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Ruth Marcus Asks: Where's Obama?


Ruth Marcus criticizes President Obama this morning in the Washington Post for his failure to engage in political debates with greater clarity and speed.
Marcus is on to something, but not as much as she thinks. For example, I wish the President had been a bit more forceful in shaping the health care debate, one of the examples she cites, but I have to admit: He got it passed.
And, regarding the President's alleged slowness in responding to the upheavels in the Mideast, I do not share Marcus's concern but, instead, say "Amen." After eight years of George W. Bush's "Ready! Shoot! Aim!" foreign policy, Obama's more calculated responses strike me as someone who recognizes the wisdom of the old adage, "First, do no harm."
Call me an Augustinian, but the capacity to imagine how our intentions can go awry seems to me to be a fine character trait in a U.S. President.

Haley Barbour: Colorful Liar


I love the way the mainstream media often refers to Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour as "colorful" which, I suppose, means "quotable." But, sometimes, Barbour usues color and quotes to stoke resentment. His comment to the washington Post that people are driving up to pharmacy windows in BMWs saying they cannot afford their co-pay is a perfect example. The Washington Post did a little useful fact-checking to demonstrate that in this case, "colorful" meant "lying."

Silk On Huckabee on Obama Growing Up in Kenya


Mark Silk looks at Mike Huckabee's comments asserting that President Obama's experience growing up in Kenya is partly responsible for the fact that his worldview is so skewed. Huckabee said the President viewed the Brits differently from most past presidents because of his supposed childhood in Kenya. Of course, President Obama did not grow up in Kenya at all and only visited the country of his father's birth as a young man.
Silk sees Huckabee's rant as part of a broader ability to give dog whistles to the kookie right. But, there is a less remote explanation for Huckabee's comments. Dinesh D'Souza, a thoroughly nice guy by the way, wrote a cover story for Forbes last year suggesting that Obama had certain anti-colonial ways of thinking because of his Kenyan roots, via the American academy. I did not agree with D'Souza's piece, but it was far less coarse than Huckabee's condensed version of the claim.

Congressman Beats Super-Computer


Mark Twain famously wrote: "Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself."
Well, Congressman Rush Holt of New Jersey is no idiot. He beat Watson, the super-computer in a round of jeopardy.
More tellingly, Holt tried to make Chris Matthews grasp his point that computers will never have certain human capabilities, that computers cannot develop wisdom, that they cannot appreciate nuances we humans grasp, that they cannot assess the different weight to be afforded competing interests, etc., a point that Matthews had trouble with. The video is below.
Here is another way to make the point that Holt was making. A computer cannot make a period at the end of a sentence; It can only make a dot. A computer cannot know that the period is related to the capital letter at the beginning of the sentence or, in the case of e.e. cummings, that it is not so related.

What To Do About Libya?


The crisis in Libya may have found its inspiration in the non-violent protests in Tunisia and Egypt, but it is now clear that non-violent protests will not dislodge this dictator, that Moammar Gaddafi intends to use, and is already using, all the violence at his command to retain power, that the United States completely lacks the kind of long-standing ties with senior military officials that might permit us to influence the stance of the Army, and that the opposition to Gaddafi is even less organized than the opposition to Mubarak. It is against these grim facts that those Libyans who are seeking to overthrow Gaddafi have now called for U.S. and other foreign military assistance to help them achieve their freedom.

What can and should the U.S. do?

Lame Excuses Dept.


The American Catholic tries to address the argument of some that the pro-life movement is oftentimes inconsistent, failing to address important pro-life issues other than abortion.

The reason given is that if the pro-life movement were more in favor of big government, it would be less inclusive. Huh?

Either anti-malaria programs in Africa are pro-life or they are not, and the decision to defund them must be seen in that context by pro-life advocates.

Either aid to women facing crisis pregnancies will help those women to decide to keep their child and carry it to term, and is consequently a pro-life policy, or it isn't. The American Catholic averts his eyes when it suits him. And, there is nothing pro-life about that.

Archbishop Gomez Takes Center Stage


Over at Whispers, Rocco Palmo has some great analysis - and photos and audio clips - of the change in leadership in the largest archdiocese in the land, Los Angeles.
This is an important milestone in the history of the American Church and, as Rocco suggests, a kind of return to our earliest origins, before Lord Baltimore and John Carroll and the Irish. It is becoming obvious, as well, that Gomez is well suited to carry on the commitment to social justice that was so central to Cardinal Mahony's legacy.

My Reply to Peters


Edward Peters, the canon lawyer who has suggested that Governor Cuomo be denied communion, responded to my post in which I restated my long-standing position that using Canon 915 to deny politicians communion is horrible theology. Furthermore, I argued that the canons of the Church exist to further the Church’s objective of saving souls, that the Church has many instruments and methods to accomplish that goal, and that many of us think that heavy-handed reliance on canonical penalties is actually a great cause of scandal and harms the Church as well as the potential for helping the person who is denied communion. To be clear: Edwards’ post is very thoughtful and intelligent and he makes the best case that can be made for his interpretation of how Canon 915 should be applied. But, he avoids addressing the point I made.


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January 29-February 11, 2016


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