Daily Archives: April 12, 2010

Kendall Harmon: Special Note on Blog Content

For the Easter season and a major special occasion in the family, I am taking Monday and Tuesday off from full blogging and will be back Wednesday. There will be one open thread each day–thanks–KSH.

Posted in * Admin, * By Kendall, * Culture-Watch, Blogging & the Internet

Blog Open Thread for Monday: What Books are you Reading Right Now?

The more specific you can be about why you chose the book, or what you enjoyed about the book, the better–KSH.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Books

Phil Mickelson Captures Third Masters Title

Phil Mickelson has been through almost all of golf’s ups and downs, triumphs as well as epic collapses. He has taken some blows from real life as well, with his wife and mother both battling breast cancer, a twist in his life that colored everything that happened at the Masters this year.

So perhaps the final round at Augusta National no longer holds quite the fear factor it once did. Certainly his two previous titles here helped, as did an adoring gallery, which already reflexively rooted for the amiable star and now is fully aware of his family’s heart-tugging plight as well. But it might explain how the golfer known for his on-course gambles that so often backfire managed his round on Sunday without a single bogey.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Sports

David Broder–2011: Taxes in the Spotlight

The next day, at a breakfast with reporters in Washington, Douglas Elmendorf, the head of the Congressional Budget Office, confirmed that his economists have begun studying how to write a value-added tax, a form of national sales tax, because of growing congressional interest in drafting such a measure.

Elmendorf reminded the journalists of the grim news contained in his agency’s analysis of President Obama’s budget proposals. Agreeing with Bernanke that the current course is “unsustainable,” he said that unless something changes, the U.S. will emerge from the Obama years spending one-quarter more than it collects in revenue — 25 percent compared to 19 percent of the gross domestic product.

Closing the gap “can’t be solved through minor changes,” he said. Revenues projected under current laws would barely be sufficient to pay for Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, defense and interest on the national debt. Everything else would depend on finding new revenues — or borrowing.

Read the whole piece.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Economy, Federal Reserve, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Taxes, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

The Economist on Sudan's Election–Let those people go

Africa’s biggest country has long been one of its most ungovernable. For a start, it is a grossly artificial, colonial creation. The Muslim Arabs in the north, who have run Sudan since it broke free from Britain in 1956, have little in common with their blacker-skinned Christian and animist compatriots in the south, whom they have periodically enslaved over the centuries. During more than four decades of strife since the British left, at least 2m southerners have been killed. More recently the government in Khartoum, under President Omar al-Bashir, has bludgeoned the disaffected inhabitants of the western region of Darfur since the start of a rebellion in 2003, killing some 300,000 of them and displacing another 3m. Just in the west and the south together, more than 9m people depend on food handouts from abroad. Mr Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court at The Hague for alleged crimes against humanity.

It is hardly surprising, then, that the election for parliament and president and a slew of other bodies due to take place on April 11th is likely to be horribly flawed….In the past year or so, Mr Bashir’s ruling party has been stacking the odds in its own favour. The main southern party has withdrawn its candidate for the presidency and is refusing to compete for most of parliament’s northern seats. The main opposition in the north says it will pull out altogether. The brutal Mr Bashir, who came to power in a coup in 1989, is almost sure to retain the presidency. The conundrum of whether Western governments must continue to treat with an ICC indictee in the hope of sustaining a wider peace will be awkwardly unresolved. Foreign governments that have given money to finance the polls no longer hope for “free and fair” elections but ask that they be minimally “credible”.

The election may still be postponed. Yet, despite all these flaws, it is to be hoped that it will go ahead. If it does, the outside world should hold its nose and accept the result.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Politics in General, Sudan, Violence

Religion and Ethics Newsweekly: Stephen Ministry

[DEBORAH] POTTER: At Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, parishioners are training to become caregivers.

STEPHEN MINISTRY TRAINEE: The key thing that I saw is you leaned into her. You engaged her and told her, “I’m listening to you.”

post03-stephenministriesPOTTER: They’re learning to be Stephen ministers, named for Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr who cared for the poor. Parishioners are recruited and interviewed by the pastor, then trained to offer one-to-one care to people in and around their congregation. They commit to be available as needed for two years, but many serve longer. Pam Montgomery has been involved for two decades, balancing Stephen Ministry with responsibilities at home. But sometimes the caregiver is the one who needs care.

PAM MONTGOMERY (Stephen Minister): This is my dad and my mom.

