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Saturday, May 11, 2002

A Substitute Amendment

Tony Adragna
After some reflection, I've had to rethink my earlier treatment of "reversion" vis a vis a "sunset amendment". I'm not sure that "sunsetting" individual acts of the legislature would get what "sunset" proponents want, or whether it's even a rational approach. So, I decided to pose the question to the only professor of law I "know":
Problem: I'm having trouble wrapping my mind around the idea of sunsets on individual pieces of legislation. That works where law isn't codified, but isn't most U.S. law codified? I have the impression that most legislation doesn't actually create "new" law, but amends existing code through either repeal, revision, or addition, of provisions (tax acts are a classic example). If my impression is correct, then doesn't simply allowing current provisions to expire mean that law must revert to what is was previously?

Wouldn't it be a better (more rational) treatment to require periodic review of entire code titles? It would be very cumberson due to the size of some code titles -- like Title 26 -- but would hopefully get easier as some code titles -- like Title 26 -- deserve to get purged to near nothingness.
Of course, I could be totally off base, but I suspect there's some merit to my preference for a more comprehensive approach -- we'll see.

n.b.: Bonus point deduction to anybody who dares ask, "What's Title 26?"

The news from Hyattsville, Md...

Tony Adragna
[ I wasn't able to attend this year's "Hyattsville Day Parade" -- haven't been able to get out of the house! I feel strongly about these types of events -- at the local community up to the national venue -- holding them up as in a sense secular "days of obligation." The following was originally posted in Slate's "fray" on May 12, 2001 -- much has changed over the past year, but the sentiment remains unchanged.]
I feel happy today! There's nothing like a good parade to cheer me up - and small town parades are my favorite. So, I decided to go to a parade today.

Every year the City of Hyattsville (my current "hometown"), like so many small towns across the country, celebrates its incorporation. On May 10th, Hyattsville turned 115 years old, and the city's motto, "A Good Place to Work and Live", says it all. It's been that way here since 1886. Hyattsville has also been a "Tree City, USA" for the last 15 years. I would say that we have something to celebrate.

There's nothing like "community spirit". We all cheered our highschool bands (they aren't great, but they're ours). The local dog training club turned out, as did our local politicians. Our Volunteer Fire Department pulled out the antique engine, sans Dalmatian. Last, but not least, the little tykes from the Cub Scout and Girl Scout troops "marched" their hearts out. Best of all, no "national issues" or "politics" were present.

Afterward, funnel cakes were enjoyed by all...

That's today's news from Hyattsville, Md. I don't want to read the papers today, I'll just get depressed all over again...

Children of the Corn

Tony Adragna
Dave Hogberg's Cornfield Commentary premiered last night with an excellent entry - the Des Moines Register backtracks and 180s at the same time.

QP Saturday

Will Vehrs
I used to be a reasonably prolific blogger, posting on a fairly wide variety of topics. Now I've been reduced to churning out captions for an obscure (though strangely compelling) contest, then turning around and writing a weekly feature about it. Occasionally, I'm even credited by the contest "czar" with producing some "scuttlebutt" surrounding the contest.

This week, your old caption hack managed to bring the championship back to The Refuge. I'm not sure how I captured Judge Dodd's whimsy with a feminist theme, but I'll take it. Personally, I liked Dan Dickinson's captions the best, but Ray Eckhardt, "Rags," and JulieC were pretty strong, too. I hate to admit it, but some non-Refuge people did all right. If they'd break down and join up with QP, I'd be able to give them their due.

Tomorrow is Mother's Day. Please remember to do or say something special for all the mothers in your life and then try to keep that spirit year 'round.

Friday, May 10, 2002

A Sunset Over The Capitol

Should all laws include expiration provisions?
Tony Adragna
Each generation is as independent of the one preceding, as that was of all which had gone before. It has then, like them, a right to choose for itself the form of government it believes most promotive of its own happiness; consequently, to accommodate to the circumstances in which it finds itself, that received from its predecessors; and it is for the peace and good of mankind, that a solemn opportunity of doing this every nineteen or twenty years, should be provided by the Constitution; so that it may be handed on, with periodical repairs, from generation to generation, to the end of time, if anything human can so long endure.Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Kercheval, July 12, 1816
The debate over whether or not all laws should include “sunset provisions” – automatic expiration at the end of a fixed time frame, unless a review of current circumstances reveals a need to extend the law – has been engaged since the Founding (the Framers did adopt a form of “sunset” on military appropriations1). Jefferson felt so strongly about this matter of a generation’s “right to direct what is the concern of themselves alone, and to declare the law of that direction” that 30 years after adoption of the Constitution he argued not merely for the automatic expiration of “laws”, but of the Constitution itself.

