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On Pope Francis and his "Wuerlpool," the never-ending bashing of Obamacare, and more.

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Francis’ ‘Wuerlpool’

Rocco Palmo at Whispers in the Loggia marvels at Pope Francis’ whirlwind of appointments aimed at reforming the Roman Catholic bureaucracy, the Curia, under the headline, “Francis’ Flush — At Bishops’ Table, Pope Runs the Wuerlpool,”

Mr. Palmo describes Francis’ naming of Pittsburgh native and Washington, D.C., Cardinal Donald Wuerl to the Congregation for Bishops, which recommends bishop appointments to the pope, as the most consequential part of a “flush” of the congregation’s membership.

Cardinal Wuerl, he points out, “becomes the table’s lone resident member on these shores … because in yet another show of his Wuerl-esque eye on the Curia he’s inherited and aims to drastically reform, Papa Bergoglio simultaneously bumped” two U.S. and one Italian cardinal seen by many as stalwarts of the old order.

Insiders consider it especially “extraordinary,” Mr. Palmo said, that Cardinal Wuerl, a “raving moderate,” is replacing the polarizing conservative Cardinal Raymond Burke, “the Holy See’s Wisconsin-born ‘chief justice.’ ”

Pensions no longer dull

James Surowiecki in The New Yorker: “ ’Tis the season for taking retirement benefits away from public workers. In Detroit, an emergency manager has steered the city into bankruptcy, in part to avoid its pension obligations. In Illinois, the legislature just passed a bill cutting pensions and raising the retirement age for state workers, in the hope of saving a hundred and sixty billion dollars in pension costs over the next thirty years. … [B]etween 2009 and 2012, 45 states passed some kind of pension reform. Pensions are supposed to be dull and reliable. But they’re now the locus of bruising political battles.

“The reason is simple: Though plenty of states and cities have managed to maintain healthy pension funds, in many places pension costs are eating up huge chunks of the budget. … How did states and cities get into this jam? By following Mark Twain’s famous dictum: ‘Never put off till tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.’ ”

Never-ending criticism

Dana Milbank in The Washington Post: “When will the criticism of Obamacare finally end? I’ve done some research on the question, and by my calculations, judging from current trends, this will happen approximately … never.

“I base this on the criticism of the auto bailout of early 2009. Almost five years later, the industry is healthy again and large swaths of the Midwest have been spared what would have been certain economic devastation. All this was achieved for a relatively modest sum: When the government’s last shares of General Motors were sold last week, the total cost to save GM and Chrysler came to about $12 billion.

“It would seem that the argument against the bailout has been settled. Yet opponents continue to argue their case — if anybody will listen.”

Scholar, discredit thyself

Jonathan Chait at the Daily Intelligencer whacks the left-leaning American Studies Association for voting last week to protest Israel’s human-rights policies by boycotting Israeli universities: “Critics of the move have questioned both the punishment itself (an academic boycott, which inhibits the free flow of ideas) as well as the target of the boycott (Israel, which may have all sorts of terrible policies but is by no plausible standard among the world’s worst human-rights violators).”

Mr. Chait called association president Curtis Marez’s explanation for an Israel-only boycott — “one has to start somewhere” — “a minor classic in the annals of terrible justifications.” After noting that the American Association of University Professors has declared all academic boycotts “prima facie violations of academic freedom,” Mr. Chait wonders, “If you are going to start somewhere, wouldn’t it make sense to start at the top of the list of worst human-rights offenders, rather than at the middle?”

He concludes: “Absurdly discriminatory academic boycotts make anti-occupation … liberals … forget what’s so terrible about the occupation and remember what’s so terrible about the anti-Zionist left. It’s the best news [Benjamin] Netanyahu has had in months.”

 Greg Victor (gvictor@post-gazette.com).


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