Saturday, October 30, 2004

Feel the love

I wasn't able to go to the president's rally at Nationwide Arena last night like I did last month, but I did watch on C-SPAN. He got a full ten minutes of applause when he came in -- every time you thought the crowd would quiet down, they just kept cheering. People seemed to appreciate the Governator being there as well, with his long-established ties to Columbus. I've said before that there's a lot I don't like about Schwarzenegger's policies, but if he can help Bush win Ohio, I'm all for him campaigning here.

The stump speech was pretty much the same as the last time he was in Columbus, with only a few alterations (mostly, he's added lots of statements that are rebuttals to specific things Kerry has said over the last two months). Since he's done more targeted speeches to other audiences, I assume this was just the one that the campaign thinks is best suited to Columbus. He did make the appeal he has been for the last week or so to moderate Democrats, asking for their votes. He looked a little tired, but seemed genuinely pleased to get the reception he did here. And of course the war on terror was the main focus of his 30-minute address. It was very well received overall -- lots of energy. At the end, when the president was walking out, I saw one of my friends from school got to shake hands with the president and take a picture with him. Cool for him :)

To judge by my fellow Moritz bloggers' accounts of Kerry's appearance with the Boss on Thursday, both parties are doing a good job of firing up the base for the last few days of the campaign. It should come down to the wire! (But hopefully not stretch out for weeks after that...)

Friday, October 29, 2004

Beware the dark side

New teaser poster out for Episode III. It looks appropriately dark and brooding. Also, the first trailer comes out next weekend. I was wanting to see "The Incredibles" anyway, since I usually like the Pixar movies a lot, so I may have to go see it for two reasons now. The girl has no patience :) (to wait until Monday for its general availability online, that is). Heh.

Protecting marriage in Ohio

The OutLaws bulletin board at school is currently an issue ad consisting of some of the text of an ACLU brochure, urging people to vote no on Issue 1 (the proposed Ohio constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman, and to prohibit civil union-type arrangements that approximate marriage in all but name). For my part, I thought I'd link to the FAQ page of the Ohio Campaign to Protect Marriage.

There are two lines of argument that opponents of Issue 1 have chosen to make that I find interesting: one, that there might be "court battles" over the interpretation of the amendment in the future, and two, we don't need it since it's already part of state and federal law that marriage is between a man and a woman. One: since when have the ACLU or other activist groups been opposed to lots of litigation? In fact, while there may undoubtedly be some legal actions interpreting the amendment in the future, that's the case with most laws -- and part of the point here is to head off litigation that could result in Ohio judges invalidating our state Defense of Marriage Act as being somehow contrary to the state constitution. Reading SSM into the constitution in the absence of a contrary statute is what happened in Massachusetts; reading SSM into the constitution even with a DOMA statute is what's happened in Washington. Lawsuits are pending in other states with DOMAs (like California) as well. Which gets to the second point: if people opposed to the amendment also expressed no intention to use the courts to overturn the state and federal DOMA statutes (by making constitutional arguments), then I might agree the proposed amendment was unnecessary. But of course, those opposed to the amendment (like the ACLU) are also generally opposed to the statutes and are trying to invalidate them -- which is precisely why a constitutional amendment is needed to protect the defintion of marriage in Ohio.

The law doesn't affect private contracts. It does preclude judges from forcing the state to recognize SSMs from other states or this state, or to create marriages-in-all-but-name (like civil unions or other formal statuses); and it decides that Ohio will not create civil unions or gay marriage. For those who wanted to "let the states decide," this is what Ohio is doing. If the amendment doesn't pass, we will still have strong laws on the books. But if it does, marriage -- an institution of the utmost importance to our society and our children -- will be that much more secure in our state. I'm voting yes on Issue 1.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Your clones are very impressive

In the latest example of scientists doggedly pushing ahead with research without pausing to consider the minor matter of, oh, ethics, the Telegraph reports that a British research team wants to create embryos with three parents (link via Marriage Debate). Not to worry, they assure us, they just want to study them, not implant them so these embryos would ever actually be born. So in other words, not to worry, it will be part of the process that we destroy all the life we create. As these scientists play God in their pursuit of medical advances, no matter how well intentioned, untold thousands, if not millions, of embryos -- human beings -- will have to die. The British seem concerned not so much with the research itself, to judge by the article, but only with the fact that the research is a "step toward" genetic engineering of people.

Meanwhile, Harvard leads the charge to start "therapeutic" cloning (I place "therapeutic" in quotes because it's a meaningless modifier -- we're talking about cloning, full stop) -- with the enthusiastic support of the New York Times, among others. Sure, it involves "creation and destruction of early stage human embryos," but we "could learn a great deal" and get "treatments or even cures"! Who can be against learning and cures for disease? Only those who are not "medically enlightened," like George W. Bush. What an idiot. (Did the Times mention it really, really despises George W. Bush?)

Part of the reason many of us are unconcerned with the creation of embryos in general, I think, or part of the reason we may not be sure how to articulate effectively our discomfort with creation and destruction just for research, is our widespread acceptance of artificial reproductive technologies, particularly IVF. In vitro fertilization had not-especially-ethical beginnings itself, inasmuch as it involved research on women who were told to get pregnant before having hysterectomies, so the doctors could find embryos and eggs that way (there's some question as to how informed the women's consents were and how necessary the surgeries). In the process of discovering how to perform IVF, again, untold thousands of embryos were created without possibility of birth. Nevertheless, when IVF eventually resulted in successful implantation and birth, the industry was off and running. Some people may have expressed reservations about "test tube babies," but it was the creation of life, for couples who couldn't have children. Who could be against that? The ethical side issues -- the amount of profit involved for ART clinics ($2 billion/yr as of 2002), the expensive sale of hope to the desperate for only 30% overall success rates, the high number of "leftover" embryos that are a routine byproduct of procedures, the risks associated with multiples births which are common results of procedures, the possible danger to women of the extreme hormone treatments necessary for superovulation, the financial pressures for some women to be donors or surrogates -- all of these, all of these issues which raise serious moral questions, have been studiously ignored as science pushed ahead to achieve the noble-seeming goal of helping infertile couples conceive. (See this document from the President's Council on Bioethics for a detailed discussion of the issues involved with ARTs.)

Now we're at a point where, having accepted that at least in some cases creation of embryos in a lab is a good thing, we're being told that the destruction of embryos may also be a good thing, because it could lead to even more good things than babies being born -- it could lead to the cure of diseases! We're told -- as a means of assuaging any concerns -- that we'll only be using "leftover" embryos from legitimate IVF procedures. (I've written before why I think that's inadvisable in itself.) But soon enough -- now, in fact -- it will and does turn out that there aren't enough fertility clinic embryos. We may need to create them outside of just fertility treatments, or even clone some.* We'll call it "therapeutic" cloning so people don't get too worried, and we'll let the science push ahead again.

Are we really okay with this? Because if we don't hold off on funding this science of cloning and human destruction for now (for instance, by re-electing Bush or, God knows how, persuading Kerry to change his full-throated support for it), it's going to happen post haste.

Did somebody mention ethics?


* The Times openly admits this already: "This potentially valuable line of research is either impossible or so forbiddingly difficult as to be impractical using surplus embryos from fertility clinics . . . . That is why therapeutic cloning is a critically important next step along the road toward stem cell treatments . . . ." Kerry and Edwards are pushing for this type of cloning as well.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Gestures in the right direction

I noted yesterday that the president often makes only slight nods in his stump speeches toward building a culture of life in this country, preferring instead to emphasize other issues. I was pleased, then, to see that he apparently spent some time focusing on abortion in a Pennsylvania speech today, in a bid to reach out to pro-life or other socially conservative Democrats who don't necessarily feel comfortable with the radical left social agenda:

The Democrat Party has also a great tradition of defending the defenseless. I remember the strong conscience of the late Democratic Governor from Pennsylvania, Robert Casey, who once said that when we look to the unborn child, the real issue is not when life begins, but when love begins. I remember the moral clarity of the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Democrat of New York, who said that partial birth abortion is 'as close to infanticide as anything I have ever come upon.' Many Democrats look at my opponent and see an attitude that is much more extreme. He says that life begins at conception, but denies that our caring society should prevent even partial-birth abortion . . . . If you're a Democrat who believes that our society must always have room for the voiceless and the vulnerable, I would be honored to have your vote.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Tutorials on the culture of life

Since I wasn't yet reading First Things five years ago, I missed the fact that Father Neuhaus had met with President Bush before he (Bush) had announced his candidacy, in 1999 (though now that I look, it appears it was in 1998). This NYT article (yes, NYT) pointed out that interesting fact in an article today:

Twice during [Bush's] interview [with Christian journalists last May], he praised one of the men interviewing him, the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, a Catholic priest who edits First Things, a conservative journal on religion and public policy. "Father Richard helped me craft what is still the integral part of my position on abortion, which is: every child welcomed to life and protected by law," the president said.

In an interview, Father Neuhaus said that in the summer of 1999, before Mr. Bush declared he was running for president, he was invited to visit Mr. Bush in Texas at the governor's mansion for what turned out to be a breakfast tutorial in Catholic teaching on the "culture of life." The concepts were somewhat unfamiliar to Mr. Bush then, but he was eager to learn how the church connected opposition to abortion, euthanasia, family planning, stem cell research and cloning, Father Neuhaus said . . . .

"He is keenly and rightly aware that there's only so much that can be done through politics," Father Neuhaus said. However, he said, "On every issue of concern to the pro-life community, and every issue touching on the protection of unborn life that has come to his desk, he has consistently been supportive."

I think this is true. Is Bush perfect? Far from it. Is he moving to outlaw abortion entirely by proposing laws to recognize the unborn as "persons"? No. And while he talks about the culture of life, he often fails to make this a central issue, preferring to talk about taxes instead. But as Fr. Neuhaus says, there's only so much that can be done through politics, and the president's done quite a bit. Given the realities of politics, we can be upset with the fact that one million abortions are performed in this country every year but believe that, until we fully recognize unborn children as human beings, lessening that number of one million as much as possible is the next best thing. The president's stated and acted-upon commitment to protecting the unborn, in that light, is strong -- and at the very least, an incalculable improvement over the opposition. (It's like Mark Shea says: here the choice is between the Evil Party (which in this case would have more abortions, on demand, around the world!) and the Stupid Party (which in this case actually works to reduce abortions even if it often doesn't have spine and caves to political pressures).)

The debate among some on the Christian far right has been whether to vote even for the pro-life candidate is complicity in evil, because that candidate doesn't support a total ban of abortion right now. FT addressed this issue several years ago:

But still, one might say, “Bush does support the ‘right’ to abortion in some cases, and surely this isn’t good.” To which one must reply: Of course it isn’t, but what are my responsibilities? One responsibility is to achieve the greatest possible good under the circumstances. We live in a regime that protects the right to abortion on demand. How can we best save lives under these circumstances? There is strong reason to believe that a Bush presidency will result in the saving of at least some lives that would otherwise be lost. Note that we are not agreeing to the killing of some to save others. The killing will happen regardless. We are agreeing to the saving of as many lives as we can, and we are willing to tolerate the lesser evil because that is a reasonable choice which meets all of the criteria for double-effect above: our object is to save children (a moral good); we do not intend the death of children in the exceptions; we are not saving the children by killing others (remember, they will die regardless); and the saving of the single life is sufficiently proportionate to the necessity.

For anyone concerned about life issues, the president is clearly the right choice in this election.

Around the world in 100 days

Interesting BBC interview (video linked on the page) with actors Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman about their motorcycle trip around the world earlier this year. Apparently they just love riding their bikes, so they went out and rode for 20,000 miles (hey, why not?) from London to New York, with Kazakhstan and Mongolia being the highlights. It sounds like it was quite an experience -- could be fun to watch the documentary.

Also, just as a silly note, I thought after spending months in London that I would get over thinking that British accents (well, in most of their variations) were cool, but I never quite have. Most of my favorite actors are British (except Benjamin Bratt). And so, watching this interview, I note that I just get a kick out of the way Ewan says "motorbike." Heh.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Shocking news

. . . from Yahoo: Kerry Leads Bush in Paper Endorsements. Wow, who could have predicted such an outcome in media support?

I was about as surprised by this as I will be when Senator Kerry, if elected, hears a heretofore unmade "persuasive argument" and suddenly (why, he'd never thought of it that way before!) changes his mind to openly favor same-sex "marriage".

Kerry: the appeasers' choice, bien sûr

Nordlinger on "world opinion":

In thinking about the results on Nov. 2, it is useful to think who in the world will be encouraged by them — and elated and emboldened — and who will be discouraged — deflated and weakened.

Think of Chirac, Schroeder, and whoever the fellow is in Brussels at the moment; think of Kofi Annan and the U.N. bureaucracy; think of Arafat, Assad, Zarqawi, the nuclear-arming mullahs. Then think of the new Iraqi government, and the new Afghan government, and Blair, and Berlusconi, and the East Europeans, and the Middle Eastern dissidents and democrats and liberals.

Have I mentioned that much hinges on this election?

No kidding. Obviously there have been problems (understatement) in Iraq, but we did go in and not even Kerry will say he wishes we had never deposed Saddam. Now, having taken the war on terror to Iraq, we have an obligation to see it through. Bush understands this -- he is committed to the immediate goals of achieving stability in Iraq and Afghanistan and to the larger strategy of spreading democracy and taking away nuclear threats in other parts of the world -- and then bringing our troops home as soon as it's feasible. Kerry has never displayed any such understanding of our commitment to the larger goals. Every indication is that he would be swayed by the relentless negative daily reports and act, in short order, to yank the military out of the Middle East. This wavering (helped along by insurgents counting on it) would be disastrous for the Middle East. It is exactly what Zarqawi, Arafat, or Iran would prefer, of course (I'm sure France would be happier as well). Who knows, Libya might go back on their deal to stop attempting to procure nukes -- they only caved in the face of American resolve, as displayed by Bush.

