Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Karl Rove strikes again

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

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

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

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

In search of the glory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PSA

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

Another good pick?

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 27, 2004

And still we watch

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

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

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

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

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

Faith and (musical) works

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

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

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

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

Correct thinking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 26, 2004

Tracking the vote

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

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Happy Thanksgiving!

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

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

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

1 Shout joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;

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

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

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

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

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

Home is where your family is

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

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

Monday, November 22, 2004

Gee, if only we knew how to use reason

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

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

Academic Republicans must indeed suffer from this cognitive dissonance.

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


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

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

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

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

You just have to laugh.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Motorcycles in Mongolia

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

Newsworthy . . . or not

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

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

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

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

A man and a woman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Face to the world

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 15, 2004

Ethics in a Petri dish

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

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

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

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

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

The courts, again

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Embarassing

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

Can we forfeit USC right now?

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

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Atomic sound

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

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

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

When everyone is special

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

Ya think?

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

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

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

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

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

Joining the debate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 08, 2004

Morality and consensus

There's an important caveat to be made with regard to my post below summarizing states that protect marriage, and that is: having a consensus doesn't necessarily mean you're right. A ready example of that is the fact that California just voted to allow massive funding, with little real oversight, of research involving creation, destruction, and cloning of human embryos. So I don't cite the list of 40+ states with marriage-definitional language (including 17 with amendments) as sufficient evidence in and of itself to show that it must be right to protect marriage as being between a man and a woman. Rather, the number of states goes more to the process, not substantive, arguments for legitimacy and correctness. That is, the overwhelming weight of public policy on this matter, as expressed democratically by state and federal legislatures and popular referendums, goes to demonstrate the wrongness of using the courts -- composed of small, generally unaccountable elites -- to impose a radical redefinition of a central institution of society on the people. What gives legitimacy to our rule of law is the process by which it is made; citizens agree to accept a given outcome they may disagree with so long as the process by which it was derived was fairly abided. When liberals use courts to do an end-run around the people on issues of public policy (properly decided, in our procedural system, by the people), this subverts the system. It is a massive affront to the people and we shouldn't be surprised if such affront results in a somewhat reactive "backlash."

But it is put forth, some issues are not properly the province of the legislatures or the people, but are rather matters of rights that the courts are designed to protect for individuals as against majority rules that would abrogate such rights. Proponents or supporters of SSM make this claim: SSM is a matter of "civil rights" (Sullivan) or basic "equality" (Geidner) or "justice" (Baude). If that is the case, then it's not improper to go to the courts instead of making appeals to people (except as a tactical matter, as Will Baude suggests). I simply don't agree with this -- SSM isn't a matter of civil rights, it's the invention from whole cloth of a new "right." It's true that marriage is a fundamental right, anterior to the state -- but marriage has never encompassed in its definition any "right" to wed someone of the same sex. And there's really no way to argue to the contrary that marriage hasn't been between men and women and constituted a central part of civilization for most of recorded history across world civilizations -- or hasn't been that way here in America for at least our entire history, for entirely rational reasons. Equality under the law, as we rationally understand it, means treating like things alike. With regard to marriage, everyone is equally free to marry another one person of the opposite sex of a certain age and not of a high degree of consanguinity. Those are the terms, only slightly variable (with respect to age or degree) but not in the regard of only being able to marry someone of the opposite sex. So to the extent that there is a "rights" argument that would justify circumventing the democratic process in this country to achieve a group's ends by judicial fiat, I don't think it stands. It must be the case that if a group wants to obtain the ability to have civil unions or SSM recognized by the state, that group should work within our collectively-agreed-upon process by which laws are enacted and changed.

Chris Geidner writes of GLBT advocates that "[o]ur aim must be to convince all Americans, not just the courts or liberals, that equality for all is one of our most precious moral values in this nation." I think working to persuade "all Americans" is a perfectly legitimate way to go about making SSM policy. Let's continue to have that discussion -- I'm perfectly willing to engage in a discussion, for instance, as Anthony Rickey suggests, about whether Christian morality allows for SSM (it doesn't, but it's fine to talk about it). Again, as I've written before, if I lost the overall debate in the public square I would be upset and keep working to protect marriage, but I would accept that the result had come about by democratic processes. Where I disagree with Chris is that this is a matter of "equality" such that persuading the courts (and courts acting) is appropriate. I don't think it is a matter of "rights" substantively (so I do agree with the merits of the marriage laws as expressed by over 80 percent of the states and federal government) -- but neither, and as importantly, is it a matter of "rights" for procedural purposes: the argument belongs in the public square, not the courts.

Laws of the land (*lawsuits pending)

There's been a lot of discussion in the last week over the quite plausible suggestion that marriage was a deciding factor in this election -- many are concluding that Bush might not have won but for the so-called "anti-gay backlash" (in reaction to the Massachusetts supreme court ruling) that put state constitutional amendments on the ballot in eleven states, including Ohio. It's likely this was a factor, but I don't think people came out to vote for an amendment who weren't already going to vote in the presidential election (and obviously not everyone who voted for the amendments was a Bush supporter, as evidenced by the fact that the amendments passed handily in every state). I also think the discussion, though obviously pertinent to election day analysis, is tending to miss something key about the entire issue: namely, that it wasn't just about 11 states on election day. Ever since the issue arose in Hawaii a decade ago states have been taking action that has both procedural and substantive effects -- people don't want courts deciding the issue for us, and want to affirmatively define marriage as between a man and a woman. Heritage has a very good summary (and map) of states' marriage laws, including the text of the statutes and status of pending laws (CUA also has amendment text here), but for effect I thought I'd put up a list here:

Alabama, statute (1996)
Alaska, amendment (1998)
Arizona, statute (1996)
Arkansas, statute (1997), amendment (2004)
California, statute (2000)
Colorado, statute (2000)
Delaware, statute (1996)
Florida, statute (1997)
Georgia, statute (1996), amendment (2004)
Hawaii, statute (1998), amendment (1998)
Idaho, statute (1996)
Illinois, statute (1996)
Indiana, statute (1997)
Iowa, statute (1998)
Kansas, statute (1996)
Kentucky, statute (1998), amendment (2004)
Louisiana, statute (1999), amendment (2004)
Maine, statute (1997)
Michigan, statute (1996), amendment (2004)
Minnesota, statute (1997)
Mississippi, statute (1997), amendment (2004)
Missouri, statute (2001), amendment (2004)
Montana, statute (1997), amendment (2004)
Nebraska, amendment (2000)
Nevada, amendment (2000)
New Hampshire, statute (2004)
North Carolina, statute (1996)
North Dakota, statute (1997), amendment (2004)
Oklahoma, statute (1996), amendment (2004)
Ohio, statute (2004), amendment (2004)
Oregon, amendment (2004)
Pennsylvania, statute (1996)
South Carolina, statute (1996)
South Dakota, statute (1996)
Tennessee, statute (1996)
Texas, statute (2003)
Utah, statute (1995), amendment (2004)
Virginia, statute (1997, 2004)
Washington, statute (1998)
West Virginia, statute (2000)
U.S. government, statute (1996)

Wisconsin and Massachusetts have amendments in legislative process. Wyoming, Vermont, and Maryland define marriage but do not have a DOMA. By Heritage's count, 43 states have language protecting marriage (44 now counting Oregon), and that includes a lot of "blue" states -- it's much bigger than one presidential election. Granted, not all these would prohibit civil unions as well, though more than a few do, but there is an overwhelming consensus that marriage is between a man and a woman.

But is that strong expression of public desire to protect marriage good enough to actually have that effect? It remains to be seen whether courts will continue to redefine marriage themselves (Mass.) or strike down statutes (Wash.) or amendments (La.). Lawsuits are pending in at least seven states. Even with strong public statements of support for marriage, it all could possibly be struck down by the Supreme Court -- that's certainly the hope of activists, some of whom have made quite clear their contempt for legislative rule and popular democracy:

"Ultimately this issue, like so many others in history, will be resolved in the U.S. Supreme Court, where they will not give a damn about what the state constitutions say," [executive director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force Matt] Foreman said. (emphasis added)

As David Morrison points out, this shows yet another reason why we need a federal marriage amendment. I write more about the moral/rights discussion currently on the blogosphere here.

