Daily Archives: February 24, 2009

David Brooks: Hope against faith

President Obama has concentrated enormous power on a few aides in the West Wing of the White House. These aides are unrolling a rapid string of plans: to create 3 million jobs, to redesign the health care system, to save the auto industry, to revive the housing industry, to reinvent the energy sector, to revitalize the banks, to reform the schools – and to do it all while cutting the deficits in half.

If ever this kind of domestic revolution were possible, this is the time and these are the people to do it. Yet they set off my Burkean alarm bells.

I fear that in trying to do everything at once, they will do nothing well. I fear that we have a group of people who haven’t even learned to use their new phone system trying to redesign half the U.S. economy.

I fear they are going to try to undertake the biggest administrative challenge in American history while refusing to hire the people who can help the most: agency veterans who are registered lobbyists.

I worry that we’re operating far beyond our economic knowledge.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, The 2009 Obama Administration Bank Bailout Plan, The 2009 Obama Administration Housing Amelioration Plan, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The Fiscal Stimulus Package of 2009, The National Deficit, The Possibility of a Bailout for the U.S. Auto Industry, The September 2008 Proposed Henry Paulson 700 Billion Bailout Package, The U.S. Government, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner

Rowan Williams to visit Jamaica next Month for Major Anglican Meeting

Rowan Williams, the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury, will visit Jamaica next month to attend a meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC).

The archbishop is the president of the ACC, one of the three instruments of communion which serves the worldwide family of Anglican/Episcopal Churches.

Anglicans are said to be looking forward to the May 2 to 14 Kingston meeting, which will see some 150 delegates representing 164 nations in attendance.

The Diocese of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands said plans for the meeting are well advanced.

The ACC meets every three years, and its present policy is to meet in different parts of the world. This is the Council’s second meeting in the Caribbean since delegates gathered for the third ACC meeting in Trinidad in 1976. Other meetings have been held in Kenya, the Republic of Ireland, Canada, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, Nigeria, Singapore, Wales, South Africa, Panama, Scotland, Hong Kong, and Nottingham, England.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Archbishop of Canterbury

A WSJ Editorial: Treasury's Unreality Show

These are difficult times for economic policy makers, especially given what the new Administration inherited. But after five weeks of watching the repeated muffs of the Obama financial team, we’re inclined to recall Casey Stengel’s famous crack about the 1962 New York Mets: “Can’t anyone here play this game?”

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Credit Markets, Economy, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, The 2009 Obama Administration Bank Bailout Plan, The 2009 Obama Administration Housing Amelioration Plan, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The Fiscal Stimulus Package of 2009, The U.S. Government, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner

Paul Krugman: Banking on the Brink

The real question is why the Obama administration keeps coming up with proposals that sound like possible alternatives to nationalization, but turn out to involve huge handouts to bank stockholders.

For example, the administration initially floated the idea of offering banks guarantees against losses on troubled assets. This would have been a great deal for bank stockholders, not so much for the rest of us: heads they win, tails taxpayers lose.

Now the administration is talking about a “public-private partnership” to buy troubled assets from the banks, with the government lending money to private investors for that purpose. This would offer investors a one-way bet: if the assets rise in price, investors win; if they fall substantially, investors walk away and leave the government holding the bag. Again, heads they win, tails we lose.

Why not just go ahead and nationalize? Remember, the longer we live with zombie banks, the harder it will be to end the economic crisis.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, The 2009 Obama Administration Bank Bailout Plan, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The U.S. Government, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner

The Moderator of The United Church of Canada Speaks out on the Economy

He explains that in addition to the United Church doing its part, he’s also calling on Canadians, in all sectors of society, to risk truly taking up leadership at this important moment in history.

“We cannot wait for government, industry, or financial institutions alone to resolve these issues. Every one of us needs to consider the part we will play, to consider what we can contribute to transformation, possibility, and hope,” writes [the Right Rev. David] Giuliano.

In a separate pastoral letter to United Church congregations, Giuliano challenges them to respond imaginatively and compassionately to Canadians hurt by the economic crisis.

“The current economic challenge is calling us to be church in riskier ways than we are used to. I want to encourage you to trust your faith and to take those risks,” writes Giuliano.

He says this is a time for prophetic and creative leadership. “I am praying that we will respond with creativity, radical hospitality, and expansive generosity.”

Read it all and follow the links please to both letters at the bottom.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Canada, Economy, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The Fiscal Stimulus Package of 2009

Discovery of Down Chromosome Called a Victory

Monsignor Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, chancellor of the pontifical academy and one of today’s presenters, recalled his personal friendship with [French researcher Jérôme] Lejeune. He said the scientist “never regretted his discovery.”

And “ethics is possible,” he exclaimed. The monsignor cited the example of Rome’s Gemelli hospital, saying “ethics is lived” there.

