Monday, October 31, 2005

Exit Miers, enter Alito

In the face of the Harriet Miers nomination, I felt disappointed, unhappy, and frustrated at the needless split within the conservative movement that the president had provoked. With so many strong, proven, articulate proponents of originalism out there (on the federal bench and elsewhere), why would the president go with a nominee with no real record - in written opinions, essays, talks, or even conversations with friends - of ever having thought seriously about constitutional issues? Even so, I said I would reserve judgment, and repeatedly over the course of the past month I almost resigned myself to the likelihood that Miers would be confirmed. And then almost every day would bring a new reminder of why this battle mattered, and why Miers wasn't the right pick. I was surprised, but very relieved, when pressure from many conservatives - and real reservations expressed by senators from both parties - actually resulted in Miers withdrawing her name from consideration. I wish her the best of luck, and I appreciate her graciousness in withdrawing. She simply wasn't the best person for this job.

Judge Alito, on the other hand, is exactly the kind of pick conservatives have been hoping for, and with his nomination this morning, everything is happily back to normal in Washington. People for the American Way and NARAL are hyperventilating, Senators Kennedy and Reid are disappointed and find Alito extreme and radical, and on the other side conservatives are almost uniformly jubilant about the choice. What's nice to see is that Judge Alito has the kind of record that would make it hard to justify obstruction of his nomination. He's garnered statements of praise and admiration from people on both sides of the aisle, including Senator Kennedy himself (well, that was 15 years ago when Alito was unanimously confirmed to the Third Circuit . . . but we can use it). Thanks to the president for getting it right this time. I look forward to seeing Justice Alito confirmed.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Ohio bar

Just wanted to wish good luck to my friends in Ohio who are supposed to receive their bar results tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

No more records for Powlus

On a much less serious note, the South Bend Tribune notes that any Notre Dame passing records held by Ron Powlus are not long for the record books. Brady Quinn is likely to shatter Powlus's numbers for TD passes, yards, attempts and completions -- he's only six shy of the TD number and 900 yards away from the yardage total, which, when you can throw for 467 yards and six touchdowns in one game, doesn't seem far away at all. Quinn still has four games and a whole season ahead of him. If all or even most of the games are as fun to watch as last Saturday's, it will be a great couple of seasons. It's also gratifying to see what a serious offensive coach can do with his talent.

As for the rest of the ND offensive records being set this year, Bill at Bare Down runs down the list against BYU alone, and neatly summarizes our new coach's strategy: "Weis' methodology is simple: Find out what you do well. Find out what the opposing defense does not do well. Attack. Repeat."

Selling women

I'm usually fairly dismissive of the Lifetime cable channel ("television for women" - not so much) but they are currently running a miniseries called "Human Trafficking," about the global sex slave trade. It's an extremely important topic, and while reviews of the actual script and acting have been mixed, many newspapers are doing their part to publicize the show and its subject matter. The reason is illuminated by a quote from Donald Sutherland's character: you can only sell a given quantity of drugs once, but you can sell women over and over.

Apparently Mira Sorvino works for Amnesty International's campaign to stop violence against women. Good for her. I hope this series helps raise awareness and undermine the idea that "sex work" is a legitimate occupation that is usually entered into voluntarily. It's not, and it's important not to pretend otherwise.

That serious matter of STDs

Eugene Volokh comments on a medical journal article that reports that sexually transmitted diseases caused nearly 30,000 deaths in America in 1998. By way of comparison, he notes that is less than the number of deaths from car accidents and about the same as from suicides. Another finding of the study, though, was that STDs cause 600,000 cases of infertility per year, which just is stunning. It means millions of (mostly) women are faced with infertility that probably wouldn't have occurred in the absence of these diseases. If we wonder what drives part of the demand in the artificial reproductive technology industry (at last count, a $2 billion per year operation), this might help explain. What a terrible loss for so many. Professor Volokh concludes:

I disagree on many things with many of the foes of the Sexual Revolution; I don't have moral objections to casual sex or to promiscuity; and I certainly don't support criminalization of consensual adult sexual behavior. Nonetheless, it seems to me that we need to acknowledge that sexually transmitted disease is a serious matter, and there are real medical costs (as well as real hedonic benefits, plus real hedonic costs) to the glamorization of relatively casual and promiscuous sex that seems present in our culture (though not in all of its subcultures).