I agree with Jefferson in principle – that the Constitution allows itself to be amended, and that amendments & other acts of the legislature may be repealed, is no guarantee that the legislature will act when and as needed. I don’t think it extreme to suggest that at a minimum the legislature should be required to periodically review all acts in light of changed circumstances, and “sunsets” are the best way to ensure that requirement is met. Rand Simberg offers a reasonable formulation of an amendment to the Constitution which I think makes perfect sense.

The argument from objectors is twofold – the arbitrariness of time-frame, and the question on what ought happen when a law expires but no new legislation ensues. In one sense the objection to “arbitrariness” has merit – that is, the rule would apply to every piece of legislation regardless of the specific issue the legislation seeks to address and how the legislation is constructed.

On the other hand, we already impose “sunsets” on everything from terms of office to funding of government operations. Indeed, unless a limit is imposed by some specific set of facts it’s going to be arbitrary. It would be better to ask whether the limit is rational, rather than whether it’s arbitrary.

As to what happens when a law expires, we needn’t revert to the law as it was prior to enactment of the current provision. A rational beginning would be the code as it stands at time of a “sunset amendment” ratification. At the set time, either re-enact the current law, re-enact the old law if it suits the need, or don’t replace the provision with anything – if the provision is no longer needed, then what’s the problem?

I won’t go so far as agreeing with Jefferson that the Constitution ought also be subject to “sunset”. Jefferson’s opinion of the folks we know today as Originalists is an opinion that I share, but I believe that the principles understanding the Constitution are broad enough enough to allow “generations” the freedom to carry forward the idea of America in a way that meets contemporary needs, and at the same time so basic that they must be the context in which any American debate is framed.

This context is especially necessary to the efficient workings of our judiciary – without it you can’t rely on precedent. It’s my opinion that Constitutions should be, if anything, very difficult to amend.

I would rather not support a “sunset amendment” and depend instead on legislators to review current legislation as and when needed – if legislatures weren’t so dysfunctional the question would be moot. Compared to the status quo ante, a “sunset amendment” is eminently preferred.

[Update 05/11/02 11:08 PM -- See "A Substitute Amendment" for more on this topic]

Thursday, May 09, 2002

HE's Disappointing Deposition

What did Cardinal Law really say?
Tony Adragna
I read the whole thing, and I'm not at all happy. I understand what's happening -- the lawyers and the Archdiocesan finance council are concerned about mitigating exposure to liability. His Eminence is being managed -- willingly or not is unimportant: "they seem to be coming from a faith in books rather than a faith in God", as JohnMcG noted in an email on a related matter.

The deposition reminds me of Ronald Reagan's testimony in Iran-Contra : I don't recall; I guess I did, I must've, that's my signature; I don't know what they did. It troubles me deeply to see His Eminence answer in a fashion that so clearly attempts to evade both corporate and personal responsibility.

There is corporate responsibility at the Archdiocese -- that's irrefutable. The failure to adequately address the problem -- whether born of compassion toward the sinner (don't discount this rationale), or a deliberate whitewash -- can be blamed on no entity but that which was charged with resolving the problem. If the failing was isolated, I would be inclined to write-off the error and disinclined to believe that the church wasn't doing all that could be done.. But, the problem was systemic: each of the cases being reviewed involved repeated offenses after which the church continued to place those men back into situations where they posed a danger.

There is mitigation in the fact that the church did seek the advice of experts, and relied on that advice. However, that does not absolve responsibility -- Cardinal Law should state unequivocally that his church erred and is responsible. Mitigation ought only be a factor in determining how hard to slap the Archdiocese, not whether it should get slapped,

I said "his church", and that's important. A bishop is The Pastor of a diocese. Everything that happens in a diocese -- even the celebration of daily Eucharist in the most remote parish church -- is done under authority delegated by the bishop. At canon law Cardinal Law is personally responsible for everything that takes place in his diocese, and is charged with supervising the conduct of his priests.

It seems clear to me that Cardinal Law personally failed to properly supervise the administration of his diocese and the conduct of his priests. Remeber that old piece of wisdom from leadership training: you can delegate authority, but you can't delegate responsibility.

