Bishop to Boycott Obama Commencement Speech

    South Bend is heating up over the controversy surrounding Obama and the local bishop...Read the post

    2009 College Grads: We're the Lucky Ones

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    Obama threw down his stick, spat on the floor and growled in the face of cameras -- metaphorically... Read the post

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    One can only imagine what Republican rising star Sarah Palin could possibly write about in her memoirs...Read the post

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Iowa Clears Way for Gay Marriage (Really? Iowa?)

Kaitlynn Riely

Posted:  Apr 3rd 2009 10:30PM

Filed Under: Culture, Breaking News, Local, Notre Dame

The Iowa Supreme Court unanimously ruled Friday that a 1998 law which limited marriage to a man and a woman was unconstitutional, stating that same-sex marriages may begin in Iowa in as soon as three weeks.

Tonight I happened to attend a dinner with a professor from the University of Iowa. He told me that when he heard about the decision on CNN, he was more surprised that his state was making national news than to hear that gay marriages would soon be legalized.

A lot of people, he said, misjudge Iowa. So it's not a rural state with a lot of corn, wondered one of my dinner mates. Yes, it is, he said. But it's also the state that helped propel Barack Obama to the presidency. In January 2008, Obama won Iowa's Democratic caucus, and many political commentators saw his win in Iowa as a sign he could win the country. Obama won the state of Iowa 10 months later in the general election.

In this context, it's not as surprising that this state smack dab in the middle of the Midwest will become only the third state in the country, following Massachusetts and Connecticut, to permit gay marriage. (Of course, California's decision to allow gay marriage was overturned in November.) The full text of the Supreme Court's decision can be read here.

Lambda Legal, an organization that works to gain civil rights for lesbians, gay men and people with HIV/AIDS, filed a lawsuit in 2005 with Iowa's Polk County Court on behalf of six same-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses in Iowa, with the argument that denying marriage to same-sex couples violates liberty and equality guarantees in the state's constitution.

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Obama Commencement Coverage Focuses on Protesters

Kaitlynn Riely

Posted:  Mar 26th 2009 2:01AM

Filed Under: Culture, Religion, News, Local, Media, Notre Dame

Kaitlynn Riely, a student at the University of Notre Dame, is delivering the latest news and opinions on the growing Obama Commencement controversy from South Bend. See her coverage on the progression of this media event here, here and here.

I'm starting to feel like I'm living in an abortion debate-themed production of West Side Story.

Ever since Notre Dame announced that President Barack Obama would deliver the May 17 Commencement address, those against hosting Obama because of his pro-choice beliefs and actions have been rumbling, mostly on the Internet and in print, with those who want him to speak here.

I can almost hear the snapping.

The argument is taking place in the opinion pages of Notre Dame's student newspaper, The Observer. The national media has picked up the story. Catholic and pro-life blogs and Web sites are condemning the University for asking a pro-choice politician to speak at Notre Dame and deciding to give him an honorary doctor of laws degree.

But for all the Obama drama, I've only spoken to a few students who are against him speaking here in May. And back in October, Notre Dame's student government conducted a mock election and the results were 52.6 percent for Obama, 41.1 percent for McCain.

The reason it seems, from media coverage, like popular Notre Dame community sentiment is against having Obama speak is because the people opposed to Obama speaking are doing a very good job of organizing and getting their opinion out.

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Bishop to Boycott Obama Commencement Speech at Notre Dame

Kaitlynn Riely

Posted:  Mar 25th 2009 12:30AM

Filed Under: Politics, Small Campus, Big Story, Culture, Religion, News, Local, Media, Notre Dame

Bishop John M. D'Arcy, who presides over Indiana's Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese, which includes Notre Dame, announced Tuesday he will not be attending Notre Dame's May 17 Commencement, since President Barack Obama will be speaking.

"Can I have the Bishop's ticket?" my friend posted on the Web site

D'Arcy has clashed with Notre Dame in the past, most significantly when University President Fr. John Jenkins issued a statement in 2006 allowing The Vagina Monologues to be performed on campus. Now it's Obama's pro-choice stances and decisions, rather than vaginas, that have gotten D'Arcy's Irish up.

Notre Dame and the White House announced Friday that Obama would be speaking at Notre Dame's May 17 Commencement ceremony, with Jenkins following up Monday clarifying that asking Obama to speak, and awarding him with an honorary doctor of laws degree, does not signify support of his policies. Most students, from my observations on campus, seem to be supportive of and excited about hearing Obama speak. But a vocal student minority, as well as alumni and unaffiliated pro-life groups, have protested the decision vehemently.

