Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Running to stand still

It feels like there has been a lot going on this week, between journal and work and various other random things (like packing) that need doing before I leave from work tomorrow afternoon to start my fall break trips. One of those things needing done was a return trip to the police station downtown to get fingerprinted for my bar application. Long-time readers (all three or four of you :) might recall that I had to get printed earlier this year in order to sort out an identity theft issue in which it appeared that I might, in fact, be a crack dealer. I'm hoping that's all taken care of now, but I'll be filing an amendment (complete with copies of my nice letter from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation) to my application to try to head off any remaining problems that might arise. So, other than proving I am not now nor have I ever been a resident of a Georgia jail, I have been working on my bar application, working in general, catching snippets of the Star Wars bonus DVD featurettes (haven't caught neurosis's backwards Boba Fett yet :), and taking care of things around the house. It should be nice to relax this weekend. Hope everyone at Moritz has a nice break!

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

One body in one Lord

A friend and I were talking last week about Christian unity and ecumenism, and how much cultural consensus matters relative to theology in bringing about greater unity amongst our various denominations. (My friend comes from a Mormon background, and the question was originally prompted by this article on Mormonism by Fr. Neuhaus.) It was a good discussion, and we'll be working out thoughts on this one for awhile, I'm sure. The gist of the discussion was this: I think that one of the very positive signs for Christian unity, at least in America over the past few decades, has been the growing closeness between Catholics and evangelical Protestants. We have come to find ourselves, because of our faith, aligned on so many issues important to our culture (particularly with regard to the culture of life, and strengthening and protecting our families for their good and the good of our society), and have learned from each other in many ways. I know I've experienced this through my familiarity with the Focus on the Family ministries, my work at Family Research Council, and the wonderful people I've been fortunate to know in our Christian student group at the law school. For one example on learning, it's always something of a joke that Catholics don't know the Bible at all (despite hearing it every week at Mass on a three-year cycle), and I think Catholics have a great deal to learn from the greater devotion to study that evangelicals often have. On the other hand, my friend pointed out from her perspective as part of a historically younger denomination, Protestants can come to appreciate through more dialogue the depth of the intellectual tradition present in Catholicism. All of this, we hope, can along with prayer lead to greater unity within the Body of Christ.

Learning and alignment on cultural issues, however, while definitely positive, do not necessarily portend alignment on doctrinal matters, and these are also highly important. We are hundreds of years past the point in Christianity where riots or wars could erupt over the point of whether Christ, for example, as the Son of God was at once fully human and fully divine, or whether he was just human and/or not co-equal of God the Father -- but while we may no longer fight wars over points like this, they are absolutely essential to the faith. Belief in Christ must necessarily mean belief in his divinity and humanity, to take that example; rejecting Arianism as heresy, we affirm that Christ is "begotten, not made; one in being with the Father . . . He was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man." In other words, dogma matters, because we believe and assert there is such a thing as Truth (that is Christ) and we must seek to know what is true. Truth can be found in many things, but not all things are equally true. When it comes to the differences between Catholicism and the Protestant (or other) Christian denominations, there are real differences doctrinally. And all of us agree those differences matter, else they would not keep us from being completely unified in worship. That was part of my friend's point: even if we may be growing closer as we find common ground on cultural issues because of our faith, there may not be any growing closeness on articles of faith between Catholics and Protestants, and therefore the unity we see may be illusory, or at least only of a very limited nature. I'm not so sure that increasing unity in our worship and works can't lead to unity doctrinally, but my friend's thinking was that there isn't the desire, on either side, to delve into doctrine. Then of course there's the awkward (when approaching a discussion) fact that Catholicism teaches that the Church holds the authoritative and true deposit of faith (which I believe), but our Protestant brothers and sisters are often equally convinced that the Church is wrong on certain doctrinal matters.

I don't know how to cultivate greater unity on dogma, which is of so much importance; but I do think we can agree that greater unity in our lives as the faithful is a positive sign, that continuing dialogue and mutual seeking of truth is beneficial to us all, and that our common prayers for unity can only work for the good.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Compendium

Chris compiled a guide to the Moritz blogosphere last week that helpfully describes the growing group of us bloggers, for any new readers who might be wondering who we are. Go check it out -- he even concedes I write well "on occasion." That's progress :)

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Still the one

My parents' 25th anniversary is this coming week, and we siblings (but mostly my sister) have organized a party for this evening. They're enjoying visiting with relatives and other guests who got in this morning (including a few who got out of Florida before Jeanne got there this morning). The party should be a lot of fun -- like a wedding reception 25 years later. My techie brother put together a cool video, my other brother will be doing the toast, and my sisters came up with fun trivia and plans for a lot of dancing. So that (in addition, of course, to the ND game) will be occupying our day today ... back later!

Friday, September 24, 2004

Quiz time

What type of clerkship will you have? Jeremy sets out nine types, which all hopeful applicants who are still worried and waiting for phone calls should read, to alleviate their stress just a little bit. I particularly liked his last, rejected type:

Rejected 10th category: Smirkships. For judges nominated by President Bush.

Hehe. He does have that smirk, doesn't he?

Here Come the Irish

Someone found my site by Googling the lyrics to "Here Come the Irish," the highly cool Celtic-influenced song written a few years back by two ND alums which became very popular right around the time Ty Willingham got to ND (at least that's when I first heard it was taking off at school; the university officially jumped on the bandwagon last year). Now it's on CDs sold by the school (you can hear part of it here) and on the university commercials aired during our football games. I figured I'd print the lyrics here with a link:

Well I remember the leaves a fallin'
And far off music like pipes a callin'
And I remember the golden morning
I saw the long ranks as they were forming

And there's a magic in the sound of their name
Here come the Irish of Notre Dame

The pilgrims follow by the sacred waters
And arm in arm go the sons and daughters
The drums are rolling and forward bound
They're calling spirits up from the ground

