Daily Archives: September 28, 2008

Thomas Friedman: Green the Bailout

Yes, this bailout is necessary. This is a credit crisis, and credit crises involve a breakdown in confidence that leads to no one lending to anyone. You don’t fool around with a credit crisis. You have to overwhelm it with capital. Unfortunately, some people who don’t deserve it will be rescued. But, more importantly, those who had nothing to do with it will be spared devastation. You have to save the system.

But that is not the point of this column. The point is, we don’t just need a bailout. We need a buildup. We need to get back to making stuff, based on real engineering not just financial engineering. We need to get back to a world where people are able to realize the American Dream ”” a house with a yard ”” because they have built something with their hands, not because they got a “liar loan” from an underregulated bank with no money down and nothing to pay for two years. The American Dream is an aspiration, not an entitlement.

When I need reminding of the real foundations of the American Dream, I talk to my Indian-American immigrant friends who have come here to start new companies ”” friends like K.R. Sridhar, the founder of Bloom Energy. He e-mailed me a pep talk in the midst of this financial crisis ”” a note about the difference between surviving and thriving.

“Infants and the elderly who are disabled obsess about survival,” said Sridhar. “As a nation, if we just focus on survival, the demise of our leadership is imminent. We are thrivers. Thrivers are constantly looking for new opportunities to seize and lead and be No. 1.” That is what America is about.

Read the whole thing.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Globalization, The September 2008 Proposed Henry Paulson 700 Billion Bailout Package

Behind Insurer’s Crisis, Blind Eye to a Web of Risk

Although it was not widely known, Goldman, a Wall Street stalwart that had seemed immune to its rivals’ woes, was A.I.G.’s largest trading partner, according to six people close to the insurer who requested anonymity because of confidentiality agreements. A collapse of the insurer threatened to leave a hole of as much as $20 billion in Goldman’s side, several of these people said.

Days later, federal officials, who had let Lehman die and initially balked at tossing a lifeline to A.I.G., ended up bailing out the insurer for $85 billion.

Their message was simple: Lehman was expendable. But if A.I.G. unspooled, so could some of the mightiest enterprises in the world.

A Goldman spokesman said in an interview that the firm was never imperiled by A.I.G.’s troubles and that Mr. Blankfein participated in the Fed discussions to safeguard the entire financial system, not his firm’s own interests.

Yet an exploration of A.I.G.’s demise and its relationships with firms like Goldman offers important insights into the mystifying, virally connected ”” and astonishingly fragile ”” financial world that began to implode in recent weeks.

Although America’s housing collapse is often cited as having caused the crisis, the system was vulnerable because of intricate financial contracts known as credit derivatives, which insure debt holders against default. They are fashioned privately and beyond the ken of regulators ”” sometimes even beyond the understanding of executives peddling them.

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

Paul Newman's daughter pays tribute

Watch it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Movies & Television

A Follow up: Examples of Questions from the Heart from a current Adult Education Class

In an earlier post I mentioned an Adult Education possibility:

Another idea of which I am fond is called “Questions from the Heart.” You have an Adult Sunday school class explicitly devoted to questions people are wrestling with in their faith. When the class begins you ask people to come prepared with written questions ”“ which they in their hearts really need answered ”“ which the leader then reads aloud. After that first introductory class, the questions are then printed and numbered. The subsequent classes consist of taking numbered questions, several at a time, and preparing for them over the next week together. This is the kind of an environment which someone wrestling with faith sometimes finds inviting.

As it so happens, I am teaching just such a class in the parish in which I am now serving, and I thought you would be interested to see the questions which were submitted:

1. Over the past years I have lost a number of animals. This has been very difficult for me. Is it possible that animals have a soul and that there is a place beyond the grave for them? Will I ever see them again?
2. Does God change his mind? In other words, how effective are my prayers if God already has his eternal plan and has his mind made up?

3 I have a deep desire to be filled by the Holy Spirit and to live a life of “intimacy” with God. Is it right for me to desire a filling experience that engages the senses as well as the mind? (a vision, experience, etc.)

