Daily Archives: December 28, 2008

By Saying Yes, WaMu Built Empire on Shaky Loans

As a supervisor at a Washington Mutual mortgage processing center, John D. Parsons was accustomed to seeing baby sitters claiming salaries worthy of college presidents, and schoolteachers with incomes rivaling stockbrokers’. He rarely questioned them. A real estate frenzy was under way and WaMu, as his bank was known, was all about saying yes.

Yet even by WaMu’s relaxed standards, one mortgage four years ago raised eyebrows. The borrower was claiming a six-figure income and an unusual profession: mariachi singer.

Mr. Parsons could not verify the singer’s income, so he had him photographed in front of his home dressed in his mariachi outfit. The photo went into a WaMu file. Approved.

“I’d lie if I said every piece of documentation was properly signed and dated,” said Mr. Parsons, speaking through wire-reinforced glass at a California prison near here, where he is serving 16 months for theft after his fourth arrest ”” all involving drugs.

Read it all.

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

AP: Across Mideast, Thousands Protest Israeli Assault

Crowds of thousands swept into the streets of cities around the Middle East on Sunday to denounce Israel’s air assault on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip.

From Lebanon to Iran, Israel’s adversaries used the weekend assault to marshal crowds into the streets for noisy demonstrations. And among regional allies there was also discontent: The prime minister of Turkey, one of the few Muslim countries to have relations with Israel, called the air assault a ”crime against humanity.”

Several of Sunday’s protests turned violent. A crowd of anti-Israel protesters in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul became a target for a suicide bomber on a bicycle.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Israel, Middle East, Violence

Internet sites could be given 'cinema-style age ratings', Culture Secretary says

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Andy Burnham says he believes that new standards of decency need to be applied to the web. He is planning to negotiate with Barack Obama’s incoming American administration to draw up new international rules for English language websites.

The Cabinet minister describes the internet as “quite a dangerous place” and says he wants internet-service providers (ISPs) to offer parents “child-safe” web services.

Giving film-style ratings to individual websites is one of the options being considered, he confirms. When asked directly whether age ratings could be introduced, Mr Burnham replies: “Yes, that would be an option. This is an area that is really now coming into full focus.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Blogging & the Internet

Episcopal property dispute heads to Virginia Supreme Court

A long-awaited property- settlement decision in Fairfax Circuit Court apparently will not be the end of a two-year-long conflict between a minority group of conservative congregations in the Episcopal Church that broke away from the church to join the Anglican District of Virginia.

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Posted in Uncategorized

NPR: Will Next Year Be Better For Media?

It’s been a fascinating but worrisome year for journalism. There have been cutbacks just about everywhere. The giant Tribune Company has filed for bankruptcy. Some publications have completely folded. Some have stopped the presses and moved to the Internet.

NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik joins host Jacki Lyden to help us sort out where journalism’s been and what’s ahead.

Listen to it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Media

Monsignor Roderick Strange: Commitment and fidelity are demanding qualities

Families gather at Christmas. And this weekend the Sunday after the feast is devoted to recalling the family in Nazareth, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. It is an opportunity for appreciating what our families give us. For Christians the family is the original source of social life. But we should be wary of facile sentimentality. Our homes are filled with memories. Many are joyful, but some are not.

The old saying tells us that charity begins at home. That may be true, but not because the family setting is always one where life is easy and conflict unknown. On the contrary, it is much easier to star as the perfect guest when staying for a few days with friends. We can hold our breath and be charming and considerate for a weekend.

The family as a school for loving is a much tougher place.

Read the whole column.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, England / UK, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Roman Catholic

World Leaders React to Israeli Airstrikes on Gaza

Elsewhere, the U.N., British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana and special Mideast envoy Tony Blair all called for an immediate restoration of calm.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi urged Israelis and Palestinians to “look for a different way out, even though it seems impossible.”

The United States urged Israel to avoid civilian casualties, and said Hamas must stop firing rockets into Israel.

Russia also called on Hamas to halt the rocket attacks, and urged Israel to halt its military operation in Gaza.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Globalization, Middle East, Violence

Notable and quotable

“The Admiralty had demanded six ships: the economists offered four: and we finally compromised on eight.”

–Winston Churchill on naval appropriations as quoted by George Will

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, England / UK, Politics in General

Matthew Parris: As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God

Before Christmas I returned, after 45 years, to the country that as a boy I knew as Nyasaland. Today it’s Malawi, and The Times Christmas Appeal includes a small British charity working there. Pump Aid helps rural communities to install a simple pump, letting people keep their village wells sealed and clean. I went to see this work.

