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Pope Benedict on BBC & Other XMas News

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Our friend Austen Iveriegh has a great post about the Pope's recording one of BBC's "Thought for the Day" broadcasts and the publicity it has generated.

As well, here in New England, we heard news reports about Cardinal Sean O'Malley's Christmas message on several radio channels and it made two of the three local newspapers here in Northeast Connecticut, which isn't even in the Province of Boston. The cardinal's own blog details some of his preparation for the great feast, such as visiting the state women's penitentiary and spending time with all of the women in solitary confinement. O'Malley is too conservative for some and too permissive for others, but there is no denying that he takes the gospel message to heart and spends his time bringing good news to the poor and liberation to those in captivity.

First Lady Joins President for Christmas Message

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What was once the weekly radio address is now a weekly video address, delivered every Saturday by the President. This Saturday, of course, is also Christmas and so the First Lady joined the President to send special greetings to the troops and to offer ideas for the rest of us on what we can do to help our troops and their families at this time of year when they are unable to enjoy the thing we most enjoy about the holiday, time with our loved one.
You can watch the video message here.

How To Alienate Latinos

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As mentioned, the new census data shows that Latinos continue to be the fastest growing demographic in the country, even though immigration has slowed with the downturn in the economy. But, Republicans, terrified of the anti-immigrant - and often downright racist - rhetoric of the Tea Party ringing in their ears, seem determined to alienate this fastest growing demographic. First they filibustered the DREAM Act, not letting it even come up for a vote. Now, several GOP hopefuls are dodging an appearance at a Hispanic Leadership Conference forum, a forum run by Latino Republicans!
Conversely, the President got quite emotional yesterday at his press conference when he described his disappointment about the failure to pass the DREAM Act. I heard the comments on the radio this morning driving up here to Connecticut, and you could hear the emotion come through on the radio.

Kudos to Sen. Richard Lugar

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Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana has proven himself to be that increasingly rare breed in Washington, a Republican willing to stand up for what he believes in. He was one of the few Republicans to support the DREAM Act, repudiating a deal Republican senators struck at the beginning of the Congress to always support their leadership on procedural votes.

Yesterday, Lugar’s long-term expertise in foreign affairs, and on the issues of nuclear weapons and proliferation specifically, provided sufficient intellectual justification (and political cover) for several Republicans to support the START Treaty which was happily ratified.

In the current political climate, these acts of political courage not only required Lugar to stand up to his party’s leadership, it required that he risk angering the Tea Party movement which has shown its ability to knock of veteran Washington lawmakers in favor of extremist candidates in GOP primaries. (Think Delaware, Alaska and Utah.) As mentioned yesterday, the Tea Party has not spoken out much on foreign affairs, but its candidates have been strongly anti-immigrant, making Lugar’s support for the DREAM Act all the more admirable.

Bishop Olmsted's Reckless Decision

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The holidays are always a difficult time for those whose loved ones are desperately ill. In addition to all the usual hustle and bustle of the holiday season, the need to finish up at work before the holiday, arranging travel plans, getting all the special foods for the feast and wrapping the presents and decorating the tree, the family of an ill person has as their central focus their ailing loved one.

Re-Districting: Mixed News

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At first blush, the census numbers bode ill for the Democrats. Traditionally Republican states like Texas, which picked up four congressional seats, and Arizona, Georgia, Utah and South Carolina, all of which gained a single new seat, showed significant growth, and Democratic leaning states like Massachusetts and Illinois lost a seat and New York lost two.
But, much of the growth in Texas, Nevada, Arizona and Florida comes from Latinos who tend to vote Democratic, a trend that will only increase if the GOP sustains its harsh anti-immigrant stance and nominates anti-immigrant bigots like Sharron Angle. Indeed, according to the Cook Report, of Texas's four new seats, two are expected to go to Democrats and two to Republicans. The biggest, most significant, trend in the next decade will be the "purplization" of Texas. In twenty years it will be blue. Whatever short term gains the GOP might reap will be outweighed in the long-term gains of Democrats unless the GOP comes to reason on immigration. And, that is about as likely as Bishop Olmsted inviting the administrators of St. Joseph's Hospital to his Christmas party.

USA: 1; Mitch McConnell: 0

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Sixty-seven senators voted to invoke closure on the START Treaty yesterday, the same number needed to ratify the agreement that will reduce nuclear warheads and guarantee a restoration of inspections of Russian missile sites.

The vote is a victory for common sense in the conduct of foreign affairs and a defeat for the "Never give a win to Obama no matter what" stance adopted by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Episcopal Failure in Phoenix

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Bishop Thomas Olmsted has ordered St. Joseph Hospital to cease calling itself Catholic because it failed to abide by a series of ultimatums he issued previously. As well, the hospital chapel will no longer be able to reserve the Blessed Sacrament on premise nor hold Masses there.

I wrote about this mess earlier this week. I am glad to see that at least today the bishop mentioned God and not just canon law.

The decision comes after negotiations between Bishop Olmsted and Catholic Healthcare West, which runs the hospital in question. None of us knows what went on in those negotiations but if the bishop's public statements are any guide, it was less of a discussion than an interrogation.

We know something else about the entire sad episode. It represents a failure on Olmsted's part of the highest order. When discussions like these end up being conducted by press conference and in the pages of the local newspaper, the local bishop has failed to lead.

Giving ultimatums is not leadership. Giving ultimatums is what those who have failed to lead resort to in desperation.

UConn Set To Break Record

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It is not often that you wake up knowing that news will be made that day, but tonight we know news will be made. The UConn women's basketball team is set to break the all-time record for most consecutive wins by an NCAA team in any sport. The record is currently held by the UCLA men's basketball team during the years of John Wooden.

In Connecticut, you will see signs that read "Geno is God" a reference to the UConn coach, Geno Auriemma. You will discover thousands of people attending women's basketball games. The Women Huskies are the talk and toast of the Nutmeg State. It is quite remarkable.

It is also quite new. If you do not think government has the power to change the life of a culture, recall that Title IX, which required equal funding for women's athletics at colleges and universities, was only passed in 1972. That is within our lifetime, a large and increasingly wide avenue for women's equality has opened up, providing young women with opportunities and life lessons that had previously been reserved for men.

One more thing. If you have never watched a game of UConn women's basketball, be prepared. They are really, really good.

Silk on Military Chaplains after DADT

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The always wise and balanced Mark Silk has a good post that explains how the military chaplains should show the same sense of balance in a military without DADT as the First Amendment jurisprudence would commend.

Of course, we all have our problems with First Amendment jurisprudence which resembles goulash, but Silk is right to resist the more extreme interpretations of what the repeal of DADT does and does not mean for military chaplains.

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April 11-24, 2014

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