Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Three shall be the number

In the midst of some heavy-duty analysis posts for the upcoming football season (which you should also check out), Jay at Blue-Gray Sky takes some time to do a nice little retrospective on the significance of the #3 jersey to Notre Dame football, looking at some of the most prominent names to wear the number. Number one on the list of great number threes is, of course, Joe Cool:

I think most of the status of the #3 belongs to Joe. Montana was co-captain of the ’78 Irish, leading them to a 9-3 record, and the “Chicken Soup” win over Houston in the 1979 Cotton Bowl and Notre Dame’s 600th all-time victory. At Notre Dame, it is his role in the 1977 win over Purdue, the “Green Jersey” game win over Southern California, and the Cotton Bowl victory over Texas to give the Irish the National Championship which will also long be recalled. It was with the Irish that Montana began his tradition of magical fourth-quarter comebacks.

Nice. Montana was also the reason I originally became a fan of the 49ers, since as a kid my father enjoyed watching Niners games and repeating his tenuous claim to fame, that being that he got to introduce Joe at the Dillon Hall pep rally his junior year of college. Well done, Dad :)

The current #3, Darius Walker, is still a work in progress, but hopes are high he'll live up to the legacy after his exciting freshman year. I'm excited to watch him play, anyway (but I'll be keeping my green Shirts -- what's up with the yellow?!).

A journey of faith

Dawn Eden recently revealed on her blog that, after being raised Jewish and then becoming a Jewish Christian, she is going to go through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) this fall and become Catholic. It's really wonderful to see that she has decided to join the Church -- after long having written with very Catholic sensibilities :) -- so as a longtime reader of hers, I, along with dozens of commenters on her site, would like to add my welcome and prayers for her journey. Following the model of Fr. Neuhaus, Dawn has started writing about her own conversion story here and here, with more parts to come. Stay tuned to her blog for updates.

ESCR facts and developments

There was a good interview on NRO this morning with Robert P. George, the Princeton professor and member of the President's Council on Bioethics, about embryonic and other stem cell research. Professor George is always lucid and accessible, so it's worth checking out his comments on the moral status of embryos, new research developments, and even Mario Cuomo:

There is no mystery about when the life of a new human individual begins. It is not a matter of subjective opinion or private religious belief. One finds the answer not by consulting one's viscera or searching through the Bible or the Koran; one finds it, rather, in the basic texts of the relevant scientific disciplines. Those texts are clear. Although none of us was ever a sperm cell or an ovum, each of us was, at an earlier stage of development, an embryo, just as each of us was an adolescent, a child, an infant, and a fetus. Each of us, by directing his own integral organic functioning, developed himself (sex is determined from the beginning) from the embryonic, into and through the fetal, infant, child, and adolescent stages, and into adulthood with his unity and determinateness intact. One's identity as a human being does not vary with or depend upon one's location, environment, age, size, stage of development, or condition of dependency.

Ideas and consequences

A bit from the opening essay of Theodore Dalrymple's new book, Our Culture, What's Left of It -- he is here saying that in order to produce the kind of cultural depravity much in evidence in modern Britain (and the rest of the West, for that matter) it is necessary to believe not only that it's "economically feasible" to act irresponsibly but also that it's morally allowable: "This idea has been peddled by the intellectual elite in Britain for many years . . ."

There has been an unholy alliance between those on the left, who believe that man is endowed with rights but no duties, and libertarians on the right, who believe that consumer choice is the answer to all social questions, an idea eagerly adopted by the left in precisely those areas where it does not apply. Thus people have a right to bring forth children any way they like, and the children, of course, have the right not to be deprived of anything, at least anything material. How men and women associate and have children is merely a matter of consumer choice, of no more moral consequence than the choice between dark and milk chocolate, and the state must not discriminate among different forms of association and child rearing, even if such nondiscrimination has the same effect as British and French neutrality during the Spanish Civil War.

The consequences to the children and to society do not enter into the matter: for in any case it is the function of the state to ameliorate by redistributive taxation the material effects of individual irresponsibility, and to ameliorate the emotional, educational, and spiritual effects by an army of social workers, psychologists, educators, counselors, and the like, who have themselves come to form a powerful vested interest of dependence on the government.

