Daily Archives: June 10, 2008

'David vs. Goliath': City Takes On BAE Systems

The British government was also investigating the deal. That probe had gotten so far as to gain access to Swiss bank accounts. But then the investigation was shut down. According to British court documents, Saudi Arabia threatened to kill another fighter plane deal with BAE that was being negotiated at the time. The Saudis also threatened to end their close intelligence and diplomatic relationship with the British government.

The Saudi threat to call off intelligence cooperation was taken very seriously. As the former director of Britain’s Serious Fraud Office testified, the Saudi ambassador to the U.K. put it to him this way: “British lives on British streets were at risk.”

My goodness. Listen to or read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Economy, England / UK, Middle East, Military / Armed Forces, Saudi Arabia

NPR: Same-Sex Ruling Drives Wedding Business in California

Virtually as soon as California’s Supreme Court announced it would legally recognize same-sex marriages starting June 17, wedding businesses started getting calls from thousands of gays and lesbians planning their nuptials. A vast array of businesses has begun wooing the couples ”” Macy’s, for example, recently took out a huge ad in several newspapers celebrating the ruling and promoting its wedding registry.

Rena Puebla and her business partner, Ellie Genuardi, were ahead of the curve. A few years ago, the pair formed Renellie, a company that offers the traditional figurines that top wedding cakes to a not-so traditional clientele. Renellie’s smiling hand-painted couples, like those they represent, are interracial or same sex. Or both.

Read or listen to it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Sexuality

David Brooks: The Great Seduction

The people who created this country built a moral structure around money. The Puritan legacy inhibited luxury and self-indulgence. Benjamin Franklin spread a practical gospel that emphasized hard work, temperance and frugality. Millions of parents, preachers, newspaper editors and teachers expounded the message. The result was quite remarkable.

The United States has been an affluent nation since its founding. But the country was, by and large, not corrupted by wealth. For centuries, it remained industrious, ambitious and frugal.

Over the past 30 years, much of that has been shredded. The social norms and institutions that encouraged frugality and spending what you earn have been undermined. The institutions that encourage debt and living for the moment have been strengthened. The country’s moral guardians are forever looking for decadence out of Hollywood and reality TV. But the most rampant decadence today is financial decadence, the trampling of decent norms about how to use and harness money.

Sixty-two scholars have signed on to a report by the Institute for American Values and other think tanks called, “For a New Thrift: Confronting the Debt Culture,” examining the results of all this. This may be damning with faint praise, but it’s one of the most important think-tank reports you’ll read this year.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Economy, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

NY Times: Rural U.S. Takes Worst Hit as Gas Tops $4 Average

Gasoline prices reached a national average of $4 a gallon for the first time over the weekend, adding more strain to motorists across the country.

But the pain is not being felt uniformly. Across broad swaths of the South, Southwest and the upper Great Plains, the combination of low incomes, high gas prices and heavy dependence on pickup trucks and vans is putting an even tighter squeeze on family budgets.

Here in the Mississippi Delta, some farm workers are borrowing money from their bosses so they can fill their tanks and get to work. Some are switching jobs for shorter commutes.

People are giving up meat so they can buy fuel. Gasoline theft is rising. And drivers are running out of gas more often, leaving their cars by the side of the road until they can scrape together gas money.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources

Archbishop of Canterbury warns: Do not ignore Christianity for Islam

The Archbishop of Canterbury has demanded that the Government sit up and take notice of the Church of England, after a report disclosed how Christianity is being ignored at the expense of Islam.

Dr Rowan Williams said the landmark study painted a “depressing” picture of how the state misunderstands the important contribution played by the clergy and churchgoers to the economy and society.

The report, commissioned by the Church but written by academics from the Von Hügel Institute at Cambridge University, found that central and local government just pay “lip service” to Christians but “focus intently” on Muslims because of the threat of extremism.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Religion & Culture

Notable and Quotable (II)

“They just raised $6 billion of capital that they said they didn’t need, to replace losses they said they didn’t have.”

David Einhorn, manager of hedge fund Greenlight Capital, speaking of Lehman Brothers in today’s Wall Street Journal’s Heard on the Street column

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Stock Market

Corralling the Catholic vote: Political necessity or pipe dream?

With the two major parties’ nominees for president apparently decided and attention turning to their vice-presidential choices, an old question inevitably arises in certain circles — how to corral the “Catholic vote” in November.

