Saturday, April 28, 2007

"The Final Word on Quinn Spin"

Good analysis from the Rock Report, here:

First, Quinn didn't struggle in big games. He was fantastic against Penn State which most considered the biggest early game on the Irish schedule. Quinn won the Georgia Tech game and led the two big comebacks against Michigan State and UCLA (which looked like a weak win until they knocked of USC.) He completely outplayed the Heisman Trophy winner in the biggest game of the Weis era and engineered what should have been the winning drive.

He also looked at the top of this game early against LSU. Replay it. Dropped passes and penalties are the only things that stopped the Irish early on. LSU was able to get the Irish back on their heels and Quinn sustained a knee injury and he was ineffective later in the game, but no quarterback would have been effective under those circumstances.

Here's the real headline: Quinn didn't have great games against defenses that dominated Notre Dame's offensive line and played tight on our receivers. That's really a duh, point. By this same 'bash' thought process JaMarcus Russell struggled in 'big games' against Florida and Auburn... in fact, he pretty much lost the Florida game early on. Troy Smith looked abominable when he was pressured and forced to play without Ginn. Same has been said of Manning . . .

Time for the draft! My non-penetrating thoughts are, I think Quinn will do fine with pretty much any team except Oakland or Detroit, so I hope neither of those teams picks him. I think he'd do great with Tampa Bay if he lasts that long -- it would be great to have him throwing to Stovall again and Gruden is overall a pretty good coach -- and I don't think he'll last until 9 but Miami would be a good place to go too. And I suppose Quinn would do well enough with Cleveland, too, although I was never a Browns fan. I really, really pity whoever gets picked by Detroit, unless it's Calvin Johnson, who's probably the only single player whose talent couldn't be crushed even by that pitiful system. In any event, all speculation will be moot in a half-hour. Until then, I am enjoying Will Ferrell's draft coaching bit:

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The wider effects of chastity

Someone found my site the other day by googling "effects of chastity on family." I don't think I've ever written specifically about that topic, but it got me thinking. The decision to practice abstinence and chastity (which aren't exactly the same thing, but close enough for these purposes) should be individual, in the sense that it is practiced because you believe it to be the right thing to do - but it definitely has implications for family and community as well. So aside from all of the real moral, personal, relational and (for many) religious reasons for choosing to be chaste, I did have some thoughts on how that decision plays out in a wider context.

Being chaste can have an effect on your family whether they are generally supportive of chastity, don't give it much thought, or (following the wider culture) don't necessarily value it at all. In my family, I knew that chastity was valued as part of living our faith, and my parents had the expectation that all of us would hold that value as well. We talked about it openly and any kid (or adult, as we got older) who had questions or challenges regarding sex and chastity in relationships could always talk to our parents or to each other, which helped reinforce our commitments. We also helped encourage each other simply by the example of our actions. I know that if I had ever casually or unapologetically broken my commitment to waiting until marriage, I would not only disappoint my parents, but I would rightly be embarrassed to participate in conversations with my family about the Catholic values we usually affirmed freely, because I would have been acting hypocritically. I would also have let down my younger siblings, who might conclude that no, this really wasn't a realistic value to hold after all. Instead, I took the fact that I might be some sort of role model or example to my siblings very seriously. Assuming you are acting to be chaste because it's something you value, other people's expectations can still be a pretty good support for you.

In a family that doesn't necessarily value chastity, practicing it may be harder - simply because no one expects you to - but that decision can still have an effect on them. Many people don't believe chastity can be practiced at all, much less over a long period of time in a single relationship, or especially as you get older and/or closer to marriage. A lot of parents think it's completely unrealistic and they communicate that. Let's get real, they say. Confounding their expectations or even their approval of not saving sex until marriage, you, by living the value of chastity - not in a showy manner, but matter-of-factly and with resolve - may surprise your parents or cause them or your siblings to think about the matter a little more than they otherwise would have. They may come to respect your decision or they may be indifferent, but they will notice.

I think the same patterns hold with friends and the wider community. Many of my friends are Catholic and I know valued waiting until marriage. Just knowing we held that value in common, my decision to practice chastity in my relationships could have the effect of encouraging their decisions as well, and vice versa. As with my family, I would have been embarrassed to tell any one of my friends if I ever decided to move in with my boyfriend - as common as that is in our culture, no one else may ever have batted an eye, but I would have it on my conscience as a betrayal of my professed values, and it may have had the effect of eroding their values as well, sort of in a if she didn't stick to it, maybe it is too hard way. By blogging or speaking about abstinence publicly, I also made myself accountable for my choices here. Had I transgressed against my values and my faith, I would disappoint others and open myself up to charges of hypocrisy. So there is a sort of positive reinforcement that comes with sharing your values with like-minded friends and communities.