I'm having difficulty reconciling His Eminence's answers at the deposition with the idea that he's a "man of faith." Cardinal Law knows in his heart that what happened then and what he's doing now are wrong -- his mind and his mouth need to follow suit.

The Rule of Law

Tony Adragna
Tim Noah is attempting a compilation of Cardinal Law's management secrets, in imitation of "Rumsfeld's Rules". Here's my submission.

From the deposition:
Q. And let me ask you, when you came to Boston, was there something called either locked or secret files?

A. There were confidential files, I presume in the Chancery, but I did not go to those, I did not keep those.
Following Tim's formula, here's the applicable rule:
[Insert number]I never hide anything. I have people who do that for me.

Wednesday, May 08, 2002

The Problem With Talking To Arafat

Or, how not to spoil an opportunity
Tony Adragna
Conventional wisdom among diplomats says that so long as Arafat is leader of the Palestinian people, and despite questions of good faith (or lack thereof), we must deal with him. Some writers even go so far as to counter the charge that Arafat can't be trusted -- the argument goes: Arafat has never been offered a deal worth taking, so there's really no basis for concluding that he can't be trusted. My thoughts follow...

Arafat Can't Be Trusted

Whether or not there's an actual basis for distrusting Arafat (I think there is, even though he has at times acted as if in good faith) is irrelevant. The principles in this dispute are Israel and the Palestinian national movement -- not Israel, the Palestinans and the U.S., the EU, etc. A final resolution to this conflict will involve the two parties sitting across a table and making agreements based on some minimal level of trust. That trust doesn't exist right now, so negotiations are really a forlorn hope

Can Israel get to trust of Arafat? I don't see how -- even if I could make a rational and logical case that distrust is misplaced, nobody in Israel is gonna buy it. There's too much blood (literally) between Israel and Arafat. The Israelis say that Arafat can't be trusted -- that one of the principles believes it can't trust the other is immanently relevant.

For the record: I don't trust Sharon, either. But, I do trust Israeli democracy. I've previously intimated that the idea of Sharon being labeled a "man of peace" is laughable, but that whole line of argument is also irrelevant -- Israel doesn't need a man of peace right now: Israel is fighting a war, and Sharon is man for the job. When the fighting is done, and conditions are set for peace, Israelis will know what to do -- either Sharon will accept that which he's always opposed, or Israelis will bring down his government in favour of somebody amenable to peace.

Personal trust in a democratically elected leader -- Sharon -- of a nation of laws is irrelevant. But, Arafat is the PA -- if you can't trust Arafat, you can't trust the PA.

Arafat's Their Leader, Who Else We Gonna Talk To?

Yes, Arafat is the current leader of the PA -- Hitler was the leader of NAZI Germany, should we have talked to him?

Don't we all know how it was that Arafat got to be be leader of the PA? It definitely wasn't through some democratic process. Arafat owes his position to a hand dealt from a stacked deck: the Arab assertion that the PLO is the only entity which may represent that Palestinian people, Arafat's quashing of opposition parties in the '96 election (he said, "we are proud of our democracy" -- what "democracy"?), and his continued use of the PA police state to maintain his own position (from the same interview, he used "security courts" to prosecute terrorists who were "planning to assassinate the Palestinian leadership" -- (a) he's still doing it, and (b) why couldn't he use the same courts to prosecute terrorists planning to kill Israeli civilians?).

Sounds like Hitler to me.

There's more reason to not talk with Arafat. Talking to Arafat only provides affirmation of his position at the very time that we should be exploiting dissension within the Palestinian parties and disaffection expressed by the Palestinian public. I ask again -- why aren't we looking toward Palestinian moderates - they do exist - rather than engaging with a phony who can't deliver a promiss let alone deliver on a promiss?

There's an excellent opportunity here, thanks to Sharon -- let's not screw the pooch.

If Arafat is the only person we can talk to, then it's best we not talk yet.

Tuesday, May 07, 2002

Redux: What's Wrong With The Gay
Rights Movement?

Tony Adragna
Seems like ages ago that I launched my assault on the radical "Gay Press". What I failed to note at the time is that there does exist an Independent Gay Forum (new link at left, below Slate) populated by rational people.

One item that caught my eye today is Paul Varnell's 'Reason and Liberation.'. Varnell summarizes:
The capacity for actual intellectual give and take, as opposed to mere striking of attitudes, is crucial in defending pro-gay positions to the public. If young gays today often reach adulthood without acquiring much aptitude for arguing pro-gay positions, one reason may be that today's educational institutions fall short on their job of imparting intellectual skills to gays and straights alike
As Varnell makes clear in his summary and in the article, this failing has implications not just for homosexuals & pro-gay positions -- just look at the nonsense coming from anti-globos, "peace" activists, eco-terrorists, et al.

