Shouting 'Cross the Potomac

barstool philosopher,
backseat driver
but never a Monday morning quarterback

adrag1 at [until the QP server gets fixed]
willv at


Virginia Pundit Watch Will Vehrs' Weekly Column at Bacon's Rebellion

DC Metro Blog Map

UVA Center for Politics and Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball Predictions 2002


Spinsanity - Countering rhetoric with reason


On the Third Hand
A blog by a proud member of the Bellicose Women's Brigade


Newsrack Blog

Mark A. Kilmer's Political Annotation

A Nickles Worth of Free Advice

Where HipHop and Libertarianism meet

Note To Self
"Crash"'s way kewl blog

The Rallying Point

Mind Over What Matters

MaxSpeak Weblog


Off the Kuff

What She Really Thinks

Unqualified Offerings

Talking Points Memo


Matt Welch


the talking dog

Cornfield Commentary

Cooped Up

The Rittenhouse Review

The Lefty Directory

Sneaking Suspicions

Derek Crane

Common Sense and Wonder

Jim Miller on Politics

Croooow Blog: Rantings and ravings on the news of the day.

Ipse Dixit

The Road to Surfdom

Jason Rylander


Smythe's World

Weblog Central



War Liberal

Andrew Sullivan

The Volokh Conspiracy

Counterspin Central
perfunctory links(We think it's "the Mother of links pages for news and pundit junkies" - eds)

Independent Gay Forum
Independent Gay Forum

Town Hall: Conservative News and Information - The Conservative Movement Starts Here

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Saturday, March 23, 2002

For The Love of God,
It's Not A SEX Scandal!

Tony Adragna
Be honest -- would we be outraged at priests having sex if it didn't involve homosexuals and underage boys? There are alot of people asserting that there is no sex problem other than gay sex with underage boys. So, they claim, my question is a red herring.

Let's examine the assertion, but first a bit of instruction on the "Vow of Celibacy".

It's been awhile since I attended an ordination, so I took a few minutes to review the Rite of Ordination to the Order of The Priesthood. It might surprise non-Catholics, and Catholics, to learn that secular (diocesan) priests do not make a "vow of celibacy" -- in fact, they don't make any vows at all. The closest a diocesan priest gets to making a vow is the "Promise of Obedience" to the Bishop. Celibacy isn't even mentioned in the rite.

The misunderstanding arises from confusing celibacy with chastity. Chastity explicitly means "abstinence from sex", but celibacy, while getting at the same result, is slightly different. The origin of celibate is the Latin caelebs, meaning "unmarried" (and, we must go back to the Latin denotation because Latin is the language of the Church). In effect there's no distinction because sex outside of marriage is sinful. So, for a diocesan priest to be sexually active is a sin, but it doesn't involve the breaking of a vow.

Now, I'm not attempting to rationalize away the problem of sexually active priests, especially where the activity is abusive. This is, however, a rationalization that many imperfect men -- after all, priests are human -- use in excusing their own sexual activity. And there's alot of it going on, even among heterosexual priests. I don't have any statistical evidence, only anecdotes from my own experience (as a gay Catholic and former seminarian), but the numbers aren't really important. Look, we know that there are sexually active priests, and that some of those priests are gay. But, the only time we get upset is when the sex is between between gay priests and underage boys, recognizing something wrong with those relationships.

I'm certainly not saying that we should be less outraged simply becuase we don't hear similar outrage over consensual sex -- whether gay or straight -- between priests and adults. Our outrage is very correct. But please, let's be clear about the conduct which has gotten us enraged -- it's the abusive nature of the relationships. It's an abuse scandal, not a sex scandal.

I need to speak in defense, partially, of the heirarchy. Part of the reason why this problem has persisted is that the Church herself is impeded -- in no small measure by the Church's own rules -- in effectively dealing with the problem. Unless an accuser can present physical evidence, or a priest actually admits to the conduct, the heirarchy is left with "he said v. he said." Even if the priest admits the conduct, if the admission comes under the "seal", then the heirarchy is precluded from getting at the truth. There are competing interests in fairness to both the young parishoner and the accused priest. The interest in fairness to the accused priest is highlited by the instances when priests have been falsely accused only to have the accusations recanted after damage is done.

