Daily Archives: October 20, 2008

Building Flawed American Dreams

While Mr. Cisneros says he remains proud of his work, he has misgivings over what his passion has wrought. He insists that the worst problems developed only after “bad actors” hijacked his good intentions but acknowledges that “people came to homeownership who should not have been homeowners.”

They were lured by “unscrupulous participants ”” bankers, brokers, secondary market people,” he says. “The country is paying for that, and families are hurt because we as a society did not draw a line.”

The causes of the housing implosion are many: lax regulation, financial innovation gone awry, excessive debt, raw greed. The players are also varied: bankers, borrowers, developers, politicians and bureaucrats.

Mr. Cisneros, 61, had a foot in a number of those worlds. Despite his qualms, he encouraged the unprepared to buy homes ”” part of a broad national trend with dire economic consequences.

He reflects often on his role in the debacle, he says, which has changed homeownership from something that secured a place in the middle class to something that is ejecting people from it. “I’ve been waiting for someone to put all the blame at my doorstep,” he says lightly, but with a bit of worry, too.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market, Politics in General, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Ronald Aronson: Don't count the nonreligious out

As the presidential campaign winds down, members of America’s largest and most silent minority may be excused for feeling a little left out. As Republicans and Democrats escalate their appeals to 2008’s most contested and prized constituency ”” swing voters among evangelicals and Catholics ”” they treat those who are not religious as if they are invisible….

But something is wrong with this picture. It erases vast numbers of Americans ””not only atheists, agnostics and secularists, but also those who have turned away from the God and religion of the Old and New Testaments. And it makes it seem as though most of those who claim to be “believers” believe pretty much the same things ”” though this is manifestly false. It encourages the sense that there are two kinds of Americans, the overwhelming majority who believe and belong, and those few do not believe, and are outsiders. But the conventional wisdom that nearly all Americans believe in God is wrong.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Secularism

Many Evangelicals Struggle with the Choice of Sarah Palin

On the surface, [Sarah] Palin seems to be a champion broadly embraced by evangelicals. Yet in recent weeks, some polls suggest that she may not be significantly boosting support for the top of the GOP ticket among undecided White evangelicals, a key demographic.

Why is this? In the Sunbelt and heartland suburbs where middle class evangelicals determine the outcome of national elections, I detect a growing unease with Palin as a potential president. It predates her disastrous interview with Katie Couric and the conservative columnists’ calls for her to step aside. It may be slowed by her performance in the vice presidential debate, but it is unlikely to be reversed.

“Gov. Palin is gifted and full of potential, and the media has been embarrassingly and abysmally condescending toward her,” said the Rev. Kendall Harmon, a conservative Episcopal leader from Summerville, S.C. “She has much to offer but she is not ready to take on this assignment. She lacks the credentials – at this time – to be in this position. This is too much too soon.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Evangelicals, Other Churches, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, US Presidential Election 2008

Notable and Quotable

Anyone else around here willing to support a tax on all foundation endowments, including those of colleges and universities, in excess of, say $1,000,000?

I’d go further, actually, and end the tax deduction for anything that is not directly helping poor people–helping them get health care, food, education, etc. I’m not quite sure where religious institutions would fit in.

Richard Adams

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

Insurance costs rising much faster than wages

Health insurance premiums for South Carolina families rose 5.7 times faster than earnings between 2000 and 2007, according to a report released Thursday.

Annual premiums for family health coverage provided through the workplace rose from $6,600 to $11,624, an increase of 76.1 percent. Meanwhile, median earnings increased from $23,057 to $26,140, or 13.4 percent.

Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, a national nonpartisan group based in Washington, D.C., said, “What is so surprising about these numbers is that these premiums purchased thinner coverage.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * South Carolina, Economy, Health & Medicine

The Latest from Intrade on the Race for President

Posted in * Economics, Politics, US Presidential Election 2008

In Pennsylvania An Unusual civil trial reflects Episcopal divide

Just three weeks after a church court ruled that he should be removed from office, Episcopal Bishop Charles E. Bennison Jr. faces the start of an unusual civil trial today that could cost the financially struggling Diocese of Pennsylvania millions of dollars.

Bennison, 63, is being sued for damages in Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas by the Rev. David Moyer, who alleges that Bennison used fraud and deception to defrock him as a priest of the diocese six years ago.

Moyer’s attorney, John Lewis, said that Moyer v. Bennison appears to be the first trial in American jurisprudence involving “the ecclesiastical discipline of a priest in a hierarchical church.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Pennsylvania

A Boston Globe Article on the Communion of the Unbaptized

Communion, the central ritual of most Christian worship services and long a members-only sacrament, is increasingly being opened to any willing participant, including the nonbaptized, the nonbeliever, and the non-Christian.

The change is most dramatic in the Episcopal Church, particularly in liberal dioceses like Massachusetts. The denomination’s rules are clear: “No unbaptized person shall be eligible to receive Holy Communion in this Church.” Yet, a recent survey by the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts found that nearly three-quarters of local parishes are practicing “open Communion,” inviting anyone to partake….

Strikingly, the transformation is taking place with little public controversy, as parish by parish, Episcopal priests are making their own decisions about whom to invite to the Communion rail. The Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts has taken a hands-off approach.

“Episcopal Church leadership recognizes that Episcopalians have varied interpretations from Scripture and early Church practices,” said the diocesan spokeswoman, Maria Plati. “At this time the decision to invite unbaptized persons to Communion is understood and accepted as a local option.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Episcopal Church (TEC), Eucharist, Other Churches, Sacramental Theology, Theology

Two diverging Perspectives in the Proposition 8 Battle in California

Conservatives and liberals generally use dramatically different lenses to interpret the Bible. Christian conservatives tend to emphasize an interpretation of the Bible that doesn’t change with the times. They say the Bible describes marriage as only between a man and a woman.

“You’ve got the California Supreme Court rewriting sacred heritage,” said Steve Madsen, pastor of Cornerstone Fellowship, an evangelical megachurch in Livermore.

Liberal Christians tend to emphasize that divine revelation can come from many places, even outside the church. For example, many denominations don’t allow same-sex marriages, while California law does.

“Culture is going to manifest Christ in a way that summons the church to new realities,” said Episcopal Bishop Marc Andrus.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Evangelicals, Marriage & Family, Mormons, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)

Rays Chase Demons, And Red Sox, To Claim First Pennant

Perhaps making it interesting to the point that everyone dismissed their chances was the only way for the Rays to do it.

It worked all season, as they proved their impressive spring training record could carry over into the regular season; as they recovered from a skid heading into the All-Star break many expected to finish them; as they responded to the loss of two of their best players in August by putting together their best month of the season.

Simply an amazing turnaround from last season–congratulations to them. Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Sports

The Economist: History has to be rewritten after the market’s recent falls

AT THE end of 1964 the Dow Jones Industrial Average traded at 874.1. Seventeen years later, despite rapid inflation, the average had inched forward only to 875. It was the kind of grinding bear market that drove investors to despair. Near its end, Business Week famously proclaimed “The Death of Equities”.

It is beginning to look as if we are in the middle of another of those great phases, what commentators call a secular, as opposed to a cyclical, bear market. Broadly speaking, the 20th century can be divided into six phases; bear markets from 1901-21, 1929-49 and 1965-82 and bull runs from 1921-29, 1949-65 and 1982-2000.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Stock Market, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Bishop Bob Duncan Answers Questions at his News Conference

A question whether he has got the Archbishop of Canterbury’s attention. Has the Archbishop failed to stand up for Bishop Duncan?

Answer: I maintain regular contact with the Archbishop of Canterbury. I have tried in the last five years never to surprise him. He is certainly aware of my presence here in the United Kingdom. He is informed about our situation. He is attempting to lead in what are clearly uncharted times. I think the institutions of the Anglican Communion are in a season of real re-evaluation. I think he has not found it possible, in terms of what he believes the limitation of his office are, to have done the things that actually would have secured the role of his office over the long haul of the 21st century. This is not an office which in terms of the life of the Anglican Communion for the future is going to look anything like it did for the previous century.

If you look at 20th century secular politics, in a moment of extraordinary crisis a leader can often go beyond the boundaries of what has been commended to him in terms of the exercise of his office or precedent. Franklin Roosevelt in the States at the time of the Great Depression went way beyond what any president had ever done in restructuring the government. The Supreme Court some years later found that some of the things he had done were unconstitutional. But the people stood with it because it was what the nation needed to be brought out of its trouble. The Anglican Communion in the last decade has been in crisis. Some leaders might have gone beyond precedent and might have gone beyond what their legal adviser said they could or could not do, and I suspect the communion would have followed. And the precedent would have been established. But that is not the direction it has gone. So what it means is that a different kind of instrument of unity ( and I have written on this before) is likely to emerge. The British period of Anglicanism is coming to an end. I lament that. But we are living through it. Just like the American period in international relations is coming to an end.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Archbishop of Canterbury, Episcopal Church (TEC), Globalization, Instruments of Unity, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Pittsburgh

Britain faces crisis as negative equity to reach 2 million

Collapsing house prices are plunging 60,000 homeowners a month into negative equity, which means the country is on course for a worse crisis than the 1990s crash.

At current trends, 2m households will enter negative equity by 2010, outstripping the 1.8m affected at the bottom of the last housing slump.

New research from Standard & Poor’s, the ratings agency, coincides with evidence that banks are aggressively seizing homes whose owners have slipped just a few hundred pounds behind on their mortgage payments.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Economy, England / UK, Housing/Real Estate Market, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

NPR: More Harm From Hedge Funds?

Secretive, run by and often for the super rich, hedge funds control a gigantic pool of money. Often they make huge profits, but not now. Two shut down this week. What happens to the markets if more fail?

Listen to it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Stock Market, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Libby Purves: It's time for a clear policy on euthanasia

The story of Daniel James is almost unbearable. Paralysed in a rugby scrum, he made several suicide attempts and finally persuaded his parents to take him to the Swiss Dignitas clinic to end his life. At 23.

His parents have been questioned by police; what happens next is anybody’s guess. Since its inception Dignitas has left the British legislature mortally confused. Take Debbie Purdy, who has multiple sclerosis: she has challenged the Director of Public Prosecutions to state unequivocally whether or not her husband will be charged with assisting suicide (a 14-year sentence) if he takes her there, when she decides the time has come. Ms Purdy robustly says that, if the answer is yes, then she will go alone – and therefore much sooner. If he is in the clear, she can enjoy her remaining time. She deserves that clarity.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Health & Medicine, Life Ethics, Parish Ministry, Theology