And there's a magic in the sound of their name
Here come the Irish of Notre Dame

As I wrote last week, and Sports Illustrated and ESPN agree with me, there are few things like being at Notre Dame on a football Saturday. You've got student concession stands (carefully organized, each student group gets one concession stand per year to make its money) serving up brats and burgers on the quads, random bagpipe players entertaining the crowds, the visits to the Grotto, the Mass after the game, dads throwing footballs to their kids on South Quad, the performance by the band on the steps of Bond Hall, the cool coda by the drumline, and the march to the stadium -- which is what the song is talking about. A little while before game time, people start forming a long line from the basilica to the stadium for the band and the football team to march over to the stadium -- the line fills in behind the team and the whole procession follows with energy. You just have to be there :)

Oh, good grief

Apparently the GOP is sending out flyers warning that the Democrats are going to ban Bibles. These kinds of ads are really dumb, since they seriously misstate matters using unreasonable and entirely baseless fear tactics. There are enough legitimate issues to point to, and legitimate debates over religion in the public square, without needing to go way overboard and suggest all that amounts to actually banning books. On the other hand, Professor Volokh suggests the claim might not be as absurd or objectionable as I first thought; but Michelle Malkin would still disapprove of the ad even if it's not so misleading.

Having their say

Via Marriage Debate blog, I found this article from the Cleveland Plain Dealer about the possibility of passage of an Ohio constitutional amendment to define marriage. (There have been a lot of issues about whether enough signatures have been collected to put the amendment on the ballot in November, the legitimacy of the petitions collecting signatures, and other legal challenges, but at present it looks like the issue will be on the ballot.) If it is, the Plain Dealer writes, it would be likely to pass in Ohio with almost a 2 to 1 margin. That's not too surprising, given the strong support of Ohio's recently passed Defense of Marriage Act. Other states have started amending their state constitutions to give more strength to marriage policies even though they already exist in DOMAs: Lousiana passed one with 78 percent in favor, and Missouri recently passed an amendment with 70 percent in favor as well. Again, this isn't surprising, since when the people are given a chance to vote on this issue, they tend to vote to preserve the definition of marriage -- Congress did it by an overwhelming margin in 1996, and 38 states have DOMAs on their books. It may not be the case everywhere, since of course a good many people do favor SSM, but this has been the strong trend, at least, around the country.

This bit from the Plain Dealer article was interesting to me:

"This is about politics," said Seth Kilbourn, national field director for the Human Rights Campaign, one of the main national groups supporting gay marriage. "Maybe we can't draw a direct line linking this to [Bush political strategist] Karl Rove, but we can connect the dots," he said.

Among the dots: Ohio joins other battleground states, such as Michigan and Oregon, with anti-gay ballot issues - even though each already has a state ban on same-sex unions.

Grant that it's political. Even if evil mastermind Karl Rove is pulling all the strings, he's not drumming up 60+ percent support for amendments like this. 60+ percent of people, after all, are not going to vote for Bush in Ohio, or in most other states (Bush won't win in California, but they have a DOMA; ditto for Washington state). No, the truth is that this issue has its own force often independent of partisan politics, and people are voting to show they don't want four judges in Massachusetts or individual mayors to make decisions for them.

Turf wars and the right to life

Joseph Newhard of Ohio State's Sentinel blog writes about the fact that Terri Schiavo's law was struck down by the courts the other day. Unfortunately, he has an inaccurate statement of the facts in this case, at least as I've been following this case over the last year (and full disclosure, I was one of the thousands of people petitioning the Florida legislature to pass this emergency legislation last year).

First, Terri is not in a coma, unless the definition of that has been expanded to include conscious people. If you look at pictures of her, she can respond and seems to smile at people when they are with her. She has a feeding tube, but can breathe on her own. She's severely brain damaged, but there have never been any serious efforts to try therapy with her to see if she could improve even a little -- her husband has never permitted any therapy to be done, even with the malpractice claim money he won from the courts years ago.

Second, it's disputed how much she "confided" in her husband. She apparently made an offhand comment to her husband that she "wouldn't want to be that way" (something like that) when they were watching a TV show early in their marriage. How specific a stated wish is that? Furthermore, the circumstances surrounding Terri's collapse, the one that led to her brain damage, are highly suspicious, as there is some evidence her husband was the one responsible (and there are questions about his conduct since then). If he does not have her best interests in mind -- or even if you stipulate, for the sake of argument, that he doesn't have bad motives but he still wants her to die -- her parents still are willing to care for her, so why should the courts be trying so hard to bring about Terri's death instead of letting her stay alive with people who love her and care for her?

Finally, again, Joseph's statement that "she can't be brought back" is not quite accurate in the same sense that we might say a person who's been unconscious in a coma for 14 years probably can't be brought back (although you hear stories there, too), or the same with a person in terminal end-stage illness who is dying and can't be saved and is in constant agony. Terri's not unconscious. She's not deteriorating with a terminal illness. She needs a feeding tube, but she can breathe fine and she's awake. What kind of standard would say brain damaged people should just be killed, even if they're not dying and they're loved and people would care for them? The lower courts made findings that she wasn't getting any better, but not getting better shouldn't be legally sufficient grounds for a conclusion of "she might as well die then." The presumption should be in favor of life, with a high burden of proof to bring about death, rather than the other way around. Disability rights groups are rightly very concerned about this, but we all should be.

This case just doesn't seem to fit the parameters of the typical "right to die" cases that euthanasia proponents use. Rather, it seems that the courts keep trying to find a way to let Terri's husband -- who's been living with another woman who he's had children with, but for some reason never divorced Terri and never let her go into her parents' care -- kill her. And make no mistake, removing her feeding tube and letting her die by dehydration and starvation over a course of weeks would be a slow, painful death, as Terri's own records spell out.

On the legal side of things, Jeb Bush and the Florida legislature saved Terri's life after the court ordered her feeding tube removed last year. The Florida Supreme Court found, though, that the nature of the law passed allowing the governor to authorize reinsertion of her feeding tube violated separation of powers, as it unconstitutionally encroached on the judicial branch. I understand the separation of powers argument, but the justifications at the end of the opinion, at least, setting out the parade of horribles, seem weak to me:

If the Legislature with the assent of the Governor can do what was attempted here, the judicial branch would be subordinated to the final directive of the other branches. Also subordinated would be the rights of individuals, including the well established privacy right to self determination. See Browning, 568 So. 2d at 11-13. No court judgment could ever be considered truly final and no constitutional right truly secure, because the precedent of this case would hold to the contrary. Vested rights could be stripped away based on popular clamor. The essential core of what the Founding Fathers sought to change from their experience with English rule would be lost, especially their belief that our courts exist precisely to reserve the rights of individuals, even when doing so is contrary to popular will.

