Daily Archives: December 19, 2007
In a year when Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize and green became the new red, white and blue; when the combat in Iraq showed signs of cooling but Baghdad’s politicians showed no signs of statesmanship; when China, the rising superpower, juggled its pride in hosting next summer’s Olympic Games with its embarrassment at shipping toxic toys around the world; and when J.K. Rowling set millions of minds and hearts on fire with the final volume of her 17-year saga””one nation that had fallen off our mental map, led by one steely and determined man, emerged as a critical linchpin of the 21st century.
Russia lives in history””and history lives in Russia. Throughout much of the 20th century, the Soviet Union cast an ominous shadow over the world. It was the U.S.’s dark twin. But after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Russia receded from the American consciousness as we became mired in our own polarized politics. And it lost its place in the great game of geopolitics, its significance dwarfed not just by the U.S. but also by the rising giants of China and India. That view was always naive. Russia is central to our world””and the new world that is being born. It is the largest country on earth; it shares a 2,600-mile (4,200 km) border with China; it has a significant and restive Islamic population; it has the world’s largest stockpile of weapons of mass destruction and a lethal nuclear arsenal; it is the world’s second largest oil producer after Saudi Arabia; and it is an indispensable player in whatever happens in the Middle East. For all these reasons, if Russia fails, all bets are off for the 21st century. And if Russia succeeds as a nation-state in the family of nations, it will owe much of that success to one man, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.
No one would label Putin a child of destiny. The only surviving son of a Leningrad factory worker, he was born after what the Russians call the Great Patriotic War, in which they lost more than 26 million people. The only evidence that fate played a part in Putin’s story comes from his grandfather’s job: he cooked for Joseph Stalin, the dictator who inflicted ungodly terrors on his nation.
A truism of crisis management is that most seemingly out-of-the-blue disasters could have been prevented if someone had paid attention.
An article in The Times on Tuesday by Edmund L. Andrews leaves no doubt that the twin crises of the subprime lending mess ”” mass foreclosures at one end of the economic scale and a credit squeeze afflicting the financial system ”” are rooted in the willful failure of federal regulators to heed numerous warnings.
The Federal Reserve is especially blameworthy. Starting as early as 2000, former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan brushed aside warnings from another Fed governor, Edward M. Gramlich, about subprime lenders who were luring borrowers into risky loans. Mr. Greenspan’s insistence, to this day, that the Fed did not have the power to rein in such lending is nonsense.
In 1994, Congress passed a law requiring the Fed to regulate all mortgage lending. The language is crystal clear: the Fed “by regulation or order, shall prohibit acts or practices in connection with A) mortgage loans that the board finds to be unfair, deceptive, or designed to evade the provisions of this section; and B) refinancing of mortgage loans that the board finds to be associated with abusive lending practices, or that are otherwise not in the interest of the borrower.”
On Monday, six middle-school students in Salem, Mass., went on a $2,500 “shopping spree” for safe toys ”“ no lead paint, no toxic magnets. The toys were destined for Toys for Tots, courtesy of SourceOne Inc., an energy-management firm in Boston.
This past Thursday, Cincinnati Toys for Tots received 8,000 plush toys (no hard plastic and no intoxicating residues) from Ty’s Toy Box, an online retailer in northern Kentucky.
In Chicago, Children’s Memorial Hospital is getting 50 CDs and 50 comic books from Denise Dorman, a publicist and mother of a 3-year-old, who worries about spreading lead paint.
This has not been the merriest of holidays for local toy drives. High-profile toy recalls and continuing concerns about the safety of products imported from China have caused donors to pull back on contributions and charities to begin screening donations. But in some places, holiday givers are coming up with creative alternatives ”“ from 24-hour Internet money drives to “make-it-yourself” toys ”“ to help children in need.
“Our aisles are bursting this this year with customers who want to help kids make toys of their own,” says Lori Gatley, of Michaels Craft Store in Pasadena Calif. She says parents are stocking up on paper, glue, and cardboard components rather than worry about safety with some manufactured toy they’ve purchased. “Most of the projects are made of materials like foam which are safe,” she says.
Christian leaders have branded a television commercial depicting the baby Jesus tossing gifts back at the three wise men as tacky and offensive.
The ad for electronic goods retailers Betta Electrical recreates the Christian nativity scene, showing three wise men offering gifts to baby Jesus as he lies in the manger.
The commercial, which has angered Anglican and Catholic leaders, shows Jesus throwing gifts out of the manger as the words “Give a better gift” flash on the TV screen.
Christian leaders criticised the ad, calling it a tacky and offensive exploitation of religious imagery which perverts the true meaning of Christmas.