Nordlinger also asks: Would we be any better than the Spaniards, if we elected Kerry? Hoping that terrorism would just melt away (to "nuisance" level) if we gave in and effected a retreat? Kerry has "a plan," he tells us, to win the war on terror, which plan involves talking to certain allies (ignoring others -- and ignoring the fact that Kerry's preferred talking partners, like France, have already turned up their noses at taking on a greater role in Iraq) who won't have a veto power but whose approval apparently must be secured in order to continue. Given his long and undistinguished foreign policy record, I don't put much stock in Kerry's promises to stay as long as it takes. An awful lot is, indeed, hinging on our decision here next week.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Déjà vu all over again

Well, that was fun. BC has beaten Notre Dame for the fourth time in a row, with ND playing pretty ingloriously. I had a strong sense in the first half that the missed PAT would end up mattering a lot, because such things do in games like this. I also knew we needed to get another touchdown in the second half to be more likely to win. Didn't expect quite so poor a second half on offense, though. Oh well -- I assume I'll catch the by-now-usual grief from my BC friend at school, but being in the top 25 was nice while it lasted.

Friday, October 22, 2004

This week's sign the apocalypse is upon us

More on the lawyers: With a nod to the Sports Illustrated feature, I liked this note by Robert Alt, writing in last week's NR about vote fraud (in re John Fund's book "Stealing Elections"):

Firm in the conviction that they have been wronged, and buoyed by the quasi-precedent of the last presidential election, the Democrats, and with them the Republicans, are preparing for battle. I'm fairly sure that one of the unmentioned plagues of the apocalypse is hordes of lawyers, and I say this with the certainty that only a law-school graduate can muster. And so the Democratic National Committee's promise "to deploy 10,000 lawyers across the country" for the election -- like Kerry's claim that he is organizing "SWAT teams" of election lawyers -- is surely a sign of a coming electoral Armageddon, or at the very least a litigation arms race. The Republicans are mobilizing lawyers in response and, of course, no good can come from so many opposing lawyers at or near the polls.

Of course, voter fraud is a real concern. This Orlando Sentinel investigation detailing problems with absentee votes, double voting, and other fraud, for example, is more than a little disturbing. (Sample quote: "What's to prevent somebody from registering and voting in two different places? Right now, the answer is, not much, except that it's illegal and there's the prospect of getting caught.") Still, again, looking to lawyers as our guardians or overseers of the process is not an appealing prospect . . .

Catholics not for Kerry

I just noticed this commentary from Professor Stebenne at the Election Law @ Moritz page, in which he makes some predictions about higher turnout this year, with one indicator concerning the Catholic vote:

The Democratic Party’s choice of a nominee also promises to increase voter turnout, if history is a reliable guide. Two of the highest rates of voter participation in the past hundred years occurred in the 1928 (67%) and 1960 (63%) presidential elections, which were the only other times that one of the two major parties nominated a Roman Catholic for president. Catholic candidates Al Smith and John F. Kennedy motivated higher turnout in two ways, by energizing fellow Catholics to vote for them and evangelical Protestants to vote against them. And while the importance of denominational affiliation appears to have diminished since the early 1960s, John Kerry’s Catholicism seems likely to produce a similar effect this year. Group identification among American Catholics remains fairly strong, and so a Catholic presidential candidate generates more interest among Catholics in voting than Protestant ones. Phobias among evangelical Protestants about Catholics are no longer very public, but they are still very much alive, and they, too, increase interest in voting.

This strikes me as mostly backwards, although I've heard the suggestion from other people as well. Stebenne says that higher turnout is spurred in two ways: one, energizing fellow Catholics to vote for the Catholic candidate, and two, energizing evangelical Protestants to vote against him. In this election, neither predictor is apt. One, most serious Catholics have no sense of "group identification" with Senator Kerry's Catholicism, inasmuch as he rejects absolutely core, nonnegotiable teachings of Catholicism -- particuarly on the sanctity of life and the family. If anything, faithful Catholics may be more energized to vote in this election in opposition to the nominal "Catholic" candidate, because his voting record and public actions and statements demonstrate his staunch support of non-Catholic positions. Insofar as Professor Stebenne only suggests that having a Catholic candidate "generates more interest" among Catholics, perhaps he would be correct: but the interest in this election is not such as to show any solidarity with him. In fact, polls are confirming just such a shift away from Kerry among Catholics -- whereas in the spring, the Catholic vote appeared to be more evenly split, the president now has a lead among Catholic voters. Kerry certainly won't get a bump from being nominally Catholic.

On the second point, there has been a great alignment in recent decades among evangelical Protestants and faithful Catholics, as has been well noted and as I've written about before. Yes, in some fundamentalist camps (which I distinguish from mainstream evangelicals) people worry about "saving" Catholics from our sinister papist allegiances and other such nonsense, but in much greater part we have come to recognize the values and the faith we share in common, and we have come to form strong alliances in defense of the unborn, the family, and the faith. If evangelicals are motivated to vote against John Kerry, it will be far less because of the fact he is nominally Catholic, than because of his positions on many issues (that are actually not Catholic at all). (Put it this way: has anyone ever expressed, with a straight face, any worry that Kerry would "accept instructions on public policy from the Pope," as Smith or Kennedy had to assure they would not? Give me a break.)

On major issues, Kerry simply doesn't act like any kind of faithful Catholic even though he professes to be so. He voted against the Defense of Marriage Act -- he says he believes marriage is between a man and a woman but he won't do anything to keep it that way. He voted against partial birth abortion bans multiple times and is the favored candidate of NARAL and Planned Parenthood because of his unequivocal support of abortion -- he's said he believes life begins at conception but he won't do anything to protect that life. He supports not just the use (destruction) of embryos for research, he even supports cloning more of them for the same research. Somehow, his faith informs everything he does, but not so much that he'll actually do anything about it on the most fundamental of issues.

The president, on the other hand, supports protecting marriage, and he's done something about it, introducing a constitutional amendment and frequently speaking about it. He signed the partial birth abortion ban, rescinded American funding of abortions overseas -- he speaks often on the culture of life and generally acts to protect it. He opposes the destruction of human embryonic life, and his policies reflect that.

The truth is, no matter how much Kerry reminisces about being an altar boy, he acts far less Catholic than our evangelical president does.

It boils down to this place

The polls in Ohio are fairly well split, if one surveys them all, meaning we definitely are one of the main swing states, and probably also the bellwether we usually are -- although in 2000, we were supposed to be a toss-up and broke fairly clearly for Bush towards the end. More that that, it has been remarked that Franklin County alone is a microcosm of the state and even country as a whole, since we're split ethnically and between blue- and white-collar workers, high- and low-income families, rural and urban types, highly- and not-as-well-educated, etc. We're right in the middle of things here.

