Daily Archives: December 14, 2008

Obama stimulus could reach $1 trillion: report

President-elect Barack Obama’s team is considering a plan to boost the recession-hit U.S. economy that could be far larger than previous estimates and might reach $1 trillion over two years, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday.

Obama aides, who were considering a half-trillion dollar package two weeks ago, now consider $600 billion over two years “a very low-end estimate,” the newspaper said, citing an unidentified person familiar with the matter.

The final size of the stimulus was expected to be significantly higher, possibly between $700 billion and $1 trillion over that period, it said, given the deteriorating state of the U.S. economy.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Politics in General, US Presidential Election 2008

In Pittsburgh Smaller Episcopal diocese rebuilds

A vastly downsized Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh launched its reorganization Saturday, calling a senior bishop from North Carolina to serve as its interim leader.

The Right Rev. Robert Hodges Johnson, a retired bishop who previously served as interim bishop to a Virginia diocese in upheaval, will serve as assisting bishop to the Diocese of Pittsburgh through July 2009, as it reorganizes, the Rev. James B. Simons announced yesterday. Simons, president of the Standing Committee of the Pittsburgh diocese, made the announcement during his state of diocese speech at a special convention yesterday at which representatives from 28 parishes met to reorganize, ordain a new priest and elect new leadership.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, --Proposed Formation of a new North American Province, Common Cause Partnership, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Pittsburgh

City of Detroit, Buckling Under Repeated Blows, Sustains Another Hit

Motown left years ago. The city’s former mayor is behind bars. Unemployment hovers around 14 percent. An emergency loan measure for its automakers died in Washington late Thursday after failing to generate enough support from Republican senators. Oh, and its professional football team is 0-13 for the season.

How much more, one wonders, can Detroit take?

“To me, it’s like piling on,” Gail Taylor, one of the city’s legions of unemployed men, said Friday of the Senate’s decision on the loan measure. “We’ve been through enough around here.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, The Possibility of a Bailout for the U.S. Auto Industry

Report Spotlights Iraq Rebuilding Blunders

An unpublished 513-page federal history of the American-led reconstruction of Iraq depicts an effort crippled before the invasion by Pentagon planners who were hostile to the idea of rebuilding a foreign country, and then molded into a $100 billion failure by bureaucratic turf wars, spiraling violence and ignorance of the basic elements of Iraqi society and infrastructure.

The history, the first official account of its kind, is circulating in draft form here and in Washington among a tight circle of technical reviewers, policy experts and senior officials. It also concludes that when the reconstruction began to lag ”” particularly in the critical area of rebuilding the Iraqi police and army ”” the Pentagon simply put out inflated measures of progress to cover up the failures.

In one passage, for example, former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell is quoted as saying that in the months after the 2003 invasion, the Defense Department “kept inventing numbers of Iraqi security forces ”” the number would jump 20,000 a week! ”˜We now have 80,000, we now have 100,000, we now have 120,000.’ ”

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Iraq War

A.S. Haley on the Presiding Bishop's Misuse of the canons with regard to Bishop Iker

“Look at the language (which I have quoted above). Canon III.12.7 says by its own terms that it cannot be used in the case of any person who ‘is subject to the provisions of Canon IV.8.’ The canons in Title IV all deal with punishment for violations of the Canons. The canons in Title III, however, have to do with the ordinary life and ministry of the clergy, not with punishment.

“By first invoking Title IV against the Texas bishop, she charged him with a presentable offense. Then, however, she resorted to Title III so she could get rid of him a little sooner. That was ‘a big no-no’, as you Americans are wont to say, because by using Title III she exonerated him of the charges she had made under Title IV—without actually announcing that she had done so, and without apologizing for invoking Title IV in the first place.

Read it all (and make sure to note the interaction in the comments between A.S. Haley and Thomas Woodward).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Presiding Bishop, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Fort Worth, TEC Polity & Canons

White House assessing options to aid carmakers

The White House weighed its options Saturday for preventing a collapse of the troubled auto industry, once the backbone of the U.S. economy. So far, the only thing certain is that the Bush administration wants to avoid the possibility of a disorderly bankruptcy of any of the Big Three.