It inspired me, renewing my flagging faith in development charities. But travelling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too: one I’ve been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I’ve been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.

Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa….

Read the whole article.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Missions, Religion & Culture

Proposed Resolutions for the Upcoming Diocese of Central Florida Convention

Read them all (toward the bottom of the page).

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

WSJ: Rick Warren, Obama and the Left

The most thoughtful and interesting debate of the two-year-long presidential campaign occurred last August at Saddleback Church between John McCain and Barack Obama, moderated by Saddleback pastor Rick Warren. So it is notable that President-elect Obama’s choice of Rick Warren to give the invocation at his Inauguration next month has brought forth hyperpartisan invective from the Democratic left. It has spent the past week conveying to the world its disappointment and disgust with the choice of Pastor Warren because he opposes gay marriage and abortion.

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

Lucette Lugnado: When the Big Spenders Fail, Who Will Save Jewish Charity?

Back then, instead of relying on a few megadonors, the Jewish community relied on donors like my dad. He favored charities in Jerusalem, and regularly would dispense two-figure checks of $10 or $20 to his pet causes — orphanages, trade schools, even a bride’s fund designed to help orphaned girls obtain wedding dresses and veils for their big day.

It would be lovely to see the return of little checks — the donations everyone could afford to give and often did. Neither they nor the pushkes require the fund-raising galas and the elaborate administrative structures that have become the norm across the Jewish charitable world.

Some Jewish leaders may blanch at my words. Prof. Wertheimer notes that “Jewish organizational life has become much more expensive — nickels, dimes and pushkes aren’t going to do it.” Though Mr. Kane at the UJA and others now hint at new strategies to broaden the donor base, some Jewish leaders are ready to return to business as usual, sending the message that we must get in some big checks to replace the money that was lost. But this scandal makes me wish we could remember the values of our shtetl and think small again.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Bernard Madoff Scandal, Economy, Judaism, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Stock Market

PBS Religion and Ethics Weekly: A Look Back on the major Religion Stories of 2008

KIM LAWTON (Managing Editor, RELIGION & ETHICS NEWSWEEKLY): Well, I was fascinated of course by some of the things these guys have talked about, but also just the incredible role religion played on every front throughout this campaign. You had both parties actively reaching out to people of faith, and frankly for the Democrats, that was a new thing. You hadn’t seen that in quite awhile. You had a Democratic candidate who was religious and comfortable about talking about his faith. But you also had questions about whether a Mormon could be president; you had questions about whether a Southern Baptist pastor should be president; what about a Muslim, and all the, you know, rumors about whether Barack Obama was a Muslim or not. You had questions about evangelicals and are they going to stay with John McCain. Controversial ministers. Every time you turned around religion played a key role, and that was really fun to watch.

Mr. [E.J.] DIONNE: I think that’s a really important point Kim makes. I mean, for Democrats, I’ve joked that Democrats discovered God in the 2004 exit polls. You know, they realized that religious Americans were very important in George Bush’s victories, and I think Barack Obama more than any Democrat in a while really tried to speak directly to religious Americans, including those he knew were going to vote against him. You know, he gave a very powerful speech in ’06. The speech he gave after the Jeremiah Wright controversy had sort of important religious overtones, and so I think we’re going to have a different conversation about religion going forward.

Read the whole thing.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Media, Religion & Culture

John Lloyd in the FT: What is it all for?

The values and disciplines underpinning our societies’ massive accumulation of wealth were largely Judaeo-Christian. But for most, the religious part has been privatised, confined to individual observance or simply ignored. Neither Christianity, as it developed in the centuries after the Reformation, nor Judaism stigmatised wealth (Islam has a more complex attitude to capitalism still) – so long as it was virtuously acquired and used for the benefit of others.

That caveat – on virtuous acquisition and charitable giving – is crucial. The virtues of hard work, orderly life and honest dealing inculcated by religion – the life cultivated by the Gabriels – have been put to service to create once-unimaginable riches. Now that such accumulation is seen as an expression more of greed than of virtue, will there be a turning back to the values that produced the preconditions for the making of the money?

It was not much in evidence when times were good.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Archbishop of Canterbury, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology

Chinese Savings Helped Inflate American Bubble

In the past decade, China has invested upward of $1 trillion, mostly earnings from manufacturing exports, into American government bonds and government-backed mortgage debt. That has lowered interest rates and helped fuel a historic consumption binge and housing bubble in the United States.

China, some economists say, lulled American consumers, and their leaders, into complacency about their spendthrift ways.

“This was a blinking red light,” said Kenneth S. Rogoff, a professor of economics at Harvard and a former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund. “We should have reacted to it.”

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Asia, China, Credit Markets, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market