In his statement Tuesday, D'Arcy said Jenkins informed him of Obama's acceptance shortly before the announcement was made. D'Arcy said it was the first time he'd been told about the invitation. This May is the 25th Notre Dame graduation since D'Arcy became bishop, and for the first time, he said, he will not attend.

"After much prayer, I have decided not to attend the graduation," he said. "I wish no disrespect to our president, I pray for him and wish him well. I have always revered the Office of the Presidency. But a bishop must teach the Catholic faith 'in season and out of season,' and he teaches not only by his words -- but by his actions."

He added: "My decision is not an attack on anyone, but is in defense of the truth about human life."

I understand that D'Arcy has major disagreements with Obama over abortion and stem cell issues. But isn't he giving up a unique opportunity to pull the president aside for a moment and voice his concerns? It may not make a difference in Obama's stances, but when else will D'Arcy have the ear of the president?

I'm unimpressed with D'Arcy's leadership. The pro-life movement's sign-carrying, march-making approach hasn't worked so far, and I doubt the Bishop's boycott will make any difference in abortion policy in the United States. It just distances the Catholic Church from the decision-making process.

Too bad. I wish D'Arcy had been a bit braver and seen the opportunity, rather than ask whether Notre Dame has "chosen prestige over truth."

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Debate Over Obama Notre Dame Commencement Address Heats Up

The White House and Notre Dame announced last Friday that President Barack Obama would be the main speaker at the May 17 Commencement ceremony and would be awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree, a decision that has caused controversy among many in the Catholic community.

Though many students and alums of the University are pleased to have the president speak at Commencement, those opposed to the decision have been far more vocal, as students, alumni and people not affiliated with Notre Dame voiced their protestations loudly throughout the Internet and in Notre Dame's student newspaper.

Fr. John Jenkins, the president of Notre Dame, gave an interview to The Observer, the student newspaper, Sunday in which he responded to the criticism and said he did not "foresee" circumstances in which Notre Dame would rescind the invitation to the president. (Full disclosure: I work for The Observer.)

"We have invited the president and he's honored us by accepting," he told The Observer.

There's been an uproar about the decision, judging by letters to the editor, blog posts and petitions, due to Obama's pro-abortion stances. Jenkins defended his choice, saying the invitation to Obama does not signify an endorsement.

"The invitation of President Obama to be our Commencement speaker should in no way be taken as condoning or endorsing his positions on specific issues regarding the protection of life, such as abortion and embryonic stem cell research," Jenkins told The Observer.

The protestations against the choice of Obama have been very loud, especially in the opinion section of The Observer, but it should be noted that in a mock election held by Notre Dame's student government last October, Obama won 52.6 percent of the vote compared to McCain's 41.1 percent.

Not everyone is protesting Obama coming to campus; many are thrilled. A Facebook group titled "We Will Be Honored To Have President Obama at Notre Dame" has 1,389 members. Several Facebook groups, however, have been created to protest Obama as Commencement speaker.

All I wanted was a nice, quiet, peaceful graduation day, a time to celebrate with my family and friends, without posters of aborted fetuses. Such a simple request. But it won't be so.

Already, pro-life activists are making plans to come to South Bend to protest.

Full Article »


national newspolitics

Obama To Give Commencement Address at Three Colleges

Kaitlynn Riely

Posted:  Mar 20th 2009 5:25PM

Filed Under: Politics, Small Campus, Big Story, National News, News, Local, Notre Dame

I thought the biggest thing that was going to happen at Notre Dame this week was St. Patrick's Day. I was wrong.

According to an Associated Press report, President Barack Obama will deliver the commencement address at Notre Dame's graduation May 17. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs made the announcement Friday that Obama will speak at my school, as well as at the Arizona State University and the U.S. Naval Academy graduation ceremonies. Notre Dame's media office issued a news release saying Obama will also be the recipient of an honorary doctor of laws degree.

The Facebook statuses of many Notre Dame students were all about the news Friday afternoon. There hasn't been this much buzz since freshmen year when rumors swirled that U2 was coming in for the ND-USC game.

I think Obama's gotten bigger than Bono.

Many people seem excited, but undoubtedly, there will be protests, especially by those who see Obama's stance on abortion as contrary to Catholic teachings. This is Notre Dame. We protest for weeks on end when students put on productions of The Vagina Monologues.

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Jon Stewart Brawls with Contrite Jim Cramer

Kaitlynn Riely

Posted:  Mar 13th 2009 2:30PM

Filed Under: Culture, Local, Media, The Economy, Notre Dame

Last night, the "weeklong feud of the century" climaxed when the host of CNBC's "Mad Money with Jim Cramer" appeared on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart."