Again, on the other hand, anyone who practices chastity is much more likely to be surrounded by friends and communities that don't value it at all, and chastity can have an impact in these situations as well. People do notice. Now, some will deride your decision entirely, and others will dismiss it indifferently. But I also used to know people who would "check in" every now and then, to see that yes, I was still waiting until marriage. Sometimes people are just looking for proof that it's possible at all. As Dawn Eden can attest, sometimes people haven't ever considered that chastity can be a real option for their own lives, and they're looking for someone who can help them find the courage to be chaste in their relationships. (Dawn's own story is about the way she used to not think abstinence was realistic or desirable at all, but after years of not living a chaste lifestyle, her beliefs changed and she now serves as a strong witness - to the wide audience of both her blog and her book - to the powerful effect becoming chaste has had in her own life.) Practicing abstinence outside of marriage and chastity within relationships thus can have an effect on others even if you never become aware of it and even if - especially if - it's as countercultural as it is today.

Maybe the above is the case with any virtue - by practicing the virtue, you encourage others just by example; by not practicing the virtue, no one may really notice or care, but some people will notice, you may disappoint yourself and others, and compounding the sin you may contribute in your own small way to devaluing that virtue in society as a whole. ("Scandal" has lost some of its meaning today, but what it really is is a sin, one in which by your actions you lead others to sinfulness as well.) Virtues can be practiced in isolation, but by their nature they play their roles in the contexts of family and community as well.

Monday, April 23, 2007

JC and Crist

Despite being April, it's been a busy couple of weeks around Notre Dame football. First, we're up to 10 commits for next year's class already, as a few well-regarded high school juniors committed to the Irish over the past two weeks. One, another top quarterback like Jimmy Clausen from California, Dayne Crist, was being recruited by USC and Michigan. The Rock Report notes:

On film, Crist screams prototype. He's got a big arm... on one play he's chased out of the pocket and with a defender on his knees Crist wrists the ball 40 yards downfield for a completion. He's accurate, seems very fluid and already has a college build.

It's always great to steal strong players out from Southern Cal's backyard. Last weekend we also had another offensive commit from California - 6'7" tight end Joseph Fauria, and then Chicagoan Darius Fleming, an LB, who according to NDN was being recruited by "everyone," also picked the Irish. I don't even have a handle on all the freshmen incoming this year, much less guys we won't be seeing on the field for, figure, three years from now, but if now's the time to be recruiting these guys, I'm happy to see the nationwide recruiting strength of Weis continue in evidence.

Saturday also marked this year's Blue-Gold game. Mike at Blue-Gray Sky shares his trip experience here , and if you want to watch the post-game conferences for Charlie and guest coaches Ara Parseghian and Lou Holtz, try this page. It was great to see Lou back doing commentary just on our team without having to fight off Mark May at the same time. As always, Lou was filled with good observations but also some of those slogans that are both simple and true.

Q. What did you say to Evan Sharpley when he took that sack at the end of the second quarter there?

Lou Holtz: Well, we just prayed on it a little bit. (Laughter) It's just, you know, you don't win because you make the great play; you win because you eliminate the bad play . . .

Q. Does the work you do, the studio work, does that replace the void for you or is it completely different?

Lou Holtz: Well, it is different. I've always felt this, everybody needs four things to do. Everybody needs something to do, someone to love, something to hope for and something to believe in.

Charlie Weis seemed fairly relaxed at his own presser but stayed guarded about what information he wanted to give out. The main revelations were that injured John Sullivan is "probable for Georgia Tech" (ha) and none of the four quarterbacks is out of contention for the starting job yet. I'm sure we'll see a lot more over the summer, but there's an early spring update. Keep checking BGS for details!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Happy hour

I was able to attend the National Review happy hour at the Dubliner Friday night, and it was a lot of fun. I was able to meet Jim Geraghty (always one of my favorite bloggers owing to his frequent Star Wars references!), contributing writer and actress Cheryl Rhoads, and Ramesh Ponnuru and his wife. Ramesh graciously signed my copy of Party of Death that I brought along, which was nice of him. I also met several people who work at various conservative groups in town who I hope to be able to stay in touch with - it's always nice to meet like-minded people with whom you can instantly start talking about Hillary Clinton, Anglo-American relations and the latest Supreme Court rulings :) In any event, I suppose I should be over the novelty of this after a few years in DC, but I'm not - I'm still grateful for all the unique opportunities I've gotten here to meet people whose work I've been reading for years. Thanks to NRO for hosting!

