Friday, February 24, 2006

Irish ministry

Nice article from the Post today on Theology on Tap, Arlington Diocese edition. These programs have taken off in recent years, aimed at younger adults to offer us an opportunity for prayerful reflection and fellowship . . . in a pub, naturally. The Post notes that the original Theology on Tap was started in Chicago in the 1980s, and I've seen them at Notre Dame too. A couple of summers ago I remember attending the six-pack on "love and relationships, Catholic style" at the pub-formerly-known-as-the-Four-P's. I wrote then about one particularly strong woman who spoke about chastity in the dating world in such a way as to make everyone in the crowded pub -- from the semi-skeptical to the committed -- sit up and take notice. I can only imagine what the patrons who only happened to be there accidentally thought -- although the Post quotes one businessman from Alexandria who didn't mind listening to the talk he happened upon last week.

For D.C.-area Catholics who might be interested, the Washington archdiocese doesn't have another set scheduled yet, but in Alexandria: "The next series, "Fact or Fiction," runs April 17 to May 22 at Ireland's Own. Topics will include "The DaVinci Code," the Crusades and the Inquisition." The DaVinci Code is definitely going to need debunking. Cheers.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The new guys

The Cafeteria is Closed gives a list, along with links to all the Wikipedia entries and other articles of interest, of the 15 bishops newly selected for elevation to cardinal by Pope Benedict today. Looks like an impressive group, including the Archbishop of Seoul (Nicholas Cheong Jin-Suk), who has strongly opposed embryonic stem cell research, and Bishop Joseph Zen Zi-kiun of Hong Kong, who has spoken out for freedom in the face of China's atheistic and communist government. The formal elevation (apparently officially called an "incardination" -- I've been learning all kinds of new terms this past year) will take place next month at a special Mass.

(Links via Amy Welborn.)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Portrait of the blogger

(No, not me.) The art of the cell phone camera self-portrait is being refined one shot at a time, or millions of shots over time, according to this NYTimes style piece focusing particularly on MySpace photography. I wonder, does Chris realize he's been participating in "a kind of folk art for the digital age"? :)

Revisiting Stenberg

Yesterday the Supreme Court, with a newly seated Justice Alito, granted cert on one of the three circuit cases striking the federal Partial Birth Abortion Ban. The issue was last visited by the Court in 2000's 5-4 ruling Stenberg v. Carhart, which struck Nebraska's ban in part for not providing a broad enough exception for a woman's health. "Health," however, is predicated on the original Doe v. Bolton (Roe's companion case from 1973) definition of the word as including "physical, emotional, psychological, familial, or age" components -- in other words, so many exceptions as to swallow any rule. Congress wrote the Partial Birth Abortion Ban with specific findings as to the fact that partial birth abortion is never medically necessary to preserve a woman's health, thus obviating a need for such an exception in the law. Given Justice O'Connor's opinion in particular in Stenberg, however, all of the appeals courts to consider the issue have found the Partial Birth Abortion Ban does not comport with the law.

A few weeks ago I blogged about the Ninth Circuit's ruling over at Confirm Them, commenting on what exactly "the law" is and does with regard to this issue. Here, according to the panel, is a description of what "both the Constitution and the law as established by the Supreme Court" (2, emphasis mine) hold that our civilized society is prohibited from banning:

When performing a non-intact D&E, the doctor, under ultrasound guidance, grasps a fetal extremity with forceps and attempts to bring the fetus through the cervix. At this point, the fetus will ordinarily disarticulate, or break apart, because of traction from the cervix, and the doctor must return the instrument to make multiple passes into the uterus to remove the remaining parts of the fetus, causing further disarticulation . . . . [In an intact D&E,] If the fetus presents head first (a vertex presentation), the doctor first collapses the head, either by compressing the skull with forceps or by inserting surgical scissors into the base of the skull and draining its contents. (5-6)

Let Planned Parenthood use endless euphemisms about "women's health," or promise to use this as "rallying cry" in the next elections. (Really? Nevermind the legal questions, does PP really want to rally behind disarticulation of infants?) Aside from the moral monstrosity of a procedure that would dismember almost-born infants, on no reasonable reading of the Constitution is there anything that guarantees the legality of such procedures. It's not the Constitution that spells out that we cannot prohibit doctors from "inserting surgical scissors into the base of the skull," it is only the "law as established by the Supreme Court." That law is dubious at best, wholly unjustifiable at worst. I believe it is unlikely to stand for long.

