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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With Friends Like These....

"Jerusalem — Jewish settlers attacked American consular officials Friday during a visit the officials made to the West Bank as part of an investigation into claims of damage to Palestinian agricultural property, Israeli police and Palestinian witnesses say....Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that a small number of settlers threw rocks at officials who had come to an area near the Jewish settlement outpost of Adi Ad in two consular vehicles to look into Palestinian claims that settlers uprooted scores of Palestinian olive trees th

New Year's Day Morning

Whether or not you celebrate New Year's Eve, and whether or not you have recovered, turn on your local public radio station and listen to the Vienna Philharmonic's New Year's Day Concert live from, well Vienna!

The Fact of Natality

"The miracle that saves the world, the realm of human affairs, from its normal "natural" ruin is ultimately the fact of natality, in which the faculty of action is ontologically rooted. It is, in other words, the birth of new men and the new beginning, the action they are capable of by virtue of being born.

Buffoonery Security Threat UPDATE

The nation's hairs on fire. Sony Pictures cancelled the release of "The Interview" after every movie chain in the country cancelled its opening on Christmas Day (talk about "for chrissake"!).

Didn't Start Out a Fan... [update...ids]

...of "The Colbert Report." But urged on by Grant several years ago, I started watching the "Daily Show with John Stewart." Gradually migrated to Stephen Colbert. Last night was the last Colbert Report show.  Great Finale.  Following a brief ad for Pistachios.

Don't know how to post the video...but what a crowd he got to sing..."We'll Meet Again..."

Parish available

There are many more important issues to discuss (Iran negotiations, Israeli suicide instinct, hostage-taking copy-cats, etc.) than the one I am about to describe. But I can't resist.

Class or race?

Let's just say I am no fan of David Brooks. Usually I pass over his first sentence and move on. His column this morning got something important right (i.e., correct) and I read all the way to the end.

Spoiler alert: He mentions Ferguson and then goes on to open up a conversation we should be having about class.

The Fall of the Gingkos

Our nearby park and green sanctuary has a robust collection of Gingko trees. Their fan-shaped leaves turn yellow and then golden in the fall. Just last Saturday, I took some photos of them in their golden glory.

What kind of Democratic Party and what kind of candidates (Cont.)

The 2014 Election post-mortems keep spinning their wheels. This story in Saturday's NYTimes managed to wrangle in many of the conflcting views of party leaders and party pundits.

A curious feature of the story is that the contending forces have so many labels: moderate, liberal, progressive, populists. Is that part of the Democrat's problem? Also curious that Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren are cited as representatives for at least two of the factions.

Lessons learned: Civilian casualties division

General Martin Dempsey, head of the Pentagon's Joint Chiefs, has seemed to me a prudent and cautious observer when it comes to U.S. military action. His recent calls for more special forces in Iraq seemed ahead of President Obama on the issue, though on Friday the White House announced more boots on the ground (as advisors).  So I was taken aback with General Dempsey's remarks at a recent presentation at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs.

He commended the Israeli Defense Forces on the measures they took to protect civilians in the attacks on Gaza. Between 2,100 and 2,200 Gazans were killed (513 were children) and between 10,000 and 11,000 were wounded. (the UN calculates that 70-75 percent were civilians; Israel says 50 percent). Still a lot of people were killed or wounded.

Dempsey goes on to say that he has sent a team of U.S. military to study "lessons learned" on the IDF's protection of civilians living in Gaza. The concluding sentence: "...I can say to you with confidence that I think [the IDF] acted responsibility—although I think Human Rights Watch just published a report that there were civilian casualties. And that's tragic, but I think the IDF did what they could.

What lessons will the U.S. military learn? Stay tuned. General Dempseys' full remarks after the break; the whole transcript of his conversation here.