Dalrymple has observed the fruits of this particular alliance in the inner-city hospital ward and prison where he works as a psychiatrist, treating thousands of attempted suicides, abusers, criminals, battered women, illiterates, and the otherwise intellectually, morally, and spiritually empty. His observations are usually depressing, not least of all to him (he's retiring from his practice), but so well written and insightful that it's always hard to stop reading.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

SSM proceeding apace in liberal West (well, almost)

I missed some of the follow-up last week, but the story of the Spanish votes on SSM is ongoing. After a massive popular rally in Madrid last week, led in part by many of the Spanish bishops, the Spanish Senate, which had been expected to easily approve the socialist government's SSM initiative, actually rejected it. Following the public outcry, the Christian Democrats joined with the Popular Party to vote down the measure. Under Spanish law, the lower house can and in all likelihood still will enact the law by an override vote, which is scheduled for this Thursday, the 30th. But pro-family organizers have scheduled another rally in Madrid in Madrid on Thursday -- along with preliminary rallies in other cities throughout Spain tomorrow -- to reiterate their opposition to SSM being legalized in Spain. Even if they can't stop the bill through their demonstrations, they have had an effect on the government and cost PSOE (the governing party) some political capital on the effort to push through its legislative agenda.

And if nothing else, the delay in the Spanish actions meant that Spain would not be the third country in the world to legalize SSM, since that dubious distinction fell to Canada today. Our lovely liberal neighbors passed an SSM measure today after the Canadian courts forced the issue over the past few years.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Supreme intrigue

Feddie (along with lots o' mainstream media people and most of the legal community) predicts that a Supreme Court vacancy is about to come up, which if it does finally happen means things will be interesting on Capitol Hill this summer. Many are predicting a nomination for AG Alberto Gonzales, but I would be surprised by that. While I supported his nomination for AG, I have some of the same vague concerns many conservatives do about what he would be like as a justice. If Bush wants to nominate the first Hispanic justice, well, he's got three more years and better choices. In any event, I'm not very much in the know but the rumors I have heard most frequently suggest that Michael McConnell or John Roberts could be the top choices if there's an announced retirement today. What I do know is that the president's ability to put good people on the bench (people who reject the airily expansive notions of liberty being the right to define your own concept of existence) was a central issue to many of the conservatives who helped get Bush elected twice. We've seen him fight for many of his circuit court nominees (and finally get many of them confirmed) but the Supreme Court, of course, is even bigger. Guess we'll have to wait and see . . .

Friday, June 24, 2005

A colonel, a prince, a Jedi

I've started reading through a borrowed copy of Alec Guinness: the Authorised Biography, and it's a pretty good story so far. I did skip to the Star Wars part first (which I'm sure would be much to the actor's chagrin) and, though I immediately went back to the beginning, I thought Guinness's reflections on the film were amusing:

Apart from the money, which should get me comfortably through the year, I regret having embarked on the film. I like them all well enough, but it's not an acting job, the dialogue, which is lamentable, keeps being changed and only slightly improved, and I find myself old and out of touch with the young.

Poor guy -- he was only around 60, but he felt the cast "treat[ed] me as if I was 106." Still, when he finally saw the film, he was very much impressed by it despite the "excruciating" dialogue.

One of the main reasons I am looking forward to reading the book, however, is the discussion of how Guinness became a Catholic in the 1950s and the profound impact that had on his life. First Things reviewed the book earlier this year with a focus on the religious aspects of his story and it certainly looks like it will be an interesting read.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Regular people

I second the sentiment from Justin at Southern Appeal -- the Cosby Show was great :) I also happened to catch the rerun of the series finale on TBS yesterday at lunch, and it just reaffirmed what a cool family the Huxtables were, especially Cliff: "I brought you in this world, and I can take you out!" Hehe.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Another reason to like Jeb

He's opposed to embryonic stem cell research, since he realizes it is the creation and destruction of early human life.

On a tangential note, we had a bit of Florida constitutional law in our bar lecture today (on Florida essay writing in general) and it reminded me again that this is certainly a unique state when it comes to legal issues capturing the nation's attention. Today we had references to Terri Schiavo (separation of powers) and O.J. Simpson (the Homestead rule that protects Florida property against creditors). No mention yet of Bush v. Gore, but I've no doubt it will come up at some point.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The game of gotcha

As I plow, relatively diligently, through books of practice bar exam questions, I am struck by how often on the responses in the back of the book or in the lectures I see or hear some variation of this: "The examiners LOVE to test on this distinction because it's so tricky. They know students will immediately pick (A), because of reason X, which is the 'Pavlov's dog' response, but OF COURSE that's not the right answer so be careful." And while I appreciate the advice, I have to wonder: what is the point of all of this? Why should the examiners be writing tests with the apparent specific intent (ha, crim law term) to trip students up who probably do know the general principles of law but might miss the most difficult distinctions in the variety of subjects being thrown at them? The suspicion also lingers that the examiners are listening to all the advice being given by BarBri and PMBR people and then turning around to make their questions even trickier in response. Cue evil maniacal laugh track. It's just a little discouraging and doesn't seem to have much relevance to what we'll actually be doing. That is, if we, as lawyers-to-be, ever need to know the finest distinctions on a particular point of law, we know how to look it up. Is that such a novel concept?

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Not going gently

Spanish bishops yesterday helped lead a public demonstration against an SSM bill about to become law in that country, thanks to the country's Socialist leadership. It doesn't appear there is much that can be done legislatively to stop its passage, bringing Spain in line with much of the rest of secular-left Western Europe, but it's heartening to know that at least half a million Spaniards still care enough about the issue to march on Madrid -- and that the bishops are being active (link may req. registration - I read it off Google).

Zapatero's government came into office last year after a terrorist attack had its intended effect of frightening Spaniards into wanting to withdraw from the war on terror. I regretted that at the time for the country's apparent caving in to terrorism, but also because I figured the Socialists would immediately start enacting all their other social policies in addition. Well, of course they would -- once in office, that's appropriate and to be expected. Still, while the Church has a tangled history with the State in Spain and should not be established or have real political power, I think it's absolutely appropriate for the bishops to speak out on all the liberalized secularist policies currently being made law in the country, in a legitimate attempt to shape policy and teach parishioners.

How to destroy a country

See Mugabe, Robert. What an absolute disaster.

As Operation Murambatsvina or “drive out filth”, moves into its second month, as many as a 1m city-dwellers have been made homeless by government bulldozers and axe-wielding police.

Churches have become the only refuge for people who have lost everything. But priests have now been warned not to help by the government of President Robert Mugabe.

Harare has been turned into a refugee city with marauding bands of families pursued through the smoking rubble by police who move on anyone they find sleeping outside or still retaining a few possessions.

Please pray for the homeless and persecuted in Zimbabwe. (link via Amy Welborn)

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Too bad for the kids

The Post magazine has put up its cover story for tomorrow, about a New England single mother, Raechel McGhee, and her two donor-conceived children flying out to California to meet the children's donor, Mike Rubino. The story is so full of things to comment on that it's difficult to excerpt, so I'm just going to take it a bit at a time. What the story really calls for reflection on is the fact that intentionally creating children without a mother or a father, just because a single person (or gay couple) really, really, wants them may seem all fine and dandy for the adults involved but is often a bad deal for the children. What we know, from what children tell us (as Family Scholars blog often points out) and from what almost every bit of social science research we can do tells us, is that children themselves want to know where they came from. Furthermore, while of course there are exceptions, on average they do best (emotionally, physically, psychologically, academically) with their natural, married parents. Of course there are circumstances where one parent can't be present through death or divorce from an abusive marriage, or where a child who has already been created needs a good home through the blessing of adoption. But many people disregard the knowledge of what children themselves would prefer or need, and find ways to deliberately bring children into the world with no intention of them knowing the other (or either) biological parent. Though the biological fact may strike some as downright unfair, however, every child must come from a man and a woman. Putting all of this together, now turn to the story.

First, one thing I don't think it hurts to remember is that for people hoping to donate their "specimens" to fertility clinics or sperm banks, the method of obtaining such specimens is either onerous and highly invasive (for women egg donors) or, simply, crude. In both cases it's usually done for financial incentive and approached with disconcertingly consumerist attitudes. (High GPA? Check. Higher education? Check. Good-looking and athletic? Check.) Though he started with sincere motives, the way in which Rubino became a "father" illustrates:

This all began for him a decade ago in a small locked room of the California Cryobank, where, amid soft-porn tapes and magazines, he produced semen that was sold around the world. . . . Receiving a plastic cup from a technician, he would enter one of the five small locked rooms that the cryobank's co-founder, Cappy Rothman, jokingly dubbed the "masturbatoriums." There Rubino became Donor 929. He generally produced semen twice a week for about a year at the cryobank's offices, where each acceptable specimen (anything that would yield a minimum of one vial of sperm for shipment) brought him $50 -- which translated to about $400 or so a month.

