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TSA Hysteria


Am I missing something? In the "war on terror" conservatives prefer a no-holds barred approach, right? If we have to torture someone to get information, pull out the rack. If we have to invade countries that have not attacked us, send in the Marines.

But heaven forfend if you have a to wait a bit longer in the security line at the airport, or go through a more extensive search just because last year, during the holidays, someone actually did try and blow up an airplane. Remember?

George Will's column yesterday was only the latest in a series of screeds, most of them inspired by the Drudge Report.

The whole franzy though is illustrative of the double standard conservatives use. Can you imagine if George W. Bush had approved the new, more invasive searches and Democrats had opposed them? You can imagine the outcry. But, now that President Obama approves the changes and all hell breaks lose.

NYTimes is Wrong Again


The editors of the New York Times this morning editorialized on what they deem President Obama's failure to revamp the Office of Faith-Based and Community Neighborhoods in a manner to their liking. Specifically, the editors at the Times think the Obama administration should require that any faith-based groups receiving federal funds not discriminate in hiring based on religious principles or affiliation.

To be clear, I do think it would be wrong to provide federal funds to organizations that disciminate regarding whom they help. Catholic Charities, for example, cannot only help Catholics. But, failing to see the need for a religiously based organization to hire from within its own flock in order to maintain its religious identity, is a big failure of imagination on the Times' part. You can't have a Methodist organization without Methodists, at least not for very long. Over time, the institution's religious inspiration will fade if it is not replenished by the religious commitment of its workers.

Dept. of Unintended Consequences


Ben Smith, at, reports on some push back from some Tea Party activists against the pro-gay rights Republican group GOProud. Already, the American Principles Project refused to participate in a conservative forum is GOProud was allowed to participate as well.

The immediate, and foreseeable, consequence of such protests is that it makes it that much easier for Democrats in Congress and for President Obama not to push for a repeal of "Don't Ask; Don't Tell." In that sense, the push against GOProud makes sense. But, in the long run, one of the difficulties facing the Democrats is how to appear more moderate, and to how to make sure that such moderation does not alienate key parts of their base. With Tea Party activists leading the anti-gay push, the pressure is off on Obama to deliver on his promise to deliver a DADT repeal.

Benedict Ignites Condomania!


I cringed when I saw that Pope Benedict had said something about condoms in a soon-to-be-released book. It was not the Pope’s comments I feared, but the reaction to them. Ah, here comes the Cervical Mucus Brigade, I thought. And right alongside them the Mainstream Media whose fascination with the human pelvis knows no bounds. And, there, pulling up the rear is the “chaplain to the status quo” lefties who will denounce the Pope’s latest statement as insufficient because patriarchy is surely at work in anything that comes from the Pontiff’s lips.

Wuerl Gets San Pietro in Vincoli


One of the highlights of a public consistory for the creation of new cardinals comes when the Holy Father announces the new cardinal's "title," that is, the church in Rome of which he is being made an honarary, or titular, pastor. It is on that basis that they have a vote for the next Pope, preserving symbolically the the ancient practice that the clergy of Rome elect the bishop of Rome.
This morning, Cardinal Wuerl was assigned the title of cardinal-priest of San Pietro in Vincoli, St. Peter in Chains, the church near the Colosseum that contains the chains that once bound St. Peter. The church's most famous feature is Michelangelo's Moses, arguably his greatest sculpture, which was originally intended as part of a larger sculputral scheme for the tomb of Pope Julius II. (Rex Harrison played Julius in "The Agony and the Ecstasy.") Julius thought well of himself and had intended his tomb to dominate the newly rebuilt St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican but his successors had other ideas. The Pope, and his monument, are now in San Pietro in Vincoli.

272 Words That Made America


147 years ago today, Abraham Lincoln delivered the most concise and eloquent statement of the American idea when he delivered the Gettysburg Address. Want to feel good about your country? Take a minute and re-read these words.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

Burke Disses Fellow Cardinals & the Pope


In a radio interview, soon-to-be Cardinal Raymond Burke said that the reason many in the Church do not see eye-to-eye with him on the necessity of denying communion to pro-choice politicians is because they live "in a society that’s completely secularized. The God-centred thinking which has marked the discipline of the Church is not easily understood by those who are bombarded day-in and day-out with a kind of God-less approach to the world and to many questions."

The Anglican Ordinariate: What about the numbers?


My friend Austen Ivereigh has a report on this morning's press conference in London about the future of the Anglican Ordinariate, which will be constituted early next year. The UK's Catholic bishops promised 250,000 pounds to get the group started, although that figure is a drop in the bucket compared to the relative wealth of the Anglican Church being abandoned by those coming over to Rome.
Last week, in an editorial in the Tablet, the editors wrote that it is expected 5 bishops, 50 priests and 500 lay people have expressed a desire to join the new Ordinariate. Those numbers do not seem proportional to me. One bishop for every 100 laity? Perhaps it is because at the top of the Anglican hierarchy, the bishops were mindful of the universal nature of the Anglican communion and, just so, more attuned to the way that communion has fractured in the past few years. Still, they had better bring enough of their lay people with them or the UK Bishops Conference is going to be subsidizing this Ordinariate forever.
Does anyone have any ideas why so many prelates and so few lay folk are prepared to join?

More on the Ghailani Trial


Yesterday, I called attention to an article by Benjamin Wittes, the super smart senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who has thought longer and harder and more intelligently about the legal issues raised by the war on terror than anyone I know.
Wittes has another article today, written with Jack Godsmith, that is worth reading on the subject. I am less sanguine than he about the prospect of indefinite detentions, but his piece also destroys some of the simplistic canards of both sides in the current debate, e.g., testimony acquired through torture is not likely to pass muster in a military tribunal any more than it passes muster in a civil trial.
Balancing justice and security is a tough thing. Beware of those who answers undervalue either of the two needs and of any simplistic answers. There are none.


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September 26-October 9, 2014


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