They say they're concerned about the rights of individuals, but they're taking away the most basic right of Terri Schiavo here -- her right to live. No one is trying to strip away a vested right, but to preserve one that the court didn't see fit to. If there ever was a popular outcry to legislatively abrogate a judicial ruling protecting a truly vested right, it seems to me this case wouldn't have to have much precedential value as the facts could be easily distinguished as a one-time occurrence. In any event, I think the ruling is tremendously unfortunate, because even if it has reached a correct legal result on separation of powers grounds (an abstract legal issue), it has likely sentenced to death a woman who, but for these courts, wouldn't otherwise have to die.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Rogue leader, standing by

I know I haven't written anything this week ... been pretty busy with journal and work (was at work for 11 hours today) and then, of course, I got some movies yesterday :). But I do have things to link to and topics to write about, which I'm planning to post some tomorrow afternoon. Please keep stopping by! :)

Monday, September 20, 2004

Agenda-pushing

There are so many, many things to say about this profoundly disturbing NPR story (excerpted with fairly graphic language -- though of course the language of this Massachusetts middle school teacher is mostly shocking because it was directed at children first) -- but I'll limit myself to just one of the most minor. It illuminates, however, the nature of some of what's going on here. What I noticed here was the way in which public school teacher Ms. Allen felt perfectly comfortable -- "emboldened," really, thanks to the courts -- using her own name to tell the nation about how she teaches 13-year-olds about sex toys. It's the teacher who is horrified about discussing such topics with children who feels she should hide her identity in public. Unbelievable.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Aggies, Vols assessed for "Gipper factor"

I enjoyed this article on the ten best schools at which to spend a football weekend. Leading SI's survey were Tennessee, LSU, A&M, and Florida, with Notre Dame at five. They did a nice job summing everything up :D

ATMOSPHERE: 10. You just have to be there. Rather than try to explain the school's famed mystique, we'll cop to what former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said when attempting to define porn: "I know it when I see it." STUDENT SECTION: 8. Students are as likely to attend home games as they are their own graduation. At the stadium, they conduct the 1812 Overture and start the "We are N-D" chant that sweeps around the stands. GOD, COUNTRY, FOOTBALL: 10. ND doesn't have an official homecoming weekend, because every game entices alumni to make the pilgrimage to South Bend. GIPPER FACTOR: 10. The Horsemen, the Heismans, Holtz and the helmets -- a legacy that even sub-.500 ball can't tarnish. IN-GAME TRADITIONS: 7. Players tap the PLAY LIKE A CHAMPION TODAY sign on the way out to the field and, win or lose, toast the student section with a helmet-raised rendition of the alma mater. Notre Dame's fight song could be Billboard's No. 1 hit of all time. EXTRACURRICULARS: 3. That rare major football school where you'll get funny looks if there's beer coming out of your nose. Touchdown Jesus and the Grotto are cool, but South Bend is one dead town -- and Chicago isn't as close as you think.

I know those other schools have great traditions too, but there are few things like being at ND for a football Saturday. And I have to point out the reasons, evident from SI's survey, that we all know ND is tops despite the rankings: two of the factors are based on Notre Dame lore -- "God, Country, Football" is an altered version of the words to be found on one door of our basilica, "God, Country, Notre Dame." And "Gipper Factor"? The Gipp didn't play in Tiger country. :D

And yes, I am also happy because we beat Michigan State yesterday, to which team we lost all four years I was there. Two wins in a row, and this season already feels so much better than last year. (Though as ESPN dubbed us "Mood Swing University" last week, I'm prepared to be depressed in coming weeks ... I'll stay happy for now, though!)

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Legal fictions

Saw via Marriage Debate that Manitoba has become the fifth jurisdiction in Canada to officially legalize SSM, following precedent from the other provinces to find the definition of marriage unconstitutional -- and this time it's all unopposed by the federal government. It's hardly news in Canada anymore, but I still find the quoted language from the court's opinion breathtaking in its sweeping audacity:

"The traditional definition of marriage in Manitoba is reformulated to mean a voluntary union for life of two persons at the exclusion of all others," Justice Yard said in his decision.

'How easy is it then!' I can't find the opinion online or on Westlaw, so I don't know if the context would mitigate the meaning of the statement at all, but it seems pretty clear. All the judge had to do was "reformulate" the definition of marriage, and it was done. I wonder if the judge's opinion goes on so as to clarify that this new definition, with "two persons," does not really mean any two persons, but only those of certain ages, or not of certain degrees of consanguinity. I also wonder if he specified why only two persons could voluntarily commit to union to the exclusion of others? Somehow, I suspect not. We all know what he intends, after all, and only alarmist conservatives would suggest that this new definition is inherently without viable foundation that would stop it from being further 'reformulated' in the future. And so it goes.

It was ever thus

Law has a funny way of insinuating itself into most every aspect of a law student's life. Indeed, after only a short time in law school, it's hard to remember a time before you knew all this stuff they teach you -- the concepts and theories and black letter rules and methods of analysis. (And, for the sake of the sanity of family, friends and significant others, you have to work actively not to talk about law school all the time, even though it may be dominating your life.) I'm sure I'd have done all right for myself as a thinker if I'd never gone to law school, but I also can't imagine not having had the analytical training I've had here. And on my informal surveys, this seems to be the case with a lot of law students.

This year's 1L's are already finding out that law is changing their lives in odd ways. Matt Schuh, for one, is having entirely too much fun with it: "I think a lot about whether things people tell me have consideration." Doh! :)

Wouldn't be prudent

The Columbus Dispatch (which, obnoxiously, does not give free online access to articles -- who does it think it is, the Wall Street Journal?) has an editorial today entitled "Bloggers beware." I think it's amusing how they define "blogging" -- "the act of baring one's soul in an Internet diary" -- since that definition doesn't really apply to a lot of us bloggers, some of whom have blogs for stated non-personal purposes, or who may simply be more reticent than others about sharing personal details. In any event, the Dispatch cites the Washingtonienne affair (so to speak) and other instances of employees finding themselves in trouble with their employers based on indiscreet statements online.

