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How We Mourn Together & How Obama Saved Last Night

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I was feeling churlish about the non-denominational memorial service last night as it began. It is at moments like this that I wish we had an established church. Non-denominational tends to turn into lowest common denominator pretty quickly, and we cast our politicians in the roles of preachers, a role for which they are usually ill-equipped and are constitutionally ill-suited: In the face of death, the sure hope in the Resurrection is the only hope available, and Americans squirm when politicians get too doctrinal.

GOP Hypocrisy Watch: Whiplash

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Jonathan Chait, at the New Republic, explains (sort of) how Republicans were opposed to high-risk pools, then angry they were delayed, and now that they are delayed, the want to...well, it is not clear what they want to do with the high-risk pools. But that is what happens when you are more committed to politics than to policy. Chait's piece would be funny if the GOP was still in the minority but seeing as they are not, it is just depressing.

WaPo is Wrong, Wrong, Wrong

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This morning, the editors of the Washington Post weigh in on plans to build a high speed rail system in California. They raise understandable worries about the plans for the rail system, the imprecise studies about ridership, etc. These are all important issues, although the editors of the Post exercised far less scrutiny when looking at the studies that they claimed justified a new "Purple Line" in DC's suburbs.
But, the Post's editors have missed the forst for the trees. America no longer builds great public works. Most visitors to Washington will have gone to Union Station, the magnificent train terminal opened in 1907. Penn Station in New York used to be a similarly grand structure until it was torn down. Grand Central Station continues to impress with its architecture and its utility. Why do we not build such grand structures anymore?

Complex Joy

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Especially as our culture grows more hurried and harried and our means of communication grow ever faster, we like to think of simple joys and simple times. I like simple joys as much as the next person, but I also like joys that promise more complexity. For example, a Bach chorale prelude as much as a Gregorian chant. A Cabernet Sauvignon as much as a Pinot Grigio.
It has been announced that one of life's more enjoyable, complex pleasures is coming to Washington. To help commemorate the inauguration of the new President of Catholic University, John Garvey, on the Vigil of the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, the university's patron, Archbishop J. Augustine DiNoia, O.P. will be preaching at the university Mass. Noon in the Crypt Church at the National Shrine. A DiNoia sermon is not to be missed and it is unlikely to be simple. But, I wouldn't want to miss it.

Kinsley Is Half-Right

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All political writers tremble to think they belong in the same category as Michael Kinsley. So smart, such elegant writing, so willing and able to break past the trench warfare of so much political argument and find a point of reason beyond the trenches. But, on the Tucson massacre fall-out, I think he is only half-right.
Kinsley is correct to say that the extreme right has a greater hold on thhe extreme left, that while it is correct to say that NPR or the New York Times leans left, they do not lean left the way Fox leans right. Indeed, while I recognize that someone like Rachel Maddow has ideological blinders that shade both what she chooses to discuss and how she chooses to discuss it, she does not do what Fox does, which is to just make stuff up. Remember the billions of dollars and dozens of Navy ships it was going to cost for Obama to go to India?

The Abortion Rate Drop Plateaus

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Ever since 1981, the abortion rate in America has been declining. Between 1973, when Roe v. Wade threw out all legal barriers to abortion, and 1981, the abortion rate had soared from 16 percent of all pregnancies to 29 percent. But, then something happened. The rate started to fall back, throughout the 1980s, throughout the 1990s, and then in 2005 it seems to have hit a plateau. That year, the rate fell to 19.4 percent and the next four years saw the rate hovering around the same total. In 2008, the rate stood at 19. 6 percent. You can read about this in today's Washington Post.

Of course, one abortion is one abortion too many. But, it is interesting to note that the abortion rate is currently not that much higher than what it was before Roe, 16 percent then, 19 percent now. Three percentage points is significant: This is not a poll, with a margin of error of 3-5 points. Each percentage point increase in the abortion represents tens of thousands of lost lives. In 2005, when the rate had fallen back to 19.4 percent, the actual number of abortions was 1.21 million.

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October 24-November 6, 2014

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