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Obama and the war in Afghanistan

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I’ve been watching President Obama’s actions in recent days, as they touch the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the military generally. Some have accused him of “dithering” over a decision about sending more troops to Afghanistan. And recent news reports make clear that he is getting conflicting advice from his national security team.

I am glad that he is taking his time. The image I see in Obama is that of a thoughtful, intelligent man weighing the options. He is also demanding an exit strategy, an “off ramp” for Afghanistan.

I also see someone willing to face the costs that will be incurred by his decision, whatever it is. He visited Dover Air Force Base in the middle of the night to meet the caskets of soldiers killed in Afghanistan. On Veteran’s Day, he took an unscheduled walk through Arlington Cemetery amid the tombstones of veterans of both Iraq and Afghanistan. He visited grieving military families in Ft. Hood, TX.

Exit, laughing

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Tragedy lingers, we all know -- but comedy seems more ephemeral. Laughs don't often leave a lasting mark. Comedy writers out here in Hollywood struggle with that: all the big prizes and awards go to dramatists, whose works enrich the soul and expound on the human condition. Laughter is just what we use to fill in the gaps between our various anxieties.

But not this past week. If you needed any proof that laughs last, you just had to check out the obituary sections of publications as diverse as The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly. They were filled with the news that David Lloyd had passed on.

Name doesn't ring a bell? No, probably not -- but he is venerated in television for writing arguably the funniest 30 minutes of comedy ever filmed: an episode of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" about the death of WJM-TV's kiddie show host, Chuckles the Clown.

St. Gertrude the Great, Nov. 16

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Today is the feast of St. Gertrude the Great, c. 1256-1302.

To him who ever thought with love of me
Or ever did for my sake some good deed
I will appear, looking such charity
And kind compassion, at his life's last need
That he will out of hand and heartily
Repent he sinned and all his sins be freed.


--Gerard Manley Hopkins

Sr. Mary Jeremy Finnegan, the renowned Sinsinawa Dominican poet and scholar, noted in The Times Literary Supplement in 1952 that Hopkins was paraphrasing words Jesus spoke to Gertrude: "When I behold anyone in his agony who has thought of Me with pleasure, or who has performed any works deserving of reward, I appear to him at the moment of death with a countenance so full of love and mercy that he repents from his inmost heart for having ever offended Me, and he is saved by this repentance."

Pelosi: Afghanistan is tough sell

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Over on www.politicsdaily.com, Patricia Murphy reports on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaking Friday night at Harvard's Institute of Politics.

The best quote:

"This is what is clear: It would be very hard to get many Democratic votes to support a big increase in troops in Afghanistan.

"Of all the things I have done this year as speaker with a Democratic president -- the recovery package . . . the budget . . . health care . . . the hardest of them all was passing the supplemental funding for Afghanistan and Iraq, the hardest sell I had with the members."

Fear-Mongering From Left & Right

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What do Democratic Senator from Iowa Tom Harkin and former New York mayor Rudy Guiliani have in common? Usually, not very much, but this past weekend, both of them decided to indulge the politics of fear-mongering.

Harkin is joining the backlash against the Stupak Amendment. He told the Iowa Independent that he was distressed by the concern of pro-life Senators, and citizens, that the government not provide subsidies for abortion. “You can take this on down. You could just say that anybody that got a federal loan for housing could not get an abortion,” he said. “You can take this and just keep going on and on and on with no end in sight.” Actually, Senator, the legislature of which he is a part gets to decide where to draw, or not draw, the lines on abortion subsidies. They should do so thoughtfully, not by scaring people into thinking that the USCCB is going to turn the Farmers’ Home Administration into a pro-life outfit.

Facing hunger, pope demands an end to 'opulence and waste'

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.

tCalling hunger “the most cruel and concrete sign of poverty,” Pope Benedict XVI today told a special summit of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization that “opulence and waste are no longer acceptable when the tragedy of hunger is assuming ever greater proportions.”

tThe pontiff called for urgent action to combat world hunger, to protect the global environment and to rethink lifestyle choices in the West in his address to the Food and Agriculture Organization, which is based in Rome.

tBenedict’s decision to visit the Rome headquarters of FAO, rather than to insist that participants in the summit travel across town to the Vatican to be received in audience, was seen as a sign of the importance the pontiff attaches both to the issue of hunger and to the institution of the United Nations.

My Near Death Panel Experience

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As insightful a essay as you are likely to find anywhere into the state the irrational, politically destructive right, and a complicit media, appeared this morning on The New York Times Week in Review. Entitled "My Near Death Panel Experience," it was written by Congressman Earl Blumenauer (Democratic from Oregon)about his experiences with the health care bill. While it is terrifying to read, it has a happy ending.

I recommend it for its instructive value and to help innculate us from an all too common disease the next time we find it spreading in our communities.

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August 29-September 11, 2014

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