Most bloggers understand not to post company secrets or be hostile or libelous when discussing their coworkers, but a person inadvertently can reveal something harmful. . . . [W]orkers should be wary that an Internet slip of the lip might mean a pink slip.

Cute. Nevertheless, I agree that it's important to be careful about what you write online. As Tony Rickey has pointed out, "Everything you say on a blog will be remembered" (at least by Google). That's why it's important to self-censor and think twice about everything you post. It's also part of the reason I remain safely anonymous, like Princess Leia (did I mention the SW DVD's are coming out next week? :). I know some people dislike anonymous blogging on principle, or just in particular cases. In my case, as I've commented elsewhere before, this blog is quasi-anonymous. That is, everyone who knows me can readily identify me as the author of this site, and I have no illusions about or problems with that. (Everyone who knows me also can figure out my opinions pretty quickly, so I'm not saying much new on here :). My concern is just that I don't want people who happen to stumble on the site to so easily associate it with my name, or connect me by name with my employers. Being known to my associates helps keep me honest and prudent about what I write (I hope), but not having my name on this page helps keep me more anonymous on the Internet generally. (I've been online for at least a decade now, and always felt the need to be concerned about privacy and/or safety on the Internet.) So, for better or worse, that's the judgment I've made.

What do women want?

Myrna Blyth, former Ladies' Home Journal editor, writes on NRO today about the vanishing gender gap. She writes,

[I]n 1980 Eleanor Smeal, a political scientist who became president of the National Organization for Women, noticed that while more women voted for Reagan than for Carter, a higher percentage of men voted for the Republican candidate. NOW met with the Democratic National Committee to highlight what they labeled "Reagan's Female Problem," and began to effectively promote to the media another new difference between men and women. For the next two decades, the notion that men and women voted differently and that despite class, education, and income women all voted alike simply because they were women became an accepted fact, endorsed by Democratic operatives and a sympathetic press.

I'm not sure I blame the very notion of the gender gap on Democrats. It's been pretty well documented, and appeared to be strongest during the Clinton years, even though it is not the strongest predictor of voting behavior (and of course, quite a few women couldn't stand Bill Clinton).

Voting behavior is an ongoing subject of interest to me, and it's fun (and makes for good political stories) to study and identify various groups and predict how and why they'll vote, as different group identities of an individual have different impacts on his or her voting behavior. It's also kind of fun to mess with the predictive models. As a young, single, Hispanic, professional(-to-be) woman, I should be about as strong a Democrat as they come, according to the models. But the characteristic that most strongly influences and defines me is my Catholicism, and for that reason I will tend most often to the political right.

Perhaps it's because my religion matters more to me politically than my gender that I really dislike Ms. Blyth's article. In the same way that I don't like NOW or Planned Parenthood pretending to speak for all women (saying that "choice," the "pay gap," shrinking the military and raising the minimum wage (!) are the most important issues for women), I don't like Ms. Blyth turning the issue around (after blaming the Democrats) and saying "what is most important is that security has now become a kitchen-table issue, an issue women think and talk and worry about every day." It's patronizing in a different way. For NOW: Some women actually don't believe abortions are a good thing for women, and some of us have better grasps of economics than to think the minimum wage should be drastically increased. For Ms. Blyth: Some women thought and talked and worried about security before 9/11, you know.

It may be useful to keep studying gender as a factor in voting, because it certainly is a relevant one, but I think it's silly to act as though all women think certain things -- and it's not productive to overgeneralize in this regard. Rather, it is more useful to look at the interaction of other factors (like marital status, religiosity, or economic status) with gender in order to get a more accurate picture of these blocs of the electorate.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Another reason I won't live in the District

Much as I like spending time in the city and appreciate a lot about it, I have decided after a few years of consideration that there's no way I'd live in the District of Columbia. For one thing, by my observation, they take more of your tax dollars and do far less with them. And then the people go out and do stuff like this, electing to city council DC's former crack-smoking mayor, who happily claims his was a victory for God. Well, in a spirit of goodwill, here's hoping he and God can do some good for the people of the city.

[Minor correction: Barry won the primary, not the election, though that's almost a certainty.]

Monday, September 13, 2004

Scruffy-looking nerf herders

In good news for Star Wars dorks everywhere (including neurosis :), the DVD's are coming out for the first time next week. Those who have managed to get their hands on advance copies for review are posting some highly cool screen caps (click around a little) to show the difference between the new digital versions and even 1997's cleaned-up copies. The clarity is amazing. These should be fun to kick back and watch with popcorn next week :) I'm not even that upset about a lot of the changes they're making (certainly putting Ian McDiarmid in Empire is overdue), although it does seem a little weird to me that I have grown up with movies in a version that future viewers will never realize was around. There's something to be said for original cheesiness (yub-yub, anyone?).

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Parents to child: we wish you were never born

Via Professor Garnett at Mirror of Justice (and some reading on Westlaw), comes an LA Times article entitled "If Only We'd Known," about two parents who are suing their obstetrician in a "wrongful life" suit -- that is, if they had known about a certain test that would have shown their baby would be born with spina bifida (as she was) they would probably have aborted her. They blame their doctor for not giving them the knowledge that would have enabled them to make a decision to kill their baby before she was born. Now, of course, it's too late; their little girl Leilani is born, and if her parents tried to kill her now, they'd go to prison for murder. If only they'd known!

Commentators have no problem abstracting the issue, as such lawsuits only "seem to devalue the lives of people with disabilities and imperfections," according to a USC law prof (my emphasis), but really are just a simple legal matter of medical impropriety. And it's true the legal issues are distinct, but I don't see how these do anything but devalue the lives of people with disabilities and imperfections. And it puts further pressure on doctors (already being driven out of business by malpractice insurance premiums made high by excessive lawsuits):

"On one side you have a liability mess that puts you on the hook for the rest of the child's life," said Dr. T. Murphy Goodwin, chief of maternal-fetal medicine at USC's Keck School of Medicine. "The other side, you have carte blanche to avoid the potential for these kinds of problems by shading the discussion to advocate abortion. There's almost no adverse reaction if a doctor tells someone to terminate a pregnancy based on faulty information."

