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Daily Archives: March 14, 2008
On a recent Saturday night, I went to the movies. Walking past the theater showing “I Am Legend” (plague kills most of humanity), I opted to watch “Cloverfield” (inexplicably angry alien destroys Manhattan) instead. After sitting through back-to-back previews for “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” (ancient truce between Hell and Earth is revoked, resulting in mass destruction) and “Doomsday” (lethal virus ravages England, a disease-ridden cinematic cousin to “28 Days Later” and “Children of Men”), I found myself disturbed. The End of Days suddenly seemed imminent. Should I cancel my post-movie dinner reservation? What’s with all this apocalyptic entertainment, I wondered, and what does it say about those of us who are filling the theater seats?
Apocalypse-themed films proliferate, according to Msgr. Francis Maniscalco, former communications director for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, because they “reflect an idea that haunts the human imagination . . . a sense that this world is not permanent and faces some kind of comeuppance. Once it was thought that only God could bring that about. Today, we believe we can do it ourselves, due to the power placed in our hands by science or by our irresponsible behavior toward the environment.”
Rabbi Azriel Fellner, a free-lance film critic based in Livingston, N.J., agrees that the films may have more resonance because of recent advances in human capabilities, but he points to the current political environment as the source of these apocalyptic fantasies. Politicians, he notes, regularly mention the threat of nuclear war, or chemical or biological attack, and our imaginations start working overtime.
Confidence in Bear Stearns collapsed on Friday after the US investment bank said it had arranged for an unspecified amount of emergency funding from JP Morgan and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York because its liquidity position had “significantly deteriorated”.
In early New York trading, Bear Stearns shares plunged as much as 50 per cent, pulling the rest of the US stock market down. The shares have been hammered by concerns about the bank’s liquidity and had fallen more than 30 per cent this week alone in highly volatile trading.
In a statement, JP Morgan Chase said that “in conjunction with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, it has agreed to provide secured funding to Bear Stearns, as necessary, for an initial period of up to 28 days.
”Through its discount window, the Fed will provide non-recourse, back-to-back financing to JPMorgan Chase. Accordingly, JPMorgan Chase does not believe this transaction exposes its shareholders to any material risk. JPMorgan Chase is working closely with Bear Stearns on securing permanent financing or other alternatives for the company.”
The Episcopal Church’s deposition of Bishop John-David Schofield of San Joaquin has had no immediate effect on his invitation to attend this summer’s Lambeth Conference of bishops.
A Lambeth Conference spokesperson said the House of Bishops’ March 12 actions will have an impact throughout the Anglican Communion, but “it will take some time for these [implications] to be considered properly.” The source is not authorized to speak on the subject and therefore declined to be named.
The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church plans to poll the House of Bishops in April 2008 for approval of a plan to move the possible deposition of Bishop Bob Duncan of Pittsburgh forward from September 2008 to May 2008.
A number of Episcopal Life Online readers responded critically to the news about Cox and Schofield.
Among them, Ian Montgomery of Neenah, Wisconsin, called the depositions “a travesty and worthy of the inquisition of old.”
Greg Shore of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, wrote that it was “shameful” to depose bishops who leave the Episcopal Church “while refusing to depose bishops who abandon the faith which they promised to defend.”
However, the Rev. Dr. Raymond Hoche-Mong of Montara, California, wrote to say that Schofield has encouraged schism. “Schofield has insisted that he and he alone has the ability to speak for the Episcopal Church and in so doing has rejected the catholicity of the Church,” he wrote.
Katherine Clark of Racine, Wisconsin, responded with a caution and a request. She wrote “to remind our Bishops that there is one group of people who are troubled to think the Church we love may not continue to seek the mind of Christ on this issue but content itself with acting responsively to those whose position against homosexuals is so strong and unbending.”
“Those who question inclusion with charity and dignity and from their own allegiance to Scripture [are] another matter altogether,” Clarke wrote. “Their opinion will surely be important as we seek the mind of Christ (which St. Paul says is already ours). I would like to suggest that this very large (and not vocal) group of laypeople who see inclusion as a Gospel mandate might be included in any acknowledgement of ‘pain’ this division of opinion is causing.”
A toxic blend of economic and financial developments is testing policy makers and lawmakers who are struggling to contain the slump brought on by the collapse of the mortgage market, a downturn that now looks sure to push the economy into a recession. Though current conditions are a far cry from the 1970s, resurgent inflation is raising the threat of stagflation ”” a condition in which unemployment and the price of goods and services both rise.
Since the credit markets began to seize up in August, the steps taken by the Federal Reserve and the rest of the federal government have often bolstered stocks briefly, but so far they have done little to stem the larger downward drift.