POTTER: Seven years ago, Pam’s father died of cancer. Just two weeks later she lost her grandmother. As she grappled with her grief, a friend surprised her with a suggestion: What if Pam herself asked for a Stephen minister?

Read or watch it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care

BBC–Why do Finland's schools get the best results?

Last year more than 100 foreign delegations and governments visited Helsinki, hoping to learn the secret of their schools’ success.

In 2006, Finland’s pupils scored the highest average results in science and reading in the whole of the developed world. In the OECD’s exams for 15 year-olds, known as PISA, they also came second in maths, beaten only by teenagers in South Korea.

This isn’t a one-off: in previous PISA tests Finland also came out top.

The Finnish philosophy with education is that everyone has something to contribute and those who struggle in certain subjects should not be left behind.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Education, Europe, Finland

Katherine Tyler Scott–Leadership crisis in the Episcopal Church

The Episcopal Church, like other mainline Protestant denominations, is not immune from the seismic political, sociological and economic shifts happening today. Most of us are experiencing “a time of no longer and a time of not yet”–an era of rapid, complex change; chronic anxiety; and heightened ambiguity. The comfort of the familiar is fading, and the movement toward an unknown future can feel terrifying.

In times like these, Christians expect religious leadership to help bridge the gap between the ideal and the real, and to equip followers to live out the Gospel in an environment of extreme polarities, i.e., poverty and wealth, insularity and inclusiveness, hostility and hospitality, homogeneity and diversity. The call “to love our neighbors as ourselves” is being drowned out by a barrage of shrill and hate-filled rhetoric. The distance between what Christians profess to believe and what they do seems wider than ever, creating a gap of dysfunction. There are few trusted religious leaders in the public square, whose rational voices, theological gravitas and moral authority can quell the incivility, incendiary rhetoric, and growing intolerance of differences. At a time when the leadership of the church is most needed, there is silence.

The mainline churches are finding themselves on the margins, declining in membership and donations. Some are in the grip of unresolved conflicts and divisions; others are locked in scandal. The main mission is hostage to a host of distracting issues. In short, the church is experiencing a crisis of leadership.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Episcopal Church (TEC), Lutheran, Methodist, Other Churches, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ

Columbus Dispatch–Blessing of same-sex union at OSU-area church is first in Episcopal diocese

MacPherson and Harbin’s relationship was the first same-sex union blessed by the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio since Bishop Thomas E. Breidenthal lifted the ban on such ceremonies a week ago.

The men, who live in German Village and started dating in 1975, cannot be legally married in Ohio. And the Episcopal Church does not marry same-sex couples.

MacPherson, 59, and Harbin, 56, would like the civil benefit of marriage someday, they said. But yesterday, they sought their church’s blessing, that their relationship is holy and of God.

Theirs has been a “covenant relationship” – unbreakable – since 1979, in their estimation. But they never had a ceremony with loved ones to mark the relationship. They wanted to do that with a congregation that made them feel welcome when they weren’t sure church could be a haven for gay people. St. Stephen’s, on Ohio State University’s campus, was.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Parish Ministry, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Bishops

Richard Dawkins planning to have Pope Benedict arrested over 'crimes against humanity'

Richard Dawkins, the atheist campaigner and evolutionist, is planning to have Pope Benedict XVI arrested when he comes to Britain later this year for “crimes against humanity”.

Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, the atheist author, are seeking advice from human rights lawyers as to what legal action can be taken against the pope over his alleged cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic church.

It emerged this weekend that in 1985 when he was in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which deals with sex abuse cases, the pope signed a letter arguing that the “good of the universal church” should be considered against the defrocking of an American priest who committed sex offences against two boys.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Atheism, England / UK, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

Joel Edwards–The issue of rights and equalities is proving an irritant to diversity

All of us are struggling with what it means to live in a world of contradictions and competing claims. It’s a legitimate struggle for any democracy. But in our questions about private conscience there is nothing to be gained by treating religious convictions as alien values. Our equalities debates and laws should create spaces in which faith flourishes, influencing private behaviour as well as contributing to public benefit.

Society simply cannot afford to dislodge faith, for there is nothing intrinsically intolerant about religiously motivated services in public care or education. But religious exemption should never be a blanket for public intolerance. Properly scrutinised it’s as valid as the legal caveats offered to doctors who act in accordance with their conscience.

And people of faith who demand exemptions from laws to which others are subjected should not regard this simply as a right. In effect its a sharp reminder that faith has an enormous responsibility to bring dimensions of well-being because of the values we bring to people of all faiths and none.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, England / UK, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture