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The Iraq War

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Several news stories, both in print and on television, have discussed the “end of the Iraq War.” A ceremony yesterday at Baghdad’s airport marked the conclusion of the war, at which Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta presided.

Of course, the war is not really over. It is not even clear that U.S. involvement is at an end. True, combat troops left last year. And troops engaged in training activities will leave now. But, the Pentagon still has plenty of contractors on the ground to protect the sprawling U.S. embassy and American interests. They contractors do not operate with the immunity our troops had, and the reason our troops are leaving now rather than later is because the U.S. and Iraqi governments failed to reach agreement about extending that immunity.

Gingrich's Real Problem

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Opposition researchers love someone like Newt Gingrich. His long career is filled with outrageous statements and deeds. But, people are less inclined to judge someone based on events from long ago when there is no contemporary evidence of similar misdeeds. Yes, Gingrich was the first Speaker to have to shell out $300,000 in fines on account of an ethics violation that was rendered by a large bipartisan majority. But, that was a long time ago.

Dissent on Immigration

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The United States’ Hispanic/Latino bishops issued a letter to all immigrants this week. And, I can see from the combox that some readers took umbrage at my post about former Sen. Rick Santorum dissenting from Church teaching on the issue, especially my statement that “to be clear, the reason the Church defends immigrants is the exact same reason the Church defends the unborn: They are human beings, children of God, who, as the GOP candidates like to remind us, receive their rights from God not from the government.” Here is what we used to call a “teaching moment.”

Sacred Architecture Today

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Over at Huff Post, they have an interesting slide show of modern churches, mosques and synagogues.

The question for readers: Do you think these buildings are beautiful? Some clearly show the influence of modern thinkers like Mircea Eliade. Some do a masterful job of integrating the structure with the natural space surrounding it. And, of course, the most obvious deficiency of these buildings is no fault of the architect: a church needs time to soften, to be filled with prayers and with some of the kitsch that all heartfelt religions create and with the soot from burning candles and incense. Over all, I like most of them. What do you think?

God, and C-Span, Are Always Watching

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Over at Swampland, Time magazine's blog, Adam Sorenson looks at how video clips are changing the face of campaigns. As my mother explained to me when she taught me about the importance of doing good and not bad, even when no one is watching, God is always watching. And now, as Sorenson points out and countless candidates have discovered to the great discomfort, C-Span or someone else with a video camera is always watching too.

As for Romney's taped comments about being a "progressive," which are the proximate cause of Sorenson's blog, what to say except that Mitt Romney has proven yet again that he will say almost anything to please his interlocutor, that he is a man with a highly fungible core, and that what he really, really cares about is the camera angle.

Dissent from Santorum

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Rick Santorum has made it official: He dissents from the teaching of the Church on the issue of immigration. And, while Santorum mentions the U.S. bishops, the Church's unequivocal teaching on immigration has also been put forward, repeatedly, by Pope Benedict XVI.

And, to be clear, the reason the Church defends immigrants is the exact same reason the Church defends the unborn: They are human beings, children of God, who, as the GOP candidates like to remind us, receive their rights from God not from the government.

Voter Restrictions

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Attorney General Eric Holder, in a speech at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library in Austin yesterday, called attention to the recent spate of state laws that make it more difficult to vote, requiring government issued ID’s, not permitting government issued ID’s if those ID’s are college ID’s at a state university, limiting early voting and similar measures. Holder was right to speak out against these new laws but as Attorney General, he needs to do more than speak. He needs to act.

There is much I find repugnant about some of the policies adopted by the crop of GOP governors and state legislators after their electoral windfall in 2010, especially the attacks on public service employees and their right to collectively bargain. But, the most appalling initiatives have been these attempts to restrict the franchise. Surely, if there is an issue around which all Americans can agree, it is that our democracy is more likely to prosper if more people engage in the political system.

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