Margaret O'Brien Steinfels

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.

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Antonin Scalia, former Xavier High School student, dies

The following just appeared in my in-box...remembering Justice Antonin Scalia. There is a lot to disagree with in Scalia's Supreme Court opinions--and I do. I would guess that the current president of Xavier HS may have some disagreements as well, nonetheless he reminds students, parents, and (grandparents) that Scalia was a fascinating character, a human being! a brilliant jurist, and a fellow Catholic. He has written a good letter reminding us of that.

Dear Sons and Friends of Xavier:

Last night, I received a call from Fr. Jim Keenan, S.J., informing me of the death of Justice Antonin Scalia ’53. Our prayers are with his wife Maureen, his family, and his fellow justices.

I will leave it to others to write about Justice Scalia’s legal career and his impact on our nation, but I am happy to share my own experience with the justice during my time as President of Xavier. I was tremendously proud to have a Son of Xavier sitting on the nation’s highest court. Since 1847, Xavier has sent forth young men to be of service to the nation. It is an integral part of who we are. Our Sons have served in every war since the Civil War, defending this nation and the freedoms we hold dear. In the military, the State Department, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office; in our local communities as policemen, firemen, and elected officials; in the Church as pastors, provincials, and bishops; and in countless other places and professions, the Sons of Xavier have served this nation and led with distinction. As an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court, Antonin Scalia had a distinctive place in the roll of Xavier’s leaders. He dedicated his life to the service of the nation and worked to make real the words of Xavier’s mission statement, “to transform the world for God's greater glory.”

The Rabbi and the Two Pockets

At Tuesday's town forum, Rabbi Spira-Savit, in asking Clinton a question, quoted what turns out to be a Hasidic story of two notes, one in each pocket: "How do you cultivate the ego, the ego that we all know you must have, a person must have to be the leader of the free world, and also the humility to recognize that we know that you can’t be expected to be wise about all the things that the president has to be responsible for?” His question to Hillary elicited a thoughtful answer about balancing ego and humility.

Hillary and Bernie: Come to Jesus Moments

Thomas Mann, calm and coherent observer of our political system and Senior Fellow at Brookings, has a succinct overview of the 2016 election, namely the major difference between the Democratic and Republican parties.

Furies on the Loose

Phew! Iowa over. On to New Hampshire. The New York Times's opinionized front-page newsish story has this: "Fury Shakes the Iowa Caucus."

All those Iowans at the celebratory campaign events looked pretty cheerful to me. Is that enthusiasim being called "Fury."

The Hillary/Bernie Imaginaries

There is more to elections than the candidate's policies and positions. Nodding off during the last Democratic debate, I had this imaginary: Hillary reminds people of their mothers; if they love/like their mothers, she'll do okay. Bernie reminds people of their grandfathers; and he'll do well with those who admire their grandfathers. 

Another piece of imaginary: why do polls show younger people going for Bernie and older people going for Hillary (this may be giving polls more credence than they deserve).

Sanity Caucus Dominates Republican Debate

I didn't make it home for the whole Republican debate last night, but the parts I watched showed that it was a blessing that Donald Trump did not show up. I will vote for NONE of them, but I thought Bush, Kasich, and Paul (alphabetical order) showed a level of intellegence and seriousness not previouly seen among the Repub debaters. Here's a link to the Fox Recap, but you can probably find the whole thing still running on Fox. Megyn Kelly did something weird to her hair, but not to worry.

Of Kettles and Pots MORE

In a world where charges, counter-charges, and uber-charges of anti-Semitism are rife, there is one place where the charge would be ridiculous--Israel. Think again.

Be Afraid!! Really, Really Afraid!!

While the country is wandering in a miasma of fear over terrorists attacks by ISIS or Al Qaeda or...Russia! David Brooks suggests something we should really be afraid of--Ted Cruz. He refers to his speeches as "pagan brutalism." Wow, David. Far out.

Saudi Arabia: How Do We Know What We Know?

The upheaval and uproar over the Saudi behading of a Shiite cleric continues with Iran now claiming that the Saudis have bombed their embassy in Yemen (hard to believe, of course, that it could still be standing....). 

The juxtaposition of two items I read this morning suggest how fraught and complicated matters can get and not just in the Middle East, but right here in DC.

Religious Freedom for Me, but for You... UPDATE

The execution by Saudi Arabia of Shia religious leader Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr has set the already fraught ME into a greater uproar if that is possible. The Sheikh may have been a thorn in the side of the Sauds, but his activities hardly seemed to have required execution! even in Saudi Arabia. So you have to ask: Was this a provocation against Iran? We might further ask: if the possibility of an agreement on Syria led Saudia Arabia to stir the pot?