Well, that's lovely. On the other side of the country we had a woman who would have loved to marry a man and have children, but if the man wasn't available, well, she could still have the children. The unilateral decision that she made to have children initially focused on her empowerment, the boost to her self-esteem -- and a complete depersonalization of the men who might be involved, as they were reduced to "male specimens" in her mind:

Having been disappointed for years that no slim, attractive men wanted to date her, McGhee could, for the first time in her life, she says, choose from an abundance of fit, intelligent men. "Selecting a donor was empowering," she remembers. "Suddenly I had my pick of these incredible male specimens. I was the one with the power to accept or reject. I loved looking at those donor profiles; I mean, I could have any of these guys."

It's hard not to feel somewhat sorry for McGhee's situation. In this case it was clear that she really did want to find someone, and almost everyone can empathize with that desire. But McGhee went at her search backwards: having a child via anonymous male specimen, then once she found out who he was, "deep down" hoping that "something miraculous" might happen and she and her children's sperm donor might "become a couple."

McGhee is a psychotherapist, so we might have expected she would understand the unreality of her own hopes with regard to Man #929, who spent a year, um, "producing specimens" in the sperm bank twice a week with the help of soft porn (he still has no idea how many children his sperm might have been used to produce). We might also have expected her to understand the situation she was putting her children in by intentionally conceiving them without a man in their lives but still talking frequently about donor-as-daddy (almost as bad as pretending he doesn't exist). Unfortunately, the article makes it clear that she was aware of the issues but somehow doesn't fully grasp them, maybe because that might serve to challenge the validity of her original actions. Some quotes:

- "Some women in my position wanted nothing to do with a man," McGhee remembers. "That was never me. After I had Aaron, I thought it would be important for a child to develop an important relationship with a male." [Why not think about the importance of having a father figure in her son's life before she had Aaron instead of only after?]

- Still, McGhee was excited, especially about the possibilities for her son, who had not had a chance to bond closely with a man. [Why did he never have that chance? Because she intentionally created him sans actual man.]

- "I want to stay here [with Rubino]," Aaron says. McGhee rubs his arm. "This is a fun time, a vacation time, a fantasizing time." [Lovely that she brings her son to meet donor-daddy only to tell him that really knowing his father belongs in the realm of fantasy.]

- "Part of what's wonderful right now with Mike," she says, "is that we have no negative baggage between us -- no marriage, no divorce, no custody fight, no emotional vendetta." [Wait -- marriage would necessarily have been negative baggage?]

Ultimately, whether or not this is its intention, I think the article does a good job of serving to question the whole notion of not only donor anonymity but also the third-party-donor business itself. The industry was originally begun to help infertile married couples, a noble goal, but still fraught with ethical concerns -- the children would at least have a married mother and father, but still would not know where half of themselves came from. Now the majority of clients are single women and gay and lesbian couples, who, however well-intentioned they may believe themselves to be, act to bring children into the world without a mother or father, by design. It's the children, who will never know where half of themselves actually comes from and who are often made to feel wrong for even wanting to know, whose viewpoints are left out in the search for adult fulfillment -- and as the article points out, the profit-driven fertility industry is only too happy to continue providing "specimens" and services. I'll close this (long) post with that point:

No one on any side of the discussion about the rights of American donors, mothers and their donor-conceived children, has any doubt over who shapes the rules of the industry. The sperm business in the United States has always hinged on the wishes of the adults paying for the semen and the desires of the adults providing it. If any party wants anonymity in a transaction, then anonymity reigns. The child created by the process has no voice, particularly over when or whether that child will ever be able to meet the donor.

"Looking historically at it, kids have been the ones left out . . ." says Ryan Kramer, Wendy's precocious teenager, who co-founded the Donor Sibling Registry site with his mother and who is a freshman engineering major at the University of Colorado. "[Sperm banks] and parents are happy to produce children through the use of sperm donors, but then a lot of children's interests are ignored."