Friday, November 05, 2004

This would be cool

The other day I speculated that we might be able to re-nominate Miguel Estrada to the federal bench, without Daschle in the Senate and with a few more Republicans there. The Wall Street Journal did me one better yesterday by suggesting the president nominate him directly to the Supreme Court if it in fact turns out that the Chief Justice retires soon: "[Bush] could do worse than elevate Antonin Scalia to Chief Justice and nominate Miguel Estrada as an Associate Justice, even as a recess appointment if that becomes necessary." Estrada, almost uniformly highly regarded, was one of the most high-profile filibusters over the last few years before he finally withdrew his name from consideration. A bit on his background:

Estrada is, by all accounts, a legal whiz. Born in Honduras in 1961, he came to the United States when he was 17, learned English virtually overnight, and graduated with honors from Columbia University and then Harvard Law School. He clerked for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, served as an assistant U.S. Attorney in New York, and, from 1992 to 1997, worked in the Justice Department as an assistant to the Solicitor General. Since leaving government, he has been at the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. After he was nominated by President Bush in May 2001, the American Bar Association gave him its highest-possible "unanimous well-qualified" rating.

Some groups impliedly charged (oddly) he is "not Hispanic enough." But others support him without letting partisanship get in the way; the League of United Latin American Citizens (which I've worked for) supported his nomination last time.

The Journal evaluates other Senate changes, post-Daschle, here.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Honestly curious

The exit polls on who voted for who were completely, spectacularly off on Tuesday throughout the day. But since then, everyone's been using results of exit polling to talk about voting preference by race and ethnicity, issues, religiosity, and economic status. I was planning to talk about some of those numbers as well later on. But: why does there seem to be a universal assumption that the latter numbers are accurate and appropriate for meaningful analysis, when the former numbers were so off? How do we know these numbers are better? Just wondering.

Lillies of the field (thoughts and worries)

Reflecting last weekend, I had to admit that I was anxious; I would have been distressed if John Kerry had won the election. But I mostly made peace with the possibility after talking to several friends about the issue to put it in perspective. I didn't quite agree with La Shawn Barber that it would be God's will whichever candidate won, because that implicitly overlooks free will -- God doesn't desire every action that we make; He has given us freedom to choose away from Him in our thoughts and actions. Still, La Shawn was right to trust and have faith regardless of the outcome. One positive thing, for instance, I thought (from a religious perspective) that might come of a Kerry presidency would be that the Catholic bishops would be motivated to continue to speak out as to true teachings of the Church, leading to better unity and education amongst Catholics (in the face of the embarassment that a Cuomo-doctrine Catholic president would have presented). It could also have helped lead to more unity amongst different Christian denominations as we would work together to keep life and family issues at the forefront in society. On the other hand, without someone in the presidency actively opposed to many Christian values, I hope that Christians will still work together with a sense of purpose to challenge the president to keep working on life and family issues -- but also on social justice and fairness for "the least of these," and to pray for greater unity in our country as a whole. There's a lot of work to be done. Either way, on these (and a host of other issues) it is important to remember that God uses our actions to His own ends and that (no matter who won), there is never need to despair.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Surveying the (school) scene

Update from around the law school: I think I'm the only student blogger at Moritz that doesn't feel "sad," "physically ill," "depressed," etc., following the election results. (Chris actually doesn't seem as upset -- he gives his reflections here.) All I can say is that I disagree that the president's re-election is a terrible thing for the country; I think the president is the best man for the job right now and he should continue to be a strong leader. I did appreciate the senator's words earlier today though, and think they are ones we can agree with:

But in an American election, there are no losers, because whether or not our candidates are successful, the next morning we all wake up as Americans. And that -- that is the greatest privilege and the most remarkable good fortune that can come to us on earth.

With that gift also comes obligation. We are required now to work together for the good of our country. In the days ahead, we must find common cause. We must join in common effort without remorse or recrimination, without anger or rancor. America is in need of unity and longing for a larger measure of compassion.

I hope President Bush will advance those values in the coming years. I pledge to do my part to try to bridge the partisan divide. I know this is a difficult time for my supporters, but I ask them, all of you, to join me in doing that.

Clueless in Seattle

Polls are showing that more voters yesterday said that "morals" were the most important consideration in their vote, and such voters broke for Bush. Fairly typical of the bewildered reaction to this fact on much of the left, British observer and Independent writer David Usborne weighs in with his thoughts in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer; but he fails to display a real understanding of the issue. Taking a few of his comments:

Voters, especially those in the heartland states, took moral values as their core standard in deciding which candidate to support. Indeed, this may emerge as the most surprising finding to emerge from this presidential race. Even if it meant voting against their more obvious economic interests and even when they harbored misgivings about the war in Iraq, voters everywhere found themselves guided by moral issues first.

It's telling that Usborne makes the assumption that it's "obvious" voters would go with their economic interests above morals -- why should economics be the number one issue? It's true that our parties typically break along economic lines, but economics isn't usually the most salient issue, and the most significant predictor of voting preference (aside from being African-American) has long been whether one is a regular church-goer. As people like Rod Dreher have pointed out, morals actually do matter quite a bit to many voters, who don't see anything odd at all about these interests being paramount.

Perhaps the country was always thus, but either way it will give Democrats grave reason to worry. Their man was a Catholic, a war hero and yet he still failed to connect with the country's conservative mainstream. Can a candidate with even remotely socially liberal positions ever win in the United States again?

Again, this displays a lack of understanding. Kerry was indeed a professed Catholic, but he openly repudiated many core, non-negotiable teachings of the Catholic Church, thus setting himself more in opposition to the Church than in alignment with it. He did indeed act heroically in war, to judge by his medals, but the entire reason he originally became politically prominent was that he denigrated his fellow servicemen in front of Congress and on TV after the war. Little wonder that the conservative mainstream was not won over. Furthermore -- Kerry wasn't only just "remotely socially liberal," he was radically socially liberal, as his record demonstrated. This was well known.

Kerry went goose hunting. He withheld offering support for gay marriage. He talked tough on defense and the military. But still it was not enough. He could cite economic statistics till the cows came home. But where there are cows in America, there are fewer and fewer Democrats.

A good line. The thing is, though, we're used to politicians selling their carefully crafted "image" to us and we understand that different photo ops or sound bites are often specifically targeted to appeal to different voting blocs. We've developed more of an ability, therefore, to judge whether the "image" matches the man. When Bush talks about faith, you sense he's entirely sincere. When Kerry talks about being an altar boy, it's because he's trying to establish his religious bona fides before talking about why he disagrees with major church issues. When Bush talks about marriage, you generally think he believes what he's saying because his actions (like introducing the marriage amendment) back it up. When Kerry "withheld offering support for gay marriage," most people didn't believe him because his actions suggested he felt otherwise.

A candidate's morals have to do with his character, and that matters to a lot of voters. If some Democrats can't comprehend why it should matter so much because they insist people should be rationally wanting to vote their economic interests, well, they [the Dems in question] probably didn't ever really "get it." (None of this applies to religious liberal voters, but to the secular left that displays general befuddlement at the concepts of faith and morals and why these matter to middle America.)

It's official

According to the AP and CNN, Kerry has just called Bush to concede. The margin in Ohio was sufficient that it was just about statistically impossible for Kerry to have won on provisional ballot counts. I'm thoroughly impressed by the get-out-the-vote effort of the GOP here in Ohio -- I did not expect it to be as successful as it was. It was also good to see that the election went smoothly overall.

I'm almost as happy about the Senate as I am about Bush's reelection. Tom Daschle is deservedly out, which is excellent news. Mel Martinez pulled it out in Florida. Hopefully, with the strong gains in the Senate, we will now be able to get past the filibuster impasse with some judges like Janice Rogers Brown, Priscilla Owens, and others. Maybe we can re-nominate Miguel Estrada as well?

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Early returns

Having posted my Bush endorsement yesterday and waited an hour and a half to vote this morning, I don't have as much to write on today. Mostly I'm hanging out online at The Corner, which is like crack on days like this -- keep hitting refresh! I'll be at an election party for awhile this evening (where we sinister Republicans will probably be watching Fox News :). In the meantime, you can see some pictures from swing state ground zero at Idiot Nephew, get commentary from the right at Southern Appeal or the Kerry Spot, and for comments on the left, Josh Marshall. You can find the regular news yourselves :) Thanks for stopping by! Go W!

Parade of horribles

Via C&EI, this report from a surgeons' conference in India about possible "new frontiers" in science: headless human beings grown for organs. It's a little bit hard to tell from this article whether the respected oncologist discussing the possibility, P.B. Desai, is concerned here, but I think he is; here was his prediction:

"Science is moving at such a fast pace that scientists have proven that they can create headless mice through removal of genes in embryo that control development of the head. But the body would have the capacity to keep the organs functional for use as transplants," said Desai.

