Daily Archives: November 24, 2008
It can be argued that the establishment of an orthodox North American Province (even if it is initially recognized only by some of the GAFCON primates) is the best way to deal with the crisis in the Communion. (a.) The orthodox will be able to look after themselves, so “border crossing” for episcopal oversight by overseas bishops and primates can cease. (b.) Instead of being a beleaguered minority within TEC, the orthodox can be treated as equals in a dialogue intended to resolve the crisis of authority in Anglicanism. (c.) TEC will have greater incentive to respond to the calls of the rest of the Communion to return to Anglican norms, lest they lose credibility compared with the new Province. TEC’s leadership fears the realization of this last point, which is the main reason why they are working so hard to prevent establishment and recognition of a new Province….
While some may argue that the best way to preserve the unity of the Anglican Communion is to preserve the unity of the American Church (or, failing that, not to recognize any group that splits off from the American Church), I would argue the exact opposite. The best way to preserve the unity of the Anglican Communion is to allow the American church to divide (which is happening anyway, whether anyone likes it or not) and to recognize two North American provinces. Some overseas provinces will relate to one of the North American provinces more than the other. But there will not be the present level of vigorous advocacy (and border crossing) that now threatens to divide the Communion. And there will not be any reason why the other provinces of the Communion should be impaired in their relationships with each other or with Canterbury. However, if the present situation continues, and Canterbury does not recognize the new North American Province, it will eventually (and sooner rather than later) force some Global South provinces to end their relationship with Canterbury, and the Communion will be lost.
The failure of the House of Bishops to discipline our own for lesser infractions than pulling a diocese out of TEC (thereby giving incontrovertible proof of violating the oath to “conform to the doctrine, discipline and worship of The Episcopal Church) is a matter of significance, I think. Bishop Duncan in particular has done a number of things which should have called for a disciplinary response from the HoB. Indeed, he asked for it specifically, back in September 2002, when he stated to the House that he had deliberately “provoked a constitutional crisis” (his words) by interfering in a parish in another diocese. And nothing happened. That the present Presiding Bishop is acting may be closing the barn door after the horse has left. But just leaving it swinging in the breeze would be dereliction of duty.
In the final analysis, our polity exists to support a dynamic missionary expansion as its first priority, and it does this admirably. After all, TEC, despite our small size, has launched about one-quarter of the provinces of the Communion. As such, it is less well suited to resolving significant conflicts about doctrine and discipline, because sufficient agreement on these is presupposed in the structures themselves. How can you undertake to evangelize the world if you do not have enough basic trust in each other’s grasp of the Gospel and catholic order””the synthesis that is the genius of Anglican ecclesiology?
[It was interesting to watch] the trek to Capitol Hill by the auto company chieftains, who sought $25 billion in federal loans ”” and instead got their heads handed to them by angry congressmen. Incredibly, the C.E.O.’s came with no convincing plan of action, no promise to do better, no offers of management resignations. Even the most sympathetic Democrats, like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, seemed to turn against them, telling them not to come back unless they devised a plan to show Washington how they would use the money to turn the companies around. And thus the tom-toms of bankruptcy grew louder. What else is left for them to do?
Before the country decides to head down that path, though, let’s consider for a minute what that would mean and what it would entail. In his Times op-ed article this week, Mr. Romney called for “a managed bankruptcy,” making it sound as if such a move would allow G.M.”” with more or less a snap of a finger ”” to close plants, invest in new products, abolish gold-plated union benefits and make the industry more competitive.
But bankruptcy is anything but a snap. It is a long, difficult, drawn-out process with no guarantee that a bankruptcy judge will go along with everything G.M. wants to do. Several bankruptcy lawyers I spoke to all made the same point: if there is any way these goals can be accomplished outside of the bankruptcy process, then that should be tried first. As one lawyer put it to me, “Bankruptcy sucks as a way to achieve real business resolution.” As it happens, I think there is another approach that might work. But it won’t be particularly easy either.
In the current turmoil, accidents can pull us in vastly different directions. The unforeseeable bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, the US investment bank, transformed a lingering financial crisis into a near-systemic meltdown. Depending on how other unpredictable events turn out in the next few weeks and months, we could end up with a deflationary depression, an inflationary boom or even one followed by the other.
In such an environment, economic forecasts are useless ”“ worse than useless, in fact, because they give us a sense of certainty where there is none.
This is the real “Code Red.” As one banker remarked to me: “We finally found the WMD.” They were buried in our own backyard – subprime mortgages and all the derivatives attached to them.
Yet, it is obvious that President Bush can’t mobilize the tools to defuse them – a massive stimulus program to improve infrastructure and create jobs, a broad-based homeowner initiative to limit foreclosures and stabilize housing prices, and therefore mortgage assets, more capital for bank balance sheets and, most importantly, a huge injection of optimism and confidence that we can and will pull out of this with a new economic team at the helm.
The last point is something only a new President Obama can inject. What ails us right now is as much a loss of confidence – in our financial system and our leadership – as anything else. I have no illusions that Obama’s arrival on the scene will be a magic wand, but it would help.
Right now there is something deeply dysfunctional, bordering on scandalously irresponsible, in the fractious way our political elite are behaving – with business as usual in the most unusual economic moment of our lifetimes. They don’t seem to understand: Our financial system is imperiled.
Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.
For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.
–Galatians 6: 7-9
When the California Supreme Court begins weighing arguments over same-sex marriage ”” again ”” in December, some 18,000 such marriages could hang in the balance. Opponents of such unions also have high stakes, having spent countless hours, and nearly $40 million, to pass Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage and is under review by the court. And the justices could lose out, too; some are already being threatened with being voted out of office if they rule Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.
“This is the whole ballgame,” said Jesse Choper, a professor of law at the University of California, Berkeley. “They earn their salaries in having to decide these things.”
The central issue is whether California voters ”” who have repeatedly used ballot measures to rewrite state law ”” overstepped their bounds by passing Proposition 8, which added 14 words to the California Constitution stating that only male-female marriage would be “valid or recognized.” Opponents of the measure say it amounts to a major revision of the Constitution, not an amendment, and thus would require legislative approval.
The number of soldiers seeking help for substance abuse has climbed 25% in the past five years, but the Army’s counseling program has remained significantly understaffed and struggling to meet the demand, according to Army records.
About 13,500 soldiers sought drug counseling this year and 7,200 soldiers were diagnosed with an abuse or dependency issue and enrolled in counseling, Army data show. That compares with 11,170 soldiers reporting to drug counseling in 2003, when 5,727 enrolled.
Army records show 2.38% of all soldiers had positive results on routine drug urinalysis screening, a 10-year record. In 2004, when combat troops returned from Iraq in large numbers, 1.72% had positive results.
As Congress and the incoming Obama administration prepare to revamp federal financial oversight, the collapse of the thrift industry offers a lesson in how regulation can fail. It happened over several years, a product of the regulator’s overly close identification with its banks, which it referred to as “customers,” and of the agency managers’ appetite for deregulation, new lending products and expanded homeownership sometimes at the expense of traditional oversight. Tough measures, like tighter lending standards, were not employed until after borrowers began defaulting in large numbers.
The agency championed the thrift industry’s growth during the housing boom and called programs that extended mortgages to previously unqualified borrowers as “innovations.” In 2004, the year that risky loans called option adjustable-rate mortgages took off, then-OTS director James Gilleran lauded the banks for their role in providing home loans. “Our goal is to allow thrifts to operate with a wide breadth of freedom from regulatory intrusion,” he said in a speech.
At the same time, the agency allowed the banks to project minimal losses and, as a result, reduce the share of revenue they were setting aside to cover them. By September 2006, when the housing market began declining, the capital reserves held by OTS-regulated firms had declined to their lowest level in two decades, less than a third of their historical average, according to financial records.
Scott M. Polakoff, the agency’s senior deputy director, said OTS had closely monitored allowances for loan losses and considered them sufficient, but added that the actual losses exceeded what reasonably could have been expected.
“Are banks going to fail when events occur well beyond the confines of reasonable expectation or modeling? The answer is yes,” he said in an interview.
But critics said the agency had neglected its obligation to police the thrift industry and instead became more of a consultant.
I went to our diocesan archives to look for materials from a most difficult era in our nation’s financial history, the Great Depression. Very interesting what I found there. The program fund of the diocese was at $68,000 in 1929. It decreased almost two-thirds by 1935, when the fund receipts were in the amount of $27,000. It increased incrementally to about $31,000 in 1938 and remained at that level until the end of the war years.
The two Bishops of that era, Frederick Johnson and William Scarlett, both noted the sharp decrease in programming, as a result of falling revenues. Well, that’s what will happen, in the wake of steeply falling revenues. The Diocesan Journals got progressively thinner over the course of these years, because there were fewer things to report.
But these Bishops noted the drastic shortfall almost in passing, and with no sense of self-pity. They reported at length, however, about responsibilities of the Church to respond to a whole nation in crisis. And more particularly, to their Missouri neighborhoods in crisis.
The internal financial fact of funding shortfalls was noted, and the cuts were deep and painful. Whole programs vanished.
As far as I can tell from the Journals, the work of the Church in that era focused almost entirely beyond itself, which was a matter of mission and not program. And it happened by way of personal and corporate sacrifice.
From 2003 to 2005, Citigroup more than tripled its issuing of CDO’s, to more than $20 billion from $6.28 billion, and Maheras, Barker and others on the CDO team helped transform Citigroup into one of the industry’s biggest players. Firms issuing the CDO’s generated fees of 0.4 percent to 2.5 percent of the amount sold Â— meaning Citigroup made up to $500 million in fees from the business in 2005 alone.
Even as Citigroup’s CDO stake was expanding, its top executives wanted more profits from that business. Yet they were not running a bank that was up to all the challenges it faced, including properly overseeing billions of dollars’ worth of exotic products, according to Citigroup insiders and regulators who later criticized the bank.
When Prince was put in charge in 2003, he presided over a mess of warring business units and operational holes, particularly in critical areas like risk-management and controls.
“He inherited a gobbledygook of companies that were never integrated, and it was never a priority of the company to invest,” said Meredith Whitney, a banking analyst who was one of the company’s early critics. “The businesses didn’t communicate with each other. There were dozens of technology systems and dozens of financial ledgers.”
A federal court has ruled that the Arizona License Plate Commission must approve an anti-abortion group’s “Choose Life” specialty license plate.
The Arizona Life Coalition applied for the specialty license plate in 2002, but the Arizona License Plate Commission, which oversees the requests, rejected its application.
Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) and the Center for Arizona Policy filed a suit in September of 2003.