To discuss things a little bit more, it looks like these causes of action (with a nuanced distinction between wrongful life and wrongful birth) are based on negligent failures to test or provide information (62A Am.Jur.2d, Prenatal Injuries §§ 89 et seq. lists "negligent genetic counseling prior to conception," "failure to advise as to availability of genetic counseling or testing," and "failure in diagnosis or advice as to risk of birth defects; negligent prenatal testing," as actionable forms of negligence). It appears 28 states recognize wrongful birth suits, with nine states prohibiting, and only three states recognizing wrongful life. Where there is a statutory duty to perform a test, perhaps this is a viable claim. But as First Things has written, "It is important to note that in neither cause of action does a plaintiff claim that the medical professional actually caused the child’s birth defects. The defects occur either naturally or by some other cause." Doctors didn't do anything affirmative or negligent to cause an injury; the injury is in (negligently) not being given enough information to decide to have an abortion. The implications for pressure on the medical community are breathtaking -- better to disclose every single possible even if implausible risk and recommend an abortion, after all, as Dr. Goodwin says, than potentially be liable at any point in the future a child or his parents decide to sue for going ahead with the birth. Not only that, but parents (though protected from suit in some states) could also feel greater pressure to abort. FT points out:

Further, an increased emphasis on genetic screening places an increased social pressure to abort on parents of the disabled unborn. If they do not abort, the parents risk being blamed by neighbors for subjecting their child to a malady that was so “avoidable.” For proof of such pressure, see the recent and rapid decline in the birth rate of Down’s Syndrome children during the last decade. As the human genome continues to be mapped and the reality of human cloning sinks in, these lawsuits represent a less visible, but still very real, eugenic influence on society.

So much for "choice." Since Roe revised the status of life under our laws, we have seen a progressive devaluation of it, with subtle pressures to euthanize or abort based on economic considerations (or even qualitative considerations that simply say a difficult life would be better off not being lived at all). But abortion advocates don't care -- some commentators fiercely oppose limitations on wrongful birth or life causes of action precisely on the grounds that people had the absolute right to be able to abort in time. Neither do trial lawyers, who can routinely get large settlements out of insurance companies who just make pragmatic (not meritorious) judgments that disabled children are very sympathetic plaintiffs in the courtroom. Who does care? How about the children themselves? It's just incredible that in these cases children have to know that that their parents wish they had never existed, because it's just too expensive or burdensome to have cared for them. How worthless a child must feel to know his parents feel so strongly he shouldn't have been born that they would go through a long litigation process and affirm that sentiment repeatedly. (Disabled rights advocates oppose wrongful birth suits in part on these grounds -- they deny the inherent dignity of every life.) And what kind of effect must that have on parents? When you start a legal process in these types of suits, you in all likelihood must repeatedly affirm that you would have chosen not to have your child -- this has to affect how you look at them every day, increasingly seeing them as just a burden you would just as soon be rid of. It also results in terribly sad incongruencies like this one about a severely disabled girl whose parents sued and settled on a wrongful birth action:

“Jade is the best thing that could have ever happened to us, I mean she's our foundation, she's our rock. But if we had known, I didn't have an option,” says Cynthia, who would have had an abortion if she knew about Jade’s condition.

I know, from some personal knowledge and from hearing and reading heartwrenching stories, that it's difficult to live with a defect or disability or with a disabled child. I don't question the struggles and heartache that people go through. But every life has value. Legally faulting others for the fact of your or your child's very existence is just terrible. Look at the result for Jade's family: she's the best thing that could have ever happened to them -- but given the choice, the parents would never have known her. Wow.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

And our hearts forever, love thee Notre Dame!

Thought about driving up for the game today, but since my sister graduated this year I don't have a place to stay, and I didn't want to be on the road for that long today. So, I'll be watching from home as we take on one of our biggest rivals (this game poses a challenge to those who like OSU -- do they really want to root for ND? I say, of course they do!). ND beat Michigan in the first game I was there, when UM was defending national champion, and that was absolutely one of the high points of my four years there. Since then, it's been up and down, but most recently down (as Denise helpfully notes :). If being embarassed last year isn't enough to motivate us to play like we mean it today, I don't know what will be enough. In the meantime, I'll be gamely watching today for signs of life and competitiveness, and rooting, as I have done and will do my whole life, for Notre Dame. It's always hard to watch the first game of the year and realize I'll never have my four years there back again. But man, were they fun :) Go Irish!

UPDATE: I should've gone up. That game was sweet! Offense came back alive in the second half and the defense was great. A little sloppy on all the turnovers, but we got 'em when they counted. Yeah :)

UPDATE II: Heh. I like ESPN's headline: "Payback is a. . ."

This time it was personal. The Irish remember last year's beating (they did reps of 38 to remind themselves of the final margin). They heard this would be another blowout. Instead, Notre Dame thumped No. 7 Michigan 28-20 in South Bend.

The next milestone

This past week was the time for 3L's to submit their clerkship applications to judges around the country. Looking at LvL's stack of mail (it's the Monday post on her main site), I'm kind of relieved I decided not to go through it this year. For those who did or who are thinking about it for next year, Chris has a good summary of the whole ordeal, broken down into two parts: the process, and the waiting. Best of luck to everyone who's waiting right now for those phone calls.

Looking back

This was the article I wrote for our student magazine the night after the attacks; the issue went to bed that Wednesday night:

>> I was late hearing the news; CNN.com would not load on my web browser when I checked it 8:05 a.m. [Central Time], so I forgot about checking the news for a little while. After all, the top news for the past 24 hours had only been a decline in the stock market -- not a fascinating subject for this government major. I showered, read and got ready for class. It wasn't until almost 11 o'clock that I heard people saying in the hallway that the university was closed. "What's going on?" I demanded with the first stirrings of alarm. "The bombs!" was the how-can-you-not-know? response I received. I ran into my room, and now CNN came up.

