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What's on the website

A few new items now featured on the website. First, the editors write it's time to act on climate change:

In an essay defending the “vulgar” custom of talking about the weather, G. K. Chesterton argued that there was both an element of worship in the practice (“the sky must be invoked”) and a welcome recognition of human equality. “In the mere observation ‘a fine day,’’’ he wrote, “there is the whole great human idea of comradeship.”

If only that were true of the current American political debate about the increasingly obvious and dire consequences of climate change. ... [The most recent National Climate Assessment report]  makes clear that the emission of carbon gases, mostly from automobiles and coal-burning power plants, is causing climate change—this is not a hypothesis, but a scientific fact. Unless we take steps now to reduce emissions, the problem will only get worse.

Also, Alan Wolfe writes on what former defense secretary Robert Gates's memoir reveals about his sense of service to his country:

As for facts and reality, it was the Bush administration, which Gates faithfully served, that ignored them. Where, one has to wonder, is the anger directed against a president who knew so little, risked so much, and refused to acknowledge any mistakes?

Gates presents himself as a pragmatic manager working to get things done. The problem is that managerial skills used in the service of getting the wrong things done is of little help to the troops or anyone else. Concerned only with means and not ends, Gates praises Bush for all the personal characteristics that led the country to disaster. “I found him at ease with himself and comfortable in the decisions he had made,” he writes of Bush. “This was a mature leader who had walked a supremely difficult path for five years.” That Bush never understood the consequences of his actions was less important to Gates than that “he was a man of character, a man of convictions, and a man of action.” 

And, as Commonweal marks its ninetieth year of publication, make sure to visit our special Commonweal at 90 page, where we're currently featuring the best of our archived stories from the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s--including pieces by Dorothy Day, J. F. Powers, G. K. Chesterton, and others. (And in each of the coming months through the fall, we'll be featuring stories from another decade, so you may want to bookmark our Commonweal at 90 page now.)



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"At ease with himself and comfortable with his decisions"?Is that surprising? The bigger the war crimes the more at ease the war criminal.It's either  that or face that  they died or were wounded for nothing.I admire Westmoreland who though a big architect of the Vietnam war, was able years later, to recognize how totally wrong it had all been.Bush likes to hang out with wounded veterans;either his decsions were right or he's responsible for all their needless suffering and trauma.His conscience is limited to the wounded vets and their families. He will never face even in   his  own mind,all the men,women and children who suffered and died in iraq as a result of his invasion.The positive response he gets from his wounded warriors, puts his mind at ease. Out of sight ,out of mind for the  other victims of his war. if there were real justice he'd be on trial as a war criminal;for the invasion AND for setting up a Shia/Kurd government giving them the power to unleash  persecution and vengence against the sunni population.I 'd like to think that at least as a result of seeing other countries rise up to topple dictators ,he perhaps felt bothered as it made him realize that  in iraq too the people themselves would have risen up to topple saddam hussein,underscoring the senselessness of the invasion and all those wounded vets.

It was the peculiar quality of his criticism (a sinner among sinners gaily accusing himself and them) that it did not offend. Lewis, Dreiser and Mencken did offend.  They called names and dished out stiff penances. Fitzgerald said, in effect, we're all in this together; only some of us have better bottle-openers.

That's from the J. F. Powers piece on Fitzgerald mentioned above. I am astonished to see that "in effect" because I have been quoting the line as Fitzgerald's own since 1952. I don't recall anymore who passed it along to me, but Powers' authorship had dropped out before I got it. When I use it again -- as I surely will -- I'll be very careful to give Powers proper credit.

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