But the topic is being met with increasing skepticism by some who believe American Catholics base their votes on nearly as many factors as there are American Catholics.

“Politicians and media people love to think there is” a Catholic vote, said John Farina, an associate professor of religious studies at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. “And the political parties are always able to find people who will tell them there is a Catholic vote and this is how you get it.”

But that does not make it so, added Farina, who believes that “most Catholics base their votes on reasons other than their Catholicism” — because they are blue-collar or white-collar, Hispanic or not Hispanic, white or black, military veterans or not.

Read the whole article.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, US Presidential Election 2008

FT: US sees a shadow of the Bundesbank

Not much is ever truly new in the world economy. In the late 1980s, the US (and most of Europe) was raging at Germany’s Bundesbank for keeping interest rates high, consumption down, and the dollar unstable. Twenty years on and US determination to support growth is once again in conflict with European determination to crush inflation. The battleground, then as now, will be the exchange rate.

The name of one protagonist may be different this time, but while the European Central Bank has taken over the power to set rates, it is the Bundesbank’s intellectual child. Its sole mandate is to control inflation and, credit squeeze or not, it takes that goal seriously. Last week Jean-Claude Trichet, the ECB’s president, signalled that, barring the unexpected, its base rate will rise to 4.25 per cent in July.

An ECB rate rise would widen the gap with the US, where the Federal Reserve has cut rates to 2 per cent. Not only does the Fed’s mandate require it to balance inflation with growth ”“ unlike that of the ECB ”“ but its “risk management” philosophy has led it to cut rates hard in order to insure against the danger of a severe recession. The two central banks have come to entirely different policy judgments.

The conflict helps neither side.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Economy, Europe

Pennsylvania Episcopal Bishop's Abuse Trial Commences

Episcopal Bishop Charles Bennison faced his first day of ecclesiastical trial yesterday over whether he violated church rules by failing to disclose a sexual relationship between his brother and an underage parishioner.

The bishop’s younger brother John allegedly had illicit sex with a girl beginning in 1971 when she was a 14-year-old member of St. Mark’s Church in Upland, Calif., and he was a 24-year-old seminary student. The sexual relationship lasted until 1974, the year she departed for college.

On two occasions in the summer of 1973, according to the victim, Charles, then the rector of St. Mark’s, walked in on the seminarian and the high school student but did not report what he saw either to the girl’s parents or to the police.

Bp. Bennison stands accused of violating Title IV of the Canons of the Episcopal Church. His trial is neither civil nor criminal but will determine whether he can continue as bishop of the five-county region.

“I participate in this trial sadly, but with a sense of duty and obligation,” church attorney Larry White said in his opening statement. “It is a painful case.”

Read it all.

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

Moshe Arens: Superfluous and harmful talk on Iran

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is providing unlimited material for speeches and declarations by Israeli politicians. Some are useless, some are senseless and some are downright harmful.

Not that nuclear weapons in the hands of the regime in Tehran would not present a danger to Israel. Ahmedinijad is not Hitler, and Iran is not Nazi Germany, but the destructive power of nuclear weapons is such that even in the hands of a Third World country, they have the potential of causing immense damage. Talk is not going to avert this danger. Whatever needs to be done is best done without publicity. But the subject is irresistible to Israeli politicians. It is grist for their mills and serves internal political purposes.

First, the specter of a major war with Iran has been held up by our politicians as an imminent danger for the past two years, and has been used as an excuse not to do anything about the daily rocket attacks on Israeli civilians in the South. Why get bogged down in Gaza, they hint, when we are likely to be engaged in a major war in the North at any moment?

Second, the Iranian threat is presented as a good excuse for offering the Golan Heights to Syria. What is more important at this time than disrupting the alliance between Iran and Syria, and the Syrians might be tempted to move away from Iran in return for the Golan Heights, some of our politicians declare. Moving 30,000 Israelis from their homes seems to them a small price to pay for such an achievement. Even in the unlikely event of a severance of the present close ties between Iran and Syria were to occur, how it would avert the nuclear danger from Iran is left to speculation.

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Posted in * International News & Commentary, Iran, Israel, Middle East

Notable and Quotable

…I come here today with a request for the Class of ’08: We need you to fix the country — and I’m sorry to ask this of you. And I’m deadly serious and we really do. I am 49 and on behalf of my generation, I’m so sorry, the Internet is so cool we got sidetracked. I can burn an hour on Perez Hilton like that. And I know I speak for a lot of you: WebMD, very cool, except anything I’ve ever punched in comes back “thyroid cancer.”

