Daily Archives: January 28, 2008

A tipping point? "Foreclose me … I'll save money"

A homeowner who can’t sell his house tells the L.A.Times, “Foreclose me. … I’ll live in the house for free for 12 months, and I’ll save my money and I’ll move on.”

Banks and lenders fear this kind of thinking — that walking away from a house could be the smart economic move — appears to be on the rise. Wachovia, in a conference call yesterday, warned investors that increasing numbers of homeowners are walking away from their homes by choice: “… people that have otherwise had the capacity to pay, but have basically just decided not to because they feel like they’ve lost equity, value in their properties…”

Read it all and follow the links.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market

Richard W. Garnett: Remembering American History about Roman Catholicism

In April, Benedict XVI will make his first visit to the USA as pope. When he does, some will complain about clean-up costs, traffic snarls, rescheduled television shows and other inconveniences. Others will express (and the media will obsess about) their various disagreements with the pope’s writings and church teaching. And many millions will be inspired, comforted and encouraged by his work, life and witness, and by the theme of his new encyclical letter, “Saved By Hope.”

Today, thanks in part to Pope John Paul II’s globetrotting, evangelical papacy, visits by popes to America are occasions for reflection, celebration and souvenir-selling. In our not-so-distant past, though, papal invasions loomed large in all kinds of nightmare scenarios.

It is easy to forget but, from the Puritans to the Framers and beyond, anti-“popery” was thick in the cultural air breathed by the early Americans. Our forebears were raised on hair-raising tales of Armadas and Inquisitions, Puritan heroism and Bloody Mary, Jesuit schemes and Gunpowder Plots, lecherous confessors and baby-killing nuns. As the great historian John Tracy Ellis once observed, a “universal anti-Catholic bias was brought to Jamestown in 1607 and vigilantly cultivated in all the thirteen colonies from Massachusetts to Georgia.”

In the 1830s, Samuel Morse (who invented the telegraph) wrote a popular book, Foreign Conspiracy Against the Liberties of the United States, warning that Irish immigration to American cities was part of a papal plan of conquest.

About the same time, Lyman Beecher ”” a Presbyterian minister and the father of Uncle Tom’s Cabin author Harriet Beecher Stowe ”” revealed, in his own A Plea for the West, that Catholic immigrants in the American West were laying the groundwork for the pope’s Mississippi Valley invasion. (Some tracts identified Cincinnati as the planned site for the new Vatican.)

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Church History, Other Churches, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

Uncovering the 'Holocaust by bullets'

Painful to watch but hauntingly powerful–warning, a number of images are very disturbing.

Posted in * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Europe, Judaism, Other Faiths

Joe Nocera is Worried about the Economy

I don’t see how you can avoid a certain amount of gloom given the week we’ve just had ”” and its implications for the future. Yes, things were a little less crazy on Thursday and Friday, but the early part of the week was just awful. On Monday, our markets were closed for Martin Luther King’s Birthday, but all over the world, stock markets were in free fall. On Tuesday, the Dow Jones industrial average dropped 464 points at the open, and closed with a loss of 128 points. On Wednesday we had the so-called whiplash rally ”” from a 300-point morning deficit, the market swung to a nearly 300-point gain. Even with the gain, a 600-point swing doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. It inspires fear.

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve announced an emergency rate drop of three-quarters of a point, in a move that smelled an awful lot like panic. Economists were debating whether the economy was nearing a recession ”” or was already in one. The New York State Insurance superintendent sought a bailout plan for the major bond insurers, fearing disaster if they failed. Housing prices continued to drop. Further write-downs by the major financial institutions seemed all but certain. All the things that the bears have been predicting were coming to pass, and it was hard to know when ”” or how ”” it would end.

“This is nothing like I’ve ever seen,” said Peter Bernstein, the author and market sage ”” and a man who has pretty much seen it all. Normally, he said, bear markets set in when stock values get out of hand, as was the case when the tech bubble burst in 2000. But not this time. The market is in trouble because the larger economy is in trouble. “The collapse of credit is what is driving this recession,” he said.

Read it all

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Stock Market

Denominations combine as memberships decline

As their congregations dwindle, churches across the country are starting to merge, shoring up their numbers and strength.

In most cases, two churches of the same denomination ”” Methodist, Episcopal or Lutheran, for example ”” will come together in one building. That will happen in Simi Valley next month, when two Lutheran churches merge.

Less common is the merger of two different denominations. But that’s happening here, too. In Santa Paula, Episcopal and Lutheran congregations have agreed to share a pastor and a building.

“Unfortunately, too often we see each other as competitors instead of partners,” said the Rev. Gary Stevenson of Our Saviour Lutheran Church in Simi Valley. “But our calling from God, no matter what our denomination, is ”” or at least should be ”” the same.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Episcopal Church (TEC), Lutheran, Methodist, Other Churches, Parish Ministry

In Canada Status of Stirling rector remains uncertain

The congregation of St. John the Evangelist Church here remains in the dark about the future of its rector, more than six months since he was disciplined by the Anglican Church.