Still it can't be rationalized

I found a link to this article today about a woman who chose to abort her mid-term pregnancy after the child was diagnosed with a neural tube defect indicating spina bifida and possible hydrocephalus (excess fluid in the brain). The writer, Gretchen Voss, has published her story several times over the last few years as a way to speak out against the Partial Birth Abortion Ban, and I was directed to it by a poster who thought it clearly made such a case against the ban. How could anyone, they ask, want to take away the choice to use abortion (and here, a late-stage method) when it seems so necessary in cases like this?

But I believe Gretchen Voss's story, as with others that use hard cases to justify abortions (like this woman who didn't want a genetically imperfect baby), makes exactly the opposite case she thinks it does.

No one would deny that a diagnosis of a terminal or devastating fetal abnormality can be absolutely shattering for expectant parents. Hopes and expectations must be altered; any compassionate person must have tremendous sympathy for the grief and fear parents must feel on learning this news. But abortion doesn't solve the problems and it doesn't make the grief or sadness any less. Look at Voss's story: she tries to say abortion was the "easiest decision I ever made" yet in the same sentence says it's "the hardest to live with," and her entire story is testament to the profound emotional confusion that was not lessened by abortion.

On learning the news that her unborn child likely had a severe form of spina bifida, Voss was crying, panicked, numb. Quickly, though, she "already knew what I had to do. Even if our baby had a remote chance of surviving, it was not a life that we would choose for our child." She says it was an easy decision to make, but much of what she writes says it was not. Why? Because she knew what she was doing:

My decision tortured me. This wasn't some mysterious clump of cells that would simply be sucked away in a vacuum. This was a 19-week-old baby, one that I desperately wanted, that would be pulled out of me bit by bit -- that's the way it works through the "dilation and evacuation" procedure.

Voss found the abortion procedure "excruciating" and was "petrified" as she "fought the anesthesia, clinging to my last moments of pregnancy" that she didn't have to end but was actually choosing to end. She experienced a "rip current of emotions" following the abortion because she knew it was a life she was ending. Nor was she alone in being affected: she later found her husband "one night, all alone, kneeling on the floor of our bathroom with the light off and the door half-closed, doubled over, bawling." She still can't deal with the reality of the entire process: she refuses even to use the term "abortion."

Voss's baby wouldn't necessarily have died at birth had she elected not to abort, as most babies with spina bifida survive and are living longer and better lives than in the past; she could have had a chance to love it even if its life was short. The families who have shared their stories of hope and love through difficult prognoses at Be Not Afraid can testify to the value of giving their babies a chance, even if small, to survive as long as they can. Human life has value even if it's not genetically perfect and even - perhaps especially - in hard cases, abortion wreaks a great evil on both the unborn lives and the parents who do such damage to their own capacity to love.

On the day of her initial sonogram, Voss had been eager to find out whether her child was a boy or a girl. Trying to mourn the child years later, she realized she never knew. Abortion doesn't stop the pain of a difficult diagnosis. It seems to me that it only compounds it.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Site notes

I've been spending a lot of time the last few days trying to go back and categorize all my old posts, since Blogger added that very useful feature. It's going a little bit slowly since their search function isn't working for me so I have to click through posts individually, but I'm making a lot of progress - you can see at the bottom-most list on the sidebar. Some predictable (I've written a lot about politics, culture, Catholicism and law, as I originally intended to) and not-as-predictable results (I've apparently done multiple posts on Ewan McGregor and U2) have emerged. I'll probably need to break down my "law" category, since right now it's encompassing legal theory, rights, work and law school in general, but I'll get to it later. Also, most of the Notre Dame posts have been fun to go back to, but unfortunately as I found game notes from 2004 I've been forced to relive memories of the pre-Weis era that I'd just as soon forget. That PTSD can easily come back if one isn't careful . . .

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Baby steps

Yesterday the Supreme Court handed down the result in Gonzales v. Carhart. In an almost perfect switch from the last partial-birth abortion case (Stenberg v. Carhart), the result was 5-4 upholding the federal ban instead of 5-4 striking it. The key difference: Justice Alito, replacing Justice O'Connor. Justice Kennedy, who while he does support Roe did strongly dissent in Stenberg, wrote the majority here. It's not a reversal of Stenberg, since the federal statute in question was different than the Nebraska state law then challenged and it was written specifically to overcome objections in Stenberg, but it worked, and I'm relieved it did. Stenberg was one of the single worst decisions I've ever read - I wrote about it previously here and here. The idea that the Constitution prohibits a ban on a procedure in which scissors are jammed into the skull of a baby who's already half out of its mother's body is so ludicrous, it would be laughable if it weren't so tragic.