But, there's no excuse for the shameful conduct of the Church in those instances when the truth was known, yet the heirarchy opted to cover-up, browbeat families, and continue priests in positions where they still presented danger to young parishoners.

There's alot of going after the usual suspects, typified by the rantings of Ann Coulter and Rod Dreher. There's also much bashing of celibacy and the all male priesthood, typified by Andrew Sullivan's comments. But both attempts to introduce sex and sexuality as culprits cloud what this scandal is really all about -- abusive relationships, impediments to effective action, and shameful protectionism.

[n.b.: Yes, I did talk about "sex and sexuality" in an earlier post on this topic, but the subject of my criticism was "the Catholic Church’s teachings" to the extent that the teachings lead to an ineffective address to the issues.]

QP Saturday

Will Vehrs
Great game last night between Oregon and Texas. I don't think Oregon has enough to get by Kansas tomorrow, however. Maryland looks strong and should cruise by Connecticut. I like Missouri to upset Oklahoma and much as I like Cinderella Kent State, I have to go with Indiana. I wouldn't mind being wrong, though.

Enough delaying ... the Ipse Dixit caption contest results are in and a non-Refugee has won. It looks as if he took one of my entry ideas and condensed it into something better, but I'm not bitter ... The Refuge was well represented. "Rags" had an entry that demonstrated her superb fashion sense; Dan Dickinson overcame technological problems to enter twice; and Ray Eckhardt had a good one, too. I actually liked John Cole's entry best. JulieC, where were you?

Today I'm working at the Swift Creek Elementary Fun Fair. I'll be in charge of the pirate ship. Wish me luck.

Friday, March 22, 2002

Two Minute Drill

Will Vehrs
Perhaps, in light of the exciting Indiana and Kent State NCAA tournament wins last night, this excruciating feature should be renamed "Tipped Ball Drill" or "Shot Clock Off."

Taking Refuge Sometimes I think the role of "Shouting 'Cross the Potomac" is just to get our readers fired up enough to post in "The Refuge." I hope everyone is checking out the outstanding thread there on the Catholic Church's pedophilia scandal, led by our theologian-in-residence, Tony Adragna.

On the Ridge There's a thoughtful column by Richard Cohen today on the New York City nuclear bomb threat that the Feds did not convey to New York officials. Senators Clinton and Schumer criticized the lack of notice, but to his credit, Cohen, who recognizes that it would have caused widespread panic, looks deeper:

So I went back to the politicians and asked what they would have done. Clinton didn't return my phone call, but Schumer did. He was, as usual, thoughtful. His answer, if I may paraphrase it, is that there is no answer. The public has a right to be informed. Government has an obligation to avoid a panic. "There's got to be a balance," Schumer said. I paraphrase again: God only knows what it is.

Cohen also has this to say about Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge:

I pity Tom Ridge. His new color-coded warning system is easy to ridicule, but it's hard to envision a better one. It's harder yet -- maybe impossible -- to come up with a way to know when a panic can be risked.

Tom Ridge is the favorite whipping boy of the blog set. I wish Ridge could be a "man on horseback," riding through the bureaucracy and cutting through idiotic rules, regulations and practices with a sharp sword. Unfortunately, the bureaucratic beast and the ever-critical media make it tough to take decisive action. It's almost impossible to absolutely control a wayward airport screener in Chicago from Washington, or to root out incompetence at an INS desk from the White House. I think Ridge is making slow, steady progress and I think that's the most we can hope for, although I continue to monitor the criticism of him for ideas that are workable within the complex framework involved in what we have been calling (for all of six months), "homeland security."

The Vicar of Bellicosity Speaks Charles Krauthammer rips through all the stages that opposition to the War on Terror has taken. Of criticism that there is no "exit strategy," he writes:

What possible exit strategy can you have against an enemy whose ordinary soldier signs up with the following oath (found among the documents captured from al Qaeda in Afghanistan): "I state in the presence of God that I will slaughter infidels for my entire life"? There is only one exit strategy in fighting such a man. He dies or you die. No other exit.

Krauthammer reserves special scorn for Robert Kuttner's comment, "George W. Bush in his own way is as frightening as al Qaeda. . . . Terrorism, unfortunately, is all too real. But so is one's terror of the Bush presidency."

Noting approval of Bush's conduct of the war is in the 80th percentile, he writes acidly:

Calling for protest to "reclaim our own democracy," the left waits, forlorn and flailing, for the American "street" to rise. Meanwhile, the street, sporting American flags on its SUVs, carries on, inexplicably less frightened by George W. Bush than by Osama bin Laden.

Next Steps in Campaign Finance Reform It's "obvious" that the campaign finance reform bill on the way to the President is consititutional, according to E. J. Dionne, Jr. Now legislators can work on the next steps:

A tax credit for political donations would be a good way to encourage small contributions. What if every citizen knew he or she could give $50 to a candidate or political group and get the money back against income or payroll taxes? Politicians and political organizations would then have a major incentive to go after small money and not just the big checks. This could democratize the fundraising.

Free or much cheaper television time for candidates -- the cost to local stations might be covered through tax breaks -- could drastically reduce the need for big fundraising, as would free or cheaper mail. And McCain-Feingold requires a study of the "Clean Money" initiatives, now operating in Arizona and Maine, that give candidates financial incentives to opt out of the money chase.

Arguing over those measures should occupy us while clever consultants develop their strategy to circumvent McCain-Feingold.

The Bite of Justice I was very satisfied with the jury verdict in the San Francisco dog-mauling murder case. The dog owners' total irresponsiblility caused a terrible tragedy. I'm not one to desire that national attention be drawn to sensational crimes, but I was surprised that the case was not more widely publicized. I can't help but wonder, with the connection of the plaintiffs to prison white supremacists, if a Texas address, instead of a San Francisco address, wouldn't have increased the attention and sensationalism.

Thursday, March 21, 2002

Submitted For Your Approval

Tony Adragna
Blog Watch II is back. Apologies to Blog Watch fans, but I may not file entries on a nightly basis, though I'll try. Depends on how much mental energy I put into the essay fromat here while Will is on his much needed sabatical.

My Manifesto

Tony Adragna
Actually, 'tis not mine own writing, but Mac "War Liberal" Thomason did such a grand eloquent job of 'splainin' how I too think that I don't need to write my own manifesto, I'll just sign on to his.

Not all of us liberals are wimpy!

Iraq: Yes We Should!

Tony Adragna
Should we attempt dealing with the Iraq Problem now or later is a question on which my own mind is fully open (though, I lean toward sooner than later). But, that we must eventually face down (literally) Saddam Hussein can only be denied by the most naïve Saddam apologists and the most ideological isolationists. I make that assertion based on an examination which presents prima facie that the apologists argument is absurd and the isolationists argument – while presenting valid questions – is moot.

The apologists and isolationists have argued before last September 11 that our foreign policy on Iraq was wrong, and have argued since that nothing has changed. They’re wrong on the former, but all too correct on the latter.

There has been a tendency in rhetoric – from both opponents and proponents – to tie future military action against Iraq to the attack on the United States. It is unfortunate that proponents have wrapped the argument for military action against Iraq in the post September 11 verbiage of moral outrage, because it gives appearance that there was no reason to be morally outraged, and no justification for action, prior to the attacks. I assert that sufficient justification exists solely on the evidence of how dangerous the Iraqi regime has proven itself to be. That evidentiary record spans the totality of Saddam Hussein’s adult life, but is most especially relevant from the point of his ascendancy to present.

The naifs and liars (collectively: apologists) assert that the Iraqi regime isn’t the problem. Instead, Saddam is presented as a defender of his people standing up to western arrogance and U.S. hegemony. The presentation continues with a recitation of specific charges of U.S. responsibility for innocent civilian deaths – especially the deaths of children – resulting from use of military force during and since the Gulf War. Don’t worry about debunking specific charges, because there’s a fallback position: U.S. foreign policy is the root of all evil – I mean, Iraqi children have been dying because of the sanctions, right?