The Donor Sibling Registry has brought him no closer to any contact with his biological relatives. Ryan knows that his donor is an engineer, but it is what he doesn't know about the man that preoccupies him. He feels stymied over having to wait until he turns 18 before California Cryo-bank will formally contact his donor and ask whether the man wishes to speak with him. "If I had the chance," Ryan says, "I'd tell him, 'I want to meet you now because there's a half of me -- mental, emotional and physical -- that I'm not sure about, and also because we have a common interest -- engineering.' To see him would complete me."

Friday, June 17, 2005

Post hoc reasoning

The other day the autopsy results for poor Terri Schiavo were released. She was, as we knew, profoundly disabled, but even more disabled than we thought; she was blind and her brain was about half its normal size. She did not, however, die of those injuries, but of dehydration after 13 days of being denied food and water. So what are the implications of what we now know? We know that Terri could not have recovered, though there were apparent reasons to hope for that before she died. But does this change the moral question, or the political ones? E.J. Dionne wants an apology from members of Congress who, as he says, weren't content to make simply a philosophical argument but who "had to insist that they knew, just knew, more about Terri Schiavo's condition than the doctors on the scene. They had to question Michael Schiavo's motives . . ." Well, one thing to remember is that the Schiavo case wasn't decided on the possibility of whether Terri's condition could ever improve. It was decided mainly on shaky claims that she had manifested a vague desire in her early twenties not to "live like that." Given that the only person who heard that comment was her husband, and that while he did appear to believe it he also had interests clearly adverse to Terri's (having his own new family), I think it was appropriate to question his motives, and also the process that led to the removal of Terri's feeding tube. But while there were many legitimate questions to have been raised, the moral case did not rest on these. To the extent that the case was only made with reference to these external factors, that was reckless.

Again, though, aside from process concerns that I think were valid at the time, and legitimate questions about Terri's condition and care that subsequent autopsy results can't be used to dismiss retroactively, the moral case was always clear. When there was an innocent human life that was profoundly disabled but not dying, we should not have made a presumption of death based on judgments that her life was so unworthy of continued existence that she should be "allowed to die" in the same way that any one of us would be "allowed to die" if food and water were kept from us for two weeks. NR argues that the autopsy results should do nothing to change the moral case made before Terri's death that even when someone is disabled, we should still value life.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Whose fault is it anyway

I'm not sure when I first became aware that the "the pope is responsible for AIDS in Africa" charge had lately become a favorite stick with which to beat up on the Catholic Church, but it seems to have staying power. Last week charity rock organizer Bob Geldof announced a plan to do a new series of benefit concerts for Africa called Live 8. Along with U2, Jay-Z and others, Geldof invited Pope Benedict to support the effort. The invitation was immediately criticized by Elton John, among others, on the alleged grounds that the Church's opposition to contraception (including condoms) makes it responsible for the AIDS crisis in Africa. Many people seem to believe that if only the Church would endorse condoms, AIDS would stop its deadly spread on the continent; in the meantime, the Church bears gross moral responsibility.

Douglas Sylva evaluates the claims at TheFactIs.org:

Has the Vatican "spearheaded the restriction of condom distribution?" It is difficult to know exactly what this means. Over 700 million condoms are distributed in Africa every year. The Vatican has no political power to stop this. Thus, whether condoms have helped or hurt AIDS infection rates is solely the responsibility of condom advocates, not the Vatican.

Does the Catholic Church discourage the use of condoms? Yes, but only as part of its complete sexual morality. If people are chaste outside of marriage and faithful within marriage, they will not need condoms to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases. The Catholic Church has every right – even an obligation – to teach how the moral law and the natural law coincide: Stay true to your wife, and you [and she] will be safe.

To blame the Church, therefore, for the spread of any sexually transmitted disease, it would be necessary to prove that people are ignoring the first, essential injunction (stay chaste or faithful), but are slavishly obedient to the second (don't use condoms).

I think that's about right in terms of summing up the (il)logic. The argument also ignores the success that abstinence programs have had in reducing the rates of AIDS transmission in some African countries, and in any event it credits an inordinate amount of influence to Church teachings (if most Catholics and others ignore what the Church says on contraception in the West, why assume Africans are uniquely obedient?). In many cases, cultural opposition to condom use is a much stronger factor than Catholic teaching (which, if followed in its entirety, again, would also preclude extramarital sexual relations). Finally, one other thing I dislike about this argument is that it pretends that advocates for condom usage aren't also opposed to the Catholic Church's position on contraception and sexual morality in pretty much every other circumstance. The criticism of this teaching in this instance is of a piece with other criticisms. Would the UK Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association or National Secular Society think Church policy any less "inhumane" if it publically allowed for condom use in Africa, but still opposed contraception and nonmarital sex in every other circumstance? Groups like this are opposed to the Catholic Church anyway. Their criticisms here are unfair.

La tortura

Shakira finally has a new album out. It's in Spanish, with a companion English release to come out in the fall, but her lyrics don't really translate that well and the music is usually fun even if you don't understand the words. The only song I've heard so far is "La tortura," with Alejandro Sanz, which is pretty catchy. Have to see if the rest of the album measures up!

Pomp and undignified circumstance

I'm only seven years out of high school, so to start saying "in my day" is a little premature. However, after attending two rather undignified high school graduations in the last few weeks, I have to say that in my day, things weren't quite so obnoxious. Where did the tradition of screaming, hollering, and blowing air horns for every family's particular graduate come from? And why can't administrators do anything about it? With big high school classes (over 400) the custom is generally to wait until all the graduates' diplomas have been awarded to applaud, so that everyone can hear his or her name read aloud and the proceedings aren't slowed down overmuch by applause after every name. When I graduated high school, there were a couple of random families that would disregard the request and yell loudly for their graduate. The feeling was generally that the cheers were loudest for the people for whom it was a particularly notable achievement just to make it to the ceremony. However, this year at my sister's graduation the hollering started in the "A" last names . . . and proceeded to happen for almost every other person, drowning out the names of many students. Some families had to outdo others and added air horns or yelled for prolonged periods of time. The administrators seemed to be following the strategy "if we ignore them, maybe they'll stop." Not quite. Last week at the graduation I went to in a Chicago suburb things were even worse. It was held at the school football stadium but instead of sitting respectfully in the stands, many families wandered around on the track, some yelled not only for their student but for twelve others as well, and there was quite a bit of jumping up and down and screaming. Again, when it starts at the "A" names and no one does anything, it makes for a long ceremony.

I'm probably just being a grump but it really does seem unfair to the families who would like to sit respectfully and hear all students' names read, including their own student's, at a dignified graduation ceremony, to disrupt it with unrestrained yelling. This isn't even to mention that at my sister's ceremony, eight or ten students blew up beach balls to bounce around the student section, completely distracting everyone, while names were being read. There's a place for things like that. (At my brother's college graduation last month, the med students tossed some confetti when they had their degrees conferred jointly, and the aviation students launched paper airplanes in unison. It was brief, cute, and deserved.) But that place is not high school. Why don't the administrators act more decisively to bring things under control? I'd stop the ceremony until things quieted down. Oh well. Cue processional music :)

Friday, June 10, 2005

Cheecago

I will be in Chicago this weekend, for another graduation (though unlike the last three graduations I've attended in the past month, including my sister's in Columbus last weekend, this one isn't for anyone related to me). I am planning to take my PMBR questions book and planning to do some practice questions. Based on my evidence lectures and not-too-certain recall, I think anyone reading could testify in court to that statement as an exception to hearsay as a statement of future intent. However, who knows in this case if the intent will translate to action? A ver. Have a nice weekend!

Life at the bottom

. . . looks like this welfare-state disaster in (of course) modern-day Britain. Mum #1 is 38, with three daughters aged 16, 14, and 12. She's been married and divorced twice, at no time to any of the girls' varied fathers. The three daughters are (yes) Mums # 2, 3, and 4. The three absent fathers of their respective children were at the time of conception 13, 15, and 38. Mum # 2 had also had three earlier pregnancies, two ending in miscarriage and one in abortion. All mums and their children live in rent-free council housing. Says Mum # 1: "Frankly, I blame the schools." Also, the government.

Oh, good heavens. It's probably not worth it to suggest to this mother that she ought to blame herself for her own sexual and other irresponsibility, or for allowing her then-11-year-old daughter (and other minor children) to have sex in her own home. She's too firmly ensconced in the everybody's-fault-but-my-own mentality, which unfortunately means that bad situations only perpetuate. Check the linked Daily Mail column from the TCS article for a better rant on the subject of personal accountability.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Pro-life Dems, finding a voice?

This article suggests that pro-life Democrats may be starting to be more welcome within their party. The major recent initiative of Democrats for Life was the introduction of a "95-10" plan -- a bill with a goal of reducing abortions 95 percent in 10 years. I think it's a great start and I would be happy to see the party change some of its views on abortion. But the relatively short list of Democrat representatives who publically support the bill, along with the continuing prominence of NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and other groups in the party, don't give much reason, at this point, for hope that the party as a whole would ever be serious about reducing the number of abortions in the country or about overturning Roe.

Más y más

The rate of growth of the nation's largest minority group is increasing -- and now births are a greater source of Hispanic growth than immigration. Of local interest:

The census report does not include local details, but previous figures have shown Hispanics accounting for about a third of the Washington area's growth from 2000 to 2003 and making up 9 percent of the regional population. The Brookings Institution has dubbed Washington an area of Hispanic "hyper-growth" and noted that the District has a higher share of prosperous Hispanics than the rest of the country.

Just as in Columbus, just as in a lot of places around the country, the growth is readily observable. If you're heading over towards Northeast in the city here, as soon as you cross 16th St NW you enter Hispanic immigrant neighborhoods, complete with restaurants, corner produce stands, and church services. The Central American gangs in Northern Virginia show a darker side to immigration here, but there's no doubt that immigration is all over the region. There really are sharp divides between the more recent (often illegal) immigrants to the U.S., though, and those that have been here a few generations. Today's immigrants seem less interested in thoroughly assimilating to American culture and language than when my grandparents were growing up on the border. I'm familiar with the models of assimilation and pluralism and think there are merits to both, but assimilation needs to be more encouraged today. It's possible to speak Spanish at home if you want to, and keep cultural markers in place, while still settling in to the broader American English culture -- in schools, in the workplace, and so on. The issues faced by Hispanic immigrants to the U.S. today aren't so different than those faced by any other group historically or today (how to keep your own traditions and language alive while fitting into this country) but the size of this population bloc seems so much larger that the issues seem more pressing for everyone else as well.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Good news on judges

It is nice to see that California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown is now Judge Brown of the D.C. Circuit, thanks to a Senate vote today after a few years of filibuster. The Senate also voted (though with quite a bit of opposition) to end the filibuster on Judge Pryor, on the 5th Circuit, so he should be confirmed soon. These are good people and good jurists and they deserved their nominations.

Last semester for my seminar I did a paper on Catholic Charities of Sacramento v. Superior Court, the contraception case out of California from last year wherein the state high court ruled that Catholic (or other) employers could be required to fund contraceptive coverage under their health insurance plans even if they had serious religious objections to doing so. In a 6-1 decision, the majority ruled that the exceptionally narrow religious exemption (which actually didn't exempt most bona fide religious organizations) written into the statute (WCEA) was fine. Justice Brown wrote a tart dissent that is worth reading in its entirety, but I particularly liked this section:

The WCEA defines as religious only those organizations for which the inculcation of religious values is the sole purpose of the entity, that primarily employ only adherents of their own faith tradition, that primarily serve only people who share their religious tenets, and that qualify as nonprofit organizations described in section 6033(a)(2)(A)i or iii [as opposed to 501(c)(3)] of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.

This is such a crabbed and constricted view of religion that it would define the ministry of Jesus Christ as a secular activity.

Should be interesting to hear from Judge Brown from the federal bench. Good for her.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Tempus fugit

The other day I carried an empty suitcase to an office at 18th and L, where it was promptly filled by what felt like 50 pounds of BarBri books. I was definitely rolling, not carrying, the suitcase after that point. Good grief. In any event, that does mean bar prep has started for me as for most every other grad, and it's a bit intimidating to look at everything that we're supposed to have in our heads by the end of July.

All the bar review classes here are held at GWU. The last time I was in the law school building there was two years ago, when Ohio State's DC program held classes there. (Professor Swire did a great job with the program -- if any 1L's or 2L's are thinking about it, I would recommend it :) That summer the building was under so much construction that you could only enter through one door and couldn't walk on any of the sidewalks or on the first floor at all, and we took our final exam to the lovely accompaniment of a jackhammer on the roof directly above us. Walking back into the law school on Wednesday, it felt strangely like no time had passed at all, but I was happy to see that it looks pretty nice and easy to navigate now. It's still not going to be that exciting to spend four hours a day there though. Oh well -- if studying is a job, that's certainly a familiar concept :)