General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC have said they could run out of cash within weeks without government help.

“Administration officials are continuing to gather financial information from the automakers, assessing the data, their cash position going forward,” White House deputy press secretary Tony Fratto said Saturday. “We’ll take a look at that information, make some judgments and review our options.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, The Possibility of a Bailout for the U.S. Auto Industry

Starting Over, With a Second Career Goal of Changing Society

Harvard kicked off a small but ambitious experiment this week that it hopes will become a new “third stage” of university education. For the student-fellows in the program, most in their 50s and early 60s, the goal is a second-act career in a new stage of life.

The 14 fellows have résumés brimming with achievement ”” including a former astronaut, a former senior official at the United States Agency for International Development, a physician-entrepreneur from Texas, a former public utility official from California, a former health minister from Venezuela and a former computer executive from Switzerland.

They gathered at Harvard on Thursday to begin the yearlong program intended to help them learn how to be successful social entrepreneurs or leaders of nonprofit organizations focused on social problems like poverty, health, education and the environment. Their interests include sickle cell anemia, women’s education in Africa, health care quality and water conservation.

The opportunity, the fellows say, is to pick up new knowledge, skills and professional relationships in a new realm. To Charles F. Bolden Jr., one of the fellows, it has the potential to be as life-changing as his selection to join America’s space program nearly three decades ago. “The Harvard program feels sort of like that,” said Mr. Bolden, 62, a retired major general in the United States Marine Corps and a veteran of four space shuttle missions.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Economy, Education, Middle Age

NY Times: Vatican Issues Instruction on Bioethics

The Vatican issued its most authoritative and sweeping document on bioethical issues in more than 20 years on Friday, taking into account recent developments in biomedical technology and reinforcing the church’s opposition to in vitro fertilization, human cloning, genetic testing on embryos before implantation and embryonic stem cell research.

The Vatican says these techniques violate the principles that every human life ”” even an embryo ”” is sacred, and that babies should be conceived only through intercourse by a married couple.

The 32-page instruction, titled “Dignitas Personae,” or “The Dignity of the Person,” was issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s doctrinal office, and carries the approval and the authority of Pope Benedict XVI.

Under discussion for six years, it is a moral response to bioethical questions raised in the 21 years since the congregation last issued instructions.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Ethics / Moral Theology, Life Ethics, Other Churches, Roman Catholic, Science & Technology, Theology

Vatican Issues Instruction Dignitas Personae on Certain Bioethical Questions

Read it carefully and read it all (23 page pdf).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Ethics / Moral Theology, Life Ethics, Other Churches, Roman Catholic, Science & Technology, Theology

Samuel Freedman: Faith-Based Views Veer Off a Straight Political Line

The Democratic convention in August offered another example of the ways religious belief confounds political loyalty oaths. At a “faith caucus” organized by the Obama campaign, the speakers included the Rev. Charles Blake, presiding bishop of the Church of God in Christ, a black Pentecostal denomination.

Within the same sermon, Mr. Blake denounced the Democrats for supporting abortion rights, calling for outright resistance, and then turned his wrath against Republicans for being “silent if not indifferent” to social injustice. And both parts of the preaching were avidly received by the audience.

Had commentators been paying attention, Mr. Blake’s exhortation could have practically served as a prelude to the way many of his followers in California, where the Church of God in Christ is especially strong, split their tickets on Election Day between Mr. Obama and “Yes” on Proposition 8. But if the standard view of the black church is that it is always liberal, based on its civil rights activism and Democratic voting habits, then this wellspring of social conservatism seemed to be some kind of shock.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

Charles Blow: The Demise of Dating

The paradigm has shifted. Dating is dated. Hooking up is here to stay.

(For those over 30 years old: hooking up is a casual sexual encounter with no expectation of future emotional commitment. Think of it as a one-night stand with someone you know.)

According to a report released this spring by Child Trends, a Washington research group, there are now more high school seniors saying that they never date than seniors who say that they date frequently. Apparently, it’s all about the hookup.

When I first heard about hooking up years ago, I figured that it was a fad that would soon fizzle. I was wrong. It seems to be becoming the norm.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Sexuality, Teens / Youth

Revisiting Wall Street Magic and Seeing Billions in Fraud

For years, investors, rivals and regulators all wondered how Bernard L. Madoff worked his magic.

But on Friday, less than 24 hours after this prominent Wall Street figure was arrested on charges connected with what authorities portrayed as the biggest Ponzi scheme in financial history, hard questions began to be raised about whether Mr. Madoff acted alone and why his suspected con game was not uncovered sooner.

As investors from Palm Beach to New York to London counted their losses on Friday in what Mr. Madoff himself described as a $50 billion fraud, federal authorities took control of what remained of his firm and began to pore over its books.

But some investors said they had questioned Mr. Madoff’s supposed investment prowess years ago, pointing to his unnaturally steady returns, his vague investment strategy and the obscure accounting firm that audited his books.

Read it all from the front page of today’s New York Times. Please note that the title above is the one given in the print edition; the web version is slightly different. The Times is chuck full of stories on Mr. Madoff today–two on the front page alone–and I encourage you to go to the website and read them all if you have the time and interest–KSH.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Stock Market, Theology

Evangelical Article of Faith: Bad Times Draw Bigger Crowds

The sudden crush of worshipers packing the small evangelical Shelter Rock Church in Manhasset, N.Y. ”” a Long Island hamlet of yacht clubs and hedge fund managers ”” forced the pastor to set up an overflow room with closed-circuit TV and 100 folding chairs, which have been filled for six Sundays straight.

In Seattle, the Mars Hill Church, one of the fastest-growing evangelical churches in the country, grew to 7,000 members this fall, up 1,000 in a year. At the Life Christian Church in West Orange, N.J., prayer requests have doubled ”” almost all of them aimed at getting or keeping jobs.

Like evangelical churches around the country, the three churches have enjoyed steady growth over the last decade. But since September, pastors nationwide say they have seen such a burst of new interest that they find themselves contending with powerful conflicting emotions ”” deep empathy and quiet excitement ”” as they re-encounter an old piece of religious lore:

Bad times are good for evangelical churches.

“It’s a wonderful time, a great evangelistic opportunity for us,” said the Rev. A. R. Bernard, founder and senior pastor of the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, New York’s largest evangelical congregation, where regulars are arriving earlier to get a seat. “When people are shaken to the core, it can open doors.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Evangelicals, Other Churches, Parish Ministry

Religion and Ethics Weekly: Obama Church Shopping

BOB ABERNETHY, anchor: In Washington, speculation is running high about where Obama and his family will attend church after they move into the White House. Earlier this year, Obama cut ties with his longtime Chicago congregation, Trinity United Church of Christ, because of its controversial former pastor Jeremiah Wright. Kim Lawton takes a look at some of the Washington churches Obama may want to consider.

KIM LAWTON: If the Obamas want to go with an establishment mainline congregation, they may want to consider National Presbyterian Church. It’s regularly attended by cabinet officials, members of Congress, and Supreme Court justices. Congregational archives claim that most presidents since James Madison have visited the church at least one time. National Pres, as it’s called, has about 2,500 members, and note to Obama daughters Sasha and Malia: there’s an active children’s program with about 400 kids.

National Pres has a special Chapel of the Presidents, dedicated to Dwight D. Eisenhower. Ike was the last president to make this his church home. He was actually baptized here while he was president.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, US Presidential Election 2008

(Binghamton N.Y.) Sun Bulletin: State judge reserves decision on local church

The pastor and parishioners at Church of the Good Shepherd will go to worship Sunday not knowing whether the congregation can stay in its Conklin Avenue building.

A state Supreme Court judge decided Friday to reserve a decision in the legal dispute between the local church and a regional diocese over who owns the property in the wake of Good Shepherd’s withdrawal from the Episcopal denomination.

For now, the congregation will focus on Christmas, according to the Rev. Matthew Kennedy.

“If this is our last Christmas, at least we’ll celebrate it together,” Kennedy said he will tell parishioners at worship Sunday. “Every year, every day, we walk according to God’s grace.”

Read it all.

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