The Pentagon is burning.

My hand flew to my mouth as I scanned the list of terse statements on the webpage: Planes down. Towers collapsed. Thousands missing. In the first moments it seemed apocalyptic in scale; in the next, like the nightmarish fiction scenarios of Tom Clancy novels come to life. I could only wonder, along with millions of others, what further tragedies would be visited. I quickly went to a friend's room and, for three hours, with the TV on one station and his computer transmitting live feed from another, we watched the news unfold. And then we headed out to Mass to pray. Out on the quad, my eyes remained focused on the flag, fluttering gently in the wind, at half-mast. I was shaken: This isn't supposed to happen here.

The rest of the world, including the West, has long lived with terrorism. This is different, of course -- never has such a massively destructive terrorist attack been launched on any nation. But terrorism is common in many places. I remember sitting in my Spanish family's living room in Toledo in January 2000 when we learned that the year-long truce kept by ETA, the Basque separatist group, had been violently broken by an explosion in Madrid. During my last semester in London, a bomb from a dissident IRA faction went off in front of a BBC office, and several tube stops were evacuated because of threats. Both of these countries saw the height of these internal terrorist actions in the 1970s and 80s and continue to live with the violence.

The new terrorism here has been directed, however, not by internal factions -- we saw that in Oklahoma City -- but, in all likelihood, by radical Islamic fundamentalists. Ordinary Americans have done nothing to them; nevertheless we have all incurred their hatred and now, possibly, have borne the brunt of their wrath.

A friend who has studied in Israel and lived among Palestinians has a unique insight into the emotions surging in that part of the world. By no means can these excuse the acts of today, but perhaps they can somewhat explain their thinking. What bothers Palestinians most, she says, what feeds their helpless frustration, is not so much American support of Israel as Americans' utter ignorance of the situation. Twenty-five percent of adult Americans cannot even point to the Pacific Ocean on a map; the vast majority must surely be unable to locate Israel, much less display any awareness of the complex history of the Middle East and America's involvement there. The United States is the lone giant on the world stage, and international affairs are just so many flies to be brushed away.

We can't help who we are. Most people are unaware of world affairs simply because we do not have to be aware of them. If a civil war is raging in Sri Lanka, if a multi-national war is fought in Congo, if kidnapping is rampant in Colombia, it is a life-and-death reality for them. But we don't see it here because those countries do not have immediate impacts on us -- we are physically and psychologically far removed from them. What we do in America, however, just because of our size and influence, usually does have ramifications for them. It is perhaps inevitable that resentment of us would beuild up in the rest of the world, that we would be blamed for others' problems and our ignorance of those problems. But even if government policies might be faulted (though I sometimes wonder why America shouldn't work to further America's interests in the world), average citizens are not the guilty ones. On Tuesday, terrorists punished them anyway. In the process, they shattered our distance, our innocence.

As we begin to recover from the week's devastation, the world stands with us to condemn the despicable acts of terror and exact punishment from those who supported and harbored the offenders. However, perhaps another consequence of this terrible day will be that we learn that we now stand with the world. We may begin to seek a growing awareness and understanding of the world, friendly or hostile, beyond our shores.

It wasn't supposed to happen here, but it has, and now we must go forward together. <<

As I look back on what I wrote at the time and reflect on how my views have changed, much of it still stands, but I think I've taken a somewhat harder attitude in other respects. I underestimated the support we would receive from other countries, with the exception of the Anglosphere in particular which has been remarkably steadfast; I thought we would now be standing with the rest of the world in knowing what terrorism was, but we had to stand alone in many respects. In fact, it's taken until the last month for France and Russia to realize maybe it is they who did not have that knowledge of terrorism, and they who have now had that knowledge driven painfully home. And Spain was with us until their own September 11th pushed them into greater isolation. It makes me grateful that we have the allies we do, those from so many countries who have stuck through the war on terrorism even as brutal cowards attack their citizens as well. I also have far less inclination to "understand" resentment of Americans, since I see it as more baseless than I was willing to consider in the past. Anyone who dances in the streets following the murder of thousands doesn't deserve the dignity of being sought to be understood.

Overall, looking back at that day and my thoughts at the time has the effect of bringing back the feelings of that day. It really was amazing to see the outpouring of support and unity and patriotism across the entire country in the days that followed. In that spirit of support, I think we all offer our prayers today for those who gave their lives that day and their survivors, and those who have given their lives in the service of our country ever since.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

"What liberal media?"

Though CBS ran with the story last night, the Boston Globe put it on A1, and CNN is sticking with it as late as 6:40 tonight, it is increasingly likely that the "newly discovered evidence" that President Bush was derelict in his duty in the Texas Air National Guard -- which evidence was personal memos written by one of Bush's superiors -- is all a hoax. The purported memos of Lt. Col. Jerry Killian (d. 1984) as presented by CBS and other quality mainstream news outlets (memos here, here, here, and here) were supposed to raise new questions about Bush's service. The problem: the notes look like they came off standard-issue Microsoft Word programs, circa 2004. They may be completely bunk. They've got superscript ordinals (almost unheard of on early 70's typewriters), proportional rather than monotype font, curled instead of straight apostrophes, no letterhead, and odd use of terminology. Power Line blog has been on top of things all day.

I appreciate, though I am incredulous about, this paragraph from the Washington Post's article for tomorrow morning:

After doubts about the documents began circulating on the Internet yesterday morning, The Post contacted several independent experts who said they appeared to have been generated by a word processor. An examination of the documents by The Post shows that they are formatted differently from other Texas Air National Guard documents whose authenticity is not questioned. (emphasis added)

I'm glad the news coverage of the apparent forgery is being run as prominently as yesterday's reporting, but I'm amazed that the Post only thought to contact independent experts and do its own reporting after the blogosphere got cranking and Fox News picked it up. If the blogosphere wasn't here, would the same questions have been raised? Would people have thought to be less credulous of these heretofore undiscovered memos? Isn't being reasonably skeptical what good journalism is all about, no matter what the eventual results of investigation? But I suspect that the journalists were, rather, falling all over themselves to "balance" the negative happenings for Kerry over the last few weeks by jumping on new allegations against Bush.