Even with his caveats, a lot of the comments section quickly turned towards denunciations of those who do have moral objections to casual sex or to promiscuity, sprinkled with couple of dismissive mentions of the Catholic Church. There are also some efforts, surprisingly to me, to deny the fact of the sexual revolution in the first place -- "Sexual revolution? What revolution? people never had sex before the 60s?"; "which sexual revolution are you talking about?"; "Do you really believe that the "sexual revolution" was responsible for the spread of STDs?"; and so forth. These dismissals have been contradicted by others pointing out, sensibly, that while of course STDs occurred and killed more people historically, sexual activity outside of marriage is more widely accepted, and from younger ages, today in America and the West than before the 1960s.

The CDC has reported that there are currently at least 65 million Americans living with some incurable sexually transmitted disease. It's also said that half of all young people will contract an STD before age 25 in this country. That's an epidemic, and a much more modern one than some would claim. So I agree with Professor Volokh that it needs to be taken seriously.

. . . though I'd probably support different measures to act against the epidemic. I've written before that I support abstinence education, not for any return to some idealized 1950s world (I don't actually have that idealized a view of that time), but because I think real sex education must deal with a complete understanding of the best context for sexual relationships, in terms of not just physical but also emotional, psychological, relational, and yes, even spiritual health. Sex is just about the most intimate relationship two people can have, and when it is abused or treated casually (or even taken seriously and well-meaningly, but still done outside of marriage), it frequently has negative consequences. Schools should emphatically not take the official position that kids are "going to do it anyway" - that's not a foregone conclusion. If we can teach the benefits of waiting versus, in particular, the serious physical and emotional risks of having sex with any more people than the one person you're committed to life for, it would put the education in the right context. And with regard to adults, while there's obviously no way to officially discourage casual sex and promiscuity (nor would that necessarily be desirable), it's never too late to learn the value of chastity, as people like Dawn Eden, La Shawn Barber, or David Morrison have witnessed in their writings. Which is why I and many others will continue to advocate it.

EDIT: Via Ann Althouse, this article gives an interesting perspective on abstinence movements on college campuses.

Friday, October 21, 2005

The party of fiscal non-conservatives

Yesterday the Senate voted on the "Coburn amendments," which would have achieved the laudable goal of cutting spending from the enormous spending appropriations earlier this year, in part by defunding some $400 million dollars from two bridge projects in Alaska; the money would then be reallocated to help the ongoing Katrina rebuilding efforts (including of the main highway leading into New Orleans). One of the bridge projects has been dubbed the "Bridge to Nowhere," as it's a $200+ million effort that would benefit . . . exactly 50 people. (At this cost, it's been figured out, you could buy every inhabitant of the island his own personal Lear jet.) So you think the Republicans, at least, might be amenable to this "pork-busting" effort, right?

Not by a long shot. RedState has the blow by blow of the floor proceedings yesterday and the final tally, which records that just two Democrats and thirteen Republicans wanted to avoid throwing away taxpayer money even in this minor instance:

If you aren't watching, you missed a gem. Senator Ted Stevens, "If this amendment passes, the bill won't pass. And if it does pass, you'll have to take me out of here in a stretcher."

If only politicians like Stevens were willing to defend things that actually mattered with such passion and gusto. But nooooo - just don't touch his pork. Disgusting.

Club for Growth compiles a good list of sources that indicate the Alaskans don't even want the Bridge to Nowhere, but Stevens in particular was so indignant - “It’s wrong to put us into a position where we have to explain why — why! — this is being done, something that has never been done before — NEVER!” - he threatened to resign. Well, we wouldn't want a Senator to have to give any serious justification for why he was spending our money, would we? Good grief.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

For all your U2 concert needs

When the Washington dates of U2's Vertigo tour sold out in less than an hour earlier this year, I was bummed. Not being an inveterate concert-goer, however, I didn't realize that there would still be tickets available in lots of other places from ticket brokers, E-bay resellers, and other places. Happily, I made that discovery over the weekend and so if all goes as planned, I should get to head over to the MCI Center tonight for their concert. The only other time I've ever gotten to see them play - as I've written before on here - my senior year when they played in the Joyce Center at Notre Dame, ended up being a highlight of my whole college experience (hey, Irish rock band, Fighting Irish . . . there's a connection).

Looking for info about the tour, I was reminded again why the Internet was a great invention - it gives us helpful resources like, "a joint effort of U2 fan site webmasters from around the world." Could you have gotten a "one-stop resource" like this when the band was formed? Nope. Good deal.

UPDATE: Very fun concert. The Washington Post review, which I agree with, is here. I wish they'd played "Until the End of the World" and "Bad," but overall it was very entertaining.

