Daily Archives: November 11, 2007

Marketwatch: Could California be in recession?

California is on the edge of recession, economists say. Or perhaps the nation’s most populous state is already in one.
“California seems to be sliding into recession,” wrote Jan Hatzius, chief economist for Goldman Sachs, in a research note earlier this week. Hatzius based his appraisal on the sharp increase in the unemployment rate in the state from 4.7% in November 2006 to 5.6% in September 2007.
While a 5.6% jobless rate may seem low, the important thing is how much it’s risen. Hatzius said any increase of more than 0.6 percentage points in California’s unemployment rate has always been associated with a national recession.
While a national recession is determined by looking at broad indicators such as employment, income, spending and industrial output, there’s no officially accepted definition of a statewide recession.
The hard data that would show a prolonged and pronounced decline in total economic activity aren’t available on a state-by-state basis except with a very long lag. The jobless rate is one of the few reliable statewide economic indicators that’s available quickly.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy

Bob Herbert: Recession? What Recession?

If it looks like a recession and feels like a recession …

“Quite frankly,” said Senator Charles Schumer, peering over his glasses at the Fed chairman, Ben Bernanke, “I think we are at a moment of economic crisis, stemming from four key areas: falling housing prices, lack of confidence in creditworthiness, the weak dollar and high oil prices.”

He asked Mr. Bernanke, at a Congressional hearing Thursday, if we were headed toward a recession.

An aide handed the chairman his dancing shoes, and Mr. Bernanke executed a flawless version of the Washington waffle. He said: “Our forecast is for moderate, but positive, growth going forward.” He said: “Economists are extremely bad at predicting turning points, and we don’t pretend to be any better.” He said: “We have not calculated the probability of recession, and I wouldn’t want to offer that today.”

With all due respect to the chairman, he would see the recession that so many others are feeling if he would only open his eyes. While Mr. Bernanke and others are waiting for the official diagnosis (a decline in the gross domestic product for two successive quarters), the disease is spreading and has been spreading for some time.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy

The cyber school for killers

The YouTube killer who shot dead eight members of his school in Finland before turning his gun on himself had internet contacts with an American teenager who was planning a shooting spree in a high school in Philadelphia, it was claimed yesterday.

The disclosure could turn upside down previous assumptions about the dynamics of school massacres. Until now, teenage killers were regarded as depressed loners whose imagination had been stoked by aggressive computer games. Now it seems that information may have been shared by potential killers over the internet: a virtual community of young people who idolise the 1999 Columbine High School murders.

“It’s highly probable that there was some form of contact between Pekka-Eric Auvinen and Dillon Cossey,” a spokesman for the cyber crime department of Helsinki police said. Dillon Cossey, 14, was arrested last month on suspicion of planning to storm his old school, Plymouth Whitemarsh. Police acting on a tipoff found a 9mm semi-automatic rifle, handmade grenades, a .22 pistol and a .22 single-shot rifle at his home. Less than two weeks later Auvinen, already a member of a shooting club, was buying his first gun ”” a .22 pistol ”” and expressing interest in a 9mm semi-automatic.

Police do not believe this to have been a coincidence. The two youths are thought to have made contact over two MySpace groups, “RIP Eric and Dylan” ”” a reference to Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who killed 12 schoolmates at Columbine ”” and “Natural Selection”.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Blogging & the Internet, Europe, Violence

Norman Mailer RIP

Mr. Mailer belonged to the old literary school that regarded novel writing as a heroic enterprise undertaken by heroic characters with egos to match. He was the most transparently ambitious writer of his era, seeing himself in competition not just with his contemporaries but with the likes of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky.

He was also the least shy and risk-averse of writers. He eagerly sought public attention, and publicity inevitably followed him on the few occasions when he tried to avoid it. His big ears, barrel chest, striking blue eyes and helmet of seemingly electrified hair ”” jet black at first and ultimately snow white ”” made him instantly recognizable, a celebrity long before most authors were lured out into the limelight.

At different points in his life Mr. Mailer was a prodigious drinker and drug taker, a womanizer, a devoted family man, a would-be politician who ran for mayor of New York, a hipster existentialist, an antiwar protester, an opponent of women’s liberation and an all-purpose feuder and short-fused brawler, who with the slightest provocation would happily engage in head-butting, arm-wrestling and random punch-throwing. Boxing obsessed him and inspired some of his best writing. Any time he met a critic or a reviewer, even a friendly one, he would put up his fists and drop into a crouch.

Gore Vidal, with whom he frequently wrangled, once wrote: “Mailer is forever shouting at us that he is about to tell us something we must know or has just told us something revelatory and we failed to hear him or that he will, God grant his poor abused brain and body just one more chance, get through to us so that we will know. Each time he speaks he must become more bold, more loud, put on brighter motley and shake more foolish bells. Yet of all my contemporaries I retain the greatest affection for Norman as a force and as an artist. He is a man whose faults, though many, add to rather than subtract from the sum of his natural achievements.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Books, Poetry & Literature

Chad Varah RIP

The Rev. Chad Varah, an outspoken, publicity-sly, sometimes cantankerous Anglican priest who started a telephone hot line for the suicidal after concluding that loneliness is the most heart-rending anguish, died Thursday in Basingstoke, England. He was 95.

His death was announced by Samaritans, the suicide-prevention charity he founded.

From his initial rush to the aid of a despairing mother in November 1953, Father Varah’s mission to give hope to the perhaps fatally depressed grew to 200 branches in Britain and Ireland and 200 more in 38 other countries. It became a model for crisis hot lines.

Father Varah’s vision began in 1935, when, as a 23-year-old deacon, he brooded bitterly after the first burial service he conducted for a girl, who, by varying accounts, was 13 or 14. She had killed herself because she wrongly feared that the onset of menstruation meant she had a venereal disease.

“Here was a life that could have been saved if only there had been an intelligent person she could bring herself to talk to,” he said in an interview with Church Illustrated magazine in 1959.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Parish Ministry

Lieberman: ME atomic programs 'apocalyptic'

Egyptian and Saudi Arabian intentions to begin or revive their nuclear programs in the face of Iran’s continued race toward nuclear power present an “apocalyptic scenario” for Israel as well as for the rest of the world, Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

Lieberman’s remarks came a week after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak announced a decision to restart his country’s nuclear program. On Wednesday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that his country had begun operating 3,000 centrifuges for the enrichment of uranium.

“If Egypt and Saudi Arabia begin nuclear programs, this can bring an apocalyptic scenario upon us,” Lieberman told the Post. “Their intentions should be taken seriously and the declarations being made now are to prepare the world for when they decide to actually do it.”

Lieberman also said Pakistan was a major threat to Israel due to the political instability there and the fact that the country had “missiles, nuclear weapons and a proven capability.”

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Posted in * International News & Commentary, Middle East

Integrity Comments on the Diocese of Chicago Election

Integrity congratulates Jeffrey Lee on his election as the next Bishop of Chicago. “We look forward to working with Bishop-elect Lee in continuing Chicago’s long history of working for the full-inclusion of the LGBT faithful in the life and witness of the diocese,” said the Rev. Susan Russell, President of Integrity.

“Integrity also commends the Search Committee of the Diocese of Chicago for including the Very Rev. Lind as a candidate despite the chilling effects of Resolution B033””and Dean Lind herself for standing for election in spite of the House of Bishops’ recent statement in New Orleans,” continued Russell. “We may never know how significant a factor Resolution B033 was in the outcome of the Chicago election. However, we do know that Resolution B033 is noncanonical and discriminatory. Two dioceses””California and Rochester””have already passed resolutions to General Convention 2009 that will nullify B033. We strongly urge all bishops and deputies to support such resolutions and their intent to end B033’s inequity when we get to General Convention 2009 in Anaheim.”

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops

An AP Profile of Leith Anderson

Indeed, Anderson still leads seven services a weekend at Wooddale Church. But the story of the spurned candidate, whom he declined to name, offers some insight into his vision for the NAE ”” an organization that represents 45,000 churches and 30 million members.

“My life is not in Washington,” Anderson said. “I am not a politician. What evangelists are about is primarily faith, and not politics.”

Anderson, who moved from interim president to president of the NAE in October, brings both his biblical focus and a wide-ranging set of concerns about the environment and human rights to the leadership of the NAE at an unsettled time.

His predecessor, Ted Haggard, resigned last year in a sex-and-drugs scandal.

Meanwhile, evangelicals have been finding it difficult to settle on a Republican presidential candidate who is seen as viable and opposes both abortion and same-sex marriage.

Anderson, 63, is among a group of evangelical leaders who are “just as orthodox in their theology” as leading conservative Christians but think that relating faith to culture is more complex than just a couple of issues, said George Brushaber, president of the evangelical Bethel College near St. Paul.

“He wants the church to be part of the conversation in the public square, and not be owned by any narrow base,” said Brushaber, who has known Anderson for several decades.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Evangelicals, Other Churches, Religion & Culture

Ruling has 'quick and dramatic' impact on church-state cases

A months-old U.S. Supreme Court ruling quickly weakened the ability of taxpayers to sue government for violating the separation of church and state, legal experts say.

The court ruled in June that taxpayers could not sue over executive branch spending that allegedly promoted religion. The 5-4 decision dismissed a lawsuit by the Madison-based Freedom From Religion Foundation that challenged President Bush’s faith-based initiative.

Taxpayers only have the standing to sue when Congress specifically authorizes money for religious purposes, Justice Samuel Alito wrote. Otherwise, courts would be clogged with cases complaining about the day-to-day activities of government employees, he wrote.

At the time, advocates for the separation of church and state said the ruling’s impact would be limited. But less than six months later, legal observers are startled by the fallout in cases claiming violations of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which prohibits government-sponsored religion.

“This is a bigger deal than anybody realized and can really change the dynamics of when these cases get brought,” said George Washington University law professor Ira Lupu. “This could actually turn out to be quite sweeping in the way it limits the ability of people to challenge what the government does as a violation of the Establishment Clause.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

For those Following the Diocese of Chicago Election for Bishop Today

The first ballot tabulations are available.

Update: Lee elected on the second ballot.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops, TEC Diocesan Conventions/Diocesan Councils