Wrong and wrong! Saddam Hussein is infinitely more concerned with defending his own hide and holding on to the reins of power than with defending his countrymen. This guy would rather kill members of his family than relinquish any control over what he views as a personal empire. OK, I realize that it’s a non sequitur – it doesn’t follow that if he would kill people who pose a direct threat to his power, then he’ll also kill innocent civilians. However, the former isn’t offered as proof, but merely as evidence of one type of behavior that might give an insight. If we want proof that Saddam cares nothing about innocent civilians, then I’ll offer two examples:
(1)Diversion of Funds from oil sales: The Iraqi argument that the existing program is insufficient to meet the needs of Iraqi civilians might get more traction if Saddam had not been using funds from non compliant oil sales to enrich himself, build palaces, reconstitute conventional Iraqi forces, and pursue WMD projects.

(2) The use of chemical weapons against civilians during the Iran-Iraq war.
Do we need any more proof that the Iraqi dictator is nothing more than a thug who uses violence against innocents in the pursuit of his personal agenda?

Why should we care? So what if he’s a thug? He doesn’t directly threaten us, so how do we justify intervening in Iraq? Those are questions presented by isolationists, and, unlike the rantings of the naifs and liars, these questions need to be taken seriously. Truth is that there are valid examples of U.S. intervention doing more harm than good. It is rather conveniently unmentioned by the proponents of bringing down Saddam – probably out of fear that the observation might be misconstrued – that the West shares some portion of responsibility for the instability that exists in nations that were once colonies, then clients, then left to fend for themselves when the Western Powers lost interest.

I respond to the isolationists that their argument isn’t one that precludes intervention, but (a) merely limits intervention to cases where we have interests, and (b) instructs that we should act in ways that mitigate unintended consequences while serving our interest. I think that we do have interests in Iraq – both in the cause of fighting terrorism, and in dealing with Iraq’s WMD program – that justify our intervention. There’s also an interest in avoiding the costs of inaction – costs which 9/11 made all too clear.

But, why military action, and why must Saddam go? Might military action do more harm than good, and might not a successor to Saddam be even worse? I can’t definitively answer the second set of questions – I’m no crystal gazer.

But, I can answer the first set!

It must be military action because thugs don’t respond to anything other than a good thrashing. We’ve tried diplomacy, sanctions (in several iterations), inspections (ditto), punitive airstrikes, etc., and this Saddam persists in his intransigence. The only thing we haven’t tried is the one thing that would have succeeded had Gen. Schwarzkopf not been checked by his superiors.

Those who claim that the goal ought to be merely forcing the resumption of inspections – by force of arms if need be – and assert that the matter of the regime is irrelevant, fail to recognize that Saddam must go because he is the thug who necessitates military action.

Related reading: Alex Knapp posts an item in which he uses the word "thugocracy" - very apt term that I will especially use to describe Saddam's Iraq. The Iraqi regime is run on no principle other than ensuring the survival of Saddam - all political ideologies, from theism to liberalism and socialism, have been quashed as threats to personal rule.

Wednesday, March 20, 2002

Iraq: Should We?

Tony Adragna
I'll give a full argument later, but today's (3/19/2002) Best of the Web pointed to a Salon interview with Scott Ritter, and that reminded me of a Think Tank show from Jan 10, 2002 on which Mister Ritter was a guest. After watching the show I commented:
Scott Ritter (remember the name?) was on Ben Wattenberg's show this weekend arguing that (a)at the time he didn't believe there was any truth to the intelligence reports about the missing 5-10% of Iraq's stockpile, and (b) the end of inspections was the fault of the U.S. for calling him home. Whadda naif...
Read the transcript, it's very enlightening -- Mister Ritter exposes himself as much worse than a naif -- I say he's a liar, but you judge for yourself...

Another former Marine who has brought discredit upon himself and the Naval Service. If anyone plans on citing Mister Ritter's testimony as relevant, save yourself some time and concede the argument.

Tuesday, March 19, 2002

Sins Of Omission

Tony Adragna
Glenn Reynolds decided that he’s going to drop the Pedophile Priest topic, but he’s asked some questions that I’ll take a stab at answering.

I agree with Glenn that the problem oughtn’t be wholly classified as pedophilia, the characteristics of which don’t really fit all of the cases. But – this may be what Glenn is missing – even if the case doesn’t involve what is properly labeled pedophilia, the relationship is still abusive in the same way that relationships between superiors and subordinates may be abusive, and the psychological affect on the minor may be severe. At law it may simply be “underage sex”, but law also makes it a crime on certain conditions for an adult to engage in even consensual sex with minors. So, we still have a legal problem even where there is no psychological problem.

In examining the truth of the assertion “that there are a lot of gay priests who aren't pedophiles, but who are just having opportunistic sex with teenage boys”, Glenn asks:
One interesting datum would be to see how many heterosexual priests are having opportunistic sex with teenage girls. I suspect that this number is nontrivial, but that such events simply don't generate the same degree of outrage.
The problem is that there’s no good data on the incidence of priests engaging in opportunistic sex with either boys or girls. Much worse than that, there exists no good data on sex of any type between priests and minors. Because we lack that kind of data, we can’t even know the total scope of the problem and how many cases have been quietly dealt with.

Is the problem worse in the Catholic Church than it is in other churches? Without the data we can’t do a comparison. I suspect, though, that the number of offenders in the Catholic priesthood is representative of society as a whole, including members of clergy in other faiths. But, I also suspect that the number of offenses attributable to members of the Catholic clergy is significantly higher than in other faiths. That’s a reasonable suspicion considering the evidence which suggests that Catholic priests have tended to be left in positions where the “opportunity” is still present and very little, if any, punitive action is taken. And that’s why the moral outrage.

Certainly much of that moral outrage is misdirected toward two groups of people who are viewed as outside the sexual “norm” – gay priests, and the celibate priesthood in general (some have advanced an argument that removing the restriction would solve the problem). The problem with the “gay priest” theory is that it recognizes neither that gay priests can be just as committed to celibacy (too many people just assume that homosexuals can’t keep their hands to themselves), nor that heterosexuals may also engage in opportunistic same-sex relationships. Lifting the requirement to lead a celibate lifestyle would also do nothing to address the problem because (a) in the case of pedophiles celibacy isn’t the problem, and (b) we see cases of opportunistic sex and pedophilia amongst married clergy.

Glenn is absolutely correct that the Catholic Church views the problem of opportunistic sex between gay priests and minors as a bigger problem simply because gay sex – even between consenting adults – is immoral per se. The solution to the church’s “sexual” problems lies in having an open discussion and reexamination of the Catholic Church’s teachings on human sex & sexuality (they’re related, but not the same) with the ultimate goal of changing both the way that “formation” occurs on the path toward vocation (dealing with sexuality in the seminary), and the way that the issue is handled in a pastoral setting. Does my solution get us to a priesthood that’s free of pedophiles and abusive adults?

No, I’ll concede that it doesn’t, but it does at least free us from what’s most likely the reason for the disgraceful conduct on the part of the Catholic hierarchy: the hierarchy’s own sexual insecurity

Two Minute Drill

Will Vehrs
Trite observations from a no-show at the Thomas Nephew-hosted Washington, DC Blogfest:

Voters Are Chumps A. Barton Hinkle of the Richmond Times-Dispatch discusses gerrymandering in general and the current Virginia redistricting controversy specifically in an entertaining column today. Here are the excerpts I most enjoyed:

For sheer, shameless, cynical manipulativeness, you can't beat gerrymandering. Both major parties do it. The one in power acts as if its behavior were pure as the Virgin Mary. The victimized party, meanwhile, screams like a howler monkey on Benzedrine.

... politicians treat the voters like chumps. In a democracy, the people are supposed to select their leaders. In the modern computer-assisted age of gerrymandering, incumbents select the voters they want in their districts, and the party in power rigs the system to ensure its own continued dominance.

"If voting made a difference," wrote Thomas Adcock, "they'd outlaw it." It does make a difference - and they're doing their damnedest.

I continue to believe that redistricting, not too much money, is the problem with our political system. If races were more competitive, money would be spent on campaigning, not on war chests for embedded incumbents.

Authentic Al If anyone is wondering why Democratic pols whisper that they wish Al Gore would go away, here's a good reason why:

The former vice president shaved off his beard Sunday in a show of support for his wife's potential run for the Senate. A day later, he stayed whisker-less when she announced she wouldn't run.

``He was doing this as a supportive spouse and before I made the final decision, he shaved his beard,'' said his wife, Tipper Gore. ``I think it's really cute.''

Silly me. I thought that sometime in the future Gore would emerge clean-shaven and just say he was tired of the beard. Instead, like everything else about him, it appears to be calculated and he doesn't really seem to know who he is. In this case, he doesn't even know that his wife won't run and he doesn't have to shave it for her announcement.

Recycling, Environmental Danger Good op-ed by Angela Logomasini in today's Wall Street Journal (subscription required) about recycling in New York. "The bottom line is that most mandated recycling hurts, not helps, the environment." New York City spends $240 ton to recycle, versus $130 a ton to landfill. Much recycled material costs more than that--it's recycled but isn't "pure" enough to be used, so it gets landfilled. Logomasini visited a landfill here in Virginia and found a clean, modern facility that finances an entire county government--and most people don't even know it's there.

Monday, March 18, 2002

They Met In A Nuke Free Zone…

Tony Adragna
…And plotted the takeover of the world!

Well, we had the brainpower at the table to do it, and I even tried leading the conversation in that direction by proposing one of my favourite plans – that annexation of Anglophone Canada – but, alas, people wanted to talk about other things.

I expected to be one of the first arrivals, so as I approached Taliano's I wasn’t surprised to be recognized by Thomas Nephew just as he was arriving. What did we do while waiting for everyone else to arrive? We chit-chatted over appetizers and a good award winning brew -- I’m glad that I didn’t try the Blue Ridge Amber when it was originaly reviewed, but it’s definitely very drinkable now.

Dave Teper was next to arrive. I envy Dave – I don’t know if I could exhibit the self-restraint that he has: I think I would’ve either blown up or gave in. Dave is also a much better listener than most non hard of hearing people that I know – seems ironic, but it isn’t really.

Corsair the Rational Pirate is much too modest, and does me too much honor including me in a group described as “really really smart.” The really really smart people are Mr. & Mrs.Unqualified Offerings (who ordered mushroom pizza because Jim is picky), that guy down the road from me (we still need to get together for waffles), Eve Tushnet, Dave, Thomas (who prefers a hoppier beer, but likes buffalo wings and pepperoni pizza), and Justin Slotman. I’m just a knucklehead along to stir the pot, and I think they were all onto me (thanks for your thoughts on the “%” question, Jim – the argument had been bouncing around my head for awhile, and one’s own head isn’t the best place to test an argument when one has a dog in the race).

There was even a bit of nostalgia (for some of us) in re Taliano’s and Tastee Diner (I must admit – soon as I got home I had a good breakfast type fry up).

I’d like to comment on our discussions, but I’m still processing…processing…processing…

A little unfinished business: there is no “short story”; the answer to your question, Eve – my political philosophy (a pragmatic liberalism) is mostly informed by the life I’ve lived, rather than a rational study of relevant thought (btw: I’m also a situational relativist); and, I’d like to reopen discussion on the timing of out next get together – three months is too long to stay away from y’all.

Sunday, March 17, 2002

Girl Scout Cookies Delay TV Punditwatch

Will Vehrs
TV Punditwatch is finally up; little Brownie daughters who sold beaucoup Girl Scout cookies refuse to let Dad's blogging duties interfere with distribution of their product.

Tim Russert is self-indulgent this week (what else is new?) and Bob Schieffer offers up a disguised but shameless plug for tonight's 60 Minutes. It's all in there.