Weis: season two

At Monday's press conference, Charlie Weis stubbornly refused to talk about last Saturday: "Their home opener is against BYU this week. I'm not talking about last week. We're only talking about BYU." Right then. Commentators are starting to note the fact that Notre Dame has lost its last four home games, which I believe may be a team first, though this year's team is a completely different one than last year's so that loss streak will be coming to an end post haste. Weis points out that the BYU offensive line is big and lines up split wide, which makes our defensive set-up a little tricky. The BYU defensive scheme is also different than other teams ND has faced this season. Still, Weis thinks that college defensive coverages are not as sophisticated as in the NFL, which to ND fans should reassure that Weis has got them figured out. I'm not especially worried; he'll have the team prepared, having put the first half of the season (really more successful than any of us could have hoped coming in) behind them and just looking forward to winning out so we can make it to a BCS game.

And about that, the first BCS ranking were like a lousy Thanksgiving feast, according to ESPN's Pat Forde. Notre Dame is 16? What? Blue-Gray Sky breaks down the ranking system and concludes that "the computers are killing us." Bill of Bare Down agrees and argues that where a team has played (on the road or at home) should factor in. Pat Forde again:

Bottom line: In August, none of the 15 teams in front of Notre Dame would have accepted playing the Irish's opening schedule without pitching a screaming hissy fit (or, more likely, dropping at least one of those opponents in favor of a home date with Louisiana-Lafayette). Put that in your computer rankings, boys.

It's all right, though - we should be able to get the job done over the next two months and make the controversy - at least as it relates to us, can't promise on the SEC - moot.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Sixty minutes and a broken heart

Yesterday's loss to USC is still pretty tough to accept. I feel proud that Notre Dame earned a lot of respect in taking the #1 team in the country down to the wire, playing with determination and executing Weis's excellent game plan oh-so-nearly to perfection. But the bitter taste of losing with seven seconds left hadn't gone away by the time I woke up this morning. Along with everyone else in the Notre Dame nation, I was ready to celebrate as the clock wound down to zero with us up three: to have it taken away with Leinart's illegally-helped-along fall into the end zone was just brutal.

Some post-game thoughts, as hashed out with my boyfriend while we drowned our sorrows (he with Guinness, me with Dr Pepper) at a sports bar last night (we were also rooting for Florida State to lose, and the Cavs obliged with the upset):

- As my boyfriend pointed out, Zbikowski needs to stop stepping up to the line. While a good tackler with some great speed (witness the electrifying punt return for a TD yesterday), too often he lets receivers get behind him and finds himself in a catch-up mode, which shouldn't be happening to a good safety. The most unfortunate instance of this, of course, was on Leinart's 4th-and-8 from the SC 26 with just over a minute to go. Wooden missed the opportunity to knock the ball down by failing to look back for it, and the ball was perfectly thrown over his shoulder to hit the receiver in stride -- but Zbikowski should have been far enough back to make the tackle after the catch was made. As it was, Jarrett went 61 yards before Wooden made the tackle downfield, and Zibby was left chasing both.

- I was glad to see Travis Thomas get some carries, and he did a nice job with the time he had, complementing Darius Walker's different running style during a tough game for both. It would really have helped, however, to have Rashon Powers-Neal in the game to help with blocking and some receiving, especially on plays like the missed out-route pass Quinn threw to Schwapp in the second half. A more experienced player probably wouldn't have misread that throw like Schwapp did. He also would have helped the running game a bit more. So what was the rules violation that kept him out of the game? I hope it wasn't something dumb like a parietals violation. But then again, any game-missing rules violation by a senior is probably going to be dumb.

- Great game management and play-calling by Weis overall. There were a few details I would have quibbled with - I would have liked to see us call a few more short or mid-range pass plays in the middle of the game when the running game seemed to be getting stuffed quite a bit - but overall, we did just about everything we could in terms of controlling the pace of the game. To have a 17-minute edge in time of possession shows some great control. Of course, the problem is that USC, as demonstrated yesterday, needs much less time than most any other team to score, so even with their mere 20 minutes of possession they were able to be dangerous enough to keep their streak alive. Still, nice execution. It definitely helped out the defense, which played well in hassling Leinart most of the afternoon. Everyone knew Reggie Bush would break a few big runs, but he couldn't break nearly as many if he wasn't on the field. (Related: good special teams play as well on bottling up Bush for the most part, though I wonder why we kept kicking it to him in the first place. It didn't hurt us much, but led everyone to hold their breath every time he was out there.)

