-placated minority groups. Maybe -- just maybe -- our MBA president recognized a successful businessman whose vision he liked.

I would hope that the conspiracy theorists would start to fade by now, but as Rove himself pointed out (amiably, as I recall from watching) in an interview a couple of months ago, "[T]his town is build on myths and I’ve become a convenient myth." (Rove has generally acted amused by the media's and the left's characterizations of him.) Maybe Georgetown professors should stop feeding the myth, and give Gutierrez (and Bush) some credit.

In search of the glory

I heard in class this afternoon the almost completely unexpected news of Tyrone Willingham getting fired today (I was waiting to watch SportsCenter before I wrote). Ouch. I don't think we've ever fired a coach before his first contract was up, certainly not recently, but I guess the board just got tired with the consistent inconsistency this year (and the worst-in-a-century type of year last year) and decided to act. The unprecedented nature of this may not be saying much, either, since an awful lot of people wanted to see Bob Davie go sooner than he did and the board was slow in reacting there. Anyway. I expected one of the coordinators to be fired, but not Willingham. For general frenzied fan reaction, check some ND message boards. My general notes on what I don't and do think about this:

- In contrast to Mike Wilbon, I don't think race had anything to do with this or that some people never wanted Willingham in the first place for that reason. That's absurd. Everyone was behind Willingham from the beginning and I think everyone wanted him to succeed at ND. Certainly the players and student body loved him when he came in -- but that love, as with most all football coaches, is usually conditional on winning.

- I also don't think the schedule was the reason for the losses. Yes, we play one of the toughest schedules year in and year out, but I don't think we're necessarily incapable of playing at that level. This year showed that -- our schedule would've suggested we'd lose against Michigan and Tennessee, but we won those. We lost to the teams that we by all rights could've won. If our schedule eventually softens a little, fine. But this isn't why we lose.

- I also don't think any losing is attributable to our academic standards. College is about earning a degree, and there's no reason people can't do that in addition to playing football. The suggestion that it's asking too much of college players to be able to take college-level math and other courses is misguided. Notre Dame doesn't have to lower standards to have a competitive team (no one ever suggests this when we're winning). More than that, we shouldn't.

- I do think Willingham is a Notre Dame man and in a lot of ways I'm sorry to see him go because I think he's a class act and he maybe should have gotten the chance to develop his recruiting classes at least one more year. He's just an admirable person. He also has had the experience of coaching at what are basically the only two serious college football programs where academics are paramount. It's really good to find a man who values both like Willingham does.

- I do think Willingham will not have much of a problem going elsewhere and being successful, though.

- But I don't think Willingham ever really saw the need to make adjustments -- offensive or defensive -- during games and that really (and unnecessarily) hurt us. He inexplicably stuck with schemes and players long past the times that they proved unworkable.

- Finally, I do think Notre Dame can return to being a consistently good football school in the future. I think we have an offense to build on with Darius Walker and Brady Quinn in particular, with an offensive scheme that can work if you have reliable receivers and a good o-line. I think if we can get decent speed and sense in our secondary we can shore that up as well.

EDIT: Feddie has a great story about Coach Willingham and the strength of his character and beliefs. An impressive man, indeed.

An angel of the Lord appeared and said -- what?

Feddie at SA notes that the lovely folks at Planned Parenthood, who appear to lack any sense of irony, have brought back their by-now-infamous "Choice on Earth" Christmas cards. Nevermind that the slogan takes off on "Peace on Earth," which is the message that the angels gave to the shepherds near Bethlehem in order to celebrate the birth of the Lord. Nevermind that the whole point of that generic "holiday season" that is the occasion of these cards is, again, the birth of the child King. Planned Parenthood would like us to celebrate, instead, the legally unfettered ability for women to kill their unborn children. This is pretty much anti-everything Christmas is about. Last year LifeNews recorded this classic quote from PP President Gloria Feldt:

"Planned Parenthood believes in every individual's right to make choices and live in peace with our planet. Our holiday card has proven to be very popular with America's pro-choice majority for almost a decade because it sends an inclusive seasonal message for people of all faiths. I am proud of the card," [she] said.

"People of all faiths" -- right, except maybe, oh, Christians who might be offended at using the birth of Christ as a way to promote abortion. (Although check out the sadly uninformed quote from a pastor who completely misses major messages from the Gospel about life and, in support of abortion, says, "One thing I know from the Bible is that Jesus never said a word against women having a choice in continuing a pregnancy." Good grief.) Finally, the PP card offers the following message inside: "Warmest Wishes for a Peaceful Holiday." Unfortunately, there cannot be peace so long as we continue to sanction the willful killing of unborn children and consequent hurt to women.

PSA

If, like me, you really decry the fact that ClearChannel appears to own everything and everyone in radio today (including at least six of the biggest stations here), and if you hadn't seen it yet, you might like to know there's at least one new station in Columbus that's independent, 103.9. For inexplicable reasons, they call themselves "Ted" and have a lame station i.d. (you know, how stations use a little song for their name?). But they say they're "like an iPod on shuffle," and except for the fact their particular iPod never includes any hip-hop, they do have a pretty good variety of good songs. So there's my anti-ClearChannel news for now.

Another good pick?

