Daily Archives: October 24, 2008

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Peter Berger: Pennies From Heaven

Poverty (of sorts) is suddenly in fashion. Politicians and commentators blame the financial crisis on greed, not only by malefactors on Wall Street but also by all the denizens of Main Street who live beyond their means, accumulate useless possessions and despoil the environment. It is not quite clear what a nongreedy Wall Street would look like. But for the rest of us, after due repentance, the solution to our financial woes is held to be a more ascetic life. If it is voluntary, rather than compelled by circumstance, it has the glow of moral superiority. “Green is good,” says a latter-day Gandhi as he goes to work by bicycle. But if you are really poor, asceticism does not mean giving up your SUV — it means eating just one meal a day because it is all you can afford.

Far more attractive to poor people, who are a majority of its adherents, is the “prosperity gospel,” a version of Christianity asserting that material benefits will come to those who have faith, live a morally upright life and, not so incidentally, give money to the church. Broadly speaking, this is what Max Weber called the Protestant Ethic, but with much less emphasis on self-denial and more on hard work, planning for the future, family loyalty and educating one’s children.
The prosperity gospel probably originated among the poorer elements of the evangelical community in America. It is now a global phenomenon, especially among the rapidly spreading Pentecostal churches in Africa, Latin America and Asia.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Poverty, Theology

A USA Today Editorial: Financial WMD

By now, most homeowners know that their monthly mortgage payment might go to a pension fund in another state or a bank in another country, thanks to the bundling of home loans into securities.

What they might not realize is that these mortgage-backed securities are only the beginning of the slicing and dicing that has brought the world’s financial markets to the abyss. Companies that purchase these securities also buy something called “credit default swaps,” a product cooked up by Wall Street in an effort to insure against losses.

The explosive growth of these credit derivatives, as they are known, is a tale of hubris, folly and blind devotion to markets. Derivatives now back more than $60 trillion in credit ”” that’s 20 times the annual budget of the United States making them kind of like cluster bombs spread throughout the global economy.

Read it all.

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

Church Times: Robert Duncan warns the English

THE Rt Revd Bob Duncan, the former Bishop of Pittsburgh in the Episcopal Church in the United States, deposed from holy orders by the Presiding Bishop last month for “abandoning communion” after his diocese realigned itself with the Province of the Southern Cone, has warned that English traditionalists could find themselves similarly threatened……

At a press conference in London last Friday, Bishop Duncan said that the Episcopal Church in the US had treated him “unjustly and uncan­on­ically”. He had been deposed, two weeks after his diocese’s vote to leave the Episcopal Church, under a canon designed to remove those who had become RCs or Pres­byterians or who had lost their faith. But he expected to be re-elected by the diocese at a Convention on 7 November. “I will have been both the 7th Bishop of Pittsburgh and the 8th Bishop of Pittsburgh, and I didn’t die in between.”

Read it all.

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

Banks Mine Data and Woo Troubled Borrowers

Brenda Jerez hardly seems like the kind of person lenders would fight over.

Three years ago, she became ill with cancer and ran up $50,000 on her credit cards after she was forced to leave her accounting job. She filed for bankruptcy protection last year.

For months after she emerged from insolvency last fall, 6 to 10 new credit card and auto loan offers arrived every week that specifically mentioned her bankruptcy and, despite her poor credit history, dangled a range of seemingly too-good-to-be-true financing options.

“Good news! You are approved for both Visa and MasterCard ”” that’s right, 2 platinum credit cards!” read one buoyant letter sent this spring to Ms. Jerez, offering a $10,000 credit limit if only she returned a $35 processing fee with her application.

Read it all.

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

David Leonhardt: The Trouble With a Homeowner Bailout

The idea of helping Main Street has an undeniable appeal. Housing is at the root of the financial crisis, and preventing foreclosures could bring a double-barreled benefit. It would allow families to remain in their homes and could also help keep the housing market from spiraling out of control. The more foreclosed homes that are dumped on the market, the more home prices will fall.