I hadn't been worrying too much about all the legal challenges and potential voting problems in the state until recently, when I read about the county now having more registered voters than people actually eligible to vote. That may just be because of people dying or moving away and not necessarily fraud, and it sounds like we do have a decent system to check registrations against the rolls, but I wonder how all of that works? At my polling station, the voting is electronic, but I sign my name on a notebook printout. What's to stop someone from being registered in two different places, if they just never took their name off elsewhere? Or if they are registered in another state? Then assume all that's taken care of. It still sounds like things are going to be pretty tense at the polling stations this year, with partisan observers around to stand over your shoulder, ready to call in the lawyers if things go wrong. That really doesn't reassure me at all. Lawyers are helpful in all kinds of situations, but our job is not to be the overseers of American democracy. To assume that role is to overreach, I think.

But the lawyers will be, as they already are, very much involved. We can't have "disenfranchisement" of the careless, after all. I don't understand why it should be so difficult to figure out your polling place based on your address, and how one would be "disenfranchised" if one couldn't cast a vote at any precinct one wanted to. I understand mistakes can be made on the part of the system -- so that you might honestly believe your registration's been transferred but it wasn't recorded properly -- but on the whole, this idea that having all provisional ballots be counted is a "right" seems odd. Go where you're supposed to go. And when you get there, follow the directions on the card. Make sure you don't leave the chads hanging. It's not that hard. George Will has a cutting take on the matter, prompted by a breathless Dispatch article last weekend headlined "Punch Cards May Hurt Blacks":

Punch cards, the Dispatch says, are "prone" to overvotes and undervotes "because so many things can go wrong." For example, if "voters do not correctly insert the card into the voting device, the wrong holes can be punched." But is it unreasonable to expect voters to perform those simple manipulations? Are they victims -- disenfranchised -- if they do not? Surely not in Ohio, where printed guides to punch-card voting are supplemented by instructional videos on the Internet and where instructions and instructors will be available at polling places.

Granted, punch-card systems, like everything else in life, are not infallible . . . . But how can punch cards be blamed for overvotes? And how does invalidating such a vote constitute, as is now commonly said, "disenfranchisement"? When poll taxes, meretricious literacy tests, hostile sheriffs and mobs stood between blacks and ballots, blacks were disenfranchised. To be disenfranchised is to have something done to you, not to do something to yourself . . . .

Can liberals accept that an undervote usually reflects either voter carelessness, for which the voter suffers the condign punishment of an unrecorded preference, or reflects the voter's choice not to express a preference? No, otherwise they would not be liberals: obsessive about rights, blind to responsibilities.

Another problem with bringing in the lawyers to talk all about rights, not responsibilities, is the intention by some to create a presumption of manifest fraud in this election. Some is going to happen in every election, of course, and we need to eliminate it as best we can. But certain election results will not be prima facie evidence that substantial fraud occurred, and that seems to be the Dems' preemptive tactics. Jonah Goldberg writes:

Now, obviously, the GOP is hardly pure on such matters . . . . But there's a huge difference between the two sides' tactics. The Republicans' lawyers aren't preemptively declaring the election is fraud if they don't win. Simply put, they aren't trying to undermine the legitimacy of the American political system. The Democrats - who constantly decry Bush's "politics of fear" even as they warn of a draft and tell blacks they'll be disenfranchised - have taken the position that a Bush victory is by its very nature proof of voter fraud. That is the Holder Doctrine. If all the votes are counted, Kerry wins. Period. If Bush wins, the votes must not have been counted.

You can see the efforts to create this impression in the media and the public already. The DNC has already said to cry fraud preemptively even if no evidence of it exists. Great strategy, guys.

Well, things should be interesting (understatement) around here in the next two weeks, n'est-ce pas?

Thursday, October 21, 2004

"Gospel according to Bono"

That was the title of a series of talks at Notre Dame's student center a year or two ago. I thought it was a fun and inspired topic, since of course there are loads of Biblical references and allusions in U2's music -- I wish I'd still been a student there at the time so I could've gone. If I had, maybe I would have picked up on something I only fully got yesterday (this despite Achtung Baby having a more-or-less permanent place in my car and the song in question being one of my favorites) because a friend of mine pointed it out (thanks!). How did I miss "Until the End of the World" being almost entirely a reference to the Last Supper and Judas's betrayal of Christ in the garden? Color me very dense (not hard for those who know some of the funny and obvious things it takes me a long time to realize :). I suppose I caught the reference in one or two of the lines but was thrown off by others. Perhaps I should have listened more when, at the concert at Notre Dame (a major highlight from my time there), Bono introduced the song with "Jesus, this is Judas!" Well, now I see there is a site if I'm ever clueless and wondering about this again. For one last instance, I thought it was bizarre last week that Bono introduces the new song "Vertigo" with the Spanish for "one - two - three - fourteen". Apparently even that has significance.

Ya basta with the U2 stuff for now ... back to politics later on today after work :)

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Unbelievable

I need to read more -- and when I do, I'll have more to say -- but I don't understand how Newsweek can run an entire cover story on embryonic stem cell research and not say one word about adult stem cells. It's as if the debate exists in a vacuum. On first reading the article appears to be more or less fair as the debate relates to embryos -- but there's a whole huge piece of the story just completely missing. You'd never know adult stem cells existed. Good grief. More later.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Go Mel

John Miller reports that polls are showing Mel Martinez could win a Senate seat in Florida, though much could hinge on the candidates' performance in a locally televised debate (moderated by Tim Russert) tonight. As I've written before (around the time of his speech at the convention, I think), Martinez has a great personal story and I think he would be a strong representative in Congress. This is definitely a race I am interested to watch over the next few weeks.

EDIT: Good article from CNN on the Hispanic vote, such as it is, in this election. "Nuance" has become a distasteful word to me of late, so we'll just say that this article displays a decent understanding of the complexity inherent in the Hispanic vote -- salient issues vary according to region, economic status, and national origin, just as you might expect. The reliably Republican Cuban voters in Florida are now more balanced by liberal-leaning Central and South Americans; Hispanics in the Northeast usually care about different issues than those in the Southwest. I've been trying to write about this for awhile now. I do think Bush can continue to win more of this voting population in this election because the social conservative issues are important to many, particularly more recent immigrants. But on the whole, they will still lean strongly Democrat. Demographics are going to play a huge role in any future shifts, though, if current projections play out: Hispanics are officially the largest minority group in the country and will only continue to grow:

Hispanics represented 13.7 percent of the U.S. population in 2003, the U.S. Census Bureau reports, up from 9 percent in 1990. That ratio is expected to hit 24 percent by July 1, 2050, growing to 102.6 million people from the 39.9 million measured in summer 2003.

