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The crisis of episcopal governance in Philadelphia

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The announcement yesterday that 21 priests in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia were being placed on administrative leave demonstrates conclusively that the U.S. bishops' Dallas norms for the protection of children have failed. Last Sunday, those 21 priests presided at Mass in their parishes. Last Sunday, those 21 priests were in active ministry. The charges against them had been examined before and...what? They were either wrongly exonerated or diocesan officials decided to look the other way.

Keep An Eye on This Story

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Harold Pollack at the New Republic looks at ways Republican governors are trying to change Medicaid, courting disaster for a program that has helped the poor receive adequate medical care for almost fifty years. Keep an eye on this issue: It will show just how ridiculous is the GOP belief in the market's ability to solve all problems. And, Catholics should begin making noise: We defend the poor when no one else will. Hands off Medicaid!

Re-Districting Update

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One of the things state legislatures must do this spring is draw new congressional districts. According to a report at Politico this morning, Tea Party activists have engaged the fight in several states although not always in the same way. In New Jersey, they appear to oppose gerrymandering that has created an essentially safe district for long-time Congressman Frank Pallone, while in Louisiana, the Tea Partyers are engaged in some gerrymandering of their own on behalf of their favorite Rep. Jeff Landry. In the event, to the extent the Tea Partyers oppose gerrymandering, that is a good thing: In more balanced, evenly divided districts, their influence diminishes. Their power resides in their ability to win a GOP primary, putting forward a more extreme candidate in an essentially safe GOP district. As we saw in the Senate races in Delaware, Colorado, Alaska and Nevada last November, where there is no gerrymandering, the kind of Tea Party candidate that can win a GOP primary can't win a general election in November.

Against Compromise

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I am all for political compromise in normal circumstances. Indeed, our system was designed to require compromise, moderating ideologies, forcing diverse, changing interests to work together to achieve anything. The competition of interests is, in fact, now understood to be one of the greatest guarantees of liberty in our great democracy, and if that competition does not end in compromise, it can all too easily end in disaster.

That said, the effort of the bipartisan “Gang of Six” to address the problem of the nation’s long-term debt is deeply troubling. “Everything is on the table” is the mantra of these Senators who include such stalwart conservatives as Tom Coburn and such stalwart liberals as Dick Durbin. But, should everything be on the table or, better to ask, how are these issues being put on the table?

Sarah Palin, Westboro Church & the 1st Amendment

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Alaska's leading constitutional scholar, Sarah Palin, sent out a tweet about last week's Supreme Court decision in the Westboro Church case. She clearly was not in tune with the eight members of the Court who sided with Westboro's free speech rights. Now, she is walking back her tweet. Justin Elliott at Salon.com has the story.
The episode raises a strategic question for any future campaign by Palin - who is going to tell her to stop tweeting? And, the episode again shows the GOP's problem going into 2012. Anybody read any tweets from Romney, Pawlenty or Barbour this weekend? Of course not. Palin can affect the debate in a cost-free way that none of her potential rivals have achieved. She may not understand the difference between the Establishment Clause and the free speech guarantees of the First Amendment, but she understands, and has mastered, the art of modern communications in ways that leave her rivals in the dust.

Why Unions Matter

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The WaPo's Outlook section had a really great article yesterday about why unions matter to the entire middle class. Professors Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson detail the role that unions have played in American history, a role that has diminished in recent years. As the percen tage of workers in unions has declined, income inequality has exploded. That is not good for America. In the long run, it is not even good for the very rich. Gross income inequality invites the kind of class warfare Americans have always shunned. If there really is a moderate center of the electorate, they should be paying close attention to the attacks on labor in Wisconsin and Ohio - and they should shudder.

Congressman King's Hearings

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In her last semester of college, my mother was student teaching at the Horace Porter Elementary School in Columbia, Connecticut. She was teaching a lesson on the Soviet Union. One of her less bright students unhelpfully went home and told his parents that Miss McDermott was “teaching communism.” This was the early 1950s, so predictably, my mother was removed from her student teaching assignment and hauled before the president of her college. Fortunately, in the classroom that day was another student teacher, a decorated veteran of World War II who assured the college authorities that my mother was teaching about communism not advocating for it. She was allowed to graduate.

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