Some have raised the question of whether the Supreme Court might not decide this issue by revisiting Stenberg, since in contrast to the original state law, the federal PBA Ban might not be valid as an exercise of legislative authority (not meeting Commerce Clause or Necessary and Proper Clause standards). None of the lower courts ruled on these alternative grounds, though, relying mostly on Stenberg instead, and on a quick read through of the government's cert briefs I didn't see discussion on legislative powers cases. Unless the Supreme Court raises the issue on its own, it seems likely it will rule on the merits. And with Justice O'Connor now gone, like many I think it likely there are enough votes to swing this particular case the other direction.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Why I miss Dave Barry

Take a few minutes and scroll down through this transcript. It made lunch entertaining today :)

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Seeing red and white

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! If you have sweethearts, tell them you love them (no matter how far away they are!). If you don't, my advice is to get a lot of chocolate and give yourself a pass to eat as much as you want. It's also good, as I've done before, to just go to Friday's with a bunch of friends and gab (I suppose that advice just applies to women :). Either way, have a great day! I just started a short term corporate finance project so I don't know how occupied I'll be over the next few weeks, but I'm sure I will be around to post. Before that, a picture:

Monday, February 13, 2006

Late night big questions

Thoughtful post from the Anchoress, prompted by a late-night conversation with her college-age son. An excerpt on the nature of Catholicism:

Catholicism is a religion that is best suited to young children and mostly-mature adults. Young children “get” the possibilities of the supernatural. They “get” mysticism and. They “get” that “God is everywhere,” and that bread and wine may be changed, materially, into Flesh and Blood. While a little one may occasionally be heard in chuch singing “happy birthday to you,” when she sees an altar server light the candles, children understand the hush and wonder of the mass, particularly if they are in an older church - one that still has stained glass windows and statues for them to contemplate while the gist of the mass goes over their heads. (People forget how instructive and useful those windows are, but that’s another post) Young and more seasoned adults “get” Catholicism when they have reached the understanding that everything is not about them - that there are things greater than themselves.

This is why Catholicism is worst suited to adolescents and teenagers - whether the temporary ones or the perpetual ones. When the world is all about your pleasure, your nails, your car, your finances, your boyfriend, your cellphone and your angst, it’s tough to focus on something intangible which involves allowing oneself to be vulnerable and wrong, and which also involves some pursuit. When you are not accustomed to hearing the word “no,” Catholicism can seem like The Church of No. When taking responsibility for your bad choices and mistakes is foreign to you, well the idea of “sin” and “confession” all seems so quaintly unnecessary. And we cannot forget that the church herself - and some of her reps - is often too slow to deal with her own faults and mistakes.

Sadly, because the church is idiotic, sometimes, in how it goes about dealing with teenagers - and because many parishes don’t have effective youth programs, and because too many parents think, “okay, we got the kid confirmed and had the party, now he’s on his own,” we lose a lot of teenagers who never find their way back, or only do so after being brought to their knees by the vagaries of life and the world. It shouldn’t be that way, but there it is.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Bad luck of the Irish

The Notre Dame men were up 3 in the closing seconds at Louisville the other day, and as time ran down ND Nation was holding its collective breath. Could the Irish finally pull off a close win? . . . Well, not so much. Louisville sank a perfect tying shot as time expired, and the Irish went on to lose in OT by 3. For quality analysis of the kind you've come to know and love from Blue-Gray Sky, see here at their new spin-off blog, The Fieldhouse.

Maryland delegates, on the record

As a follow-up to Thursday's story, on Friday the Maryland House voted on a motion to consider the marriage amendment bill that had been killed in committee (after various other procedural stunts) the day before. While this was also a procedural vote, it was more than merely procedural in significance, as it at least allowed for a vote by all the delegates. The measure was defeated 78-61, with quite a few Democrats voting to consider the measure on the floor along with almost all of the Republicans, but it allowed us to see, on the record, that at least 78 delegates do not want to allow Marylanders to vote for themselves on this issue of great importance.