Recent religious tensions, particularly after 7/7, are in part a result of these tectonic instabilities. The government knows it needs to create shared ground between religious groups. But it is reluctant to address our historical inheritance, ignoring the structural nature of Anglicanism’s centrality and preferring instead to paper over the fault lines by pursuing two contradictory strategies.
The first argues that, while Christianity remains the official religion, other beliefs must be represented too. As religious groups proliferate and become more vocal, local authorities organise more festivals, religious education eats into the school curriculum, and “consultations” with “faith leaders” become part of every public official’s working day. To read documents produced by the government’s Cohesion and Faiths Unit, the interdepartmental group on faith, and the Institute for Community Cohesion, is to wade through endless talk of “mainstreaming faith issues” and creating “interfaith initiatives”.
The second declares that the “multiculturalist experiment” has been a resounding failure. Gordon Brown repeatedly affirms his commitment to “a distinctive set of shared British values” – tolerance, decency, fairplay and so on – which he’d like to see enshrined in citizenship tests for migrants, the school curriculum, and the establishment of an annual British Day.
Neither of these approaches will create the secular, neutral space needed to accommodate religious difference.
Mary and Joseph were headed for Bethlehem when the donkey hauling the Virgin spooked, bucked her and bolted. Joseph frantically jumped on the donkey’s hind end but fell off and got caught in the reins. The creature kept going, dragging Joseph behind for several hundred feet before it finally settled down.
That mishap, of course, doesn’t appear in the Bible. It’s from a so-called living nativity scene that was performed here two years ago at the Fellowship Baptist Church.
These Christmas season spectacles, in which human volunteers and farm animals are recruited to stand in for Mary, Joseph and the rest of the crÃ¨che-come-to-life, are growing in popularity. They’re drawing big crowds, especially children, who are sometimes allowed to pet the barn animals and take a peek at the swaddled infant starring as Baby Jesus. But the realism has ushered in some less-than-joyous moments like the one at Fellowship Baptist.
“We don’t have that scene anymore,” says Pastor Andy Wallin of this church near Philadelphia, which now uses a tape recording to narrate how Mary and Joseph arrived at their destination. “We gave up on trying to tame the donkey.”
Then it’s no secret that some Anglicans within four parishes who continue to protest the actions of the 2002 Diocesan Synod, but have stayed within the diocese, may leave the Anglican Church of Canada. We hope not. We don’t think it’s necessary. Both we and they would be impoverished by a departure. But again, change seems likely.
Churches seldom find change easy. But it seems that change they must to remain vital and alive in this world. The hard part is determining what things should be changed-and what must remain the changeless core of our faith. May God help us as we continue to try to discern the one from the other.
The Secretary General of the Anglican Consultative Council has announced that its quarterly magazine, Anglican Episcopal World, will cease publication after 36 years.
On Dec 4, Canon Kenneth Kearon told ACC staffers in London the magazine would cease publication immediately after a 126 issue print run.
It is an interesting missive. It conforms with Williams’ long standing strategy – keep talking!! In the meantime, as always there are the usual potshots at the US. These are not new and after all half the Communion hates us, so he is only stating the obvious. For him to glibly suggests that the church is not homophobic is of course nonsense – and he probably knows it. But he does what leaders always do in a crisis, they fudge.
What is most interesting is that he acknowledges wide support for us. Simply stating this is, of course, a thorn in the side of our adversaries. Moreover, he does not like all the raiding going on. To say that some provision should be made for those who hate us and that the present option of boundary crossing is not good is to suggest that – after more talking!! – some other arrangements must be made which are less destructive. Now of course he knows it is too late for this, that the forming of alternative structures are already advanced and have been planned for years in advance and have come at his expense. He however will continue to overlook this and plan for something else. What would this something else be – and again after more talking!! Well whatever it is it will be less hostile and in some sense a critique of the Akinola- Duncan strategy. For such a “new” arrangement will now have to take into account all those folks who have supported us (for remember this is the first time such support has been rendered and been noted!!)
He expresses concern that our bishops’ moratorium on lbgt etc was only until GC 2009 since as one house they could at GC veto anything the other house came up with short of a moratorium. He is no fool and knows our bishops simply can’t say they rule even if they technically have a veto. And of course alluding to the special teaching charism of the office of bishop is romantic nonsense (which he may as an academic and an old Anglo-catholic really believe). He knows full well that politically our Bishops – charism or not – cannot simply rule. So I suspect this pot shot while maybe heartfelt was said to please the hostiles – and at a point where they are miffed. It of course means nothing at all.