To anybody familiar with the totality of my views on what's wrong with modern education, my agreement ought come as no surprise. I consider myself most fortunate that while my highschool classmates went on to specialties -- if it's not in a manual, don't ask 'em (you know the type) --, what formal education I recieved taught me how to reason (and how to do it within the constraints of logic).

Explore the whole site -- complete with its own blog: Well worth a read.

Program Notes

Tony Adragna
Regular QP visitors -- those of you who have been around since the begin -- have seen quite a bit of change around the place. If you miss our daily dialogue, we apologize, but neither of us really has the time for it right now. We've decided to concentrate on our stengths -- Will's political observations & highlights of the punditry, and my topical essays & nuts 'n bolts commentary.

I could reprise the blog rolling and media criticism of my early blogging days, but everybody else is doing that -- we want to offer something different. That doesn't mean we've stopped watching blogs and reading newspapers -- if something catches out eye, well be on top of it.

Here's a bit of good bloggage -- some relatively new, others have been around awhile -- that I've been meaning to add to our Blogs of Note page:
Man Bites Blog Various Thoughts from a twenty-something somewhat conservative Catholic software engineer - John McG

Unqualified Offerings Jim Henley on war, peace, freedom, fish, more. Conservatism reborn in twisted sisterhood

cut on the bias keeping an eye on the spins and weirdness of media, crime and everyday life - Susanna Cornett

Tres Producers Thoughts on culture, politics, music and stuff by Eric Olsen, Marty Thau and Mike Crooker, who are among other things, producers

Dr. Weevil An Unstable Mixture of Qualified Pedantry and Unqualified Punditry

Media Minded who is Media Minded?

Letter from Gotham Gotham, land of the sample sale, home of this blogslut - Diane E

OxBlog The political rantings of Josh Chafetz, a graduate student in political theory at Oxford, Dan Urman, a graduate student in international relations at Oxford, and Anand Giridharadas, a junior at the University of Michigan spending the year at Oxford.

Wake Me Up on Judgment Day Back in 1972, a baby is born fast asleep. That baby is now a proud child of the 80's, living in a world he no longer understands. So where's that snooze button? - Dave Tepper.

Enter Stage Right - A Journal of Modern Conservatism
That's enough for one night -- more to come soon

Monday, May 06, 2002

Checking the Competition

Will Vehrs
TNR's From the Sunday Shows, written by senior editor Jonathan Cohn, joined Punditwatch in focusing on Senator John Edwards' appearance on Meet the Press. Of course, with Punditwatch, you get more than just one highlight ....

Cohn gives a good analysis of Edwards' performance--the problem he had with Russert's questions and the possible opportunity advocating rescinding the tax cut offers Edwards.

Sunday, May 05, 2002

Checking the Numbers: How Many Priest Have "Defected"?

Tony Adragna
The most often cited number is "20,000", and "Rent A Priest" claims "Close to 25,000 [priest have married] in the USA alone'. "Rent A Priest" has also cited an average of 400 married priests per state in the U.S. -- that would be 20,000.

Problem is, and I just caught on by looking again at a chart linked below, using official data compiled by the Congregation for the Clergy, I only come up with 7307 for the total of "secular" (Diocesan) priests who have "defected" (I trust the data coming out of Rome, where laicizations are authorized, better than I trust the data from a group of dissenting priests who are invalidly administering the sacraments, though I agree with the dissenters argument that priests ought be allowed to marry).

I can reconcile some of the difference in numbers by adding in the number of "regular" (priests in religious orders) priests who have left the priesthood -- if I knew what that number is. I'm very doubtful that this additional number is twice, or more, the number of secualr priests who have "defected", though it's possible. It could be that the cited numbers go back further than 1969. It could also be that the numbers include men who have left the priesthood, but have never been laicized.

Where does the 20,000 figure come from? Until I get a good answer, that number is suspect, and I won't take it as authoritative.

Longing for Joseph

Tony Adragna
Joseph Cardinal Bernadine, that is.

Last night I was listening to Fr. Richard P. McBrien, whose two volume treatise Catholicism was the first item on my booklist in seminary, and I said to myself: Self! Here's a man who "gets it". McBrien made several points which piqued my interest -- not necessarily in the order that I'm going to cover them here -- that I think are worth exploring.

One bit of data that's common to priests involved in the reported (to this point) cases is their age. Why might this point be important? Talk to priests about their formation -- the preparation for priestly life -- experience in seminary, and something becomes very obvious: the older generation of priests never dealt with questions of sex and sexuality during their training, and were never fully prepared for a life of celibacy. McBrien makes the observation that his contemporaries mostly avoided issues of sex and sexuality by simply not developing close personal relationships outside the fraternity of the priesthood -- he admits his own difficulty, which took years to overcome, in developing relationships with women.

The point is important for several reasons: (a) if this were an exercise in "Total Quality Management", I'd say that we just identified a point in the process where improved methodology and better controls ought get us what we want -- better priests --, and (b) since most seminaries now do make a point of guiding candidates through dealing with the tension between being a human called to priestly celibacy (as my own seminary experience evidences ), the problem may not be as bad as amongst Fr. McBrien's contemporaries.

There's evidence to suggest that I'm correct about (b). The evidence isn't just anecdotal -- as with the above observation about the age of the offending priests -- but also statistical: note the decrease in "defections" from the priesthood. In the U.S. (Etats Unis) the number of men leaving the priesthood in 1969 was five times the total that left in 1997. Far from evidencing that "the scandal" is a result of attitudes about sex and Catholic tradition having become relaxed since Vatican II, the evidence actually points in the opposite direction -- we're still dealing with traditional failings that Vatican II was about addressing.

Fr. McBrien also framed the "celibacy" argument in it proper context. The purpose of celibacy adopted by ascetic movements in the early church was to lift the religious above the fray of humanity, but it was not a requirement for priestly life. That it did become a requirement in the Western half of the church is due to the convergence of two events: (a) the rise of priest-acetics into leadership positions; and (b) the search for relief from the burden of claims against the church made by widows and children of deceased priests. The discipline of celibacy was a ready made practical solution to the problem facing the church at that time.

The "lifting above the fray" no longer works as an argument for celibacy. Fr. McBrien reminds us of Vatican II's affirmation that no one vocation is more holy than another -- we're merely called to serve in different ways. It's an admonition to the priest that he is human too, and must face, rather than turn from, what it means to be fully human. But, the clibacy argument, while not truly relevant to the problem of sexual abuse (except to the extent that there is infidelity), does reach to another issue of concern -- declining vocations.

The real crisis facing the U.S. Catholic church is not laicization, but declining vocations. Is it really a crisis? While the number of ordinations in the U.S. for 1997 was less half of the total in 1969, and the U.S. Catholic population has grown by about 20 million (mostly due to immigration), there's reason to believe that the "millenial generation" may reverse the trend toward decline -- if they're encouraged.

What's going on in the Catholic church right now is defintely discouraging. The Bishops point to the need for "priests [to] invite young men to consider the priesthood in a personal, meaningful way..." If I were a young Catholic right now, I wouldn't necessarily be totally turned off by the current scandal, but I would look to leadership for some answers, and I would observe that leadership is doing a miserable job at responding. I would also turn to my parents for guidance, and I would find that they are probably less inclined to encourage a priestly vocation. How do we restore confidence?

That's where the late Cardinal Bernadine comes in. There's an example for the Bishops to follow in Cardinal Bernadine's handling of his own sex abuse scandal: he refused to be managed by his advisers, approached his struggle with humility, and addressed us as our "brother Joseph."

[Source for charts linked above: Congregation for the Clergy]


Bloggdom has commented on the Pope's recent statement in re granting absolution to persistent sinners. JohnMcG, who teaches catechism, addresses the critics in the same way I would -- they're reading too much into the message. There's nothing new in the message.

We can argue over whether the church's teaching on homosexuality ought change, but until it does, if you're gay and make no attempt to abstain, then you are indeed a persitent sinner as far as the church is concerned. In fairness, though, this doesn't let persitent pedophiles and sexual abusers, or serial murders, or any Catholic who refuses to turn away from sin, off the hook -- the message affirms condemnation for them as well.

Of course, I think some people are concerned that Cardinal Ratzinger might go on a witch hunt -- the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was once upon a time the inquisitive Holy Office.

Punditwatch Sunday

Will Vehrs
Just posted, the Pundit King lays down a marker, Cokie Roberts reveals her sanctuary, and the words "horrible" and "terrible" are tossed around--without referring to the Middle East situation. It's all in Punditwatch.