- Clutch performances from Quinn and Samardzija in particular, after a slower start. I was nervous on the last drive about being backed up at our own 15, but last week alone we had four drives over 60 yards - I needn't have worried. The 85-yard drive was coolly executed and showed how well this team can compete on a national level again. It almost makes me feel sorry for BYU in the way we'll be out to destroy them next week.


Friday, October 14, 2005

Volley cheer

The pep rally tonight is being held in Notre Dame Stadium to accommodate the extra thousands who are in town for the game. I'm happy I made it home in time to catch the live broadcast from the College Gameday crew on ESPNews (7:30 Eastern, in just a few minutes). It's drawing in quite a few special guests ... or at least that's what the rumors say:

This is why the atmosphere will undoubtedly be electric this weekend. Tickets are going for thousands of dollars, and a room at the Saint Mary's Inn costs more than a suite at the Ritz. Even tonight's pep rally has enjoyed a build-up unlike any other in my four years in South Bend. Not only because it will take place in the Stadium rather than the JACC, but also because of the countless rumors circulating. First I heard that Bon Jovi is going to surprise everyone with a concert. Now Bruce Springsteen will apparently play. This rumor is legit ... so people say. Bruce has a concert Thursday in Chicago and one Milwaukee Saturday. What rock n' roll star wouldn't want to come to South Bend on his Friday night off? Don't forget that the Boss and Coach Weis are both from Jersey. Clearly the rumors must be true.

I think we've got a shot, which is more than we could say for the last several years (to be fair, it's more than most people could say over the last several years, what with this 27-game win streak USC sports). At the very least, it won't be a 31-point blowout, and it could turn out very nicely. The last game I can remember with this much hype and noise was when #1 Nebraska came in a few years ago. If the crowd intensity can match that game, even Matt Leinart might get rattled. Go Irish!!

UPDATE: Okay, so no major musical act, but there was Joe Montana, Tim Brown, Chris Zorich, and over 40,000 fans. Everybody should be ready for tomorrow.

Monday, October 10, 2005

The unkindest cut

I had guests in from out of town this weekend so I wasn't at the computer much, but several good articles were published over the weekend and this morning about the Miers nomination - expressing the still-growing conservative push for Miers to be withdrawn or opposed. The discussion is still taking shape, and as Ed Morrissey wrote in the WaPo yesterday, there are several different factions at work on the right. Today's most-discussed article was that of the WSJ's John Fund, who initially had encouraged conservatives to adopt a fair wait-and-see approach, but who now has changed his mind after interviewing quite a few people who know Miers. He's now advocating a raise-questions-now (before it's too late) approach. Is the White House listening?

On a related note, I direct you to this excellent parody by Dylan at the blog Still Angry. Ever since I read it in high school, I've always loved the speech by Antony on Caesar's death - the artistry and crowd manipulation is so masterful - so I have to admire Dylan's rewrite: "Et tu, W?"

Top pick(s)

Welcome to the NFL, Alex Smith. To be fair, it's tough to make your debut against a strong Colts defense, but five turnovers (including four interceptions)? Methinks the Niners resurgence is still a long way off. Oh well. Bryant Young's still kicking.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Not settling down

Links: For conservative commentary (and a fair amount of raging - but generally thoughtful - debate, at least in the main posts), a lot of good Miers posts are over at Confirm Them, as well as at Red State, Southern Appeal, and The Corner. Of course, the column that had everyone abuzz yesterday was this one by George Will. Peggy Noonan raises further interesting questions about the nomination - and why the White House apparently thinks it can continue to snub the base - here.

According to one report Monday or Tuesday, the White House apparently expected that the base was likely to be unhappy with the Miers nomination, but would fall into line after about 48 hours. Well, many of us are waiting until the hearings to make a more definitive judgment, but the unhappiness has not gone away, and isn't likely to. The administration needs to understand the importance of what's happening here. For many conservatives, judges are the overarching reason why Bush has continued to receive support even when his policies or decisions have been open to question, and on this most important opportunity on the issue of the courts, the president has disappointed on a fundamental level. No one knows yet how this will play out, but it's not a done deal.

How do you spell that again?

Last week Stewart Mandel had this to say about ND's new star receiver, Jeff Samardzija:

I'm officially installing myself president of the Jeff Samardzija fan club. I don't know where the guy was his first two years, but the Notre Dame receiver has turned into something of a touchdown machine, catching six in four games. Against Washington he had eight receptions for 164 yards and another score. All that, and a mullet sticking out from under his golden helmet? What's not to love?