Desai warns against "manipulation and creation of a headless man for commercial exploitation and plunder of organs," and against leaving science just to the scientists -- but he also suggests that the goal of science and medicine is to obtain immortality, and research like this could push us toward that goal. (His own talk was on "Conquest of Mortality.") Once we start using human beings for research (well, we already have -- once we expand it and fully legitimize it), will we be able to stop such "progress"? I don't believe it would be easy. I do believe that the only way to obtain immortality is through Christ, who promises us life everlasting after death if we believe in him. Science and medicine that help us improve our lives are good things, but we must never believe that we have the right to use other human beings as means to our own ends, and we must resist the temptation to believe we could ever achieve immortality on our own.

Monday, November 01, 2004

I blog for Bush

So it's quite evident, of course, that I'm a W supporter. But I think some people might suspect I'm a single-issue voter (on abortion) or that I simply haven't thought things through enough. Au contraire. Somewhat along the lines of Anthony Rickey's endorsement of the president, I thought I'd list some of the issues I believe George W. Bush is vastly preferable to John Kerry on in this election.

The war on terror. In order to have the best chance of winning this war -- in which al Qaeda was already involved long before 9/11 but we've only fully engaged in since -- quite simply, we need someone who is committed to winning it and who will stick it out. Kerry says he has plans to bring in more allies -- but the ones he seems to be angling for (like France) have already said they've got no plans to take on expanded roles. He says his service in Vietnam gives him all the credibility he needs for us to trust him on this -- but he made his name by shamefully maligning his fellow servicemen in the war, and then going on to be on the wrong side of most major foreign policy decisions of the following 20 years. When he's been right (such as supporting, back to 1998 at least, action against Hussein) he has nevertheless demonstrated a propensity to shift with the polls if they happen to contradict his views, or with the daily news reports. Kerry's record leads most observers (such as Michael Moore, or some of the terrorists themselves) to see him as the anti-war candidate, likely enough to abandon Iraq and "nuance" himself into exactly the kind of wishy-washiness that emboldened Osama bin Laden, Libya, or the North Koreans in the 1990s. Bush, for his faults and lapses in post-war Iraq planning, has shown a strong commitment to see this fight through. Libya backed off its nuclear weapons program in the face of Bush's resolve -- it knew he meant business. Musharraf picked the right side once he saw our intentions backed up in Afghanistan. I think Bush is the only person who has demonstrated the necessary resolve here -- I have no doubt Kerry has the best of intentions and would act the best way he thinks possible, but I seriously question his judgment. I think we owe it to ourselves and to the allies who have risked a lot to support us (Blair, Berlusconi, Musharraf, Howard), to pick the man who will stay the course.

Health care and tort reform. Yes, there's a lot wrong with the system. But I don't think turning it over to the government is going to help. I especially don't believe that having two lawyers -- including one who made a lot of money in part by suing doctors -- in the White House would do anything to help address one of the big problems in health care: crippling insurance costs driven high by litigation. I can easily name at least a half-dozen people I know personally who've been driven out of their medical practices, are seriously struggling financially, or who have been forced to seriously limit their practices (no new patients, no delivering of babies by ob-gyns) because of their huge malpractice insurance costs. This crisis is real in many states. We have to implement tort reform and limit non-economic damages to help curb this crisis. A Kerry/Edwards administration would have, I should say, some blind spots in this area.

Taxes. Kerry can't pay for his programs without repealing the Bush tax cuts on many more people than just those in everybody's favorite villian bracket, "the wealthiest one percent." I'm happy to pay my fair share, but I also believe I'm a better steward of my own money and would rather the tax numbers stayed low -- even on that one percent. They earned it and they're already contributing more than their share to the government. If wealthy liberals want to give more money to the government, no one's stopping them (though they often don't seem to want to pay higher taxes any more than do the rest of us). But they shouldn't raise personal taxes. They also shouldn't impede business and trade decisions with punitive taxes.

Judges. Kerry's announced his litmus test: only pro-Roe judges allowed. You don't quite see privacy in those shadowy penumbras of the Bill of Rights? You don't believe judges should be legislating social policy on questions properly reserved to the people? Prudent as you might appear, even if you were qualified you wouldn't even be considered for judicial appointment by a Kerry White House. The next four years will in all likelihood present changes in the Supreme Court, and more Ginsburgs, Stevenses, or Kennedys (yes, I know, appointed by a Republican) are not what we need. The Constitution is more than an airy hortatory abstraction of guiding principles. Bush would appoint more originalists to the courts, and I support his policy.

Culture of life and family values. Most of the presidential endorsement editorials I've read concentrate almost exclusively on the war on terror, as if life issues don't even factor in to respectable judgments in this election. But these are absolutely critical. Abortion is a vital issue. Kerry's first act as president, he's said (he of the "personally opposed" position - ha) would be to start using public money to fund abortions overseas, and probably here as well. He has voted numerous times to keep partial-birth abortion (that, of course, involving puncturing and crushing the heads of partially-delivered babies) legal. He would only appoint pro-choice judges. He is against parental notification, against the Unborn Victims of Violence Act. NARAL and Planned Parenthood, who have endorsed Kerry, would turn cartwheels if he were elected -- they know he's one of the most reliable votes in favor of ultra-liberal abortion policies they've ever had.

Kerry also aggressively favors federal funding of embryonic stem cell research -- the creation and destruction of human embryos for research. He even favors cloning them -- cloning human beings for research. He would happily join Western Europeans and the U.N. in developing this industry based on human death. Those who work tirelessly in support of the culture of life would suffer severe setbacks with a Kerry election. The president, in contrast, while not as strong an advocate for pro-life initiatives as might be ideal, is still a great advocate for these issues. He does not give federal funds for abortions overseas, supports parental notification, opposes partial-birth abortion, signed the Unborn Victims of Violence Act and the Born Alive Infants Protection Act. He will not give federal funds for embryonic stem cell research and he will oppose cloning at the U.N. Finally, while Kerry has said he supports marriage, it appears to be with a wink and a nod regarding SSM; the president, in contrast, supports an amendment to constitutionalize the Defense of Marriage Act to protect marriage, while also working to strengthen marriage in other ways (like pre-marital education initiatives). On these issues in particular, there is no contest.

Character. I will credit Kerry with generally good motives and I hope if he's elected he will demonstrate a strength of character in national security issues (and a change of heart on life issues). I don't dislike him personally. But I don't think his record demonstrates anywhere near the character that the president's does. Kerry showed courage in volunteering to serve and in serving in Vietnam. But he then proceeded to denigrate the other men who served with him. He's shown poor judgment in many of the decisions he's made in the Senate, he acts dishonestly with respect to his faith, and he has blown with the political winds in several instances. To me, this overall record doesn't demonstrate strength of character. The president has shown character. He's shown a willingness to surround himself with and listen to smart people, but also an ability to then make tough decisions. He will stick with a decision he believes is right even if popular opinion pressures otherwise (as on embryonic stem cell research). I trust that even where I disagree with his decisions (as on some high-spending initiatives, on some of the post-war governing decisions in Iraq, or on same-sex civil unions) he is generally acting honestly, in a way he genuinely believes is the best way for the country. That is leadership.

Finally, as others have mentioned, I would be inclined to support Bush in any event simply based on those who are most likely to be heartened by a Kerry victory -- those such as the terrorists, NARAL and Planned Parenthood, the odious Michael Moore, the New York Times, Maureen Dowd, the vapid Hollywood celebs, or Dan Rather. I really don't want to deal with these folks on Wednesday, or for years, if Kerry comes out on top. Vote for Bush!

I feel better now

Via Stuttaford, I see that Ohio doesn't need to worry about our election -- the Belgians are here to take care of us:

"We will tell the people of Ohio whether their election is free and fair," said one of the observers, Hugo Coveliers, a Belgian senator who plans to monitor voting in Cleveland.

Give me a break. (To the extent observers are here just as a learning experience, particularly from the developing countries listed in the article, I think that's fine, but M. Coveliers should watch his presumptions.)

If you say so . . .

Two Kerry radio spots (or quotes from speeches) the last few days . . . In one, Kerry said in Florida, "The people get to decide . . . that's the most beautiful thing on the face of the planet." I think I tend to be more with Churchill in my evaluation of representative democracy, and find plenty of more beautiful things in life than my vote, despite its value. But hey, a little hyperbole never hurt . . . right?

The second spot was a commercial recorded by former senator and astronaut John Glenn. In it, he told us that Kerry was a man of family values, strong faith, for the military, and for national strength. Now, not that these should belong to one party or another, but seeing as how they aren't typically the province of modern leftists, I thought it was interesting that Kerry feels he has to sell himself as a Republican to win Ohio.

Just my partisan $.02 :)