Many specialists say policy makers can do only so much to protect the economy and warn that the government should be careful not to exacerbate inflation and create a new bubble like the one in housing that has burst. Lower interest rates and increased federal spending may not be enough to shore up growth, and some suggest that the only remedy for the pain may be the pain itself. A Standard & Poor’s report predicted that subprime mortgage write-downs at banks were nearly done, though losses in other areas might continue.
“We have to be careful about what medicines we throw at this, whether it’s stimulus packages or a bailout,” said Liz Ann Sonders, chief investment strategist at Charles Schwab & Company. “A lot of what we are dealing with is a solvency problem. We need to let the system wash it out.”
“I don’t know anything about Lincoln’s religion,” a longtime friend, David Davis, remarked after Lincoln’s death, “and I don’t believe anybody knows anything about it.” Though Davis’ skepticism should give pause to more historians than it has, he overstated the case. We will never know for sure whether Lincoln held orthodox Christian beliefs, whether he believed in the Trinity, the divinity of Christ or his resurrection, the life everlasting, the forgiveness of sins, the inerrant word of God as revealed in the Old Testament or the New.
But perhaps the country has benefited from not knowing. The uncertainty has made Lincoln our common property, whoever we are, from Robert Ingersoll to Cardinal Mundelein to Nettie Maynard. It may be indeed that Lincoln’s is the only kind of religious expression that will travel in a free country like ours. His religion has lasted a century and a half and has appealed to believers of all kinds, and to skeptics too, exactly because of its generality. Yet it still means something definable and concrete: The country, Lincoln believed, is the carrier of a precious cargo, a proposition that is the timeless human truth, and the survival of this principle will always be of providential importance. We assent to Lincoln’s creed, wide open as it is, when we think of ourselves as Americans.
School districts across California are reeling because of millions of dollars of proposed education cuts in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s budget. March 15 is the deadline to give teachers layoff notices, and thousands of them will go out across the state. A particularly hard-hit school district offers a look at the reality of the cuts.
Listen to it all from NPR. This is a good illustration of how the economy’s weakness is hitting home at the local level. Note carefully the profile of one district which has sent layoff notices to 20% of its teachers, and one school which has laid off 9 or its 12 teachers–KSH.
My heart aches for Silda Wall Spitzer. Not only do she and her children have to weather the storm brought on by her misguided husband, she also has to endure the judgments of the commentariat, many of whom have asked, with some frequency, why on earth she would stand by her man during his public ”” and anemic ”” mea culpa.
As someone who has stood by her politician husband during his public ”” and anemic ”” mea culpa, all I can say is: It’s a personal decision. There’s no right or wrong answer.
Who knows why powerful men conduct themselves this way? Maybe it’s the thrill, the rush of trying to get away with something. Maybe it’s just arrogance. The only thing that’s clear is that they’re blithely unaware of the lives their actions will destroy.
“The treasures of God’s mercy are always laid up in store for his children, even at all times they do not enjoy them.”
From the Geneva Notes on this verse from Psalm 31:
O how abundant is thy goodness,
which thou hast laid up for those who fear thee,
and wrought for those who take refuge in thee,
in the sight of the sons of men!
(Psalm 31 is the psalm for this coming Sunday)
The body of a Chaldean Catholic archbishop kidnapped by gunmen last month was found in a shal- low grave in northern Iraq yesterday.
The discovery sparked an immediate response from Pope Benedict XVI. Speaking in Rome, he said the act offends the dignity of humankind.
Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho was seized by gun- men on February 29, minutes after delivering a mass in Mosul, considered the last urban stronghold of al Qaeda in Iraq.
His recommendation [for how to watch one of his plays]?
“Pretend you’re at the first play you’ve ever seen ”” have that experience ”” and I think ‘what the play is about’ will reveal itself quite readily.”
Ben Brantley, chief drama critic of The New York Times, says Albee is “without peer among American playwrights.”
“Certainly of his generation,” Brantley says, “but I would say period.”
Among living dramatists, Brantley says, no one else takes the grand themes Albee does.
“I’m not talking about questions of politics or immediate topical issues,” Brantley stresses. “Edward Albee asks questions ”” the most basic existential questions. He confronts death, he confronts sex with, I think, eyes that remain very wide open.”
A task force drafting a statement on sexuality for the nation’s largest Lutheran group said Thursday that the church should continue defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
However, the panel did not condemn same-gender relationships. The committee expressed regret that historic Lutheran teachings have been used to hurt gays and lesbians, and acknowledged that some congregations already accept same-sex couples.
The report released by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is part of the denomination’s yearslong effort to bridge internal differences over the Bible and homosexuality.