Heh. Samardzija is definitely goofy-looking, but the baseball player has great hands, as evidenced by catches like this one in the Purdue game, where he caught his seventh TD of the season. The kid is compiling quite a highlight reel, with the way he can lay out for a pass, catch it with one hand, and transfer it to the other arm before he hits the ground. This is cool stuff. With Stovall and Shelton helping spread the field, it just might mean our offense will have more of a chance against USC next week than we have any of the last few years. Go Irish.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Lesser-known quantities

For conservatives considering the Miers nomination, I think it's good to have a tempered reaction. There's absolutely no need or cause, for example, to pile on her personally by criticizing nonrelevant details such as her hairstyle or her being single, or by demeaning her record, which while not including judicial experience still shows her to be a successful attorney who's had a strong career. Matriculation at Harvard, prior experience as a judge, or membership in the Supreme Court bar shouldn't be absolute requirements for the bench. (As a happy graduate of two non-Ivies and someone who would have been glad to support, say, a Justice Garza from Notre Dame, I can hardly have an Ivy-only preference!) On the other hand, the fact that Harriet Miers has no apparent record of seriously engaging constitutional law issues - the ones that occupy a lot of Supreme Court justices' time - gives cause to wonder exactly what type of judge Miers would be - what would her philosophy be? The president knows and trusts her. One thing I've actually never doubted about the president, even when he's wrong, is his sincerity, so I have to believe he thinks a Miers nomination is consistent with finding someone like Justices Thomas or Scalia. But it's not (yet?) obvious to the rest of us, and I think out of all the commentary yesterday, David Frum articulated why that should legitimately unnerve judicial conservatives:

I worked with Harriet Miers. She's a lovely person: intelligent, honest, capable, loyal, discreet, dedicated ... But there is no reason at all to believe either that she is a legal conservative or - and more importantly - that she has the spine and steel necessary to resist the pressures that constantly bend the American legal system toward the left.

There have just been too many instances of seeming conservatives being sent to the high Court, only to succumb to the prevailing vapors up there: O'Connor, Kennedy, Souter. Given that record, it is simply reckless for any conservative president to take a hazard on anything other than a known quantity of the highest intellectual and personal excellence.

The pressures on a Supreme Court justice to shift leftward are intense. There is the negative pressure of the vicious, hostile press that legal conservatives must endure. And there are the sweet little inducements - the flattery, the invitations to conferences in Austria and Italy, the lectureships at Yale and Harvard - that come to judges who soften and crumble. Harriet Miers is a taut, nervous, anxious personality. It is hard for me to imagine that she can endure the anger and abuse - or resist the blandishments - that transformed, say, Anthony Kennedy into the judge he is today.

That would be the judge, remember, whose recent championing of constitutional law based on "emerging awarenesses" has done nothing less than "effectively decree[] the end of all morals legislation," among other things. Brilliant.

The Wall Street Journal wonders what else this nomination tells us, whether Miers is confirmed or not:

Is the President sending a message that these distinguished conservatives are too controversial to be nominated for the High Court, even with a Senate containing 55 Republicans? The lesson this nomination in particular will send to younger lawyers is to keep your opinions to yourself, don't join the Federalist Society, and, heaven forbid, never write an op-ed piece.

(Professor Bainbridge adds this advice: "Whatever you do, don't write a blog!" Too late for him, sadly!) If this is the message, it's a terrible one, all the more so because it certainly isn't heard - or thought to be needed - on the left, where Democrats are perfectly happy to nominate former ACLU directors (who can be, and are, confirmed). I'll still wait to see Miers's confirmation hearings, and I will reserve judgment, but at the moment I'm not enthusiastic.

Monday, October 03, 2005

First thought: what?!

The president has nominated White House counsel Harriet Miers for Justice O'Connor's Supreme Court seat, and the reaction of the president's base is ranging from disappointed to confused to hostile. With judges like William Pryor, Samuel Alito, Michael Luttig, Karen Williams, or Janice Rogers Brown -- brilliant, experienced, articulate proponents of originalism, all -- why go out on a limb with a complete unknown? Maybe we'll discover in the course of her hearings that she's in the mold of Justices Scalia or Thomas, like the president promised he'd appoint, but everything I'm hearing and reading is not positive. Usually conservatives have trusted Bush to make the right decisions on questions like this, because he generally has -- his lower court nominees have almost uniformly been great, and at least no one could question Chief Justice Roberts's qualifications (I still feel he is a solid choice). But my feeling right now is, the president is on his own with this one. What a disappointment.

See here for a profile of Miers in the Post this past June. David Frum, who worked with Miers in the White House, offers his critical reaction here. Over at Confirm Them, none of us commentators is feeling especially as though we want to go to bat for the president on this one (understatement), but keep checking for information and updates.