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Obama Lights National Christmas Tree

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President Obama gave a fine, short speech before lighting the national Christmas tree yesterday. The video is here.
I have only one complaint. Why is the national Christmas tree so garish? The tree on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol is always quite beautiful. Why is the one outside the White House covered in strange looking, illuminated ornaments?
Christmas decorations seem to grow more hideous every year. In my neighborhood, there are several houses that are covered in lights, with santa and reindeer and God knows what else illumined on the lawn, but all the electricity does nothing to illuminate the meaning of the holiday. Another neighbor has a modest creche scene, but the Holy Family looks mighty Aryan to me. If only we could deck our souls as we deck our homes. Listen to Bach's great chorale prelude Schmucke Dich to get into the real, plaintive sensibility of the season. Here is a recording.
And, Mr. President, can you do something about that tree!

Peggy Noonan on Time

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Peggy Noonan must have been reading up on her Augustine when she wrote this essay on time and its uses. It is well worth taking the time to read it.

Noonan combines the darkness of Augustine, which is a commonplace, with the exuberance of Augustine, which is more frequently forgotten. As we all scurry getting ready for the holidays, attending parties, writing cards (actually, no cards from MSW this year - the book is due!), and shopping, always shopping, it is good to remember, as Noonan recalls, that we are called to pray unceasingly.

New Definitions of \"Good Day\" and \"Bad\"

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Yesterday was a "good day." Why? Because Georgetown lost of course.

It is the season to be jolly, but just as important, it is the season for college basketball. And, so, a "good day" is one in which UConn wins and/or georgetown or Syracuse or Pitt loses. A bad day is when UConn loses. A great day is when UConn beats Georgetown or Syracuse or Pitt or, especially, Duke!

If you are not much of a sports fan, I commend college basketball to you precisely because, on any given day, any team in the top 100 can beat any other team. It is not like professional sports where a team owner can buy his way into the final rounds (if not always the title, no matter how the Yankees try!). UConn was not ranked at the beginning of the year, but after knocking off two teams ranked in the Top Ten in its first week, it is proving the experts wrong.

This does not reflect ill on the expertise of the people who make the ratings, it is just an indication of how fluid the sport is.

DADT & Politics

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Yesterday’s vote on the Defense Authorization Act, which included provisions repealing the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, has become Exhibit A in the case against the dysfunctional ways of Washington. Bradford Plumer at the New Republic makes the case well, asking how a policy can be defeated when not does only a majority support it, but 60 Senators support it, and it still goes down in flames due to procedural difficulties.

George Will \"Puffs\" Mike Pence

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In 1949, William Randolph Hearst told his editors to "Puff Graham," that is, write favorable articles about a young evangelist Billy Graham. The puffing worked and Graham went on to great fame.

In this morning's Washington Post, George Will "puffs" Indiana Rep. Mike Pence. It is curious that Will starts the puffing by praising Pence for his refusal to support President George W. Bush's call for TARP funding to rescue the financial industry. Will used to be a grown-up, the kind of man who understood that ideological purity must yield to hard facts, in short, he used to be a conservative. But no more.

Pence's vote against TARP was irresponsible in the extreme. Will has every right to tout Pence for the presidency in 2012, but he should find better reasons than the man's vote against TARP.

George Will never had a great mind but he had a fine one. Until he started drinking the Tea Party koolaid.

Great Minds Dept.

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William Galston has an article up at TNR today urging the President to embrace comprehensive tax reform as a signature issue for his re-election bid. In the event, I suggested precisely this two days after the midterm elections. I differ with Galston in his claim that this is the "only" way for Obama to survive in 2012. But, Galston is right to point out that Democrats must find a way to engage on this issue which, as we just saw, is not their strong suit.

A Conservative Voice In Favor of the DREAM Act

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Rick Garnett will be familiar to regular readers. A professor of law at the University of Notre Dame, Garnett also is the intellectual force behind the blog "Mirror of Justice" where he has penned a fine, conservative rationale for support of the DREAM Act, which passed the House yesterday. Glad to see someone on the right standing up to the crazy hatefulness that is being spewed at immigrants.

Abortion Battle in Iowa

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The Des Moines Register reports on efforts to pass a law in Iowa that will make it more difficult to perform late-term abortions and which could send the issue back to the Supreme Court.

Late-term abortions should be banned anywhere and everywhere. To be clear, I support the Church's teaching on the sanctity of human life in its entirety, but I can see why those who do not share our faith feel no particular sense of identity with, nor need to protect, a zygote. But, a six-month old fetus is a baby. I understand that the situations in which late-term abortions are even considered are tragic situations. I understand that a woman facing a risky continuation of her pregnancy, who might have one or more children already, would feel that she must have a late-term abortion to avoid the risk of her own death. But, I also have to say that there are tragedies in life for which the "remedy" is unacceptable, there are problems that cannot be surmounted.

Is GOP Keeping Kosher?

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The incoming GOP leadership in the House, like President Obama two years ago, has to assess how much their victory was an endorsement of their platform, and how much of it was simply a vote for indeterminate change. And, the people who will be watching most closely are not the Independent voters who tended to be seeking change at any cost, but the Tea Party activists who want very specific types of change. This ambition, alas, runs up against the ways of Washington.

To wit, the incoming Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Cong. Hal Rogers of Kentucky, has earned the sobriquet "Prince of Pork," over the years, requesting more than $246 million in earmarks over the years. Rogers has abided by the recent earmark ban the GOP imposed on its members,but you know where his heart lies.

To be clear, Rogers also represents Kentucky and there are parts of Kentucky that benefit greatly from an infusion of federal cash. Think of the TVA, for example. One man's earmark is another man's economic development plan.

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