I genuinely respect Kerry for his service in Vietnam. I have great respect for anyone who serves our country in the armed forces -- it's a great and courageous thing to do ('Dulce et decorum est' - minus the irony). I wish Bush had been as honorable in volunteering to serve in Vietnam when he was eligible. But regardless, I think it's well known (and already figured into people's estimations) that Bush was not as mature when he was younger. People simply aren't shocked by continuing evidence (real or faked) to that effect. The difference between him and Kerry is that Bush never asked people to judge him based solely on his actions thirty years ago. I think those actions are relevant -- but I think it's far more relevant to evaluate what's happened in the meantime. Bush turned his life around 15 years ago when he stopped drinking and became a committed Christian, and he has turned out to be a strong leader for our country. Kerry came home, trashed his fellow servicemen, and proceeded to make serious misjudgments, however sincerely intentioned, on foreign policy and defense over the course of a long career in the Senate. Voters may not always (I'm being generous) be rational, but many know enough to evaluate what actions are relevant to judging a person's character and how much those actions should matter. Kerry's service says something about him; his actions since then say much more. Same for Bush. Any media's efforts to tarnish Bush in this regard should have little impact. But I am glad to see that several reporters have been, apparently, genuinely dismayed enough by today's story to react to investigate and probably correct the story and protect their own integrity. Maybe it will have an impact on their reporting in the future.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Hyper(sexualized) links

There is such as thing as too much information when it comes to children and sex, but try telling that to TV execs who think nothing of putting shows on network at 8p.m. that talk constantly about it. Now a new study shows that teenagers who watch shows with sexual content are more likely to have sex at younger ages, or to have the knowledge of children several years older. I thought when reading this story, however, that there might be more to it (were other factors controlled for or correlated with the information, such as parents out of the home being associated with more television watching?) and it seems the study did assess other variables:

Simple associations between other respondent characteristics and sexual activity during the following year are also displayed in Table 2. As can be seen, many of these factors were strongly related to sexual behavior. The factors that were positively associated with initiation of intercourse among virgins were older age, having older friends, getting low grades, engaging in deviant behavior, and sensation-seeking. Those associated with a lower probability of intercourse initiation were parental monitoring, parent education, living with both parents, having parents who would disapprove if the adolescent had sex, being religious, and having good mental health.

There's no question that television is a huge part of what shapes our popular culture, and at ages when teenagers are trying to figure out what's normal, moral and/or acceptable, television is going to provide a part of the answer to their questions. It may not be overt ("Hey, that character has lots of sex and she's cool. I'll do that too!") but it's a subtle process of acculturation that takes place over time. Strikingly but not surprisingly, the factors that counter that television-influenced thinking include active parents, the ones who should, in most instances, be the most influential in shaping their children's worldview. I think some parents just don't talk much about sex with their children, either hoping they'll figure it out, or maybe just assuming they have had or will have sex as teenagers, or maybe even encouraging them to just do whatever they think is right, full stop. But I know it's also the case that some of them might want to discourage their children from having sex but are hesitant to talk about it because they feel it's unlikely they can have an impact. If parents never convey their message of disapproval of teenage sex, however (combined, hopefully, with a positive message about the right context for sexual expression), then it's unlikely the teenagers will ever hear it from anyone else. Instead, the void will be filled largely by peers and by the popular culture -- and culture tends to sound just one note on the subject of sex.

Tony Perkins wrote on this subject in today's FRC newsletter:

Whether it's Friends, Will & Grace or Sex in the City, sex is most often treated as a recreational sport with no mention of the fact that the United States is experiencing an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases. It is estimated that over 15 million new STD infections occur each year and two-thirds of those in individuals less than 25 years of age.

Shows may be entertaining to adults (though they influence us too), but they shouldn't be fare for teenagers, especially younger ones. They misrepresent reality and contribute to teens' mindset of what is normal -- though "normal" in Hollywood doesn't resemble much outside it. I should think this type of study, in addition to encouraging parents of teenagers to turn off the TV more and monitor what their kids are watching, should give some hope to parents that they can make a difference. Parents who really communicate with their kids are one of the best ways to help their kids form the right ideas about sex, and counter the casual sex messages constantly portrayed on TV.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Breve informativo

Spent most of today driving back from D.C. (it's always good for driving to be coming into the city when everyone else is leaving -- though I still got stuck in the city once I got there on Friday afternoon -- and leaving when everyone else is coming back) and then getting my reading done for tomorrow. A few quick links for today:

- Via Justin Katz, a lucid reflection by James Hitchcock of Touchstone Magazine, "Supremely Modern Liberals." Detailing and considering the 'inherent nihilism' of modernism, the article reads like a First Things piece, probably because the author's written for them before :) I may write more on this later.

- Former President Clinton is apparently recovering well from quadruple bypass surgery. I hope everything goes well for him in his recovery.

- It's September, so Mark Shea has returned from vacation and resumed blogging over at C&EI. He's back to form already! It's also welcome news that Joshua Claybourn is back.

- Steve at zipsix has officially closed down his blog. The original Moritz blogger, he closed his four years of blogging with some very nice reflections on law school and the internet. We had our differences during the time we overlapped online here, but it was good-natured, and we did find common ground on Monty Python and exam software, so there you go. Good luck, Steve.

- Finally, it looks like the Russian government hasn't yet gotten over its Soviet habit of obfuscating and lying to its citizens. What purpose is served? I don't know. But the scale of last week's staggering terrorist attack on a school is apparently even bigger than the last revised estimates.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Hope springs eternal

. . . when you're a Notre Dame alum and fan, that is. Well, actually my mindset is a complex mix of eternal pessimism and optimism, as I am consigned by God (who's normally supposed to be on our side) to be ever hopeful that this year, our offensive line will actually give some protection and open up holes and our defense will actually make some tackles and competently defend passes instead of making valiant tackles after giving up fifty-yard passes -- while also being forever depressed as, each drive, we gain first downs only to fumble on the next play, etc. This is my school, and I can't not watch every game, but I also know I'm likely to take the C-3PO stance (i.e., "We're doomed!") right up until the moment, which comes only infrequently, when we actually look like we're the Notre Dame we're supposed to be.