Yesterday the president picked Carlos Gutierrez, Kellogg CEO, to be Commerce Secretary. This is the kind of news that only wonks really pay attention to, and I confess I don't know that much about the cabinet departments aside from the big ones (State, Defense, etc.) I didn't know, for instance, that the NOAA and the Census Bureau were both under Commerce (really, the Oceanic study administration?). But in any event, if you're going to pick someone to run Commerce, you might as well pick a really successful businessman, and Gutierrez is successful:

Carlos M. Gutierrez's life story is the kind that President Bush admires: The son of a Cuban political refugee, he worked his way from delivering Frosted Flakes in the toughest sections of Mexico City to running Kellogg Co., the U.S.'s largest packaged-food manufacturer.

But it is a more recent tale that sheds light on why the 51-year-old has become Bush's nominee to be commerce secretary: In five years, Gutierrez turned Michigan-based Kellogg from a fading force into a food industry powerhouse . . . . "He changed the mind-set of the company," said David J. Adelman, who analyzes Kellogg for Morgan Stanley. "Seven years ago, Kellogg was waffling. It had lost all momentum as a business. . . . Now, it has industry-leading sales growth."

Fortune magazine described him as being pretty impressive, too: "taking the slick salesmanship, financial discipline, and marketing savvy that he learned in his youth and blending it with disarming charisma, steely resolve, and an utter lack of pretension that you wouldn't expect in one so nattily dressed." Well, there ya go. Looks like Gutierrez is another good pick.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

And still we watch

Notre Dame has been, as ESPN charitably puts it, "wildly inconsistent" this year, "beating national powers Michigan and Tennessee but losing to the likes of the Panthers and Brigham Young." So what does that mean for Southern Cal tonight -- a surprising win? Uh, not likely. I wish we had a chance, but we've lost by 31 points each of the last couple of years. USC is still outstandingly good overall, and we just haven't shown the kind of improvement we'd need to really challenge this team. The South Bend Tribune compares the programs and the coaches over the last few years:
With their biggest rival cruising along at No. 1, top down, radio on, the Irish remain miles behind, tinkering under the hood.

Inevitable comparisons between these intertwined programs force Willingham to answer for the fact that Carroll built a champion in three years while he has dug his predecessor's spinning wheels even deeper.

"Now, to be able to parallel those, our paths could be totally different," Willingham said. "It could be that my path is the fourth year, could be the fifth. I don't know."

Notre Dame has followed a zig-zag path under Willingham's leadership. All the sharp turns have induced nausea and rampant bandwagon abandonment.

Sigh. Oh well -- the faithful will still be watching tonight and hoping (while also being pessimistic) like we always do :) If any ND alums or subway alums are reading today, feel free to join the Columbus Notre Dame Club at PK O'Ryans in Worthington tonight. Go Irish!

Faith and (musical) works

Interesting review from Kenneth Tanner of Godspy of U2's new CD, "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" -- the bomb in question apparently being Bono's late father. Tanner suggests that the new album (which rocks, btw) is the band's "most conspicuously Christian" one since the beginning of their career.

I'm bound for some Paul McGuinness-inspired purgatory for using the words "Christian record" in the same sentence with "U2," but I think the band is big enough (and mature enough) now not to worry overmuch about people getting the wrong impression (who would mistake these guys for Bible thumpers?). The band was right to resist the label—no doubt it would have limited their audience and their art at earlier stages—but it seems time to simply live with the contradictions and let the chips fall where they may.

On All That You Can't Leave Behind and during the subsequent tour, U2 expressed Christian faith with excerpts from the Psalms, hallelujahs to the Almighty, and urgent activism on behalf of "the least of these." During the tour Bono had told one reporter, "It feels like there's a blessing on the band right now. People say they're feeling shivers—well, the band is as well. And I don't know what it is, but it feels like God walking through the room, and it feels like a blessing, and in the end, music is a kind of sacrament; it's not just about airplay or chart position." It was a temperate yet unapologetic witness, not showy or preachy but unashamed, and that spirit continues on Atomic Bomb.

Now, I believe Bono has been known to claim that 'religion gets in the way of faith,' but there's little doubt that he is heavily influenced by Christian concepts and that he does have faith. It's always interesting to catch the Scriptural allusions in U2's songs and it definitely seems they continue on this album. There's even a bit of an address to God on the hyped-up "Vertigo" -- "Your love is teaching me how/ How to kneel/ Kneel . . . " Cool.

Correct thinking

I believe there are many nonsectarian reasons for opposing SSM, though I also, of course, believe the religious arguments. Some have asked, "What are you afraid of?" Besides a continued breakdown of our marriage culture and resulting harm to children and individuals, I do believe that state coercion or pressure on religion is a real issue. Jordan Fowles suggested that tax status could be changed to effectively penalize any religious institutions that do not recognize SSM for employees, students, or others, making religious practice more costly in some ways. If that's the case, so be it; I think it would be inappropriately (perhaps unconstitutionally) hostile toward religion, but a financial cost would be a small price to pay for the integrity of your beliefs. But other ways in which SSM would be detrimental to religion is the way in which "correct thinking" would be forced on children who want to participate, just like most children in our country, in the public school system. If SSM is legal, there is little basis on which to deny its moral or social legitimacy in schools, and parents who would find this objectionable would have that much less basis on which to protest. This article from Canada (via Marriage Debate) gives only the latest example (and it looks like here, Christians must have already caved, since the religious group mentioned is Muslim parents).

Controversy erupted after students at Market Lane Public School were shown videos that depicted the feelings of children who get taunted at school because their own parents are homosexuals.

