Daily Archives: April 29, 2010

Thomas Friedman: The U.S. must lead the energy revolution or fall far behind

I appreciate the president’s dilemma. But I don’t think hanging back and letting the Senate take the lead is the right answer. This is a big leadership moment. He needs to confront it head on, because — call me crazy — I think doing the right and hard thing here will actually be good politics, too.

I’d love to see the president come out, guns blazing with this message:

“Yes, if we pass this energy legislation a small price on carbon will likely show up on your gasoline or electricity bill. I’m not going to lie. But it is an investment that will pay off in so many ways. It will spur innovation in energy efficiency that will actually lower the total amount you pay for driving, heating or cooling. It will reduce carbon pollution in the air we breathe and make us healthier as a country. It will reduce the money we are sending to nations that crush democracy and promote intolerance. It will strengthen the dollar. It will make us more energy secure, environmentally secure and strategically secure.

“Sure, our opponents will scream ‘carbon tax!’ Well what do you think you’re paying now to OPEC? The only difference between me and my opponents is that I want to keep any revenue we generate here to build American schools, American highways, American high-speed rail, American research labs and American economic strength. It’s just a little tick I have: I like to see our spending build our country. They don’t care. They are perfectly happy to see all the money you spend to fill your tank or heat your home go overseas, so we end up funding both sides in the war on terrorism — our military and their extremists.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Energy, Natural Resources, Politics in General

Jonathan Last–TV for Tots: Not What You Remember

For the most part, “Bob the Builder” is about normal kids’ stuff: teamwork, conflict resolution, taking turns and the like. The show isn’t overtly political””Bob’s catchphrase, “Yes we can!” predates the Obama campaign. Instead, it peddles a slightly hectoring brand of environmentalism. Ever since Bob discovered his inner environmental conscience, he’s been teaching kids about believing in recycling and being kind to Mother Gaia. “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” has become another one of the show’s catchphrases. That’s fine so far as it goes””aside from those evil Republicans, who doesn’t love the planet?

But it’s a little rich having Bob indoctrinate children about “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” while simultaneously prompting these children to beg their parents for plastic Bob the Builder trucks, and latex Bob the Builder balls, and plush Bob the Builder dolls. All of which are manufactured in far-away lands and shipped to our fair shores by the carbon-gobbling container-shipful. Bob the Builder is like one of those evangelists who lectures on the virtues of living green before hopping onto a private jet and flying back to his mansion in Nashville….

There’s nothing particularly pernicious about any of this. Bob and Thomas and “Sesame Street” have plenty of redeeming qualities. And in any case, if you don’t like a particular show you can always find one that better fits your tastes. Even so, it’s a shame that there isn’t more of a place for children’s entertainment that exists solely in its own universe, apart from adult debates and sociopolitical fashions.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Children, Movies & Television

Local newspaper Editorial–Facing up to Facebook liabilities

Students applying to colleges are advised to do a lot: Make good grades; get good recommendations; play a sport; edit the yearbook; invent a simple, hand-held device that would run on solar energy and would provide a simple solution to climate change.

But those students are also being advised not to do one important thing: Leave a cyber trail that admissions offices can follow directly to their Facebook pages.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Blogging & the Internet, Education, Young Adults

Peter Meilaender–Defending the Innocent: Arizona and Immigration

More troubling is the requirement that law enforcement officials attempt to determine the immigration status of anyone whom they reasonably suspect of being unlawfully present in the United States. On its face, this seems fair enough, but it conjures fears of police stopping people and demanding to see identity papers with little justification. But even here the criticisms have been over the top. This is not Nazi Germany, nor is it Japanese internment. That someone might be required to show a suspicious police officer a document that he or she is required to carry anyway””just as I would need to show my driver’s license if pulled over””does not seem unjustly burdensome.

To understand the real causes of controversy, therefore, we must dig a bit deeper. They are, I think, twofold, and both reflect broader failures of governance in the U.S. today. First, it is clear that Arizona felt pressed to pass a law of this sort””and that other states will as well””precisely because the national government has for so long failed to deal effectively with the problem of illegal immigration. This may be changing””border security has improved in recent years, and increasing use of E-Verify, despite some initial kinks in the system, has gradually strengthened our ability to detect illegal employment. Nevertheless, this crisis has been two or three decades in the making, and it is not surprising that economic recession would intensify concerns about the federal government’s longstanding failure to enforce its own immigration laws.

Second is a more generalized fear””also, no doubt, prompted in part by recession, though it was visible even before the markets crashed””that the government is simply no longer doing its job. The first duty of the state is fundamentally a moral one: to protect the innocent and punish the guilty. In our system, we accomplish these goals through a system of representative government and the rule of law.

Yet recent events””in particular the completely partisan passage of Obamacare over enormous public opposition from citizens already unhappy about the bailouts, stimulus package, and ballooning deficit””have left many Americans fearing that the government no longer represents them, and that the law can therefore no longer be relied upon to protect them.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

Supreme Court sides with Interior on Mojave Desert cross

The Supreme Court ruled today that Congress and the Interior Department acted properly when they used a land transfer to solve a dispute over a cross on display in the federal Mojave National Preserve.

The case, Salazar v. Buono, stemmed from a 2001 lawsuit challenging a cross erected in 1934 by the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Frank Buono, an Oregon resident who had served as an assistant superintendent in the park and was a regular visitor, claimed the memorial to World War I veterans was unconstitutional because it gave the impression that the government was advancing a particular religion.

By a 5-4 margin, the Supreme Court ruled today that lower federal courts were wrong to dismiss as “evasion” the federal government’s effort to transfer the land underneath the religious symbol. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the opinion (pdf) for the majority, arguing that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had failed to consider the profound “dilemma” posed by the case.

The Interior Department could not leave the cross in place without violating the ruling that the display was unconstitutional, Kennedy wrote, “but it could not remove the cross without conveying disrespect for those the cross was seen as honoring. Deeming neither alternative satisfactory, Congress enacted the land-transfer statute.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

Stephen Hume–Many claims exist for oldest Anglican Church

It wasn’t my intention to further divide Anglicans when I wrote about the historic importance of little St. Stephen’s Church, founded in 1862 on Vancouver Island.

But claims to local bragging rights as the oldest Anglican Church in British Columbia have been coming in following St. Stephen’s assertion that it’s the oldest in continuous use.

Read it all from the Vancouver Sun.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Provinces, History

Living Church: SAMS Changes Its Name

The missionary society known as SAMS is keeping its acronym but changing what the initials mean. What was the South American Missionary Society”“USA is now the Society of Anglican Missionaries and Senders.

“We are offering more opportunities for people to serve,” said Stewart Wicker, president and mission director of SAMS.

Wicker said the society sent its first missionary outside of Central and South America 15 years ago. That missionary served in Spain, and today 20 of the society’s 78 missionaries are serving outside of South America.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, - Anglican: Latest News, Episcopal Church (TEC), Missions

Julia Duin–Churches ride immigration wave

The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church was in town this past weekend visiting a Hispanic congregation in Hyattsville.

San Mateo, also known as St. Matthew’s, is the largest – at 300 members – of the seven Spanish-speaking congregations in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington. What the Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori was looking at was the future of her denomination.

She said as much when I talked with her at the fiesta afterward. Membership in the mainline Protestant denominations is dropping like a stone – especially in the Episcopal Church, which is perilously close to dropping below the 2 million mark. The nation’s 68 million Catholics would be losing folks, too, she noted, were it not for immigration.

About 30 million of these Catholics – half of them younger than 25 – are Hispanic.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, Presiding Bishop, Religion & Culture

BBC–Pakistan Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud 'still alive'

Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud survived an American drone attack in the north-west of the country in January, intelligence sources say.

Officials said at the time that he was killed in a US missile attack along with at least 10 suspected militants.

Pakistani intelligence officials now say that Mr Mehsud was only wounded in the attack – although his authority within the Taliban has diminished.

From the outset, the Taliban consistently denied that he was dead.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Asia, Pakistan, Terrorism

RNS–Roman Catholic Bishops Slam Draconian Arizona Law

The U.S. Catholic bishops slammed a new Arizona immigration law as “draconian” and called on Congress to stop political “gamesmanship” and pass immigration reform.

Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ migration committee, said Tuesday (April 27) the Arizona law could lead to ethnic profiling and adversely effect how immigrants are treated nationwide.

Wester, speaking on behalf of fellow bishops, called on the Obama administration to review the law’s impact on civil rights and urged Washington to enact federal immigration reform.

“While many of our federal elected officials have made good faith efforts to pass reform, too many still view the issue through a political lens, using it to gain political or partisan advantage,” Wester said in a statement. “This gamesmanship must stop.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Law & Legal Issues, Other Churches, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, State Government

Mohamed El-Erian–Greek crisis endangers private sector

The Greek debt crisis is now morphing into something much broader. No wonder the European Union and the International Monetary Fund are scrambling to regain control of the rapidly deteriorating situation. There is talk of a bigger bail-out package for Greece. The heads of the European Central Bank and IMF have made the trip to Germany that is reminiscent of the Ben Bernanke-Hank Paulson trip to Congress in the midst of the US financial crisis.

Markets are now catching up to the reality of over-burdened public finances in the aftermath of the global financial crisis. These developments are of particular concern to countries with elevated debt levels and challenging maturity profiles for this debt. Indeed, absent some dramatic change in sentiment, they will need to worry not only about their ability to mobilise new funding from the private sector at reasonable cost, but also about keeping their existing creditors on board. As a result, credit downgrades will multiply. And once a package is approved for Greece, there will be questions as to whether similar packages can be secured for other vulnerable countries in the European Union….

The bottom line is simple yet consequential: the Greek debt crisis has morphed into something that is potentially more sinister for Europe and the global economy. What started out as a public finance issue is quickly turning into a banking problem too; and, what started out as a Greek issue has become a full-blown crisis for Europe.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Credit Markets, Economy, Europe, Germany, The Banking System/Sector

From the Morning Bible Readings

And the LORD said to Moses, “Write these words; in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments. When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tables of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. And when Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them; and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses talked with them. 32 And afterward all the people of Israel came near, and he gave them in commandment all that the LORD had spoken with him in Mount Sinai.

–Exodus 34:27-32

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Another Prayer for the Easter Season

O Lord Jesus Christ, who hast promised in thy holy gospel that thy disciples shall know the truth, and the truth shall make them free: Give us, we pray thee, the Spirit of truth, sent by thee and leading to thee, that we may find the truth in finding thee, who art the Way, the Truth, and the Life, for ever and ever.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Easter, Spirituality/Prayer

E. D. Hirsch reviews Diane Ravitch's "The Death and Life of the Great American School System…"

The reasons for this communitarian emphasis were obvious to American leaders in the nineteenth century. Loyalty to the Republic had to be developed, as well as adherence to Enlightenment ideals of liberty and toleration. For without universal indoctrination by the schools in such civic virtues, the United States might dissolve, as had all prior large republics of history, through internal dissension.

The aim of schooling was not just to Americanize the immigrants, but also to Americanize the Americans. This was the inspiring ideal of the common school in the nineteenth century, built upon a combination of thrilling ideals and existential worry. By the end of the century we were educating, relative to other countries, a large percentage of the population, and this forward movement continued well into the twentieth century. In the post”“World War II period, the US ranked high internationally according to a number of educational measures. But by 1980, there had occurred a significant decline both in our international position and in comparison with our own past achievements. Two decades ago I was appalled by an international comparison showing that between 1978 and 1988 the science knowledge of American students had dropped from seventh to fourteenth place. In the postwar period we have declined internationally in reading from third place to fifteenth place among the nations participating in the survey.

The root cause of this decline, starting in the 1960s, was a by-then-decades-old complacency on the part of school leaders and in the nation at large. By the early twentieth century worries about the stability of the Republic had subsided, and by the 1930s, under the enduring influence of European Romanticism, educational leaders had begun to convert the community-centered school of the nineteenth century to the child- centered school of the twentieth””a process that was complete by 1950. The chief tenet of the child-centered school was that no bookish curriculum was to be set out in advance. Rather, learning was to arise naturally out of activities, projects, and daily experience.

Read it all.

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

Walter Russell Mead: Europe in Crisis

The euro was a glorious fudge. The Latin countries plus Greece could enjoy the benefits of German discipline and virtue while carrying on with traditionally unsustainable public and private sector policies. In the old, pre-euro days, the southern economies had to pay high interest rates on their debt; wary investors knew that inflation and devaluation were likely and so demanded interest rates that would compensate them for the risk. The lira, the drachma: everyone knew they would lose value over time against the Deutsche mark and even the dollar, and interest rates reflected this understanding. But as the southern countries moved into the euro, calculations changed. For the last twenty years, countries like Greece and Italy were able to borrow money at essentially the same rate that Germany could.

Typically, they decided to spend rather than save this windfall. Greece in particular decided that since the costs of servicing its debt were so low, it made sense to run up more debt. Lousy leaders gave greedy civil servants fat raises; promises were cheap and the government scattered them far and wide. In Italy as well, once the national debt was less painful to carry, there was less pressure to reduce the national debt.

Low interest rates led to economic booms as both private and public sector borrowers rushed to take advantage of this once in a lifetime change. Home mortgage rates fell dramatically; construction boomed, unemployment fell and wages rose. It was party time in the Mediterranean.

Central banks exist precisely to puncture this sort of bubble, but the European Central Bank wasn’t focused on the peripheral European economies….

Read it all.

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