Okay, moody rant over pending completion of the second half of the BYU game (in which we are currently down 13-3) . . .

UPDATE: All right. We lost precisely on one of those tackle-after-allowing-fifty-yard-reception plays at the end (do I know my boys or what?). But, the defense looked stronger during most of the game than it did on the first two series. And unlike last season (most of which I've blocked out) we were in the game until the end, which confers somewhat more dignity than getting pasted every week at home. My analysis is that there were no necessary offensive adjustments made. BYU brought the blitz on almost every play, stuffing (pushing backwards) the line and flustering Quinn. But I only saw Quinn move out of the pocket on two or three plays, none designed. One he took for eight yards, though. If you're going to run "West Coast" (this wasn't it), you have to move. Play actions, rollouts, bootlegs, inside slants -- that last especially he should've had a lot, except we weren't running people on that route. (These were the favorite plays of my all-time favorite player (and BYU man) Steve Young, who didn't have much of the deep field balls but would just relentlessly move the chains on short pickups and count on yards after the catch.) And they should have used the tight end more. Had they been able to stretch the field a little bit, maybe the running game would have gone somewhere.

*sigh* This is my life.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Party of immigrants

I was surprised but happy to see that Mel Martinez won his primary to be the Republican Senate candidate in Florida. I don't think many people were predicting he'd win, but he beat Bill McCollum 45-31 and should have a lot of momentum going into the rest of the race. If he won, he would be the first Cuban-American in the Senate and only the third Hispanic to serve there. He's got a great story, having immigrated here from Cuba as a teenager, learning English, making it through law school, and rising through the ranks to become, in this administration, Secretary of HUD. I got to see him speak last year at the LULAC convention in Orlando (I was on staff, but my "behind the scenes" access only got me to the point of chatting with his Service guard :), where he was there to launch the Spanish-language HUD website and tout Hispanic homeownership rates, which are at a high. He likes to throw in a bit of Spanish into some of his speeches, which I think the audiences he's usually speaking to appreciate, but mostly he just struck me as a capable speaker and good leader in many respects (as a random note, he is also very tall). I hope he's able to make it this fall.

Child-killers

I took a modern Russian history class in college and did a fair amount of reading on what post-Soviet Russia looked like -- depressed and very problematic, in many respects. I know the wars in Chechnya were grossly mishandled in many ways by the Russians, with ugly excesses being committed by embattled and underpaid soldiers -- and the government that kept sending them in. But I also know that nothing justifies killing children to get your point across, and as Russia has been hit hard by terrorism in recent days (bombed planes, suicide bomber, holding a school hostage), I have kept feeling more and more frustrated. Fortunately, it looks like the Russian special forces' attempt to retake the school, where possibly one thousand children and adults were being held in terror for days with many hostages killed during that time, has been largely successful in freeing the hostages. It just is incomprehensible to me the mindset that must be held by these terrorists, to hold children hostage and kill them. Terrorism is a force for evil in the world, and we have to keep doing whatever we can to rid ourselves of it.

EDIT: "Successful" was not the right term, unfortunately. 350 people, including over 150 children, died in a suicide bomber explosion and subsequent fire, and in the battle that explosion precipitated. What an unspeakable tragedy.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Politicking

Hoo boy, this has been a fun week for politics (with the exception of the Bush twins last night, who were completely cringeworthy). The speeches the first few nights have been pretty good overall, I thought. Schwarzenegger was better than I thought he would be, clearly enthusiastic and happy to be there; while there's a lot I disagree with about his politics (mostly, the liberal social positions) I thought he gave an impressive speech and I enjoyed his personal stories (and the "economic girlie-men" bit). All of this is even making John Derbyshire optimistic, which is no small feat.

Today I was able, courtesy of the Law School Republicans, to attend the President's latest campaign stop here at Nationwide Arena downtown. I had driven downtown earlier in the afternoon to work and then walked over to the arena later, around 2:30. Everything was pretty well-organized outside and the crowd was enthusiastic even hours before the President arrived. I wasn't too impressed with Representative Deborah Pryce's efforts to moderate the rally with an introductory speech and other remarks, and Senator DeWine was only a bit better -- he at least had a better sense of how to work a crowd. On the other hand, maybe it wasn't Pryce's fault -- the crowd was there to see the President, and was saving most of its energy for his arrival, as became apparent when he got there. In the meantime, we were shown a video of John Kerry's shifting positions on Iraq (compiled by GOP staffers, I presume) which consisted almost entirely of Kerry interviews, dating back to 1998 at least, in which he affirmed the clear danger posed by Hussein, to the Mideast region and the world, as a tyrant, sponsor of terrorism, and seeker of weapons of mass destruction. (He said he was "far ahead" of the commander-in-chief -- Bill Clinton -- in wanting to depose Hussein six years ago.)

After the video and a few other speakers (including a former Buckeye player), the President and Mrs. Bush came out and the crowd went crazy (but crazy in a conservative way :). After being introduced by Jack Nicklaus, W gave a pretty long speech, and he was great. Spent a bit less time on social issues than I would prefer, devoting most of the speech to national security. I think that's all right though, since that is the dominant issue in this campaign. He also put emphasis on American values of "courage, compassion, reverence and dignity," saying that he had honored his promise four years ago to restore dignity and respect to the office he holds (given its previous occupant, I agree he has). He poked fun at the nuanced positions of his opponent (paraphrase: 'he now agrees with me that it was the right call to go into Iraq, as he voted -- but there's still 60 days left, so wait and see if that holds') and pushed tort reform, particularly in medical liability ('I believe you can't be pro-patient and pro-doctor, and also pro-plaintiffs' attorneys at the same time -- you have to choose. My opponent's made his choice, and he's put him on his ticket.'). The biggest applause lines were those in support of the troops and those affirming that he will never turn over decisions about American security to leaders of other countries.

In the end, it was a fun campaign event to attend. Even when I'm unhappy with some of the policies he has, I really like Bush personally and it was great to be able to be on the floor at a campaign event with this much energy.