But before any of the various rescue plans reaches the point of inevitability ”” and these days, ideas can go from unlikely to inevitable in about 48 hours ”” I think it’s important to stop for a moment and consider how complicated any such plan would be. Every one of them, in fact, faces an inherent conflict: coming up with a large-scale homeowner bailout without also helping millions of people who don’t need help is almost impossible.

That’s a big reason that the various efforts to stem foreclosures so far, both from the Bush administration and Congressional Democrats, have been so modest. You just can’t solve the foreclosure problem without causing a lot of collateral damage ”” in the form of lavishing money on homeowners who can stay in their homes without assistance.

Read it all.

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

Group asks IRS to investigate Catholic bishop against Obama

A church-state watchdog group has asked the Internal Revenue Service to investigate whether the Roman Catholic bishop of Paterson, N.J., violated tax laws by denouncing Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama.

In a letter sent to the IRS on Wednesday (Oct. 22), Americans United for Separation of Church and State accused Paterson Bishop Arthur Serratelli of illegal partisanship for lambasting Obama’s support of abortion rights.

In a column posted on the Diocese of Paterson’s website and published in its weekly newspaper, Serratelli also compared Obama to King Herod, the biblical monarch who ordered the death of John the Baptist.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Law & Legal Issues, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, US Presidential Election 2008

Notable and Quotable

“There is a complete loss of confidence and it was brought on by the decline in Japan,” said Francis Lun, general manager at Fulbright Securities in Hong Kong. “We are going back to the stone ages.”

–From a Marketwatch story on the bloody Friday in the markets

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

Peter Ould Examines Martin Dudley's Letter

So where does that leave us?

Well, firstly there is the matter of the complainant. I am not aware as to who Richard Chartres received the formal complaint from, but he or she should by now have received a copy of the Bishop’s report. Whether the process concluded at section 11 or 12, the complainant has a right to appeal. That means that we may not have heard the last of this. If anybody knows who the formal complainant actually is, do let us know!!!!

Secondly, the fact that the process appears to have concluded at section 12 and 13, and given that the Bishop threatened to take further action against Dudley were he not to permit his letter to be published, implies that despite the paucity of an apology in Dudley’s letter (regret rather than repent – where have we heard that before) it is very clear from the disciplinary procedure that what Dudley did was wrong. The key to the interpretation of the letter is this sentence:

I undertake not to provide any form of blessing for same sex couples registering civil partnerships

.

The implication is clear. What Chartres is threatening is not just action against Dudley, but action against anybody who now performs any form of blessing of a civil partnership (i.e. to equivilate it in any way to a marriage).

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Marriage & Family, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)

LA Times: The battle of the medical bills

In late 2007, Centinela Hospital in Inglewood was losing nearly $1 million a month and had piled up $15 million in debt. Among the causes of the crisis: $25 million in overdue bills.

Collecting that money would have given Centinela a measure of relief. But the bills went unpaid, and the century-old medical center was sold. The new owners slashed services, closed half the operating rooms and laid off a third of the employees.

Who owed Centinela that elusive $25 million? According to hospital officials, it was health insurance companies.

“Insurers have found a very creative way of denying, delaying or slowing payments in a way that is having a real impact on patient care and some of our survival,” said Von Crockett, Centinela’s chief executive. “Every single doctor and hospital is writing off money they are legally owed but don’t collect. It’s an insane situation.”

Read it all.

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

Church attendance rises by 2% in the Diocese of London

New figures released today show that regular church attendance in the Diocese of London has risen, in contrast to a fall nationally. According to the latest figures, between 2005-2006 the capital saw church attendance rise by 2%.

The new figures for 2006 show that 80,600 Londoners on average attended services throughout the week at the Diocese’s 479 churches, compared to 79,300 in 2005. Of the 80,600 churchgoers, around a fifth (17,700) were under the age of 16.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Parish Ministry

Statement on the Service at St Bartholomew the Great

From here:

The Assistant Bishop of London has issued the following statement regarding the service that took place at St Bartholomew the Great on 31 May.
Dear Colleagues,

I am contacting you all on Bishop Richard’s behalf since, as you know, he is currently away on holiday.

Earlier this year, the Bishop wrote to you regarding a service held at St Bartholomew the Great on May 31st, which had generated considerable publicity and consternation.

Since this time, under the Bishop’s instructions, the Archdeacon of London has carried out an investigation into the matter, alongside the Chancellor of the Diocese. This has involved a series of frank discussions with the Rector, Revd Dr Martin Dudley.

As a consequence, the Rector has made expressly clear his regret over what happened at St Bartholomew the Great and accepted the service should not have taken place. Bishop Richard has considered the matter and has decided to accept the Rector’s apology in full. The matter is therefore now closed.
To avoid any uncertainty over what has been said, I have enclosed below, with the Rector’s permission, his statement of apology to the Bishop:

“I can now appreciate that the service held at St Bartholomew the Great on 31 May 2008 was inconsistent with the terms of the Pastoral Statement from the House of Bishops issued in 2005. Whilst the precise status of this pastoral document within the Church of England generally and the Diocese of London in particular may be a matter of differing interpretations, I ought to have afforded it far greater weight. I regret the embarrassment caused to you by this event and by its subsequent portrayal in the media. I now recognise that I should not have responded positively to the request for this service, even though it was made by another incumbent of your Diocese, who is a colleague, neighbour and friend of us both nor should I have adopted uncritically the Order of Service prepared by him and his partner. I had not appreciated that the event would have been attended by so many nor that it would have attracted the publicity and notoriety which it did.

“I share your abhorrence of homophobia in all its forms. I am profoundly uneasy with much of the content of the House of Bishops’ Pastoral Statement which anecdotal evidence suggests is being widely, though discretely, disregarded in this Diocese and elsewhere. Nonetheless, I am willing to abide by its content in the future, until such time as it is rescinded or amended, and I undertake not to provide any form of blessing for same sex couples registering civil partnerships.”

As I say, following the Rector’s full and frank apology, the Bishop considers the matter now closed.

With best wishes and prayers

Pete Broadbent
Assistant Bishop of London

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Marriage & Family, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)

Philip Stephens: Globalisation and the new nationalism collide

We are saved. Amid the rubble of the world’s financial markets, we can catch sight of the foundations of a new international order. The big lesson of the crisis has been learnt: we cannot escape our mutual dependence. Global markets require multilateral rules.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Globalization, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Greenspan says crisis left him in 'shocked disbelief'

Alan Greenspan, the formerchairman of the US Federal Reserve, has dramatically repudiated large parts of his laissez-faire ideology and joined the chorus of voices saying that the credit crisis reveals a need for more regulation of the finance industry.

Returning to Capitol Hill to testify before Congress, where lawmakers were once in awe of his intellect and his reputation as a steward of the economy, a bewildered-sounding Mr Greenspan admitted that his view of the world had been flawed.

Self-regulation by Wall Street had failed, he said. “Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholder’s equity ”“ myself especially ”“ are in a state of shocked disbelief.”

Read it all.

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

Marty Nemko–America's Most Overrated Product: the Bachelor's Degree

Today, amazingly, a majority of the students whom colleges admit are grossly underprepared. Only 23 percent of the 1.3 million high-school graduates of 2007 who took the ACT examination were ready for college-level work in the core subjects of English, math, reading, and science.

Perhaps more surprising, even those high-school students who are fully qualified to attend college are increasingly unlikely to derive enough benefit to justify the often six-figure cost and four to six years (or more) it takes to graduate. Research suggests that more than 40 percent of freshmen at four-year institutions do not graduate in six years.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Education