The Internet is fantastic and it takes way too much of our time, so, with apologies, we need you all now to step up and every adult in this place has every faith that you’re up to the job. You are today, as of today, as fearsome a weapon as the one they assembled during the Manhattan project in a similar place — Soldier Field up in Chicago. You are the most fearsome weapon in the world. You are students in the United States of America armed with a newly-minted college degree from the Ohio State University.

So pick one area: energy, politics, diplomacy, science, education, military, transportation. Start with climate. Something tells me this may be a challenge in the years ahead. Tomorrow’s predicted high for Columbus is 220 degrees.

Energy policy: Can you please help us find a way to get around without fuel in our tanks that comes from an enemy of this country?

NBC Anchor Brian Williams in a Graduation address to Ohio State University.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Education, Media

Andrew Carey: Controversy ahead at Lambeth 2008?

Before the 2008 Lambeth Conference begins, it’s well worth recalling why the 1998 version proved so controversial. Many readers will remember the pictures on every front page of Richard Kirker, the homosexual activist, being ”˜exorcised’ by Bishop Emmanuel Chukwuma of Nigeria ”” a moment which it seems for many captured the ”˜agony’ and ”˜shame’ of the whole ”˜debacle’.

However there was more than enough shame and blame to go round on all sides. Bishops in 1997 and 1998 in the run-up to the conference were universally agreed that the subject of homosexuality should not dominate proceedings. These comments were reflected in all the regional meetings which were organised as ways of prioritising what should be part of discussions. I spoke to large numbers of bishops around the world before the conference and they were determined that what they saw as largely an American issue should not be forced down their throats.

So what happened? Well, the tone was set by Bishop John Spong who sent out a ”˜White Paper’ to all Anglican bishops worldwide slamming ”˜pre-scientific’ attitudes to homosexuality, and lambasting the leaders of the Communion, reserving particular vitriol for the statement of the Kuala Lumpur ”˜South-to-South’ event. He compounded this with a pre-Lambeth interview with me, in which he kept returning to the theme of how the American Church (so prophetic in its search for social justice) was not going to be dictated to by people who were barely one-step removed from animism. It did not help that he had just released a book ”˜Why Christianity must change or die’, and 12 so-called ”˜Theses’ which ditched the central tenets of Christianity itself.
He was not to play a large part in the subsequent conference himself, but his words caused great hurt and consternation and provoked an inevitable reaction. Then there were the jibes repeated increasingly throughout the Lambeth Conference that African bishops were being ”˜bought’ by chicken dinners laid on by rich American conservatives.

Years, if not centuries, of being patronised by the Europeans and Americans it seemed were coming to a head just at a point where Anglicans in Africa and throughout the developing world were organising and meeting together against a background of extraordinary church growth and new-found confidence.

So is there any truth to allegations that the Africans were somehow ”˜bought’, or manipulated by American conservatives? There’s no more truth in this than in suggesting that their hitherto, relative silence in the communion had been bought by the largely liberal leadership of the US Church in previous times. There is something distasteful (if not racist) about suggesting that the whole class of leadership in particular countries is somehow particularly susceptible to bribery or manipulation. But the question is whether money changed hands?

Of course, it did. Masses of money changed hands. Most of it on the quiet. I heard that bishops were helped with spending money while they were in England. Spouses were bought children’s shoes for when they returned to poverty-stricken situations like Southern Sudan, and many people offered kindnesses to each other throughout the duration of the Lambeth Conference. Such charitable and friendly giving face-to-face should be a private matter. It is true, in addition, that the Bishop of Dallas, Jim Stanton, head of the American Anglican Council at the time, took over a headquarters at the Franciscan Studies Centre on the campus where he aimed to help bishops from the two-thirds world gather in friendship, have access to fax machines, photocopying, phones, meeting rooms and computers. These sorts of facilities could not be offered effectively by the official organisers, and at previous conferences, many bishops were unable to be in contact with dioceses and family back home. Interestingly, rooms at the Franciscan Studies Centre also hosted the special sub-section of the conference devoted to homosexuality, when the official venue proved unsuitable.

So was there any bribery? Clearly not. But did American conservatives help to organise the voices of bishops from the two-thirds world? Undoubtedly so. Was there anything sinister about this? I’ve never thought so.

