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Gerson on Afghanistan

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Michael Gerson’s column this morning on the choice President Obama faces in Afghanistan is a congeries of fears, almost all of them misplaced. He is concerned that the deliberateness of the decision-making process the President is following is itself part of the problem, that “the debate, however, should generally take place in private and produce outcomes with al deliberate speed.” I am not so sure that privacy of judgment helped the Bush administration make wise choices, but never mind.

Gerson warns that an enemy can use delays to conduct propaganda. He quotes Al-Qaeda’s most recent video, directed at the Europeans, warning them that America will cut and run and then “will have gone away far beyond the Atlantic” leaving the Europeans exposed to Islamicist wrath. Well, isolationism exists in the far reaches of the left and right, among a few MoveOn.org types and Pat Buchanan, but Robert Taft is no longer the senior Senator from Ohio. And, NATO isn’t going anywhere.

With Friends Like These

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Strategies that work against themselves.

Woody Allen's appeal to excuse Roland Polanski from being forced to return to the U.S. to face sentencing on charges of raping a 13-year-old girl more than three decades ago. Allen's credibility is a bit strained. While dating Mia Farrow, he began an affair with Farrow's adopted daughter, then 21 (he was 56), and married her six years later in 1997.

As reported on NPR, the Detroit school system, in an effort to bolster attendance as a means of maximizing state funding, is awarding prizes for showing up. Top prize: a 42" flat screen television set.

The Congregation for Religious, in its campaign to assist efforts by conservative U.S. nuns to root out Vatican II-itis in mainstream congregations, turns over the $1.1 million bill to the American bishops. This is unlikely to foster enthusiasm for the inquisition. The unintended consequence seems likely to be to thrown another log on the fire of reaction against it. My guess is that the tab will be, or already has been picked up by one of the usual wealthy Vatican backers, but a bitter aftertaste will likely remain.

Four key fallacies about global climate change

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In December nations will gather in Copenhagen, Denmark, for the United Nations Climate Conference. There they will strive to strike a global deal that will address the climate change crisis. According to Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, this momentous task will be easier if we can dispesne with four common fallacies about solving the climate crisis.

1. We need to set a high price on carbon. According to Pope, a high price on carbon will mean failure as it makes the cost of doing something about the crisis appear to be completely out of reach. What is needed instead is a low price for alternatives to carbon. "That requires, in part, fixing flaws in the energy market. If you rent office space, for example, you have no control over the efficiency of the furnace or windows, but you still pay the bills. The landlord gets reimbursed for inefficiency and has no incentive to change.

Cardinal who's a post-Soviet legend looks back

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Rome

tThis year marks the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. In Catholic terms, this anniversary is also, in its own way, a moment of regime change.

One by one, the bishops who led the churches of the former Soviet sphere out of the catacombs, and into the “shock therapy” of absorbing several decades of post-Vatican II development in the West all at once, are beginning to fade from the scene. For example, Pope Benedict’s trip to the Czech Republic last weekend was also a swan song for Cardinal Miloslav Vlk of Prague, who’s announced that he expects to be replaced by year’s end.

tAnother legend of the post-Soviet period is Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne, Germany, now almost 76 and thus beyond the normal retirement age. While there’s no indication yet of when the pope might accept his resignation, Meisner nonetheless realizes that he's nearer the end than the beginning, and finds himself in an introspective mood.

Ken Burns & The National Parks: America's Greatest Idea

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Brilliant filmmaker, Ken Burns, and his colleague Dayton Duncan, and their team have done it again. Their documentary on the U.S. national parks is outstanding. Filmed over the course of more than six years at some of nature’s most spectacular locales, "The National Parks: America’s Best Idea," is a six-part, 12-hour documentary series on the history of America’s national parks.

Gifts - Authorized and Not

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The first reading and the Gospel this past Sunday both involved the unauthorized use of divine gifts and the challenge to that use by those in authority, or better to say, by those of lesser authority. The unauthorized were prophesying in the camp of the Israelites and some who were not followers of Jesus were casting out demons in his name. Disciples of both Moses and Jesus took umbrage at these unauthorized acts and, in both cases, Moses and Jesus – those with true and full authority – pointed out that God is the author of such gifts and that no one should be jealous of their use.

This brought to mind an observation that Balthasar used to make at the close of his retreats for priests. He recalled the closing scene in the Gospel of John when Peter is jealous and asks what is to happen to the beloved disciple. Balthasar would comment “It is not [Peter’s] business to know exactly where the boundaries between the official Church and the Church of love are to be found….The last thing said to the servant Peter, the last word of the Lord in the Gospel, is the watchword for the Church and theology in every age: ‘What is that to you?’”

Return of the old ways of thinking threatens recovery & maximum confusion

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Democratic political strategist and pundit, James Carville, came up with the effective and stinging slogan, "It's the economy, stupid," as a way for presidential candidate, Bill Clinton, to attack President George H.W. Bush, during the 1992 campaign. The slogan is as relevant now as it was then. Yet, for most people it seems impossible to understand economic theory and policy. The most important economic issue for families is jobs. After that it's wages, benefits and retirement.

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July 18-31, 2014

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