To the liberal presidential candidates and interest groups currently outraged because, supposedly, women's lives are now in danger, and what if PBA is necessary to save a woman?, here's the thing about partial-birth abortion: the only reason it ever needs to be employed is if you specifically want to have a dead baby as the outcome. If a later-term baby is literally threatening its mother's life and the pregnancy needs to be ended, and the woman has already gone through medical dilation and the baby is partially delivered, then why not deliver the baby all the way and at least try to save its life too? There can be no possible situation in which the mother's life requires the baby be partially delivered, then killed before its head emerges. Again, if the object isn't to get a dead baby, but rather is to save a mother's life, then delivery can be completed with at least an attempt made to save the baby's life as well. Even if for some unimaginable reason it were necessary to save the mother's life, moreover (and the statute allows exceptions in the event), there is no case in which it could ever be necessary to save the mother's "health" (= age, familial, psychological, emotional, etc., according to case law). Congress went to great trouble to establish this in its fact-finding, but it ought to be clear by common sense alone. The point for partial-birth abortion advocates is abortion rather than saving lives - they don't want any restrictions on abortion, period (see Justice Ginsberg's outraged dissent) - so the argument that partial-birth abortion is necessary to save women's lives just can't be a good faith one. Partial birth abortion can only be "necessary" when the object is abortion itself.

Saving even the few babies that might have died this way is not a crazy right-winger cause, it's something most reasonable people believe is worth doing. (Even in Congress, where it had to be passed 3 separate times, it had significant bipartisan support.) The Constitutional point affirmed yesterday in Gonzales was that it is legitimately within Congress's right to pass a law banning this kind of abortion. It wasn't a strong affirmation of the point - the statute is still open to challenge on several fronts, including Commerce Clause grounds (which weren't raised in any of the arguments). Hadley Arkes, while still thinking that upholding the ban might mark the beginning of the end of Roe, wrote last October that with the Court's recent small scalebacks in the Commerce Clause's reach, matters like this federal ban will probably keep coming up again and again in front of the courts. In other words, there's a long way to go yet. Nevertheless, I'm very glad to see this new ruling as a small step in the right direction of recognizing that there is in fact no Constitutional right to abortion.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Gray hairs

Things that officially make you feel "old," even though it's only a relative concept . . . Last week on The Office, when Michael decided to pretend to jump off a roof to demonstrate the seriousness of safety and depression in the workplace, he and Dwight acted out the "desperate" situation by performing a dialogue, key phrases including: "Dwight, you ignorant slut!" Which cracked me up, especially on the second run-through.

Come to discover on the TWP message boards the next day that a bunch of the - well, they must be kids - on there have no idea what this referenced. Comments were along the lines of, "OMG that was so funny. Was that from something?" Arrgghhh! How can these kids not know who Dan Aykroyd is? When someone answered the question and others asked it again later, the newly-informed experts chimed in with, "I think someone said it was from SNL like 30 years ago." *Sigh.* And that's how you begin to feel old.

(In fairness to these kids, it was pointed out to me that Lorne Michaels has been ruthlessly effective in keeping old skits off the Internet and even repeat specials, so today's YouTube fans wouldn't have had as much of a chance to see old skits unless, like my parents, they had taped 10- and 15-year anniversary specials when they originally aired to be watched repeatedly. In the early days of Internet video, I remember snl.jt.org used to post sketches, but was later forced to remove them all. Still.)

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Stations of the Cross

Last night I watched EWTN's broadcast of the 2007 Way of the Cross in Rome. I didn't realize that the Stations themselves could be changed, since I think I've seen the same 14 in every parish I've ever been to, but apparently this year a few different stations - specifically those from Tradition, not detailed in Scripture - were substituted for others. Christ's three falls were not marked, but Jesus in the Garden of Olives, Jesus scourged, Jesus promising his Kingdom to the good thief - all of these have been added and I thought the reflections were very well done. Instead of the normal "how have I wronged others? how have others wronged me?" kinds of reflections you often get at Stations, these were deeper reflections really focused on Christ's suffering and its meaning. As we look forward to Easter Sunday, it is always fitting to remember that we must first spend time focusing on the Passion that precedes it.