Well, if you have five-child families like mine (or six children in one aunt's family, or five children in my boyfriend's (Ecuadoran) family, or six children in another friend's (Mexican) family), it's not hard to see how that happens :)

Time delayed

Chris was nice to link to my two posts concerning the Christian Legal Society point of view on the current nondiscrimination policy controversy -- though he says I took too long to get myself together. Now, though, it appears we'll have to wait awhile for his response, as he's telling us "blogging will be light" this week. Hmm . . . I covered about 2000 miles on the road over break, he's putting out a law review . . . maybe we should cut each other some slack? :)

For those who are interested in obtaining more information, however, I wanted to make one note for Moritz students. OutLaws had a table outside the student lounge all last week to talk to some of their members, sign a protest petition, and purchase materials. Tomorrow (as also happened today), some CLS members are going to be at a table in the lobby at noon for anyone who would like to ask them questions on the other side of the issue. One thing I learned from talking to them today was that, though I knew the university decision had taken place in a larger context than our two groups at the law school, it appears that more than three dozen student groups -- of many different religions -- were part of the effort to change the nondiscrimination policy for religious student groups. Clearly, the issue had broader resonance than was necessarily apparent during the debate last year. In any event, this could be another good opportunity to discuss informational issues in an open manner with some students who are directly involved.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Ready for what's next

Good fall for new releases -- first Star Wars on DVD, and now next month we get a new U2 album. Some reviews are already calling 'How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb' excellent. Bono, for his part, assures us it's 'not crap'. (The band talks more about the new songs here.) To hear their new song 'Vertigo' (and see a clip from a BBC music program) go here, and keep an eye on @U2 for news and details over the next month.

U2 have long been my favorite band. The new single sounds pretty good (minus Bono's odd Spanish at the beginning) so I'm definitely looking forward to hearing the whole album.

Marching, onward to victory

This could have been one irate Irish fan if it had really been the case that while 92% of the country got the ND-Navy game, Columbus did not. For the first half-hour of the game, while a bunch of us ND fans were growing frustrated here in a Dublin sports bar, it appeared that we were going to be stuck watching Ohio U-Toledo. Are you kidding? Fortunately, they managed to get the feed after awhile and we all got to watch ND beat the Midshipmen for the 41st time in a row. And it wasn't as close a call as it's been often in the last five or six years. Go Irish! :) (I got to go up for the Stanford game last week and that was also a blast.) Having a generally winning season does so much for my mood :)

Friday, October 15, 2004

Lawyers' rule

George Will on lawyers and liberals:

Liberalism, having lost its ability to advance by persuasion, increasingly relies on litigation. In its flight from arenas of representation, liberalism has used the judiciary as its legislature. Hence the exultation of Ron Brown, then Democratic Party chairman, addressing an American Bar Association forum immediately after the 1992 election: 'My friends, I'm here to tell you that the lawyers won.'

The Democratic Party's love -- the word is too weak for the phenomenon -- for lawyers is expressed in countless courtesies, from blocking tort reform to the multiplication of laws and regulations that make it impossible to navigate life without a lawyer in tow. Not surprisingly, as of mid-September, lawyers were this year's leading political contributors, with 73 percent of their $132.4 million going to Democrats. In contrast, oil and gas interests, which Democrats demonize and Kerry reflexively deplored Wednesday evening, give 81 percent of their contributions to Republicans, but as of mid-September, their total to both parties was only $16.7 million.

The use of law as a means to shape public policy in the absence of public expression of desire to change it, and the use of law to increase liability in all areas of our lives, are some of the most regrettable developments in law over the last 30 years in particular. I love law school, but I often find reason to lament the way law complicates so many people's lives and takes legitimate public policy decisions out of the hands of the people. Two lawyers in the White House wouldn't make the situation any better.

Will also reminds about the potential for Supreme Court nominations during the next four years -- an issue that hasn't sounded much this election, in contrast to the last one. I wonder why neither side has brought it up that much this fall?

European thought police and Italian spunk

I'm not surprised to learn that the EU apparently takes the view that holding Catholic beliefs might disqualify one from important EU posts. The Italian nominee for EU justice commissioner, philosophy professor Rocco Buttiglione, was recently voted down by European parliament members after testifying that, although he would not discriminate against anyone, he did have traditional views on the family and homosexuality. The Parliament was duly outraged and promptly voted (albeit narrowly) to reject Buttiglione. Their vote, which was non-binding, has nevertheless thrown the system of appointments for a loop because the incoming commissioners can only be voted down as a group, not as individuals, and until now no one had been disapproved (another appointee was later in the week for not being knowledgeable in his field). The Telegraph puts it drily in an editorial titled "Too good for Europe" (registration might be required):

One might have guessed, however, that the target of these hearings would not be one of the notorious scoundrels or time-servers, but a devout Christian . . . Most will find Mr Buttiglione's views uncontroversial. They add up to a robust defence of equality before the law, national sovereignty, and a better work-life balance. In the European Parliament, however, a politically incorrect word such as "sin" drowns out everything else, so Mr Buttiglione is denounced by MEPs as a homophobic misogynist.

Buttiglione himself seems to have a sanguine and refreshingly unapologetic take on the whole affair. Faced with the possibility that he might have to walk away from the position, he was quoted as saying (ignore the standard Reuterville headline):

"I don't know if I have the faith to have my head cut off for my beliefs, but I have enough faith to renounce a job in the Commission if need be," he said.

Asked if he meant that he was prepared to stand down, Buttiglione said: "There is no doubt, I think, it is better for the European Parliament and for Europe to have a man of conscience but if I should be discriminated (against) because I am a Catholic, I prefer to remain a Catholic."

The incoming commission president, Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, has said he fully backs the appointed commissioners, so Buttiglione may yet be able to assume his job, though the final vote is not until the 27th. In the meantime, good for Buttiglione for standing up for himself and his beliefs. Like Judge Pryor, this guy sounds pretty cool.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Prepare ye the way

Happily, after I missed Jonah Goldberg's talk at Cornell last week, it turned out he was coming to Ohio last night. So I drove out to Wittenberg (which, by the way, if you ever go to, you should MapQuest the directions instead of following the confusing ones the school actually gives you). The debate between Jonah and TNR's Peter Beinart was very good, as both speakers were clear, forceful, and funny.

So then we moved on to the actual debate. The nice chapter of the College Republicans out there had arranged to watch the presidential debate in a classroom on big screens. I thought both candidates performed well, and my insta-poll reaction was that it was more of a tie (as I thought Kerry had done better the first two debates). But on reflection, I really liked the president's performance. He was "on" last night in a way you don't always see. I think people forget that in 2000, domestic policy was supposed to be Bush's strength, and the foreign policy stuff was why Republicans were just happy to have Cheney, Powell, Rice, and Rumsfeld around. Now the CW is the opposite, suggesting Bush is supposed to be weaker on domestic policy -- but he believes in his policies and talks about them pretty easily and with conviction.