Angry Muslim parents complained that their religious beliefs were getting less respect from the board than gay rights and demanded that their children be excluded on religious grounds from similar presentations in the future.

The board rejected their request Tuesday night on the grounds that allowing some students to be excluded from discussions about gay families would violate the rights of those children with same-sex parents.

Ah, we have new "rights" here. An Ontario MPP spelled it out even further: "I believe that human rights come above religious rights," he said. But what's the "human right" at stake here? To make sure everyone has sufficient "anti-homophobia" education? I'm not sure that's a job schools should be taking on. Rather, there's another way to deal with this subject that would respect the real religious rights of students and help reduce bullying, as the (appropriately named) Conservative Leader John Tory pointed out:

Tory said parents ought to have been told about the videos ahead of time. He said there are ways to ensure everyone gets the message of tolerance without running afoul of anyone's religious beliefs.

"We should be able to find ways to teach that kind of mutual respect for one another without forcing people to feel they're in a position where they have to take their children out," Tory said.

Right -- if the problem is bullying, then have programs discouraging bullying on principle, because bullying of other children is wrong. There's no need to go into comprehensive re-education of values in order to have a legitimate conception of good behavior at school. (If kids were being bullied because they were dumb, or overweight, or unathletic, we'd suggest that the correct action to take would be to teach kids to stop bullying and just be nice to people who may be different -- not suggest that the teased kids necessarily have "human rights" for people to specifically respect those traits. But in that example, there might not even be legitimate religious or family concerns at issue, where the school clearly knew that would be the case here.) I looked, and Market Lane appears to be a K-8 school, which shows even more that this specific type of "education" is not appropriate for everyone, especially where it conflicts with strongly held religious values. But it looks like the politicians and administrators have brushed aside concerns.

Education Minister Gerard Kennedy echoed [Ontario Premier] McGuinty's remarks, saying, "our public schools are there to engender respect, respect for people of different faiths and different sexual orientations."

Actually, public schools are there to teach about history, math, language, and science, and maybe to help along with general socialization like being nice and generally polite to people. Sex education to young children simply shouldn't be a part of it.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Tracking the vote

As analysis of the 2004 presidential vote goes on, it turns out that the faulty exit polling means that researchers still aren't sure exactly what happened with the Hispanic vote. Early numbers showed that Bush had won 44 percent of Hispanic voters, which would have meant a larger-than-expected increase. Later surveys, however, have shown that the actual percentage was more like 33-38 percent. The interesting numbers come from the state-by-state breakdown: Kerry improved on Gore's numbers in Florida (where, despite a large Central and South American population, Hispanic politics are dominated by Cubans) with a good turnout effort, but in non-battleground states Kerry apparently lost a lot of ground with Hispanic voters. Why the disparities? As I've written about a lot in the past, most American Hispanics are of Mexican descent, but there is a lot of diversity among this ethnic group as a whole, and a good analysis of the "Hispanic vote" will take this into consideration. While tending more liberal on government spending issues, for instance, many Hispanics are at least culturally Catholic in their social values on issues surrounding the family. It looks like there is a lot of room for Republicans to continue pulling some of this vote into their column going forward -- and that's significant as Hispanics continue to be the nation's largest minority group, growing faster all the time. No matter which party you're talking about, however, one piece of good news for the community overall was that, according to Zogby, Hispanic turnout improved by 40 percent over the 2000 election. Buenas noticias :)

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Happy Thanksgiving!

Like most people today, I have been reflecting on all the blessings I have in my life for which I am so thankful. A roof over my head and plenty of food, life in one of the best countries in the world where there is ever opportunity and freedom, which are no small things -- but more than that the people in my life who always love me even when I'm not so loveable :) I'm blessed to have two fantastic parents who love each other, four brothers and sisters who are all pretty impressive people, a wonderful and thoughtful boyfriend, and great friends who are always willing to spend hours just talking about life, over soup at Panera or on the phone while watching football games :) One question to reflect on today is, how does our appreciation and gratitude for what we have manifest itself in our lives, in our actions towards others? Maybe not as well as it always should. But Thanksgiving truly is a time for humility and appreciation before God, and today's reading from Colossians (3:12-17) exhorts us that our gratitude should lead to imitation of Christ:

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

This morning's responsorial psalm, a psalm of thanksgiving, is also a beautiful prayer:

1 Shout joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;

2 Worship the LORD with cries of gladness;
Come before him with joyful song.

3 Know that the LORD is God,
Our maker to whom we belong, whose people we are,
God's well-tended flock.

4 Enter the temple gates with praise,
God's courts with thanksgiving.
Give thanks to God, bless His name.

5 Good indeed is the LORD,
Whose love endures forever,
Whose faithfulness lasts through every age.

I hope everyone has a wonderful day, and that those who have a difficult time at this time of year or who can't be at home with their loved ones (like all those serving in our armed forces abroad) know peace :)

Home is where your family is

Happy turkey day! I hope everyone made it safely to where they were going yesterday, as adverse weather seemed to be affecting the whole East Coast and Midwest. I was fortunate to be able to have my family here in Columbus, so no trips for me this year -- although, had we been heading for the grandparents' houses, it would've meant a lot of time in airports or on the road trying to get to San Antonio or Orlando.

It's a silly thing, but ever since I moved to Ohio I had the impression that this place was full of people who were all from -- well, small towns in Ohio :) That is, moving to Columbus seemed to represent moving to the "big city," but everyone was from Warren, or Sidney, or Tiffin, or Moreland, or Van Wert, or Wakatomika, or Wauseon, or Wooster: "You probably haven't heard of it, it's a small town in Ohio . . . ?" It turns out my impressions weren't far off, as a few years ago the Census Bureau published some numbers showing that 75 percent of Ohioans were born in Ohio, putting the state fifth in the country in terms of people still living in the state they were born. For other people who like demographics stuff, this list breaks it down even more (states at the bottom). Pennsylvania (83 percent), Michigan, and Ohio are all right up there. So every year at Thanksgiving, the roads out of Columbus are stopped up almost completely with people heading out to the rest of the state (northwest, northeast, every which way) to visit their relatives, who have probably been there for a really long time. It's pretty neat to have tradition like that :)

Monday, November 22, 2004

Gee, if only we knew how to use reason

Jim Geraghty points out several funny letters from the NYT op-ed page (registration req'd) in response to a great article last week confirming the obvious: Republicans are a small minority in academia. The article questioned why it should be the case that self-identified Democrats should outnumber Republicans 7 to 1 in the humanities, including 30 to 1 among anthropologists but still 3 to 1 among economists. At Berkeley and Stanford, the study in question noted, the difference was 183 Democrats to 6 Republicans among younger professors. One suggestion for the gross disparity was that conservatives may either self-select or be screened out of academia "because the crucial decisions - awarding tenure and promotions, choosing which papers get published - are made by colleagues hostile to their political views." Liberal professors themselves have different suggestions:

Academics are trained to reason using logic, to question evidence and to consider and evaluate several possible interpretations of events. All these activities are discouraged and indeed ridiculed by the present Republican leadership.

Academic Republicans must indeed suffer from this cognitive dissonance.

Markus Meister
Pasadena, Calif., Nov. 18, 2004
The writer is a professor of biology at Harvard.


The view that campus collegiality leads to tyranny of the majority has some plausibility in explaining the absence of Republicans from academia, but the main causes clearly lie elsewhere.

A successful career in academia, after all, requires willingness to be critical of yourself and to learn from experience, along with a lack of interest in material incentives. All these are antithetical to Republicanism as it has recently come to be.

John McCumber
Los Angeles, Nov. 18, 2004
The writer is a professor of Germanic languages at U.C.L.A.

Hehe. These remind me of a story my friend told me upon starting a post-grad program in philosophy at an Ivy League school. Wondering if there was going to be any intellectual or ideological diversity in the program, she (yes, she -- a conservative academic woman, shock horror) made some inquiries. Oh, yes, there were lots of debates that went on between conservatives and liberals, she was told, . . . although just not as many lately. Why not lately? Well, the guy who usually argued the Republican side of things had gone off to finish his dissertation. I guess my friend has counted as the "diversity" student since (bonus diversity points: she's religious :)

You just have to laugh.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Motorcycles in Mongolia

I'm sorry I've only tuned into the Long Way Round documentary show halfway through -- I think I didn't realize it was going to be on TV, even though I knew a documentary existed when I saw a BBC interview last month. Anyway, I watched last night's episode, wherein Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman got bogged down in the hinterlands of Mongolia. They had to purvey a Russian motorcyle in Ulaangom after their cameraman's bike broke down, try to eat rather unpalatable parts of cows, and deal with road and weather conditions so adverse they were thinking about abandoning Mongolia altogether just to get back on regular roads in Siberia. You could tell that as much fun as they had on the trip, there were a lot of real emotions coming through at the difficulty of the trip and the length of time away from their families. I don't know, maybe that doesn't sound compelling, but it was actually really well presented. I think I'm hooked.

Newsworthy . . . or not

In today's WaPo we have an extended analysis of the fact that the president (breaking news!) kisses women but not men in expressions of congratulation.

The nominations of Condoleezza Rice for secretary of state and of Margaret Spellings as secretary of education were visually intriguing events, most notably because President Bush puckered up and gave both of them a congratulatory kiss. The president did not kiss Alberto Gonzales, his nominee for attorney general. He was congratulated with a strong handshake and the sort of torso tackle that men give each other in lieu of an actual hug . . . .

As much as could be determined from the photo record, the president has never publicly kissed Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld or Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson. President Bush seems to reserve his pecks on the cheek for the ladies. Perhaps he will be kissing outgoing Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman goodbye?

Okay, I realize this is in the Style section, but it strikes me as a little bizarre to focus on. If people greet or congratulate each other differently based on gender, is that really even worth remarking? At least for our culture, it makes perfect sense to me. (It's not very "international," though, as the writer notes with a touch of disapproval -- and a hint of a knowing, that-Bush-the-unilateralist, smirk.) She writes: "But with two single kisses, [Bush] also made it clear that for him, equal doesn't mean the same." Nor should it, necessarily. You can respect people's ability to do a job equally regardless of sex but still acknowledge differences between them personally. Well, whatever :)

A man and a woman

Continuing the marriage debate (which I'm not always as quick to respond to as I intend to be!), comes this post from Carey Cuprisin, who accurately notes that while I don't think SSM is a right, I do believe marriage is. Carey's question is, why? How can we justify marriage being a right in the first place? It's a fair question. But I think you have to start with the presumption, at least, that some rights do exist outside the state (like Jefferson's "inalienable" life and liberty). And if you accept that there are these types of fundamental rights, then I think it's undeniable that marriage has to be one.