This sort of effective organisation outside the official structures of the conference is unlikely to happen at this summer’s conference. American conservatives have fragmented into various groupings such as Anglican Mission in America, the Anglican Network, CANA and other acronyms and for the most part are reserving their energies for the so-called GAFCON meeting in Jordan and Israel before Lambeth. However, there will continue to be lobby groups of every description at the Lambeth Conference. The conservatives will be less of a formidable force this time, but under the auspices of the Inclusive Church network, liberal Anglican ”˜lobbyists’ are determined to influence proceedings just as effectively as their counterparts did 10 years ago.

In the wake of growing ”˜green’ awareness, the 2008 Lambeth Conference, even in its current depleted form, may be the last big Anglican jamboree ever. It’s more likely that smaller regional meetings become the norm for the future, especially in the light of the fact that the Archbishop of Canterbury is trying to pare down his flying to a bare minimum. In early May on his visit to Rome for the seventh Building Bridges Seminar and a private audience with the Pope, he travelled more than 1,000 miles by train.

The Times ”˜People’ column (Rowan on the rails, May 1 2008) mischievously suggests that while most of the year will be flight-free for the Archbishop, the result is likely to be greater scrutiny of whether his plans mean that more clerics have to travel by plane to meet him.

–This article appeared in the Church of England Newspaper, May 9, 2008 edition on page 14

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Lambeth 2008

Carlin Romano: The freedom of the internet is a happy accident; but do we need more laws?

“The best way to predict the future”, the US computer scientist Alan Kay remarked in 1971, “is to invent it.” Pre-emptive description, however, ranks second best. The chief identifying criterion of the future is that it continuously steps back from us, making nothing about it, strictly speaking, true or false.

That malleability constitutes a great attraction to an author. The future’s other broad appeal to a writer, particularly an ambitious one, is that he can actually influence it. Try as they might, historians can’t (responsibly) change what happened. Futurists, however, try all the time to change what might happen. While many “cyberphilosophy” volumes purport to describe how the digital revolution will alter such familiar areas of life as politics, religion, ethics, art, law and romance, one can often spot a finger on the scale attempting to affect the results.

It comes as no surprise, then, that two Professors of Law, Daniel J. Solove (author previously of The Digital Person: Technology and privacy in the information age, 2004) and Jonathan Zittrain, both see storm clouds in the future of the digital revolution, if not a reign of terror, or that both have a dog in this fight of how things should turn out. Both of their new books, excellent and ultimately upbeat in their separate but related missions, will increase our literacy in their complex yet still intelligible fields.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Blogging & the Internet, Law & Legal Issues

ECB chief warns against dangers of repeating 1973 oil shock

The president of the European Central Bank, Jean-Claude Trichet, on Monday called on oil producers and consumers to learn from past mistakes if Western economies were to avoid a repeat of the high inflation and unemployment that followed the first global oil shock in 1973.

That year is widely acknowledged as an economic watershed, a time when an OPEC oil embargo led to a spiral of higher prices, recession in Western economies and a wrenching contraction in the early 1980s that finally put an end to a decade of sharp inflation.

No one, whether Western consumers or oil suppliers, should want to repeat that history, Trichet said. “There is a joint interest in behaving as properly as possible,” he said.

Trichet spoke at the Forum for New Diplomacy, a series of periodic discussions organized by the International Herald Tribune and the Paris-based Académie Diplomatique Internationale, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the ECB.

He did not specify what suppliers might do, but some countries, including the United States, have urged oil exporters to pump more crude to bring down prices.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Europe

In the Diocese of Huron Anglicans grapple with same-sex marriage issues

Whether or not same-sex marriages will be performed in the local Anglican church is still unclear.

Delegates at the synod (meeting) of the Huron diocese held recently in London voted on a motion related to same-sex marriages. Although the motion passed, gay couples shouldn’t start making wedding plans in Anglican churches yet.

Father Bill Ward, priest at St. John’s Anglican in Tillsonburg, who was in attendance at the synod, said the vote did not result in the go-ahead for Anglican priests to perform same-sex marriages. He said the motion that passed was “This synod requests the bishop grant permission to clergy whose conscience permits to bless the duly solemnized and registered civil marriages between same-sex couples where at least one of the parties is baptized and that the bishop authorize an appropriate right and make regulations for its use in supportive parishes.”

Ward said one of the questions remaining is if St. John’s congregation is supportive of such a motion. He said the bishop would put a process in place to determine if parishes support same-sex unions, but he is unlikely to make a decision until fall.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Provinces