Apropos of the Idiot Nephew's (who I had the pleasure of finally getting to meet last night at the debate :) funny parody of John Edwards's Messianic promises Monday, I noted with surprise and bemusement John Kerry's words in his closing statement last night: he told us his leadership would calm the troubled waters of the world. Did I hear him right?! I'm pretty sure.

So now we've got a candidate who will calm the waters (cf. Mt 8:26) and one who will help the lame to walk (cf. Lk 5:18-25). Wow, who knew we could get the Second Coming by voting for the Dems? But the truth is we know neither the day nor the hour, so we'd do much better not to pay attention to such grandiose promises and recognize men can't work miracles with summits or unethical science.

EDIT: Idiot Nephew has a great extended commentary on both debates from last night -- check it out :) (And thanks to him for the kind words.)

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

On background

Chris has been blogging up a storm on Ohio State's recent decision to allow religious student groups to be exempt from agreeing to some portions of the general nondiscrimination policy (specifically, religion and sexual orientation). I appreciate all the news he has passed on about what's been going on, though I disagree with Chris in that I think this was an appropriate decision for the university to make. There are a few points to make, which I'll make over a couple of posts. First, one thing I noticed and wanted to respond to was a question that was apparently posed to Bill Hall when he spoke to the student government. Here's Chris's transcription:

Q: What are they trying to do, these people at CLS?

Hall: This is about freedom of association.

Q: [Following up,] No, what do they do at their meetings?

Hall: I've never been there [to one of their meetings], and I don't think I want to go.

I think that the discussions at the law school, prompted by the original OutLaws complaint against CLS and all the subsequent actions, have generally been conducted with respect between and amongst students and faculty. I know in particular members of CLS and OutLaws have gone out of their way to emphasize that the debate was not intended to be taken personally. Both/all sides have tried to keep the discussion on the level of principle, and I agree that is the level on which this should be debated (particularly since the issue now is obviously not just about CLS, but university policy as a whole). That being said, I think there was a good deal of misunderstanding (evident in Bill Hall's apparent distaste) about what CLS actually does and what this was all about from the Christian student group perspective, and before addressing the university policy I think it could be useful to see this. Please note, I do not speak officially for CLS, but I believe I can share some from the perspective of a member and student associated with the group over the past year and a half (some of this is from what I said to the Lantern last year).

CLS's weekly meetings are for fellowship and Bible study (last year we made an extended study of Phillippians). Like other groups, CLS brings in speakers on various topics, have social events, and co-sponsor service events. Last year the group co-sponsored a bake sale to raise money to build a well in Africa though the World Vision organization and its NGO coalition. This fall many members of the group, along with people from a few other student groups, helped out one Saturday morning at a Habitat for Humanity home site in Columbus.

Anyone who would like to attend CLS meetings or events and participate in Bible study or other events is more than welcome. The group has a definite diversity of political, economic and even theological viewpoints. I don't think anyone ever was or has been turned away from meeting with the group (as far as I know, the OutLaws' complaint, mentioned here by Chris, was not based on any specific incident but was a general objection to formal club membership and leadership requirements). Certainly the group's intent, from everything I've ever seen, is to welcome everyone with humility and charity, because as Christians we are called to love and welcome everyone. After all, we are all sinners in different ways, but we all are loved by God and we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves and love as Christ to one another.

While members of CLS may and do have different opinions on politics or Iraq, and everyone affirms the need to show love and humility, leaders and voting members of CLS are held to more specific standards of conduct, in accordance with what the Bible teaches us about how leaders should be. Not unreasonably, the Christian Legal Society requires that its leaders be believing, practicing Christians. As this applies to sexual morality, a person who is actively and unapologetically practicing sinful behavior would not be an appropriate leader for CLS. This is the "love the sinner, hate the sin" attitude that many people do not accept but that for Christians is absolutely central. The issue is thus not with homosexuality (a chaste homosexual might be perfectly welcome to lead) but with homosexual behavior, which is morally inappropriate because it takes place outside of a marriage between a man and a woman. Christians rightly understand these morals as coming both from Scripture and from thousands of years of tradition. (I've written some about Biblical injunctions and sexual morality here.)

It is worth noting two points: first, these standards are not "targeted" at homosexuals. All Christians, most every one of whom I should expect has regular sexual desires, should try to hold themselves to the same standards of behavior by not engaging in sex outside of marriage, because that is consistent with the Christian moral teaching. If CLS knew that an officer was having an adulterous affair, unapologetically, and moreover insisting that the Bible didn't really mean what it said when it said "Thou shalt not commit adultery" -- then that officer would not be acting appropriately for a Christian leader. When I made this point to Dean Rogers (who, by the way, struck me as entirely sincere in her desire to resolve these issues the best way possible) in a meeting last year, she said that CLS wasn't making anywhere near as big a deal out of adultery or other extramarital sexual behavior, so it seemed like it was just about homosexuality. My response was that no one had suggested to CLS that it would be improper or against university policy to make decisions on those bases, but it was being told that it could not do so with regard to homosexual actions. (And here's part of the issue with the university policy: "sexual orientation" in the nondiscrimination policy does not just mean orientation, but generally appears to cover actions premised on orientation as well -- that's part of why the national organization felt it necessary to object to that clause in its club constitution.)

However, second, even if CLS had said nothing about homosexuality, the group would still have been in violation of the law school's nondiscrimination clause because it would have continued to elect and maintain its right to elect only believing Christians as officers. This was at least as big of an issue as the other clause. Again, any person is welcome to come to the meetings to share in fellowship, but I did not and do not think that it is unreasonable to ask leaders of a Christian society to be, in fact, Christian. I wouldn't expect, as a Catholic, that I had a right to lead a Jewish student organization, and that would be fine as long as we can all work together and respect each other otherwise. I suspect not a lot of people have a problem with this statement -- which raises the question, are we "preferencing" a certain minority, then? In other words, nobody really minds if student groups engage in benign religious "discrimination," but if they say that homosexual behavior is inappropriate for leaders, suddenly that is unacceptable "discrimination"? The fact that a letter to the university administration, signed by a substantial number of the law school faculty and currently posted on the OutLaws bulletin board, says barely a word about religion but much about sexual orientation, is fairly illustrative of this point. But CLS's requirement of a profession by its members of faith in Jesus Christ was always at least equally important to the dispute with the university.

Having done my best to explain some of the perspective of one associated with CLS, I move on to more about the nondiscrimination policy decision itself ...

Disfavored treatment (the free exercise case)

So now that the university has settled the case with CLS by adjusting the student group policy to allow exemptions for religious groups to form in accordance with their sincerely held religious beliefs, the debate has moved beyond individual groups to the overall prudence of the new university policy and attendant free exercise, establishment, and/or equal protection considerations.

Here's how Chris frames the issue:

. . . I have engaged in many discussions with members of the group [CLS] and respect their right to be a Christian organization that excludes members based on sexual orientation. Where I disagree with them is their idea that this belief, in order to meet the demands of the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause, must be subsidized by the state. To the contrary, I see this as raising a problem with the countervailing constitutional principle, the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, because it favors religious believers over non-believers in that they are given a "privilege" -- to discriminate -- that no one else has.

I was glad to see Chris agrees that Christian student organizations do have rights to act in accordance with their sincerely held religious beliefs (and as I said above, I'm also glad to agree that most of the debates in this regard at the law school have been conducted with personal respect). However, I do think that the Free Exercise Clause, and not the Establishment Clause, controls here to require that the university allow religious student groups to act in accordance with their sincerely held religious beliefs. There is no "privilege to discriminate" being granted -- rather, the university is ensuring that religious groups do not receive uniquely disfavored treatment by being disallowed as student groups for acting in accordance with their religious beliefs. What would happen otherwise would be that religious groups would be free to participate in student group forums only if they gave up essential parts of their religious beliefs, such as that only those who profess their religion can be members and leaders of their groups. Given that student groups may validly be formed for sectarian purposes as part of open forums created by a university, for the state then to say that religious beliefs are only acceptable providing they accede to certain state-directed viewpoints places a limit on the free exercise of religion. It therefore conditions -- impermissibly, in my view -- the exercise of religion by student groups on their conforming or limiting their religion.

There is no establishment of religion here because the university does not intend and cannot really be taken to endorse religious viewpoints. Indeed, as with the sectarian student newspaper case of Rosenberger v. Univ. of Virginia, "The University has taken pains to disassociate itself from the private speech involved in this case." But if religious student groups were required to abide by a nondiscrimination policy that directly restricted as a condition of recognition the exercise of some of their deeply held religious beliefs, then religion would be at a disadvantage. Allowing exceptions to the nondiscrimination policy for religious groups in accordance with deeply held religious beliefs only puts religious student groups back on equal footing with other students groups, instead of being disfavored on the basis of their religious beliefs.

As for funding, I think that in general it is a fact of being a student at a major public university that we will all have to be indirectly funding some things we don't necessarily approve of or even strongly oppose. I'm pro-life, but my student fee goes in part to student groups that support abortion as legitimate options for "women's health." It really bothers me that I have to subsidize advocacy of Planned Parenthood/NARAL-linked groups, but the existence of student groups with different viewpoints, even ones I find highly offensive, is part of being at a university where all kinds of student groups have equal access to activity funds. (Our fees also go partly to pro-life groups as well, which shows all kinds of viewpoints are funded.)

I know it's a complicated issue, but I don't believe that religious student groups who want only to act in accordance with their sincerely held religious beliefs should be shut out of an open and otherwise neutral forum because of state-directed viewpoint requirements. To allow student groups their free exercise is not to privilege them and not to establish their religions, but is to ensure they are not uniquely disfavored wherever their religious beliefs conflict with state-preferenced views.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

One step over

A reader writes to raise a fair question about something I threw in at the end of my post yesterday on embryonic stem cell research:

What about the fact that fertility clinic embryos are *already* destroyed if they are unused? Doesn't that play some sort of role here? If they're slated for destruction, instead of letting them "die" for no reason, why not put the embryos to use in scientific research?

It's true that there are thousands of unused embryos frozen in tanks out there, and most clinics have policies to incinerate or otherwise destroy the eggs after a certain number of years. So if they'll be destroyed anyway, why not try to derive some benefit from their destruction?

To begin with, I think the moral problems arise long before the point of using leftover embryos for research is ever reached -- there are ethical problems from the beginning in creating many more embryos (human beings, even though frozen at the earliest stages of development) than can ever be implanted and possibly born. Even though fertility treatments are done with the understandable and in many ways good intention of creating children for childless couples, we tend to think very little about these other human beings who are the byproducts of those treatments. I've done a fair amount of research in this area, and it's surprising and disturbing how little regulation, oversight, or even aggregation of statistics exists in this area. Leaving to the side any number of other ethical issues here, one thing we do know is that those frozen embryos really are nascent human beings. The "Snowflake" program, whereby some couples have adopted previously frozen leftover embryos and later given birth to healthy children, helps demonstrate that in a clear way. So there are a lot of ethical problems involved in artificial reproductive technologies to begin with. Though I don't know exactly what to do with leftover embryos -- the creation of which causes some of my problems with ART in the first place -- any destruction of them is necessarily of innocent human life.

Assuming that it is nevertheless the case that many embryos will ultimately be destroyed anyway, I think there are still ethical problems with using the embryos for stem cell research purposes. One of the things we know from history and the world around us is that once we start down an ethically questionable path, even for the most well-intentioned of reasons, and attempt to check our actions with "ethical guidelines," said guidelines very seldom hold. Take the very current example of the Netherlands and legalized euthanasia: it started off within carefully selected "ethical boundaries" of needing the informed consent of an adult, assent of two independent doctors, and presence of terminal disease in order for euthanasia to be performed. In less than fifteen years, we've come to the point of adultswith nonfatal diseases being euthanized, adults feeling pressure to submit to euthanasia, and even children being euthanized without (by definition) their informed consent. The reason it became so hard so quickly to hold the ethical bounds was that once the line is crossed (because of admittedly hard cases) to say, well, just a few circumstances justify suicide as legitimate course of action for individuals and medical professionals, then it's easy to allow just a few more small exceptions or additional reasons here and there that would justify euthanasia. Quickly the situation becomes ever more morally terrible and uncontrollable. Once the line is crossed, it's very difficult to un-cross it. Therefore much of the problem lies in crossing that line in the first place.

With stem cell research, it's true that infertile couples themselves probably wouldn't pay the tens of thousands of dollars needed for ART solely in order to create embryos for ESCR. But once ESCR is legitimized as an area for federal research (crossing the line, what I believe is the primary wrong), then we could easily see clinicians, in the course of a legitimate ART procedure, specifically creating extra embryos that they know won't be implanted, for the purpose of ESCR. Financial incentives may even be given for clinicians to provide more research material. (We know doctors can reap some benefits from doing research on tissue that formerly belonged to their patients -- the right to use abandoned patient tissue was clarified in the California property case of Moore v. Regents of the University of California.) Once we know we can use these embryos in this way, why not clone them? They'd all only be destroyed anyway, so we might as well get extra cell lines from the same DNA by cloning certain embryos. Indeed, as I have noted before, John Edwards has already endorsed such cloning, though he prettifies it by calling it "therapeutic" cloning.

And finally to the crux -- once we're using embryos from one source (having used the justification "they'd be destroyed anyway") why not just go ahead and specifically create embryos in other contexts solely for the harvest of stem cells, without bowing to the pretext of having some of the embryos be used for artificial conception? We would already have accepted the principle of embryonic research being okay, after all. Once morally troubling actions have been taken, and thus made faits accomplis, it's hard to un-take them. And then we'd be at the point of creating life just to destroy it. Having initially accepted it for those sort-of-okay-seeming cases where embryos would be destroyed anyway, the public would likely be unaware of the slide of researchers to all-purpose creation and use of embryos -- or likely, conditioned to accept ESCR in principle, would only shrug even if they did know.

Slippery slope arguments can be fallacies, but some are valid because they show the consequences that really can flow from a first decision, on the same principles that justified that first decision. In this case I think the first decision (to allow ESCR funding) is wrong -- I go farther than George Bush in believing that ESCR should be banned, so that not only federal but private money also cannot fund it in the U.S. But I think the wholly likely consequences of making that first decision would also be wrong. And they're serious enough to stop that line of research in the first place.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Dreams and death

Today marked the sad passing of Christopher Reeve, a man who embodied courage to millions by the way he, formerly Superman to the world, so admirably coped with terrible injury after a riding accident. Unfortunately, however, in Reeve's quest to find better therapies for and even reversals of paralysis and quadriplegia, he become a leading advocate of embryonic stem cell research. This morally misguided advocacy has already been seized upon today by those who would capitalize on his name as if it alone could lend legitimacy to what is in fact an ethically problematic line of research. I just saw clips from John Edwards's stump speech today in which, in just about so many words, he promised that the lame would walk ('people will stand up from their wheelchairs and walk') and the blind would see, if only we pushed ahead with "stem cell research" -- of course, he made no mention of the important "embryonic" modifier.

Well, when you're promising Messianic healing, who wouldn't be for it? Except in leaving out the modifier "embryonic," as I've noted before, you obfuscate the entire issue. No one's against adult stem cell research, because no one has to die to pursue it. We have, or should have, problems with embryonic stem cell research, though, because you have to create human embryos, let them grow to a certain stage of development, and then destroy them. What price healing? Especially when embryonic research may all be a pipe dream anyway? As Professor George noted after the question was posed in Friday's presidential debate:

The claim that "we have the option" of curing Parkinson's disease, diabetes, etc. with embryonic stem cells is outrageous. No one knows when — or even whether or not — human embryonic stem cells will be therapeutically useful in treating any major disease or injury. There are profound — perhaps insuperable — problems with the therapeutic use of these cells. So, despite the fact that there is no federal ban on embryonic-stem-cell research, and that such research can be funded with state money and is being publicly funded in various places abroad, no embryonic-stem-cell-based therapy is even in clinical trials . . . The Kerry campaign's hyping of embryo-destructive research for political gain is the cruelest and most shameful episode in the story of the 2004 election.

And hype it they do. The truth is, though, that adult stem cell research is not morally problematic, and it is what's actually producing results right now, showing tremendous and realizable potential. (Pia de Solenni at Family Research Council has compiled a good collection of the advances already realized by adult stem cell research.) Even if ASCR weren't such a viable alternative to embryonic research, however, it still would not be acceptable to pursue ESCR. You just can't create life in order to destroy it, nor can you indirectly encourage the production of life to destroy it by promising slippery "ethical guidelines" to keep ESCR kosher (such as using fertility clinic eggs). The moral line against causing innocent death even to save other lives must be held for all our sakes.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Report from Lefty Land

Jonah Goldberg was at Cornell on Monday night. Having gotten to meet Rich Lowry and John Derbyshire earlier this year in Ohio, I'm bummed I missed hearing Jonah by just an hour or two here the other night. D'oh! My friends do agree, however, my presence here has increased substantially the number of conservatives in Ithaca. You wouldn't believe the number of "Re-defeat Bush," "Bush must go," "Defend America, defeat Bush," and various other cheerful examples of Bush-hatred around here. On second thought, if you've ever been in Ithaca, you would believe it. Not many pro-Kerry signs, just a lot of anti-Bush ones. I wonder if anyone told the students that New York is already safe for Kerry . . . they don't have to worry!

Also - I still generally like John Edwards, and thought he did well in the debate last night. But Cheney is excellent, and far more presidential. I particularly liked the subtle-but-oh-so-pointed jab about why Cheney is so effective as vice-president: he has no ambitions beyond his office, and thus can focus on just doing his job, not checking poll numbers in Iowa . . .

Monday, October 04, 2004

Life of the mind

It's another beautiful fall day in Washington, but I'm heading due north today where it should be quite a bit cooler. It will be a fun trip, as I get to visit a few college friends, including one I haven't seen in two years because she's been in Uzbekistan, of all places (thankfully she had a good time and made it back safely from the Peace Corps!). I haven't been able to be on a computer the last few days (among other activities, I got to attend an Orioles-Red Sox game with a Cubs fan), but I am planning to post soon, as Moritz's designated conservative blogger, a response to all the university club goings-on that Chris has so ably covered this weekend (he's generally the best source for campus- and Columbus-area news updates on the subject).

In the meantime, I wanted to post this before I get on the road again shortly. Apropos of my post the other day about Christian unity, I was interested to see that this month's First Things has some new thoughts on the subject of "The Evangelical Mind Today" by Wheaton University history professor Mark Noll (article not available online yet). Professor Noll wrote years ago about what he perceived as difficulties facing evangelicals in their lack of a fully formed intellectual tradition. From the evangelical perspective, he is now more hopeful, for some of the reasons I am also hopeful about unity in general:

The first source of hope I would point to is the increasing engagement between evangelicals and Roman Catholics that has contributed dramatically to improved evangelical use of the mind. As more and more communication takes place between these once-warring camps, mutual enlightenment on any matters, including scholarship, is the result. So rapidly has the situation changed from the cold war that existed until the 1960s, that it is now barely conceivable that either Catholics or evangelicals could once have thought that either could get along without the other. The exchange between these traditions is probably more important to Catholics for reasons other than intellectual, but the life of the mind is where evangelicals benefit most. While evangelicals offer Catholics eagerness, commitment, and an ability to negotiate in a culture of intellectual consumerism, Catholics offer evangelicals a sense of tradition and centuries of reflection on the bearing of sacramentality on all existence.

Whenever evangelicals in recent years have been moved to admonish themselves and other evangelicals for weaknesses in ecclesiology, tradition, the intellectual life, sacraments, theology of culture, aesthetics, philosophical theology, or historical consciousness, the result has almost always been selective appreciation for elements of the Catholic tradition. Whatever Protestants may think of individual proposals, methods, or conclusions proceeding from any individual Catholic thinker, the growing evangelical willingness to pay respectful attention to the words and deeds of a whole host of Catholic intellectuals, beginning with Pope John Paul II, make an important contribution to better intellectual effort.

Noll then notes, "The intellectual harvest that evangelicals now reap from better relations with Catholics are well illustrated by personnel and programs at the University of Notre Dame." I was glad to hear about that :) So it seems that there is a good deal of mutual appreciation amongst Christian evangelicals and Catholics for the strengths of each other from which we are able to learn. I still don't know how much unity is likely to result theologically, but cultural and intellectual dialogue is important for all of us to continue to grow together in faith.