We could start with how the Supreme Court assesses fundamental rights for purposes of constitutional analysis. I'm not a big fan of tests like this, but I think it is generally accurate in looking at the rights our country values and protects. The test for fundamental rights, from Moore v. City of East Cleveland, Meyer v. Nebraska, and others, is whether something is "deeply rooted in the Nation's history and tradition" and "essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness" or "implicit in the concept of ordered liberty." Marriage is all of these, as the Court has acknowledged many times and as is easy enough to demonstrate. Marriage has existed since before our country existed, but certainly from the time it has. The vast majority of people marry at some point in their lives, and marriage is and always has been a central feature of our culture and our lives, at common law and today. It's the institution by which we bring together the sexes, socially and privately legitimize their union, and socialize and educate our children. For the state to inhibit this liberty beyond certain rational bounds (like being a certain age or not being too closely related) would be to disrupt an institution central to our society and would seem to be beyond its legitimate power. Marriage is also an essential part of our system of "ordered liberty." Having a stable family, with married couples generally raising their own children, isn't sufficient to keep order in society but it is of great importance. For some indication of that, look at how the modern breakdown of our marriage culture -- with no-fault divorce and widespread cultural acceptance of nonmarital sex -- has led to a corresponding breakdown in many aspects of our society today -- higher poverty, illegitimacy, and incarceration rates, lower education levels, worse public health indicators, and so forth.

One can also see why marriage is a right from other ways of looking at the matter. I briefly alluded to some in my previous post, though Carey attempts to debunk them; I respond to his comments now. The definitional starting point: Carey dismisses this by saying, "This is simply arbitrary. Definitions are (by definition?) always capable of being contested. Grounding a right 'anterior to the state' (whatever that might mean) in a definition just begs the question of whose definition we should privilege. Irish law wants to privilege hers. But she still has to explain why we should . . . " This is one approach to language, yes:

'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.'

'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master -- that's all.'

Certainly the courts have taken this approach of late: we don't prefer the meaning of the word, and we have power, so we henceforth construe "marriage" to mean something other than it does. But I disagree that the understanding of "marriage" to mean the union of one man and one woman is simply arbitrary. Were it so, why wouldn't we see a great diversity around the world and in history where "marriage" meant all sorts of different unions or various arrangements? If something were arbitrary we might expect that people haven't come to the same arbitrary conclusion almost invariably. But "marriage" just about always and everywhere has centered on: the union of a man and a woman. And as it's grounded in biological, emotional and social realities, it is reasonable and nonarbitrary. But Carey's right that a definition of course isn't sufficient in itself to justify something being a right. So that leads to a discussion of other factors: history and biology.

Carey asks, in response to the point that marriage in almost every society in history and around the world has been between men and women: "Must all rights depend on an unbroken historical practice of the recognition of these rights? I hope not." No, of course not; just because something's always been done a certain way doesn't mean, ipso facto, it always should be. Slavery has always existed in the world, and it's wrong. Women couldn't always vote in this country, and that was wrong. We can evaluate tradition with reason and see by it that tradition may have been wrong, and we can determine by reason that sometimes even if a right has not existed before, we would like to recognize it now. But tradition can help establish the existence or validity of a right. Our society has always organized itself around the family, at the center of which is a husband and wife and their children. "Family" is often broader than this, of course, but the nuclear family is the core. This helps suggest the ability to form a union in this way is something that is a right, that the state can't unduly interfere with.

Carey points out, correctly, that we don't need marriage to have children: "All procreation requires is the right to f*** each other. With today's in-vitro fertilization technologies, it might not even require that." O brave new world! Yes, we have done an excellent job of separating sex from procreation, and marriage from sex and procreation, in our culture, but these are destructive actions (for individuals and society) and actually go to show why marriage is needed and why it is a right that must be protected. I do think that the need to have children to continue our society helps establish the right to marriage. We could know just from thousands of years of experience, but also from excellent social science data compiled over the past half-century, that children do best when raised by their natural, married mother and father. They're less likely to live in poverty, end up in prison, drop out of school, be physically abused, have children out of wedlock themselves. This holds even where children live with their natural parents who are just cohabitating. Of course it's not true in every instance -- families with married parents can live in poverty, or suffer abuse, and single parent families can raise great, well-adjusted kids. And of course some circumstances which lead to single or nonmarital parenting (like death, or divorce because of abuse) are beyond our control. But empirically speaking, children do best with their own married mother and father. When children do better, that helps us have a healthier society that is more likely to be sustained and to thrive. The fact that it is marriage that facilitates this helps show that it is a right that should be protected.

The rightness of marriage may also be shown with reference to other social indicators besides children's well-being. Marriage gives a normative and legitimized context for sexual union between men and women. When we freely go outside this context for sex, we see, for instance, much higher rates of (often devastating) sexually transmitted diseases. Moreover, married men and women are often healthier emotionally, financially, and physically. In spite of the fact that we may artificially cut off sex from procreation, the fact of the matter is that sex (in its regular manifestation), while being a unique and powerful act of unity, is also the reproductive act. Having children is a natural outcome of having sex (and it does happen even when people use contraception). Marriage helps tie a man (who otherwise by nature would not be inclined to be monogamous) to his children and his children's mother in a way that no other arrangement really can -- and that's almost always better for him, his wife, and their children.