Rev. Michael Bury’s licence to perform marriages was suspended after he married a same-sex couple last August.

While details of the offending ceremony haven’t been released by the church and local church officials declined to comment on the issue, Bury was disciplined by the diocese of Ontario for marrying the same-sex couple.

This occurred after diocesan Bishop George Bruce warned all clergy that disciplinary action would be taken for any clergy member conducting same-sex blessings or same-sex weddings.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Provinces, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)

As Web Use Soars, So Does Online Harassment

Jane Hitchcock knows firsthand how damaging online harassment can be. In 1996, after a fake literary agency tried to con her, she tried to put a stop to its scam. The scammers didn’t appreciate her efforts and came after her ”” virtually and physically.

“In January of 1997, they began posting controversial messages … and listed my home phone number and home address and it went from there,” she says.

Hitchcock, who is now president of the volunteer organization Working to Halt Online Abuse, reports about 75 cases of online harassment a week. She says that a large number of the victims range in age between 18 and 30. Most are women, and the harassers are largely men, she says.

Listen to it all from NPR.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Blogging & the Internet

Laura McKenna: Katie Couric's Big Mistake

What won’t I be doing?

I will not be sitting in front of the 6:30 network news.

More importantly, neither will any of the college students in my classes.

They are the news consumers of the future and the evening news has no place in their lives. I teach Politics and Media with reading assignments from the most widely used textbook in the field, but the students don’t know what to make of it. To them, it reads like ancient history. The author writes as if the world still looked up to news anchors. She refers familiarly and respectfully to Brian Williams and Katie Couric in a tone that assumes her readers – the students – also worship them.

Wrong. The students worship Jon Stewart. They have never watched the 6:30 news, not even once. They have never watched the local 5:00 news shows either. I have to actually assign students to watch the local news in order to get the students to watch those shows, so they will know what their textbooks are talking about. I might as well have asked them to go to a museum.

My anecdotal evidence is supported by research. In a recent study, Thomas Patterson from Harvard found that young people ”“ surprise! ”“ don’t tune into Katie or any other traditional news anchors. They don’t have the same daily news habit that their parents had.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Blogging & the Internet, Media, Young Adults

Mr. Wong's small town U.S.A. adventure

Watch it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Asia, China, Education, Globalization

Melinda Selmys: The 5 Essentials of Education

Most people tacitly assume that the proliferation of formal education is a sign of social advance. Democratic theorists have always agreed that a working democracy requires an educated adult population, which is why the universal franchise and universal schooling appear at a similar time in the writings of social philosophers. It is less than useless, however, to have a heavily schooled population if students emerge from 13 or more years of school without an education.

There are five essential areas of education that need to come together to make a responsible, complete adult. A quick survey of them should suffice to tell us that there is a crisis in modern schooling that goes well beyond the literacy crisis and the problems of sexual education.

First, an educated adult should have knowledge of the world that he lives in.

This is particularly important in a democracy, where every citizen is expected to be involved in the political life of the country. A basic understanding of the political process, of the history of one’s own country and of the world, of basic geography and a working knowledge of global economics are all essential. These ought not to be the province of a specialized few, and they are easy to teach.

A kindergarten child, for example, can be taught in approximately 10 to 20 hours to identify every country in the world on a map, yet this is material that is not taught at any level of public school in most jurisdictions.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Education

William Rees-Mogg: Is Barack Obama the next JFK?

If the surge towards Senator Obama continues he will probably win the presidency. At present the only Republican who is ahead of Mrs Clinton and Mr Obama is John McCain. He might have my vote, since I am of an age to regard him as a promising young senator, and he might beat Mrs Clinton because she is a less charismatic candidate, but he would not beat Senator Obama, if Mr Obama won the nomination.

This is not yet certain, but at this stage in 1960 Kennedy was still only a possible candidate. He had to beat Adlai Stevenson for the nomination and then Richard Nixon for the presidency. The first task proved relatively easy, though Stevenson was popular in the Democratic Party. The presidential election against Nixon was a near-run thing. But Kennedy won. Charisma is an indefinable grace, given to few politicians. Obama has it – Bill Clinton had it – but Hillary does not.

If the Obama surge continues, we shall feel the effect of it in British politics. JFK changed British politics as well as American. I remember discussing this impact with Harold Macmillan. Kennedy had created a cult of youth. Experience, which had been an asset to a leader, became synonymous with being an old fuddy-duddy. During the Profumo scandal Macmillan said that he did not move in the youthful circles in which the scandal occurred. That was taken as the proof that he was out of touch, as though a Prime Minister in his sixties had a duty to mix with the younger set in louche nightclubs.

Youth, idealism, style are powerful political weapons. On February 5, we shall see whether they have captivated America. If they do, we shall find that they have captivated Britain as well. Barack Obama could have a message for us all.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, US Presidential Election 2008

Churches face uncertain future as closures loom

Mounting alarm has been created by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Lancaster when he questioned recently the future of some of the finest churches in his diocese. In Preston, which was granted city status to mark the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, there is talk of closure of a number of the best preserved Catholic churches in the country, including St Walburge’s, with the tallest spire of any parish church in England (309ft ”” 95m ”” to Louth’s 295 ft and the 292ft of St Mary Redcliffe, in Bristol).

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, England / UK, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

The NY Times Magazine: Waving Goodbye to Hegemony

Turn on the TV today, and you could be forgiven for thinking it’s 1999. Democrats and Republicans are bickering about where and how to intervene, whether to do it alone or with allies and what kind of world America should lead. Democrats believe they can hit a reset button, and Republicans believe muscular moralism is the way to go. It’s as if the first decade of the 21st century didn’t happen ”” and almost as if history itself doesn’t happen. But the distribution of power in the world has fundamentally altered over the two presidential terms of George W. Bush, both because of his policies and, more significant, despite them. Maybe the best way to understand how quickly history happens is to look just a bit ahead.

It is 2016, and the Hillary Clinton or John McCain or Barack Obama administration is nearing the end of its second term. America has pulled out of Iraq but has about 20,000 troops in the independent state of Kurdistan, as well as warships anchored at Bahrain and an Air Force presence in Qatar. Afghanistan is stable; Iran is nuclear. China has absorbed Taiwan and is steadily increasing its naval presence around the Pacific Rim and, from the Pakistani port of Gwadar, on the Arabian Sea. The European Union has expanded to well over 30 members and has secure oil and gas flows from North Africa, Russia and the Caspian Sea, as well as substantial nuclear energy. America’s standing in the world remains in steady decline.

Why? Weren’t we supposed to reconnect with the United Nations and reaffirm to the world that America can, and should, lead it to collective security and prosperity? Indeed, improvements to America’s image may or may not occur, but either way, they mean little. Condoleezza Rice has said America has no “permanent enemies,” but it has no permanent friends either. Many saw the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq as the symbols of a global American imperialism; in fact, they were signs of imperial overstretch. Every expenditure has weakened America’s armed forces, and each assertion of power has awakened resistance in the form of terrorist networks, insurgent groups and “asymmetric” weapons like suicide bombers. America’s unipolar moment has inspired diplomatic and financial countermovements to block American bullying and construct an alternate world order. That new global order has arrived, and there is precious little Clinton or McCain or Obama could do to resist its growth.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Globalization

Surveys find Americans tolerant of religious beliefs

When it comes to religion, modern Americans think religious beliefs are good, but they tend to worry about beliefs that affect other people.

As a rule, religious words are safer than religious actions.

Consider these numbers from a new Ellison Research study that shows surprising support — on the left and right, among believers and skeptics — for freedom of expression when it comes to words and symbols.

An overwhelming 90 percent of adults agreed that faith groups should be allowed to rent public property, such as a school gym, if laws gave non-religious groups the same right. Asked about allowing a moment of silence in public schools, 89 percent said that was fine. Another 88 percent said teachers should have the right to wear jewelry, such as a cross or a Star of David, in public-school classes.

“There is a lot of unity out there about these kinds of issues,” said Ron Sellers, president of the research firm in Phoenix. “But the specifics do matter. Wearing a cross on your lapel is not the same thing as showing up at school wearing a T-shirt with a big cross on it and the words, ‘Believe in Jesus or you’re going to hell.’

“There’s no way to say that approving one thing is the same as approving another, even though the same principle is at stake.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Religion & Culture

LA Times Editorial: Increasing financial literacy

In the not-so-distant past, redlining — the practice of denying financial services to people based solely on their race, sex, surname or address — deprived many Americans of the opportunity to build a prosperous life. Today many of us still suffer financially. But this time around, we’re limited by too many choices rather than too few.

Financial illiteracy has become the new redlining. Vast numbers of us go to college and own homes and cars. Our kids tote the latest cellphones, and our living room television sets have been replaced by lavish home entertainment centers. But we don’t know how to budget for our households or how to balance our checkbooks. Homeowners who misunderstood or ignored the inherent risks of adjustable-rate mortgages are losing houses to foreclosure in record numbers. (In California, 31,676 households foreclosed in the last quarter of 2007, more than twice as many as the previous record in 1996.) Shoppers who ignored the fine print on credit card agreements helped push consumer bankruptcies up 40%, to 801,840, in 2007. The average college student graduates with $2,200 in credit card debt and is more likely to drop out of school because of financial hardship than because of academic failure.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy