Daily Archives: November 23, 2009

Michael Medved: What the Pilgrims really sought

As American families sit down to their traditional Thanksgiving feasts, they will naturally recall the familiar story of the Pilgrims and, in the process, distort the true character of the nation’s religious heritage.

Most children learn that the Mayflower settlers came to the New World to escape persecution and to establish religious freedom. But the early colonists actually pursued purity, not tolerance, and sought to build fervent, faith-based utopias, not secular regimes that consigned religion to a secondary role. The distinctive circumstances that allowed these fiery believers of varied denominations to cooperate in the founding of a new nation help to explain America’s contradictory religious traditions ”” as simultaneously the most devoutly Christian society in the Western world, and the country most accommodating to every shade of exotic belief and practice.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., History, Religion & Culture

Reuters FaithWorld Blog: Searching for clues from the Roman Catholic-Anglican summit

There wasn’t much information in the official communique after Pope Benedict and Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams met at the Vatican on Saturday. The terse text mentioned “cordial discussions” about challenges facing Christians, the need to cooperate and their intention to continue bilateral theological dialogue. The only reference to the issue of the day, Benedict’s offer to take alienated Anglicans into the Catholic Church, was mentioned in passing as “recent events affecting relations between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion.” Hmm, pretty thin pickings”¦.

The Pravda-like opaqueness of the communique (read it here) prompted me to zoom in on the photographs we got from the Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano for any other clues there.

Read it all and check out the photos

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), Ecumenical Relations, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic

Daily Mail: English and Welsh Catholic Leaders set up a task force for huge Anglican exodus

The Roman Catholic bishops of England and Wales have set up a task force to help the possible exodus of tens of thousands of disaffected Anglicans into their church.

The move was announced as Anglican leader Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, protested to the Pope in the Vatican over its plans to receive Anglican converts en masse.

Pope Benedict XVI was last month accused of attempting to poach Anglicans unhappy about decisions taken in their church to ordain women and sexually-active homosexuals as priests and bishops.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic

Front Page of Friday's NY Times: With F.H.A. Help, Easy Loans in Expensive Areas

While the F.H.A. is certainly strengthening the high-end market in the Bay Area by prompting more sales, there are growing concerns that it might become a destabilizing force.

Kenneth Donohue, inspector general for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the parent agency of the F.H.A., said the higher loan limits were increasing the potential risk to the F.H.A. Last week, the agency said its cash reserves had fallen below their Congressionally mandated minimum because of the large volume of foreclosures.

“If one of these higher-limit loans fail, that’s equivalent to two or three cheaper loans,” Mr. Donohue said. “You have to ask yourself, was the F.H.A. ever intended to address these markets?”

He sees another risk: larger loans will be a greater draw for those who want to commit fraud. That would exacerbate a problem already besetting the agency.

I honestly feel some days like I am living on Mars, I simply cannot believe what is occurring in my own country. Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The U.S. Government

Notable and Quotable

“What a good country or a good squirrel should be doing is stashing away nuts for the winter. The United States is not only not saving nuts, it’s eating the ones left over from the last winter.”

–William H. Gross, managing director of the Pimco Group, the bond-management firm, in the article posted just below this entry

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Budget, Economy, Personal Finance, Politics in General, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

Wave of Debt Payments Facing U.S. Government

The United States government is financing its more than trillion-dollar-a-year borrowing with i.o.u.’s on terms that seem too good to be true.

But that happy situation, aided by ultralow interest rates, may not last much longer.

Treasury officials now face a trifecta of headaches: a mountain of new debt, a balloon of short-term borrowings that come due in the months ahead, and interest rates that are sure to climb back to normal as soon as the Federal Reserve decides that the emergency has passed.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Budget, Economy, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, The United States Currency (Dollar etc)

Herman Van Rompuy: Europe's first president to push for 'Euro tax'

Within days of taking office in January, the former Belgian prime minister will put his weight behind controversial proposals already floated by the commission’s head, José Manuel Barroso, for a new “Euro tax”.

He will add credence to Mr Barroso’s plans, to be formally tabled in the New Year, by arguing for a Euro-version of a “Tobin Tax” ”“ a levy on financial transactions already floated by Gordon Brown as a solution to the international banking crisis. It would result in a stream of income direct to Brussels coffers, funding budgets that critics say are already rife with waste and overspending.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Economy, Europe, Politics in General, Taxes

Pope Benedict XVI's Address to the Assembly of Catholic Universities

The apostolic constitution “Sapientia Christiana,” from its first expressions, shows the urgency, still present, to overcome the existing breach between faith and culture, inviting to a greater commitment of evangelization, in the firm conviction that Christian revelation is a transforming force, destined to permeate ways of thinking, criteria of judgment, and norms of behavior. It is able to illumine, purify and renew the customs of men and their cultures (cfr Proemio, I), and must constitute the central point of teaching and research, in addition to the horizon that illumines nature and the objects of every ecclesiastical faculty.

From this perspective, while underlining the duty of the cultivators of the sacred disciplines to attain, with theological research, a more profound knowledge of the truth revealed, encouraged at the same time are contacts with the other fields of learning for a fruitful dialogue, above all for the purpose of offering a precious contribution to the mission that the Church is called to carry out in the world.

After 30 years, the basic lines of the apostolic constitution “Sapientia Christiana” still keep all their current importance. What is more, in today’s society, where knowledge is increasingly specialized and sectorial, but which is increasingly marked by relativism, it is even more necessary to be open to the wisdom that comes from the Gospel. Man, in fact, is incapable of understanding himself fully and the world without Jesus Christ: Only he illumines his true dignity, his vocation, his ultimate destiny and opens the heart to a solid and lasting hope.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Education, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

USA Today–Health care fight swells lobbying

Companies and groups hiring lobbying firms on health issues nearly doubled this year as special interests rushed to shape the massive revamp of the nation’s health care system now in its final stretch before Congress.

About 1,000 organizations have hired lobbyists since January, compared with 505 during the same period in 2008, according to a USA TODAY analysis of congressional records compiled by the nonpartisan CQ MoneyLine.

Overall, health care lobbying has increased, exceeding $422 million during the first ninth months of the year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks money in politics. That’s more than any other industry and a nearly 10% jump over the same period in 2008. The center’s Dave Levinthal said the frenzy of new lobbying activity makes financial sense.

“If lobbying didn’t work, people wouldn’t do it,” he said.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Health & Medicine, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, The U.S. Government

LA Times–For a healthcare holdout, it's lonely in the middle

As one of the few senators undecided on healthcare reform, Arkansas Democrat Blanche Lincoln faces a huge headache. Liberals attack her as an obstructionist, even though she cast a key vote keeping the effort alive. Republicans are lining up to run against her — seven, so far, and counting.

The voters here at home seem conflicted, if not downright confused.

Take Jim Havens. He greeted Lincoln with a warm embrace when she showed up at the University of Central Arkansas for a service honoring veterans; his late brother was a family friend. Moments later, as Lincoln sat on stage, the 73-year-old state employee related his frustrations with the healthcare system: the struggle to cover his wife before Medicare kicked in, the exclusions that made her expensive policy barely worth the cost.

“What we got is broken,” Havens said. But, he quickly added, “what I don’t think we need to do is rush to fix it and make things even worse.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Health & Medicine, Politics in General, Senate

WSJ: Weighing Jobs and Deficit

The White House is lukewarm about proposals by congressional Democrats to introduce broad legislation to create jobs, instead favoring targeted measures that would be less likely to inflate the deficit, administration officials said.

There is as yet no agreement within the White House or in Congress on how to try to curb the U.S. jobless rate. But the differences in opinion suggest that rifts could emerge among Democrats as they wrestle with how to beat back the highest unemployment rate in a generation.

The jobless rate, which hit 10.2% in October, has continued to climb despite the implementation of a $787 billion stimulus package in February.

The subheader for the article is: White House Is Unenthusiastic on Legislation That Would Raise Government Debt. To which I respond–good for them. Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Economy, House of Representatives, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The Fiscal Stimulus Package of 2009, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner

Front Page of Yesterday's NY Times: Wall St. Finds Profits by Reducing Mortgages

As millions of Americans struggle to hold on to their homes, Wall Street has found a way to make money from the mortgage mess.

Investment funds are buying billions of dollars’ worth of home loans, discounted from the loans’ original value. Then, in what might seem an act of charity, the funds are helping homeowners by reducing the size of the loans.

But as part of these deals, the mortgages are being refinanced through lenders that work with government agencies like the Federal Housing Administration. This enables the funds to pocket sizable profits by reselling new, government-insured loans to other federal agencies, which then bundle the mortgages into securities for sale to investors.

While homeowners save money, the arrangement shifts nearly all the risk for the loans to the federal government ”” and, ultimately, taxpayers ”” at a time when Americans are falling behind on their mortgage payments in record numbers.

Read it all.

Posted in Uncategorized

Thomas Friedman on the Brokenness of the American Political System

But while our culture of imagination is still vibrant, the other critical factor that still differentiates countries today ”” and is not a commodity ”” is good governance, which can harness creativity. And that we may be losing. I am talking about the ability of a society’s leaders to think long term, address their problems with the optimal legislation and attract capable people into government. What I increasingly fear today is that America is only able to produce “suboptimal” responses to its biggest problems ”” education, debt, financial regulation, health care, energy and environment….

The standard answer [to the the governance problem] is that we need better leaders. The real answer is that we need better citizens. We need citizens who will convey to their leaders that they are ready to sacrifice, even pay, yes, higher taxes, and will not punish politicians who ask them to do the hard things. Otherwise, folks, we’re in trouble. A great power that can only produce suboptimal responses to its biggest challenges will, in time, fade from being a great power ”” no matter how much imagination it generates.

Grandma said that, too.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Asia, China, Globalization, History, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate

From the Morning Scripture Readings (Ii)

Praise the LORD! O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures for ever! Who can utter the mighty doings of the LORD, or show forth all his praise? Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times!

–Psalm 106:1-3

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

From the Morning Scripture Readings (I)

And the LORD roars from Zion, and utters his voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth shake. But the LORD is a refuge to his people, a stronghold to the people of Israel.

–Joel 3:16

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture