Thursday’s meeting of the Group of 20 in London is supposed to be an opportunity for world leaders to agree on common solutions to the global financial crisis and come up with ways to prevent another one from happening in the future. Yet as the summit approaches, observers seem to be more focused on the past — specifically, on two previous international attempts to reorder troubled markets, one a model of success and the other of failure.
Daily Archives: March 30, 2009
Here is the real plan that now seems odds on to succeed.
The Plan: Dump $500 billion of toxic assets on to unsuspecting taxpayers via a public-private partnership in which 93% of the losses are born by the taxpayer.
It is a tall order, but the Supreme Court needs to bring clarity to its murky doctrines relating to government speech and religious symbols. It should free its own focus from disputes about park decorations. Religious liberty is, as has often been observed, our “first freedom,”and it faces many pressing challenges. In Connecticut, for example, several legislators recently proposed ”” but then put on hold for now ”” a bill that purported to regulate the internal affairs and restructure the governance of the Catholic Church. Such a law would be about as unconstitutional as a law can be, and it is hard to imagine a more glaring affront to religious freedom. Clearly, we cannot afford distractions, but too often, that is what the court’s Ten Commandments and Nativity scene cases have become.
The point is not that the line between a government’s choice about its own message and official discrimination against unpopular private messages is easy to draw, or unimportant. We should be concerned that officials’ decisions about what the government will, and will not, say can be used, as Justice Alito recognized, “as a subterfuge for favoring certain private speakers over others.” More generally, it is important to appreciate the weaknesses, as well as the strengths, of the “fortress” image, and to be sensitive to the fact that the government shapes ”” sometimes subtly, sometimes obviously ”” the marketplace of ideas by its own speech as well as by regulation.
At the same time, we should, in these and similar cases, keep our eye on the religious-freedom ball. The separation of church and state, correctly understood, is a powerful, crucial protection for genuine diversity and liberty of religious conscience. Its proper goal is not to put religion in its place but to keep the state in its place.
I returned home from the spring House of Bishops’ Meeting this past Thursday (March 19th). It was held at Kanuga Conference Center in North Carolina. I am very appreciative to all of you who were holding me and the other bishops up in your prayers. Besides for getting stuck in Atlanta and thinking I was never going to get out, all the travel plans went well. Compared to the previous two House of Bishops’ Meetings, this meeting was much less contentious. Fortunately we were not faced with the deposition of any more bishops. Based on the comments of several of the bishops, I missed the best part of the meeting which occurred on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning before I arrived. Guest speakers Bill Bishop and Walter Brueggemann, gave a presentation entitled “A New Era of Engagement: Gospel Alternatives to Polarization.” Apparently it was very well done and thought provoking. While I am sorry I missed the presentation, I was not going to miss seeing my daughter Catie’s Friday evening performance in the school musical, “Cinderella.” (Catie and all the other kids did an outstanding job.)
Besides for the daily Bible Study and worship services, most of each day was spent in meetings dealing with a variety of topics. One of the main events that occurred was the election of the Bishop of Ecuador Central. Due to some internal diocesan difficulties, the Diocese of Ecuador Central asked the House of Bishops to elect their new bishop. Three nominees chosen by the Diocese were presented. The Rev. Luis Fernando Ruiz, a priest from the Diocese of Columbia, and rector of the Cathedral de San Pablo in Bogota, was elected on the first ballot, receiving 102 of the 117 ballots cast.
The most controversial discussion during the HOB meeting centered on the election of the Rev. Kevin Thew Forrester, Bishop-Elect of Northern Michigan. A number of bishops spoke both for and against the consent of Bishop-Elect Forrester. Concern was expressed over the election process itself which resulted in Rev. Forrester being the only nominee; the controversy surrounding his connection with Zen Buddhism; several of his liturgical practices to include his rewriting the Baptismal Covenant and Eucharistic prayers; and his teachings on the Trinity. Bishops with jurisdiction and all Standing Committees of The Episcopal Church will be asked to vote for or against the consent of his election. It is too early to know what the final outcome will be. The consent process can last up to 120 days. I voted NO to his consent.
The Mission Funding Initiative was another topic that generated a great deal of debate and expressed concern by several bishops. The stated intent of the MFI is to provide supplemented support of TEC’s mission efforts which have traditionally been funded by assessment income. Large and substantial gifts will be solicited reportedly to support the following five Funds: The Fund for Congregational Development; Leadership in Ministry; Communications; Spiritual Enrichment; and Global Ministry. An additional use of the funds, not formally listed among the five Funds of the Mission Funding Initiative identified above, but verbally mentioned by one of the presenters was the establishment of a legal fund to support future legal actions taken by TEC. I expressed my grave concern to the House of Bishops over all the ongoing law suits dealing with property disputes within The Episcopal Church. I am very much aware of all the arguments and rationale for the law suits, however, I firmly believe that regardless of who wins in court, ultimately everyone loses. There has to be a better, more pastoral and Christ-like way of dealing with these issues than the current actions being taken. The Lord calls the Church to rise above the ways of the world in dealing with disputes. We need to conduct ourselves in such a way that the love and Good News of Jesus Christ shines forth, building up the Kingdom of God, not tearing it down.
Other topics covered at the House of Bishops’ included a briefing on General Convention structure and orientation as well as some of the items that will be addressed at General Convention. Included in that was a discussion on the proposal to enter into full communion with the Moravian Church; a brief discussion on some of the proposed changes to Title IV dealing with issues of clergy discipline; and a presentation on the proposed mandatory Denominational Health Plan (something I have serious questions about).
One of the final acts of the House of Bishops at its spring meeting was the issuance of A Pastoral Letter from the Bishops of the Episcopal Church. A copy of the letter will follow in a separate email. As always, it is good to be back home in the Diocese of Albany.
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, an avowed friend of the United States and the leader of the European Union’s biggest economy, is diplomatic about the coming visit by President Obama. But she is clear that she is not about to give ground on new stimulus spending, stressing the need to maintain fiscal discipline even as she professes to want to work closely with the new American president.
Speaking in her modern concrete-and-glass Chancellery building last week, she underscored the points of drama that may well delineate the three summit meetings during Mr. Obama’s first trans-Atlantic trip since he was elected.
“International policy is, for all the friendship and commonality, always also about representing the interests of one’s own country,” Mrs. Merkel said in an interview with The New York Times and The International Herald Tribune.
There are few women who can say they are married to a Roman Catholic priest. And few people who can say their dad is the man whom Catholic churchgoers address formally as “Father Steve.”
But Cindy Anderson and her three sons can, and they were among the rush of congregants who gathered for 10 a.m. mass on a recent Sunday at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church in Goodrich.
The parish priest is Cindy’s husband and the father of Austin, 24, Steven Jr., 14, and Christian, 11. The Rev. Steve Anderson has been a Catholic priest since 2003, when he became the second priest in Michigan to be ordained under an exception to the Catholic Church’s celibacy rule for married ministers serving some Protestant denominations.
(ACNS) ‘Continuing exaggerated weather patterns across Southern Africa are a further illustration of the urgent need to tackle global warming’ Archbishop Thabo Makgoba said on Tuesday, calling for swift and decisive global action on climate change.
Speaking in the week before the G20 summit, the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town said ‘We have had enough of talking. The international community cannot continue to prevaricate while countries like ours are increasingly suffering inestimable human cost, in deaths, displacement, and the destruction of livelihoods. Northern Namibia is experiencing the worst flooding in decades, as is Southern Angola. This year has already seen serious storms, flooding and loss of life in Gauteng and Kwa-Zulu Natal in South Africa, as well as in Mozambique, where we are told we should expect further flooding, while other parts of the country suffer extensive drought.’
(ACNS) Dr. John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, has today called upon the leaders of the G20 to invest more in conflict prevention.
Delivering his key note address in Westminster at the launch of the Parliamentarians Network for Conflict Prevention and Human Security, Dr. Sentamu reflected on his recent experience visiting refugee camps in Kenya after last year’s civil unrest and spoke of the urgent need for both conflict prevention and human security:
“Without human security the continuing tragedies that we see unfolding in Darfur and Zimbabwe will continue whilst populations outraged at these daily acts of inhumanity wonder why their own Governments have been reduced to inaction as these conflicts continue with their increasing human cost.
Looking just at the financial crisis (and leaving aside some problems of the larger economy), we face at least two major, interrelated problems. The first is a desperately ill banking sector that threatens to choke off any incipient recovery that the fiscal stimulus might generate. The second is a political balance of power that gives the financial sector a veto over public policy, even as that sector loses popular support.
Big banks, it seems, have only gained political strength since the crisis began. And this is not surprising. With the financial system so fragile, the damage that a major bank failure could cause””Lehman was small relative to Citigroup or Bank of America””is much greater than it would be during ordinary times. The banks have been exploiting this fear as they wring favorable deals out of Washington. Bank of America obtained its second bailout package (in January) after warning the government that it might not be able to go through with the acquisition of Merrill Lynch, a prospect that Treasury did not want to consider…
To break this cycle, the government must force the banks to acknowledge the scale of their problems….
The White House on Sunday pushed out the chairman of General Motors and instructed Chrysler to form a partnership with the Italian automaker Fiat within 30 days as conditions for receiving another much-needed round of government aid.
The decision to ask G.M.’s chairman and chief executive, Rick Wagoner, to resign caught Detroit and Washington by surprise, and it underscored the Obama administration’s determination to keep a tight rein on the companies it is bailing out ”” a level of government involvement in business perhaps not seen since the Great Depression.
President Obama is scheduled to announce details of the auto package at the White House on Monday, but two senior officials, offering a preview on condition of anonymity, made clear that some form of bankruptcy ”” a quick, court-supervised restructuring, as they described it ”” could still be an option for one or both companies.
Pleas for help ”” spiritual and financial ”” are flooding U.S. churches, from tiny congregations to megachurches, as recession woes seep into the pews, a new survey finds.
Pastors say they’re giving out benevolent funds in record numbers, increasing ministries to the unemployed and the financially fearful, even reaching into their own pockets more to help.
Nearly two in three pastors (62%) report more people from outside their church asking for help, and nearly a third (31%) see more such requests from church members, according to a survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors.
Britain’s G20 ambitions were dealt another blow yesterday after it emerged that a deal on coordinated action to pump money into the world economy will be delayed until a second summit.
As world leaders began gathering in London, the Australian Prime Minister disclosed that negotiations over the level of a fiscal stimulus needed to prevent a worldwide depression will take place at the following G20, which will not be hosted by Gordon Brown.
This came as leaders from China, Germany and Australia lined up over the weekend to warn that they were not yet ready to agree to further tax giveaways or benefits increases despite pressure from the US and Britain. Fears are rising that agreement at the London summit on Thursday may focus on more easily achievable goals, such as tax havens, rather than ensuring commitment to specific goals on spending and protectionism.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said some financial institutions will need substantial government aid, while warning against any attempt to tax investors who join a federal program to buy tainted assets from banks.
“Some banks are going to need some large amounts of assistance,” Geithner said today on the ABC News program “This Week.” The terms of a $500 billion public-private program to aid banks “cannot change” for investors or they’ll lose confidence in the plan, he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
When Facebook signed up its 100 millionth member last August, its employees spread out in two parks in Palo Alto, Calif., for a huge barbecue. Sometime this week, this five-year-old start-up, born in a dorm room at Harvard, expects to register its 200 millionth user.
That staggering growth rate ”” doubling in size in just eight months ”” suggests Facebook is rapidly becoming the Web’s dominant social ecosystem and an essential personal and business networking tool in much of the wired world.
Yet Facebook executives say they aren’t planning to observe their latest milestone in any significant way. It is, perhaps, a poor time to celebrate. The company that has given users new ways to connect and speak truth to power now often finds itself as the target of that formidable grass-roots firepower ”” most recently over controversial changes it made to users’ home pages.
As Facebook expands, it’s also struggling to match the momentum of hot new start-ups like Twitter, the micro-blogging service, while managing the expectations of young, tech-savvy early adopters, attracting mainstream moms and dads, and justifying its hype-carbonated valuation.
Tiger Woods returned to the top Sunday like some inexorable force, stalking with an almost frightening purposefulness to overtake Sean O’Hair and his five-stroke lead in the Arnold Palmer Invitational. As has become his custom, Woods delivered the stunning coup de grÃ¢ce with a flourish on Bay Hill’s 18th green, sinking a 15-foot putt in the heart of the hole as darkness fell.
Just as he did a year ago, and as he did in 2001 in his second of six victories in this tournament, Woods waited to erase doubts until every shot had been hit. Then he stroked the winning putt. This time it was for a round of 67 and a five-under-par 275 total, one stroke better than O’Hair, who closed with a 73.
Woods’s climb from five strokes back matched the largest comeback in his PGA Tour career. He also came back from five down at the 2000 Pebble Beach Pro-Am.