So does any one factor in itself prove marriage is a right? Probably not, but in combination I think history, tradition, biology and the natural law help establish that with regard to all our fundamental rights, marriage must surely be counted among them. As the Supreme Court said over a hundred years ago (Maynard v. Hill): "[Marriage] is an institution, in the maintenance of which in its purity the public is deeply interested, for it is the foundation of the family and of society, without which there would be neither civilization nor progress."

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Face to the world

I've been a fan of Condoleezza Rice since I first knew about her and her extremely impressive resume (around the time I started college, while she was provost at Stanford) and I think it's great that she has been nominated to be the next Secretary of State. I've always liked Colin Powell -- I remember buying his autobiography when I was in high school and hoping he would run for president; and part of the reason I wanted to vote for Bush in 2000 was the fact that I knew he was likely to bring people like Powell (and Rice and Rumsfeld and Cheney, et al.) into government with him. I know from some people in the department that they much preferred Powell's style of management to previous secretaries, and I think he did a good job of representing the country, and challenging but also supporting the president on policy initiatives. So I would have been fine had Powell stayed on. But I think Rice is a solid choice. Newsweek has an interesting analysis of the relationships between Rice, Powell, the president, and the administration here:

In the snap analysis of some pundits, Rice is an almost neo-conservative hawk; just look at her hand in Sharon's approach to Gaza. Yet that hardly squares with her support for Powell during the run-up to war in Iraq. And it doesn't square with her support for the diplomatic channels to Iran and North Korea.

In reality, the biggest contrast between Rice and Powell is the use of their respective political skills. Powell deployed his charm with foreign officials, but could rarely travel overseas because, he said, he needed to stay in Washington to fight his corner. Rice should face no such need to cover her own back . . . . But Rice will find it hard to be as popular as Powell, either inside the State Department's headquarters or outside these shores in the world's capitals. The shadow of her dear friend and mentor will be a long one.

I do have to note, the Irish like to claim Dr. Rice as their own, as well. As far as I know, there's been one other Notre Dame alum in a Cabinet-level position before, but never at this high a level (Rice got her master's degree from ND and served on the Board of Trustees for seven years). Go Irish :)

Monday, November 15, 2004

Ethics in a Petri dish

The other week I came across a link to this article on Slate about assisted reproductive technologies, and I meant to link to it so I am now. The article stands out for me as being one of the few I'm aware of reading outside of government publications or professional journal articles that actually addresses the risks of in vitro fertilization and related techniques. It's important information that isn't widely disseminated:

The issue of IVF babies' health burst into the open two years ago, when a group of researchers published a controversial study in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study found that IVF children were more than twice as likely as naturally conceived children to have been diagnosed with a major birth defect by 1-year-old. They were also more likely to be delivered by C-section, to have low birth weight, and to be born before term. Subsequent studies, including two published this year in Obstetrics & Gynecology, have confirmed the findings and added to the list of possible complications, suggesting a greater propensity among IVF babies for certain cancers, such as retinoblastoma, as well as urogenital problems. Meanwhile, pediatricians working with a group of children suffering from Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, a condition in which they are prone to disproportionate growth and with it cancerous tumors, found — entirely by happenstance — a higher percentage of IVF children than in the ordinary population.

Many doctors and scientists argue — rightly — that the vast majority of IVF children are normal, their parents grateful, and their development sound. Yet nagging concerns have prompted a flurry of new studies . . . . Most are disturbing in some way; none seem conclusive; a few are contradictory.

All of these real concerns about children's health (and mothers' -- many women are older than they would be able to have children naturally) tend to be determinedly ignored by the people on both sides of the IVF consumer transaction: couples who are motivated by hope, desire, and sometimes desperation; and providers who (even if they have otherwise good motives) are engaged in a multi-billion-dollar industry. It's good to know that the doctors sometimes stop to think about the ethics driving this industry, but then again, what kind of results can it really have? I think we need to improve our oversight of these types of procedures with an aim towards seriously limiting them (it would be too much to think we could eliminate them at this point), and also continue to encourage adoption as an admirable way of helping parents without children find children without parents.

I've put some articles, posts, and documents about ARTs, IVF, and embryonic and adult stem cell research on my sidebar to the left. The ones about Kerry and Edwards may not matter with regard to their campaign anymore, but in light of California's ill-advised endorsement of allocating massive amounts of money, with little oversight, to essentially unlimited human embryonic research, and in light of Harvard researchers' and others' plans to forge ahead with that type of research, the articles continue to have a lot of relevance.

The courts, again

Will Baude responded to my posts on SSM and rights last week by agreeing that the matter of SSM should be resolved by the people and not the courts. However, he adds,

The odd mistake that I.L. makes is in assuming that a question of "justice" is necessarily one to be decided by ladies and gentlemen in black robes. This isn't, and shouldn't, be so. The dialogue of "rights" and of "justice" is not limited to the courts, and executive and legislative officials are not free to ignore questions of justice and rights with a shrug.

I don't dispute that arguments about rights and justice can be held in the public square, or that the legislative and executive branches of government have a role to play in defining and enforcing any given rights. I think I caused some confusion with my formulation of my point, though, so I'll try to be more precise: rights and questions of justice can be debated, elaborated, or construed in all areas of government -- but if what you want isn't a right and it's not in any law, then you should take it up with the legislature. For their part, if there is no real right at stake, the courts should also refrain from fashioning one sua sponte. (Of course courts may decide many questions, such as those of statutory interpretation or civil procedure, that have little to do with rights like equality, liberty, etc., but when it comes to protecting the latter types of rights courts should be limited to addressing only those "rights" which actually exist.) My argument was that, because there is no "right" to marry someone of the same sex, then it isn't a priori a matter of justice if that right-that-isn't-a-right is "abridged," and those who want to argue for the permissibility of marrying someone of the same sex should make their case in the public square instead of the courts. Those who argue for SSM in the courts have tended to make their arguments in terms of "rights" and "justice" but, unlike Will (who wants to use those concepts to persuade people of the rightness of SSM), activists have thought that simply framing the arguments in these terms justifies the courts redefining marriage. They might be correct if there really was a constitutionally protected right at stake here that the people were running roughshod over. But there is no "right" to marry someone of the same sex, nor does any such conception fall under the rubric of rights of privacy (because, even aside from the fact that privacy isn't really in the Constitution, marriage is a very public action), equality (because marriage laws apply equally to everyone), or liberty (because marriage has never encompassed the ability to marry absolutely any person(s) you choose, it's for the legislature to regulate, and it does not at all obviously or necessarily require that a person must be allowed to marry someone of the same sex).

Will suggests that, even if there isn't a right to marry someone of the same sex, nevertheless the courts can properly evaluate "whether same-sex marriage is authorized/required by the various legal authorities which it falls upon the Court to expound and interpret." The (realized) fear of the vast majority of the states of this country is that courts will use the language of rights and justice to magically find in these various legal authorities a requirement (that SSM be legal) that doesn't actually exist in the law, was outside any intention of the writers of our family laws, and may in fact be specifically proscribed by law. (The Massachusetts SJC talked about "liberty," "equality," and "fundamental rights." But where in history, or the laws of Massachusetts, was there a right to marry someone of the same sex? What about in Washington, where the laws proscribed such a "right" but the courts ignored it?) If there is no right to marry someone of the same sex, then courts may not properly decree such a "right." SSM must, then, be a matter of policy, and policy is for the people, not the courts, to consider or implement. As Justice Spina wrote in dissent in Goodridge:

Courts have authority to recognize rights that are supported by the Constitution and history, but the power to create novel rights is reserved for the people through the democratic and legislative processes.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Embarassing

If there's a better example of a "shoot yourself in the foot" than today's ND game, I can't remember it. On at least four separate occasions near the end of the game, the Irish could have won it: 1) Fasano could have caught the ball for a first down to keep our drive alive so we might not have had to settle for a field goal; 2) we could have not committed pass interference (however questionable the calls) on two separate fourth-down plays on Pitt's last touchdown drive, allowing them to score; 3) we could have held on to the easy, easy interception we dropped at the goal line on that touchdown drive; and 4) we could have not given up a 40 yard pass play on the last drive they needed to get in position to win the game. But there was poor tackling throughout and more penalties than we've had all year. So, one week after our defense winning a game for us, they lost it this week. What a joke. *grumble*

Can we forfeit USC right now?

EDIT: I liked this line from Tribune columnist Jason Kelly about our wild inconsistency: "Penalties extended six Pittsburgh drives, a problem that could be described as uncharacteristic of the Irish if they ever exhibited any distinguishing characteristics." Heh.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Atomic sound

Until about 9pm tonight, if you go here to XRT in Chicago, you can hear the new U2 album all the way through on streaming audio -- the station has been spinning it all day. "City of Blinding Lights" is on right now, and it has a great sound to it -- sort of echoes their 80s music. Very cool.

The MPRE is tomorrow and I've been lax in studying so I must do that after work tonight. Tomorrow afternoon I should be back around to continue with all the sociopolitical discussions I've been helping stir up :)

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

When everyone is special

I don't want to miss an opportunity to agree with Chris, so I should say I also really recommend "The Incredibles," on which, for once, both the critics and the public are in agreement and also both right. It's just a cool, creative movie :) (I like all the Pixar movies, and this one isn't better than "Nemo" in my opinion, but it's close.) The way the family is presented is also inspiring (so there's a good story and a good message).

Ya think?

A comment on Notre Dame's lackluster offense and coaching strategy during Saturday's win over the Vols:

The Irish used a four-man running back rotation [!] Saturday which seemed to slow them more than keep Tennessee off balance . . . . That was never more obvious than in the first half when Walker broke a few big runs, including a 32-yarder that set up Brady Quinn's 8-yard touchdown pass to tight end Anthony Fasano. Walker averaged 16.3 yards per carry on his three carries in the first half, but it was Wilson and Thomas who got opportunities during a critical juncture during the second quarter despite Walker's productivity.

'We've always tried to get a mixture in there and we believe there are things a guy does better than another guy,' said Notre Dame coach Tyrone Willingham. 'But in this case, if we look back it, we probably say we want to stay more with Ryan and Darius.'

No kidding? I can't figure out what Willingham is doing here. He's got a back who helped engineer what was Michigan's only loss this season, and he wants to rotate four different RB's? Hopefully the comment is indicative of the coach having learned something this weekend.

Not that I'm complaining about the win. I remember our last trip down to Knoxville, a night game I watched at a pizza party with friends in a neighbor dorm . . . we got crushed. Not this weekend :) Curry, Tuck and Hoyte were great to watch and it's nice to be back in the top 25 for another week . . . till we run into SC in a few weeks, anyway :)

Joining the debate

Denise takes exception to some of the points I raised in my posts yesterday. I appreciate her comments, so I'd like to respond here and hopefully further the discussion. There are two main points, on process and religion. Process first:

In answer to my assertion that some activists, like the director of the Gay & Lesbian Task Force, are showing contempt for the democratic process by being very up-front about their desire to invalidate the laws of over 40 states and the U.S. government by going to the courts, Denise points out that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land:

So, having a disagreement over how one views the 14th Amendment and its equal protection and due process clauses and resorting to the Supreme Court to clarify and define those rights (including, you know, marriage) hardly seems to me to show contempt for democracy. I don't even get how it shows contempt for the legislative process. It simply shows disagreement with the majority's opinion as codified by that process.

Denise is right that the courts are designed in part to serve a countermajoritarian function, as a check on the untoward impulses of the masses (so is our whole system -- see, e.g., Federalist No. 10 or 63). I also acknowledged that by saying that having a consensus doesn't mean you're right. But with regard to marriage and its regulation, the issue is where the question is properly addressed. Some questions are the province of the legislature because they are matters of public policy, while some are the province of the courts because they are matters of rights that the people may not abridge and the courts are designed to protect. When the courts undertake to make judgments on the first type of question, they are overstepping their bounds. And those who ask the courts to engage in such judicial legislation of public policy are thumbing their noses at the people and the democratic process -- in which they're unwilling or unable (because they'd lose on the merits) to engage.

So the question is, what kind of question is marriage, or more specifically "marriage" to someone of the same sex -- the province of policy (legislature) or of rights (courts)? Marriage in general is an institution traditionally reserved to the states to regulate, as the Supreme Court has recognized: "Marriage, as creating the most important relation in life, as having more to do with the morals and civilization of a people than any other institution, has always been subject to the control of the legislature." Maynard v. Hill, 125 U.S. 190, 205 (1888). The states' power is not unlimited, as the Court has pointed out many times. But look at the contexts in which the Court has taken up the issue. Starting with one of the key passages of Loving v. Virginia (the anti-miscegenation law case), and what it cites to, we can see an example of the types of limitations on marriage that are so repugnant to ordered liberty as to violate the Constitution:

"Marriage is one of the 'basic civil rights of man,' fundamental to our very existence and survival . . . . To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State." Loving, 388 U.S. 1, 12 (1967) (emphasis added).

Loving was concerned with racial restrictions on marriage, restrictions which were external to the institution itself (that is, not inherent to it) and grounded on the type of invidious classification that the 14th Amendment was specifically designed to prohibit. (Again, there was nothing fundamental to marriage itself that required racial discrimination -- as we could know from reason and observation that these invidious restrictions were only imposed in some states (15 at the time of Loving), at some periods in history, in some circumstances -- not everywhere and always around the world.) But the definition of marriage itself -- with union of a man and a woman -- the Court takes entirely for granted, since it is a human right that does not derive from the state. That's partly for reasons the Court alludes to in other opinions: "Marriage and procreation are fundamental to the very existence and survival of the race." Skinner v. Oklahoma, 316 U.S. 535, 541 (1942). We have a right to marry, and that will be protected as against invidious attempts to restrict it in ways not essential to the institution, but "marry" has always carried a very specific core meaning. For the rest, the details -- such as degree of consanguinity or age, for example -- belong to the legislatures to determine.

If people argue that there is a fundamental "right" to marry someone of the same sex, it seems to me they must be appealing to a higher principle, to the very notions of "justice" that exist anterior to the state and are not dependent on positive law. The positive law could conflict with the higher law in some cases and thus be unjust, perhaps even giving us a moral imperative to oppose the positive law. The idea that there are such higher principles or natural rights is a very respectable one, appealed to by the likes of Thomas Jefferson or Martin Luther King. But how do we determine what higher, natural rights are? Great thinkers, for millennia, seem to have concluded that we may know such rights through reason and empiricism. Applying such to the question of marriage to someone of the same sex, it does not follow that any natural or higher right exists here. It doesn't follow from rational deduction that marriage must include the right to join with someone of the same sex; reason rather supports the institution of marriage, as it is between men and woman, as a means to ensuring stability of and propogation of our very existence. Empirical observation of historical or current societies around the world does not demonstrate that marriage ever has included or really does include union to someone of the same sex (except where the positive law has been created in a few northern European countries in the last 10 years). In fact, no "right" to marry someone of the same sex inheres in the core institution of marriage; therefore it must belong to the legislature to determine whether any recognition of such right will be made. It must be in the public square that arguments for and against redefining marriage to include same-sex couples must be made. There is no "right" for the courts to protect, or that inherently warrants "direct action" (as Denise believes may be necessary, I assume Gavin Newsom-like) to achieve abstract justice.

In this case, the American people through the legislatures and the direct voting process have been weighing and deciding the issue, and they've tended to come down strongly on the side of marriage. They've used the legitimate, democratic processes of our system to achieve public policy ends. Those who realize they aren't winning in the public square and proceed to run to the courts as an instrument of policy change, in lieu of fair participation in the democratic process, do indeed show contempt for that process. If they merely had "disagreement with the majority's opinion as codified by that process," they would continue to make arguments against the majority opinion in the public square as part of that process (and hey, maybe -- likely -- even win in some places) -- but they wouldn't be encouraging executives to ignore the law they're supposed to enforce, or taking it to the courts to achieve by judicial fiat what they couldn't do by legislative initiative.