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Summer of (Real) Discontent


With the passing of Labor Day, summer-as-a-state-of-mind is officially over. And not a moment too soon.

Throughout the country, it has been a mean season of the center-not-holding. But while the rest of the population has been subjected to town hall madness and other prescriptions for political paranoia, the Left Coast (always on the social forefront) has taken a much deeper look down the hole.

Labor Day by the numbers


These numbers come, with a nod to the Huffington Post, from the Economic Policy Institute::


• New jobs needed per month to keep up with population growth: 127,000
• Jobs lost in August 2009: 216,000
• Jobs needed to regain pre-recession unemployment levels: 9.4 million
• Manufacturing jobs lost since the start of the recession: 2.0 million (14.6% of sector’s jobs)
• Construction jobs lost in the recession: 1.4 million (19%, nearly one in five construction jobs)
• Mass layoffs (50 or more people by a single employer) in July 2009: 2,157; jobs lost: 206,791

Catholic bishops ìto the leftî on health care. Really?


That headline may surprise you, but according to Kevin Eckstrom, editor of Religion News Service, the basic position of the U.S. bishops' conference on health care, if you leave out the question of abortion -- a big asterisk -- is "to the left."

What Eckstrom means is this: They favor universal coverage as a human right and other basic reforms. He is quick to point out that some individual bishops have articulated views that sound more like standard Republican Party fare than the social justice teachings of the church. (I can’t help wondering, does that make them “Cafeteria Bishops?”)

Want to know more? Kevin was the lead guest on my radio program "Interfaith Voices" this week, discussing the religious dimensions of our health care debate overall. Included were the views of mainline Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, conservative Evangelicals and Christian Scientists.

Eckstrom also talks about the reasons he believes President Obama is reaching out to religious leaders on this question.

To hear the full interview, go to:

Don't Trust The Doctors


Eugene Robinson wrote some of the best commentaries on the election of President Barack Obama last year. But, this morning he addressed the issue of doctors and psychologists who participated in the Bush administration’s “enhanced interrogations.” He writes: “Doctors and psychologists might have been able to prevent this whole shameful episode by refusing to participate. Instead, professionals who were trained in the healing arts used their experience and skill in a way that facilitated harm.”

Phan in Rome speaks on religious pluralism


A featured speaker at the Dominicans annual gathering in Rome, Journées Romaines Dominicans, was Fr. Peter Phan, the American theologian whose work has been under Vatican scrutiny.

According to a report in The Tablet, the British weekly, Phan told the conference that the topic of religious pluralism was “one of the most pressing issues” in the Catholic church today – and one of the most dangerous.

“It is a controversial theme and one that in the current ecclesiastical climate is broached at one’s peril,” the Georgetown University professor said. … “To judge from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s declaration Dominus Iesus and the investigations of the works of theologians Jacques Dupuis, Roger Haight, Jon Sobrino and a host of lesser lights, there is no doubt that what is called the theology of religious pluralism constitutes the neuralgic point of contemporary Catholic theology.”

Read the full report: Phan spells out goals of interfaith dialogue

Bridgeport Catholics call for an end of secrecy


Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia Sept. 2 passed to the full court a request by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport to keep clergy sex abuse files sealed. The full court will decide the matter by Sept. 29.

The diocese had asked Scalia to stay the publication of more than 12,000 documents while the full court decides whether to take up the diocese's appeal of an earlier ruling by the Connecticut Supreme Court that the documents are public records.

Cautiously good news on the disarmament front


Efforts to clinch a new Russian-US nuclear disarmament deal this year have advanced and negotiators will report to the two countries' leaders this month, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Thursday.

During President Obama's landmark visit to Moscow in July, he and Russian President Medvedev agreed to hammer out a new nuclear arms reduction pact to replace the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), preferably by the time it expires on December 5.

It seems to look that that might happen.


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