Atlantic writer James Fallows declared, in a blog post headline, that "Jon Stewart has become Edward R. Murrow," the famed father of broadcast journalism. I think the comparison is apt. In a 1958 speech to the Radio and Television News Directors Association, Murrow lectured listeners on the possibilities for the future of journalism:

"This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire," he said. "But it can only do so to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box. There is a great and perhaps decisive battle to be fought against ignorance, intolerance and indifference. This weapon of television could be useful."

Cramer came on Stewart's show to argue that his network, CNBC, was not merely "wires and lights in a box." The "Mad Money" commentator was brave to come on Stewart's show, but the charge to defend his network and his show was a tall order. Stewart, well-prepared as always, came out far ahead.

Cramer, before his CNBC days, ran a hedge fund and also co-founded Stewart said he felt like Cramer, and other financial reporters on CNBC, were acting as though the ethically dubious, short-game market didn't exist. Stewart accused Cramer and CNBC of knowing what the top Wall Street CEOs were doing but not acknowledging it to their viewers.

"I understand you want to make finance entertaining, but it's not a f***ing game," Stewart said.

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Does Your Hometown Paper Have Six Months to Live?

Kaitlynn Riely

Posted:  Mar 12th 2009 8:15AM

Filed Under: Culture, Local, Media, Notre Dame

Newspapers are known for their love of naval gazing, and especially for predicting their own demise. They've made it through the competition posed by radio and television. The Internet and the slow economy, however, has newspapers nervous that the day the presses die could be imminent.

The Rocky Mountain News closed down at the end of February this year, leaving Denver a one-newspaper town. Earlier this week, Time magazine published a list of the 10 major daily newspapers that they think are most likely to fold or start publishing only online.

The 10 newspapers listed were chosen based on their parent companies' financial strength, the amount of direct competition they face in their market and estimates on how much money they are losing.

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Plouffe: Off The Record, Under Scrutiny

Kaitlynn Riely

Posted:  Feb 12th 2009 5:56PM

Filed Under: US Elections, Politics, Local, Media, Notre Dame

David Plouffe, the chief campaign manager for Barack Obama's presidential campaign, filled my e-mail inbox for months with news about his candidate. Now that the campaign is over, he still wants to keep our relationship confined to e-mailing.

Plouffe made a speech Thursday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., but requested that it be off the record.

He was speaking as part of the Transitions 2009 event, sponsored by Georgetown University's School of Continuing Studies. Other than Plouffe's speech, the rest of the event is on the record.

Politico was originally a sponsor of the conference, but backed out because they didn't want to be involved in "an off the record talk with a newsworthy person."

A letter sent by Donna Leinwand, the National Press Club president, to the Washington Speakers Bureau, which reprsents Plouffe, was posted on the Club's Web site. Leinwand said she was troubled by Plouffe's request that the speech be off the record, saying it reduces the "free flow of information" and "would run contrary to the spirit of President Obama's recent executive order and statements in support of a more open government."

Whether you voted for Obama or not, you cannot deny that he ran a brilliant campaign, which Plouffe orchestrated. It's a campaign many want to learn more about, that's probably what Plouffe talked about at the Press Club. By requesting the speech go off the record, he made it a bigger story than it would have been.

Maybe Plouffe was planning all along on e-mailing us the transcripts of his remarks so he could bypass the media. If so, I'm still waiting for that e-mail to arrive.

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Facebook Users Wasting Time

Kaitlynn Riely

Posted:  Feb 9th 2009 12:30AM

Filed Under: Culture, News, Local, Media, Notre Dame

If you are on the popular social networking site, you probably know 25 more things about dozens of your friends than you did two weeks ago.

Recently, the trend on the site has been to post 25 facts about one's self in a note, then tag the friends you want to notice the information.

Unfortunately, due to the news feed feature, it's not just close friends that see the 25 things. It's practically everyone you are friends with on Facebook, from close buddies to coworkers to distant acquaintances.

It's narcissism on the net, and every time I see someone new has posted a "25 things" note, I cringe.

A few days ago, I was happy to find I'm not the only one who doesn't like being showered with new, often very personal and embarrassing, knowledge about Facebook friends.

Claire Suddath at Time magazine wrote a funny article titled "25 Things I Didn't Want to Know About You," a list of facts she wishes people hadn't revealed to her over the Internet.

My favorite was No. 15: "I like to tape my thumbs to my hands to see what it would be like to be a dinosaur."

Over at the Washington Post, they had a very similar story.

Suddath wrote that an estimated 5 million of the notes have appeared on the Web site in the past week. Assuming each note takes about ten minutes to compose, she said, that's 800,000 hours of work time productivity lost.

Instead of a stimulus, maybe we should all stop talking about ourselves, in numbered form, on Facebook.

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national newspolitics

Hope Sold Here

Adam Kirchner

Posted:  Jan 17th 2009 7:16PM

Filed Under: Politics, National News, Local, Towson University

President-elect Barack Obama addressed a crowd of 40,000 assembled outside of Baltimore's City Hall Saturday afternoon on his train trip from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. In anticipation of his inauguration on Tuesday, Obama is following the same path that Abraham Lincoln took by train to his inauguration, seven score and eight years ago in 1861.

Although Obama's speech lasted only 15 minutes, the crowd of Baltimoreans had waited at the plaza for over three hours for the opportunity to see him in person, and to take digital photographs and videos. During the speech that so many had waited to hear, a woman in the crowd to the left of the president-elect shouted "We love you, Obama." Without hesitancy, the 44th President of the United States interrupted his speech, turned to her direction and said in earnest "I love you back." 40,000 Baltimoreans gushed, all at once.

Obama was joined onstage by First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President-elect Joe Biden and Second Lady Jill Biden.

During the three-hour wait in 20-degree weather the crowd of Baltimoreans was entertained twice by a personal trainer who tried to lead them in exercises. The curiosity that is the Baltimore sports fan base booed the Orioles' mascot off the stage, but later in the afternoon shouted "O" during the singing of the National Anthem, as they do at Camden Yards.

In the last hour before Obama made his way from Baltimore's Penn Station down to City Hall, the Morgan State University Choir sang gospel songs to the crowd for 30 minutes, twice as long as the awaited speech, beginning with "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing", which was adopted in 1919 by the NAACP as the "Negro National Anthem."

Representative Elijah Cummings and Governor Martin O'Malley, both prominent Democratic Maryland politicians, followed the choir appearing onstage together, each giving brief speeches to the crowd while additional snipers became visible on the surrounding rooftops. Police helicopters circled in the air around the plaza and a conspicuous black Chinook flew across the East Baltimore skyline. The only known incident of the afternoon was a call through the PA system to reunite a lost child with her parents.

Before the crowd was allowed to enter through street-side metal detectors into the secured plaza, the tens of thousands of onlookers snaked in a dense line along the sidewalk around six blocks of closed streets, down toward the Inner Harbor, where jumbo screens displayed the events for the thousands who could not enter. Many had been waiting since before noon to hear the speech scheduled for 4:15 p.m.

Although the speech was formally announced only days ago, dozens of vendors paraded from one end of the line to the other, selling Obama-themed hats, buttons, posters, calendars, and T-shirts. One man made his way through the crowd, hawking "Obama Oil," which was met with laughter on the chilly sidewalk. Hand warmers were five dollars for a pair.

The most telling hawker stopped and posed for a pedestrian photographer, beaming with impromptu popularity yet seemingly unaware of how apropos he was at the moment. He was selling posters with the simple promise used often during Obama's campaign: Hope, designed by Obey's Shepard Fairey. As the vendor posed in the middle of East Redwood Street, the display in his hand read "Hope Sold Here."

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University Stops Accepting Applications... Three Weeks Early

Joshua Sharp

Posted:  Jan 17th 2009 4:08AM

Filed Under: Small Campus, Big Story, USC, News, Local, Recession on Campus

Budget constraints in California have caused Fresno State University to close its freshman application period -- three weeks earlier than the posted deadline. Per the NYT:

"The first I heard of it was an e-mail yesterday morning, when we got back from vacation," said Ron Howard, a college counselor at Redwood High School in Visalia, Calif., where about a quarter of the senior class applies to Fresno State. ...

"... [W]e hustled, hustled, hustled to get kids to file," said Diana Rodriguez, a counselor at Sunnyside High School in Fresno. "I really feel that if we'd known this Jan. 9 thing was coming, we could have saved more souls of kids who are falling through the cracks, but our district was on break until the 12th, and we had no idea this final slam-bang deadline was coming."

Vivian Franco, director of admissions at Fresno State, defends the unwelcome surprise by citing a disclaimer on the university's website that the application date was subject to change. She says most applicants submit by the priority deadline of Nov. 30.

But Franco's casual and dismissive comments completely disregard what her university means for thousands of young adults in California's Central Valley, where I lived for all of my life before attending college.

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Calif. Voters to Review Gay Marriage Ruling

Joshua Sharp

Posted:  Nov 3rd 2008 3:15PM

Filed Under: US Elections, Politics, USC, Local

UPDATE: Election Results | Analysis

California voters tomorrow could potentially overrule a state Supreme Court ruling made earlier this year which established a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. Proposition 8 is one of the most contentious ballot measures in recent state history, with both sides pouring in tens of millions of dollars from outside contributors and engaging in vigorous ad wars. Complicating matters, a "Yes" vote means the voter intends to ban gay marriage, while a "No" vote supports allowing gay marriages to continue.

With polling places set to open in less than 24 hours, the "No" vote leads by a slim margin, 44 to 49 percent, and supporters of the ban face an uphill battle to close the gap. With the economy on everyone's mind, swing voters are hardly anxious to continue the divisive "culture wars" of 2004 and earlier, on hot-button social issues like gay marriage. And in a year when Democrats already have a huge edge in fundraising, voter registration, and volunteer activism, there is a lot more grassroots momentum behind the "No on 8" campaign in these final days. Opponents of Prop 8 are simply more motivated.

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Calif. Couples Now "Bride" and "Groom" Once More

Joshua Sharp

Posted:  Oct 6th 2008 11:48PM

Filed Under: Politics, USC, News, Local

None of this "Party A, Party B" nonsense.

Following a lawsuit filing last week, California officials are changing state marriage licenses once more to bring such 'antiquated' terms as Bride and Groom back into legal documents. After the California Supreme Court struck down the state's ban on gay marriage in a 4-3 decision earlier this year, officials were ordered to institute gender-neutral language on state marriage documents. The result was a rather ambiguous -- and strangely hierarchical -- classification: Party A and Party B.

That didn't sit well with Rachel Bird and Gideon Codding of Roseville, California, who made headlines last week by suing to be legally recognized as bride and groom. According to the Sacramento Bee: "Because the couple have refused to sign and file the new marriage license form, their union isn't recognized by the state. Without a state license, Bird has been unable to use Codding's medical benefits or change her name."

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Fisher Reacts

Megan Baker

Posted:  Oct 3rd 2008 12:02AM

Filed Under: US Elections, St. John Fisher College, Local

So, it's over. Now's the time to see what people think.

I watched the debate with a group of 15 or so communications/journalism students and everyone was on the same page. Biden is the man.

Under the circumstances, Palin didn't do too badly. It was easy to feel sorry for her knowing that everyone was just sitting around to dissect every word she said, which they did. A few of the statements that caught attention were:

"I'm an outsider." In reaction, senior Kyle Hayes said, "Wow, she basically just admitted she is inexperienced. Way to go, babe."

Palin talking about her "diverse" family and friends (apparently she has one lesbian friend...who knew?) Junior Amanda Nasso said, " I wouldn't consider Palin a friend. What kind of friend openly says they don't want you to have the same rights granted to you? And she is using that friend as an example, it's not right."

The debate drew quite a bit of laughter from the group, especially at the beginning when the mediator said, quite bluntly, that Palin was not answering the questions.

"She just kind of talked around everything," junior Sarah Jones said. "I'm not sure if she actually answered any of the questions."

It will be interesting to see what the general American public thinks of the debate. From what has been on the news so far, it was a victory for both ends. Palin didn't completely embarrass herself and Biden didn't come off as a bully. Students were concerned that all they seemed to talk about was voting records, however.

"All they talked about was what they had voted for in the past. That stuff doesn't matter much anymore. I wanted to know what they plan on doing for the future, and it didn't really come across," senior Susan Pedrotti said.

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Termed-Out Democrat Endorses Republican Replacement

Joshua Sharp

Posted:  Sep 20th 2008 6:49PM

Filed Under: Politics, Breaking News, USC, Local

California Democrat Nicole Parra said yesterday she will endorse her former Republican rival, former California Highway Patrol officer Danny Gilmore, to replace her in the State Assembly, infuriating her party colleagues once again as they try to increase the Democratic Party's stranglehold on the state legislature (which just passed the state budget a record 81 days overdue after months of partisan gridlock). Gilmore was Parra's opponent in her 2006 re-election campaign. Term limits prevent Parra from running for re-election again.

Parra was previously profiled on this page for standing up to her party's Speaker of the Assembly. She abstained on a budget vote to highlight the need for a long-term water supply solution in her agriculture-dependent district, and Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, responded by moving Parra's office out of the State Capitol. (Disclosure: I interned in Parra's district office in summer 2006, having lived in the area for 18 years.)

It's safe to say Parra has never been securely in the Democratic Party's pocket. But she attracted Democratic and Republican voters to win three terms, and so the party kept supporting -- through money and volunteers -- her re-election bids. One can only imagine how happy they were with yesterday's announcement.

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