“Kids with trisomy there arrive to the world,” Monsignor Carrasco de Paula affirmed. “And thanks to the improvement of their conditions of life, we can resolve the problems that they must face.”

Dallapiccola recalled how Down syndrome children were previously ostracized, but now, 50 years later, “kids with trisomy have managed to reach an autonomy never seen before [”¦] and can discreetly integrate themselves into society. They earn degrees. Professor Lejeune’s discovery permitted this victory.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Children, Marriage & Family, Science & Technology

As It Falters, Eastern Europe Raises Risks

ince the fall of the Berlin Wall, the countries of Eastern Europe have emerged as critical allies of the United States in the region, embracing American-style capitalism and borrowing heavily from Western European banks to finance their rise.

Now the bill is coming due.

The development boom that turned Poland, Hungary and other former Soviet satellites into some of Europe’s hottest markets is on the verge of going bust, raising worrisome new risks for the global financial system that may ricochet back to the United States.

Last week, Wall Street plunged after Moody’s Investors Service warned that Western banks that had recently beat a path to Eastern Europe’s doorstep now faced “hard landings,” spooking investors with new fears that the exposure could spread beyond Europe’s shores.

“There’s a domino effect,” said Kenneth S. Rogoff, a professor at Harvard and former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund. “International credit markets are linked, and so a snowballing credit crisis in Eastern Europe and the Baltic countries could cause New York municipal bonds to fall.”

Read the whole article.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --Eastern Europe, Credit Markets, Economy, Europe, Globalization, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Ed Husain: How Britain's Mosques foster extremism

Today, there are between 1,200 and 1,600 mosques in Britain – no definite figure exists. Yesterday, the Charity Commission sought to gloss over the malaise in them by publishing figures on attendance, but not inquiring into difficult areas. At Quilliam, Britain’s first counter-extremism think-tank, we commissioned a poll of more than 1,000 mosques in 2008, during Ramadan when mosques are busiest. Despite employing Urdu and Bengali-speaking researchers, we could poll only just over 500. Most British mosques don’t maintain a reception or service to answer questions, and not every one we did reach was willing to answer.

Quilliam’s report, Mosques Made in Britain, reveals the true extent of the mess. We found that 97 per cent of imams, or leaders, were from overseas and 92 per cent were educated abroad, mostly in Pakistan or Bangladesh. Almost all mosques are controlled by first-generation immigrant men, leaving most British Muslims – women and young people – out of the management structure.

This is not new. Quilliam has merely found evidence of a problem that has been known among Muslims for more than two decades.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, England / UK, Islam, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

Pakistan's slump creates security risks

The mob was hungry.

Police had stopped hundreds of jobless Pakistanis from marching on the offices of the Faisalabad electric company, which they blamed for daily power outages. So the protesters went after the Treats bakery instead.

They hurled rocks through the windows and stormed the place, beating anyone who tried to stop them, throwing the owner down a flight of stairs, looting the cash register and grabbing cookies, cakes and loaves of bread. “They put their anguish on us,” store manager Muhammad Shafiq recalls. “Whatever food they found, they ate it.”

A month later, some of the windows at Treats haven’t been repaired. Customers have returned, but many employees bear physical scars from the assault. Worst of all, Shafiq fears poverty is rising so fast in this city of 2 million people that conditions are ripe for another riot. “The unrest will continue,” he predicts, “until the problems are solved.”

Read it all.

Posted in * International News & Commentary, Asia, Pakistan

Iran plans 'pre-commissioning' of nuclear plant

Iran will this week “pre-commission” its first nuclear power plant, which is being built by Russia in the southern city of Bushehr, local news agencies reported on Sunday.

“In the presence of the heads of the atomic energy organisations of Iran and Russia, the pre-commissioning of Bushehr power plant will be carried out on Wednesday,” the ISNA news agency said, quoting Iran Atomic Energy Organisation spokesman Mohsen Delaviz.

It did not say exactly what the pre-commissioning of the much-delayed plant would entail.

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Posted in * International News & Commentary, Iran, Middle East

Pope Benedict XVI's Lectio Divina on Galatians

Tonight we ask: What is freedom? How can we be free? St. Paul helps us to understand the complicated reality which freedom is by inserting this concept in a context of fundamental anthropological and theological divisions. He says: “Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another.” The rector has already told us that “flesh” is not the body, but, in St. Paul’s language, it is the absolutizing of the I, of the I that wants to be all and have everything for itself. In short, the absolute I, which does not depend on anything or anyone, seems really to possess freedom. I am free if I do not depend on anyone, if I can do everything I wish. However, precisely this absolutizing of the I is “flesh,” namely, the degradation of man, it is not the victory of freedom: libertinism is not freedom, instead, it is the failure of freedom.

And Paul dares to propose a strong paradox: “Through charity, be of service ” (in Greek “douleuete”); in other words, paradoxically, freedom is realized in service: We are free if we become one another’s servants. And so Paul puts the whole problem of freedom in the light of the truth of man. To reduce oneself to the flesh, apparently raising oneself to the rank of divinity — “I, man alone” — introduces a lie. Because in fact, it is not like this: Man is not an absolute, being able to isolate himself and behave according to his own will. This goes against the truth of our being. Our truth is, above all, that we are creatures, creatures of God and we live in relationship with the Creator. We are rational beings, and only by accepting this relationship do we enter into truth, otherwise we fall into falsehood and, in the end, are destroyed by it.

We are creatures, hence dependents of the Creator. In the age of the Enlightenment, especially for atheism, this dependency seemed like something from which it was necessary to free oneself. In reality, however, it would be a fatal dependency only if this Creator God was a tyrant, not a good Being, only if he was as human tyrants are. If, however, this Creator loves us and our dependence implies being in the realm of his love, in this case, in fact, dependency is freedom. Thus, we are, indeed, in the love of the Creator, we are united to him, to the whole of his reality, to all his power. This, therefore, is the first point: To be a creature means to be loved by the Creator, to be in this relationship of love that he gives us, with which he provides for us. From this derives above all the truth about ourselves, which at the same time is a call to love.

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Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Hawaii is latest civil unions battleground

Hawaii, the state that adopted the nation’s first “defense of marriage” constitutional amendment a decade ago, has now become the latest battleground in the fight for same-sex civil unions.

It would become the fifth state to legalize the alternative to gay marriage if the Democrat-dominated Legislature and Republican governor approve a civil union law. The measure was passed by the state House this month but it now faces the Senate, where a divided committee is to vote Tuesday.

Republican Gov. Linda Lingle has declined to comment on the issue and it’s unclear whether she would veto the bill.

Gay rights organizations argue that civil unions would promote basic equality in the nation’s most ethnically diverse state, but opponents fear the erosion of an island culture that values conventional family ties.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Sexuality

U.S. Pressed to Add Billions to Bailouts

The government faced mounting pressure on Monday to put billions more in some of the nation’s biggest banks, two of the biggest automakers and the biggest insurance company, despite the billions it has already committed to rescuing them.

The government’s boldest rescue to date, its $150 billion commitment for the insurance giant American International Group, is foundering. A.I.G. indicated on Monday it was now negotiating for tens of billions of dollars in additional assistance as losses have mounted.

Separately, the Obama administration confirmed it was in discussions to aid Citigroup, the recipient of $45 billion so far, that could raise the government’s stake in the banking company to as much as 40 percent.

The Treasury Department named a special adviser to work with General Motors and Chrysler, two of Detroit’s biggest automakers, which are seeking $22 billion on top of the $17 billion already granted to them.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, The 2009 Obama Administration Bank Bailout Plan, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The National Deficit, The Possibility of a Bailout for the U.S. Auto Industry, The September 2008 Proposed Henry Paulson 700 Billion Bailout Package, The U.S. Government, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner

In Turnabout, Children Take Caregiver Role

Partly paralyzed, with diabetes and colitis, Linda Lent needs extensive care at home.

But with her husband working long hours at a bowling alley, Ms. Lent, 47, relies on a caregiver who travels by school bus toting a homework-filled backpack: her 13-year-old daughter, Annmarie.

Annmarie injects migraine medicine, dispenses pills, takes blood from her mother’s finger for tests and responds to seizures ”” responsibilities she has at times found overwhelming.

At 11, she said, she felt “fed up,” thinking: “There’s no law says I have to take care of her. Why should I have to do it? Other kids, they could go out and play with friends.”

Across the country, children are providing care for sick parents or grandparents ”” lifting frail bodies off beds or toilets, managing medication, washing, feeding, dressing, talking with doctors. Schools, social service agencies and health providers are often unaware of those responsibilities because families members may be too embarrassed, or stoic.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Children, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family

RNS: In Pope's choice for New York, a study in contrasts

The Rev. Steven Avella, a Roman Catholic priest in Milwaukee, said his counterparts in the Archdiocese of New York should soon expect a phone call from their new boss — Archbishop Timothy Dolan.

“He’ll start phoning guys right away,” said Avella, 57, a historian at Marquette University who served under Dolan during the archbishop’s seven years atop the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. “He’ll find out when their ordination anniversaries are, look after the older guys, go visit them. He’s a guy who’s close to his co-workers, who makes them feel they’re worth something.”

When Pope Benedict appointed Dolan, 59, as the new Archbishop of New York on Monday (Feb. 23), he placed a friendly face in the nation’s most prestigious Catholic pulpit, elevating a Midwesterner known for his pastoral touch to the upper echelons of the church hierarchy.

With 2.5 million Catholics stretching from Manhattan to the Catskill Mountains, the Archdiocese of New York is the second largest in the U.S., and its leader becomes, as the late Pope John Paul II once said, “archbishop of the capital of the world.”

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Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Roman Catholic