As to Thursday's vote, Chris Geidner gives the helpful reminder that ours is a representative democracy in which Republicans as well as Democrats can use procedural tactics and kill bills in committee to serve partisan ends. Sure they can -- that's why I've been upset before, for instance, when qualified judicial nominations have been prevented by the Judiciary Committee from reaching the floor for an up-or-down vote; and of course any of us interested in the political system have known frustration when our favored bills have languished and died in committee. For that matter, I'm upset that the U.S. Senate used procedural measures to avoid a direct vote on the Federal Marriage Amendment two years ago -- but at least in that situation, we haven't yet had a federal court decision invalidating the Defense of Marriage Act. If that happens, a great deal of attention would be focused on the issue and the public probably would put pressure on Congress to stop any filibuster and send the issue to the states.

In Maryland, that court decision has just happened, meaning the issue has more salience than if the regular definition of marriage had never been challenged. If the people can't pass an amendment (and at least one recent poll showed a majority of Marylanders would vote for a marriage amendment) then we could have judicially-imposed SSM in this state as in Massachusetts. Of course, the Court of Appeals has yet to rule, but the issue is still immediate. For most Democrats to sidestep the issue in a panic to save their own electoral hides, directly by preventing their constituents from having the chance to decide for themselves, is cowardly. Nor is this an instance of our enlightened deliberative representatives acting to "serve to insulate us from the passions of the day," as Chris suggests. In fact, the Post characterized this as "one of the most contentious and partisan sessions in recent years," with delegates shouting heatedly at each other on the floor and in front of the cameras. Not too calm and deliberative, there. Furthermore, it's not a mere "passion of the day" to believe the time-tested and well-founded proposition that marriage is the union of a man and a woman. And while some who have supported marriage in other states may have acted objectionably, it is not true that many states have been "plagued" with "campaigns of fear-mongering and ignorance," unless mere opposition to SSM is based on ignorance and can only succeed with fear-mongering. My experience with the issue in Ohio suggested that many people had genuine (and again, well-founded) concerns about the state of marriage, and they were quite enough well-informed about their beliefs that marriage is rightly between a man and a woman. We certainly had a good claim to the right to decide the issue for ourselves -- and if the legislature had been opposed on the merits of the issue, as Governor Taft or AG Petro were, it still would have been right to let the people decide. This wasn't an issue, after all, of whether ABC department would get X dollars for the next fiscal year, or what the state intoxication limit would be. Chris suggests that a vote like the Maryland delegates' might "do good by acting to save us from ourselves." On an issue that's qualitatively different than appropriations budgets (and that's different from other issues where of course the legislature does serve a mediating function), well, that kind of condescension I think Maryland voters can do without. If the Democrats thought on Thursday they had swept the issue under the rug, they were mistaken; and Friday's vote gave us the kind of direct vote needed to see exactly who (and it's not a strict partisan split) is opposed to giving their constituents even the chance to have their own say.

One more link: Here is a Baltimore local news story on the fallout this could have in the elections later this year. Of course this state is solidly Democratic and that's unlikely to change, but Ehrlich and Steele could stand to see greater support if they continue to take a stand on this issue.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Democrats 1, Democracy 0

A few weeks ago, one lower court judge in Baltimore struck our state's marriage law as unconstitutional. She stayed the ruling pending appeal, but it promptly threw the state legislature into an uproar. Republicans (what few of them there are) called for a vote on a state marriage amendment, while Democrats, in somewhat of a panic, called for delay at all costs. One state representative wanted to pass an injunction to prevent the appeals court from hearing the case "at least until 2007, when we'll have the opportunity to consider a constitutional amendment." Of course, as the Republican (Dwyer) who introduced an amendment bill pointed out, "We have the ability to deal with this issue right now." Scared, a bit?

Yes. Dwyer introduced a bill in committee, where Democrats determined to kill it. A procedural maneuver would have allowed the bill to bypass the committee and come to the floor for a vote -- where everyone would have been forced to take a stand one way or the other -- and the bill's sponsor rounded up the 47 votes he needed to bring it to the floor. My understanding is the petition had to be made before the committee voted, so Republicans and a few Democratic co-sponsors were ready to present it when the House session opened yesterday morning. In a stunningly deliberate move, this followed:

Republican whip Anthony J. O'Donnell (Calvert) had the petition in hand when the House convened shortly after 10 a.m. But just after the prayer and Pledge of Allegiance -- and before O'Donnell had a chance to deliver the document -- Majority Leader Kumar P. Barve (D-Montgomery) [alerted to the situation,] moved to recess the session, the speaker banged his gavel and the moment had passed.

"They stuffed us!" O'Donnell gasped as the speaker walked off the floor.

And then they killed the bill with a poison amendment in committee before voting it down completely. The Post accurately observes that "[m]uch of yesterday's maneuvering centered on shielding moderate Democrats from having to post a clear vote on the constitutional ban -- an idea that plays well in their districts but could hurt the party in this fall's pivotal elections, when both the governor's office and a U.S. Senate seat are in play."

My reading on this is similar to what the Post points out. Among the legislators, Republicans pretty much uniformly hold the idea -- which until five minutes ago historically was perfectly uncontroversial -- that marriage is the union of a man and a woman. On the other side, a smaller number of loud and proud Democratic delegates don't mind saying they strongly believe that's discriminatory and unconstitutional. On the middle-left, many of the Democrats might have no problem personally with SSM, but realize that many of their constituents do -- so that no matter which way they take a stand, they'll catch heat from one side of their base. The catch is that in Maryland, unlike Ohio, there is no way for the people to place an amendment on the ballot by popular initiative -- the legislature must pass an amendment before it can even come to a popular vote. Rather than either openly voting to keep this measure from the people, or voting to let it go to the people (knowing that at least 42 states have passed DOMAs and around 17 and counting have passed amendments -- they've passed even in more liberal states), Maryland Democrats have opted for the cowardly route of neither stating their own positions nor letting the voters have their say.

I'm pleased that Governor Ehrlich has shifted from his more mushy initial position to strongly backing a popular vote. I also agree there's no way this won't be an issue over the coming year, particularly if Democratic primary infighting among Senate candidates leaves open a good opportunity for Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (who I plan to vote for) and if Republican candidates for the Maryland legislature and governorship take a stand. There's no doubt this is a mostly Democratic state, but marriage is an issue that most evidence shows will have an impact.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Groundhog day

Another night, another close loss for the Irish men, who are sitting right about the bottom of the Big East. They had a chance to beat West Virginia in the last seconds, but Chris Quinn missed the go-ahead shot. So much for that.

In better news, Charlie Weis's first complete recruiting class has been ranked one of the best in the country. Yesterday was signing day, and ND landed 27 scholarship players, with a few having enrolled early this semester to get in under next year's limits. Coach Weis allowed himself to be genuinely upbeat about the group's prospects in yesterday's press conference:

"I'd say this year was beyond my initial expectations," Weis said. "To be able to fulfill so many needs with such quality young men that fit the three things that we talk about: good kids, (kids) that can read and write, but (kids) that can play. I was really, really happy with this class."

I'm particularly enthusiastic about getting some great offensive linemen and true corners. BGS describes Sam Young, a 300-pound, 6'8" Florida "├╝bertackle" as being an especially strong recruit for us, being able to play possibly as early as his freshman year. He didn't allow a sack in his last two seasons -- and Brady Quinn has to be happy to hear that.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Did they mention he's from Detroit?

Via Deadspin, an off-color but mostly funny spoof of ESPN and their coverage of the Super Bowl (Deadspin: it's -- the spoof, not ESPN -- a "delectable selection of tasty bon mots"). I like Jerome Bettis quite a bit, and it was a nice story note that his hometown of Detroit is going to be the site of possibly his last game before retirement . . . but it was a nice story only the first couple of times. Leave it to ESPN to beat the story to death. (He's from Detroit, see?)