4. Does our church teach that infant baptism saves or in some way guarantees the future salvation of that infant? Do we believe in baptismal regeneration? In other words, if I have received the sacrament of baptism and confirmation does this assure some measure of salvific grace? I have been told that by some Episcopalians.

5. I struggle with the issue of innocents suffering. We are told that God’s plans are always wise and always perfect, so why is there so much suffering? What’s the difference between justice and punishment? Why the feeding of the 5,000 by Christ and the wandering Israelites being sent quail only to be stricken with a plague and killed? Why the stricken tribes in Numbers 16 and total grace for Christ’s persecutors?

6. I also struggle with forgiveness. Before coming to the altar to receive I find myself asking for forgiveness for not being able to forgive someone. (I don’t ever expect this person to ask for forgiveness) I think sometimes I have forgiven and feel wonderful about receiving communion, then something happens to remind me about the wrong and I have to start the process of forgiveness over again. Which is worse…receiving without forgiving, forgiving and taking back or not receiving at all (which I have had do at times)? I do realize there is a difference between forgiving and forgetting (I don’t think I’ll ever be there!!)

7. In the presidential primaries, with Mitt Romney running, a lot of attention was paid to his Mormon faith, but I found a number of the articles confusing. Is Mormonism Christian or not? Some articles said yes, but others said no. I need to have this clarified.

8. How can a loving God send someone””especially someone who is precious to me””to hell?

9. I have a personal issue in my family, in that one parent has treated the other parent and the children very badly. This would be an issue in either case, but in our situation it is the father. It has created a crisis of faith especially for the children””how do I help them deal with this?

10. What significance does the color blue have when you pray? Sometimes
when I’m praying I see the most brilliant beautiful color of blue and I’m not sure what it means.

11. How do you recognize God’s answer to prayer?

12. One of the biblical concepts I struggle with the most is the idea of election, that people become God’s people only because God chooses them and enables them to come to faith in him. Does this not mean that God chooses some and not others? How do I reconcile this with God’s goodness and love?

13.besetting sin– How do you truly pray for God to heal you of a besetting sin, that you know in your heart is wrong, and for the most part you can live in victory over this sin, But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire. (II Peter 2:22)
As the passage states you return to the sin ??? I have grown weary in the battle of this debt and the failure of company’s bankruptcy only reminds me daily of the besetting sin in my life. I want to believe that the LORD one day will take all the failures of my life and use them for HIS good. But some days more now than before when I go to work I feel my self drifting into this state on mind that I would welcome the loss of every thing and just live a simple and uneventful life as [the rector] mentioned in his sermon today. Knowing very well the hurt and pain I would cause [my wife], my family and the dedicated employees that have been through the muck and the mire with me. one of our foreman told [my wife] last week that he will be with us as long as we continue.
So how do I release the slothfulness in my heart when I know it is wrong, but yet I really don’t give it up to the LORD, I just wallow in it and pretend I am working hard, when I am really letting many people down and not really caring of the hurt that I may be causing ???

14. Discerning God’s Will:
The words come easy, in the prayer for God to show me his Will, but the deep heart searching true discernment is not always truly there. I think sometimes I have a revelation that this is really what God is calling me to do then the reality of the commitment comes to the surface and I sink back into the routine of the day to day existence. So how do you know when it truly God’s Will and not my own???

Posted in Uncategorized

Washington Post: Lawmakers Reach Accord on Huge Financial Rescue

Congressional leaders and the Bush administration this morning said they had struck an accord to insert the government deeply into the nation’s financial markets, agreeing to spend up to $700 billion to relieve Wall Street of troubled assets backed by faltering home mortgages.

House and Senate negotiators from both parties emerged with Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. at 12:30 a.m. from a marathon session in the Capitol to announce that they had reached a tentative agreement on a proposal to give Paulson broad authority to organize one of the biggest government interventions in the private sector since the Great Depression.

Full details of the plan were not immediately available. Lawmakers said their staffs would be working through the night to assemble the package and post it on the Internet.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, The September 2008 Proposed Henry Paulson 700 Billion Bailout Package

Bishop David Beetge RIP

A bio with a picture at the bottom is here.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Anglican Provinces

Diocese of Albany's Christ Episcopal Church was almost famous

James Duane’s big plans for Duanesburg never quite materialized, but the modest wooden church he built about a mile west of the small hamlet named after him has endured for more than 200 years.

Christ Episcopal Church, built in 1793, stands now much as it did two centuries ago. The only major difference is a tower that was added in 1811, the money for that coming from one of Duane’s daughters. Situated on Route 20 at Duanesburg Churches Road in the town of Duanesburg, the church is a plain but dignified two-story white building that was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.

“There are four very special historic buildings in Duanesburg, and that church is foremost among them,” said town of Duanesburg historian Arthur D. Willis. The Duane Mansion, the North Mansion and the Quaker Meeting House round out his list. “You can tell a lot of care went into the building of that church, and the congregation and the different ministers over the years have done a great job taking care of the building and preserving it.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Church History, Episcopal Church (TEC), Parish Ministry, TEC Parishes

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: San Joaquin Diocese found breaking up hard to do, but still a relief

Each [side] says it’s the only true Diocese of San Joaquin.

As in a bitter divorce, each claims to be noble but wronged. One has the house, the other, at least for now, rents an apartment with help from Mom. Though children struggle with loss, each spouse is glad to be free.

“We have that kind of fervor that you would have found in the early church,” said Nancy Key, spokesman for the reorganized Episcopal diocese

The other side is no less exuberant.

“We’ve been able to get about the gospel and doing our work as a church without being distracted by the kinds of arguments that folks seem to want to get into in the Episcopal Church. We’re not about trying to change the church. We are trying to be the church as best we can and as imperfect as it is,” said Rev. Carlos Raines, who has remained rector of St. James Cathedral.

When the diocese voted in september 42 of 48 parishes chose to leave the Episcopal Church, leaving six buildings in Episcopal hands and fragments of other congregations in community centers or rented churches.

Although much about San Joaquin’s experience is unique, its story is instructive about the problems that may lie ahead for the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, which will vote Saturday on whether to join San Joaquin in seceding.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Pittsburgh, TEC Conflicts: San Joaquin

Robert J. Shiller: Everybody Calm Down. A Government Hand In the Economy Is as Old as the Republic.

It has become fashionable to fret that the current crisis on Wall Street marks the end of American capitalism as we know it. “This massive bailout is not the solution,” Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) warned Tuesday. “It is financial socialism, and it is un-American.” It is neither. The near-collapse of the U.S. financial system and Washington’s sudden and massive intervention to try to shore it up certainly mark a major turning point, but a bailout would represent a thoroughly American next step for our economic system — and one that will probably lead to better times.

Americans may assume that the basics of capitalism have been firmly established here since time immemorial, but historical cataclysms such as the Great Depression strongly suggest otherwise. Simply put, capitalism evolves. And we need to understand its trajectory if we are to bring our economic system into greater accord with the other great source of American strength: the best principles of our democracy.

No, our economy is not a shining example of pure unfettered market forces. It never has been. In his farewell address back in 1796, 20 years after the publication of Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations,” George Washington defined the new republic’s own distinctive national economic sensibility: “Our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand; neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce, but forcing nothing.” From the outset, Washington envisioned some government involvement in the commercial system, even as he recognized that commerce should belong to the people.

Capitalism is not really the best word to describe this arrangement. (The term was coined in the late 19th century as a way to describe the ideological opposite of communism.) Some decades later, people began to use a better term, “the American system,” in which the government involved itself in the economy primarily to develop what we would now call infrastructure — highways, canals, railroads — but otherwise let economic liberty prevail. I prefer to call this spectacularly successful arrangement “financial democracy” — a largely free system in which the U.S. government’s role is to help citizens achieve their best potential, using all the economic weapons that our financial arsenal can provide.

So is the government’s bailout a major departure? Hardly. Today’s federal involvement offers bailouts as a strictly temporary measure to prevent a system-wide financial calamity. This is entirely in keeping with our basic principles — as long as the bailout promotes, rather than hinders, financial democracy.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, The September 2008 Proposed Henry Paulson 700 Billion Bailout Package

Lawhawk: A Model Housing Program that Avoids Foreclosure Pitfalls

That would be New York City’s Nehemiah program. The program started about 30 years ago by several church groups in the Bronx who saw row after row of desolation and sought to change it.

The groups set forth strict income guidelines to make sure that the homeowners had a sense of ownership over the homes and that they would fulfill their obligations. Those guidelines mean people are less likely to get in over their heads:

In the 27 years since the program started, fewer than 10 of the 3,900 households have defaulted on mortgages, a rate that is close to zero, said Michael Gecan, a senior organizer with the Metro Industrial Areas Foundation, one of the forces behind the program.

“We demanded down payments,” Mr. Gecan said, “and we resisted government attempts to have us waive down payments. Over the last six or eight years people kept suggesting various programs with zero down. We kept saying, ”˜That’s ridiculous ”” that’s how you get into mass foreclosures.’”

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

Jonathan Sacks: It would be a saner world if we put our children first

We have not always put children first in recent times. They have been the victims, in Britain, of the breakdown of marriage, the instability of families, changes in work practices, and the consumerisation of society. We still have a long way to go in making ours a child-friendly society. In February 2007 a Unicef survey of 21 industrialised nations found Britain’s children the unhappiest of all. Children are always vulnerable. They are dependent on others. They have no vote and all too little voice. There are many different interpretations of the famous passage in the Bible ”” we read it on the second day of the new year ”” about the binding of Isaac, but I read it as God’s command to Abraham, and through him to us: Do not sacrifice your children. Isaac lives. God countermands his earlier request. Ever afterward, throughout the Bible, child sacrifice is seen as the most heinous of all sins.

There are many ways in which children can become victims, but none is justified. All too often, nations are driven by a sense of the past: there are grievances to be redressed, honour to be recovered, past glory to be regained. Yet we would have a more peaceful and constructive world if we looked to the future, of which our children are the symbol and the beneficiaries.

If we put children first, we would, I believe, have a saner society and a less conflict-filled world. The rabbis said that the Universe only survives because of the innocent chatter of children.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Children, England / UK, Judaism, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – Bicycle Ride Scene

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Movies & Television

Holly Hollerith elected the Tenth Bishop of Southern Virginia on the Sixth Ballot

The voting results are here and some more information on the candidate, who once served in South Carolina, is there.

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

Peggy Noonan: A Hope for America

Where is America?

America is on line at the airport. America has its shoes off, is carrying a rubberized bin, is going through a magnetometer. America is worried there is fungus on the floor after a million stockinged feet have walked on it. But America knows not to ask. America is guilty until proven innocent, and no one wants to draw undue attention….

And so I came to think this: What we need most right now, at this moment, is a kind of patriotic grace — a grace that takes the long view, apprehends the moment we’re in, comes up with ways of dealing with it, and eschews the politically cheap and manipulative. That admits affection and respect. That encourages them. That acknowledges that the small things that divide us are not worthy of the moment; that agrees that the things that can be done to ease the stresses we feel as a nation should be encouraged, while those that encourage our cohesion as a nation should be supported.

Read it all. For those of you preaching tomorrow, I think you have little choice but to address the national anxiety of which Ms. Noonan speaks head on–KSH.

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

Financial Times: Canterbury tales

For neither Dr Williams nor Dr Sentamu have a proper grasp of how modern finance works – nor the degree to which it is already examined by economists, philosophers and the Fourth Estate.

To claim, as both clerics have done, that much modern finance is fiction or fraud is wrong and, more importantly, misleading. Finance allows savers to profit from the growth of the economy. Everything from home-ownership to old age pensions relies on a successful and sophisticated financial sector. An archbishop, of all people, should know that just because you cannot see something, it does not mean that it is not there or that it does not matter.

Dr Sentamu was wrong to join the chorus of abuse for short-sellers, now the UK’s most popular pantomime villains. They are clearly not “bank robbers” or “asset strippers”. If investors believe a price is too low, they can buy and hold it. If they believe a price is too high, they can sell it short. This interplay is important. Without short sellers, prices will tend to rise too high. There are strong arguments for restraining them under febrile market conditions, but what they do is not wrong or immoral.

Read it all.

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