Daily Archives: May 11, 2010

John Allen–Pope on secularism: Seek dialogue, but be ready for martyrdom

Facing the “plurality of value systems and ethical outlooks” associated with secularism, Pope Benedict XVI today urged Portuguese Christians to embrace the “nucleus” of their faith. The pontiff also hinted they should expect blowback, calling Christians to be ready for “the radical choice of martyrdom.”

Benedict hailed the secular separation of church and state for “opening up a new area of freedom for the church,” but also warned that the ethical pluralism can sow confusion about “the human meaning of life” and also “marginalize” the public role of religious faith.

During comments aboard the papal plane, Benedict nonetheless stressed the importance of dialogue with secular culture.

“The presence of secularism is something normal, but a separation of cult from life, a separation of secularism from cult and faith, is anomalous and must be overcome,” Benedict said. “The great challenge is for the two to meet and to discover their true identity ”¦ this, as I said, is a mission for Europe and a human necessity in our time.”

All in all, Benedict’s pitch vis-à-vis secularism on the opening day of his four-day swing in Portugal seemed a version of the ancient Roman dictum, “If you want peace, prepare for war.” Benedict’s advice to believers making their way in a secular world was, “Seek dialogue, but be ready for martyrdom.”

Read it all.

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

A Trillion for Europe, With Doubts Attached

…as details crystallized of the package’s main component ”” a promise by the European Union’s member states to back 440 billion euros, or $560 billion, in new loans to bail out European economies ”” the wisdom of solving a debt crisis by taking on more debt was challenged by some analysts.

“Lending more money to already overborrowed governments does not solve their problems,” Carl Weinberg, chief economist of High Frequency Economics in Valhalla, N.Y., said in a note. “Had we any Greek bonds in our portfolio, we would not feel rescued this morning.”

Read it all.

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

AP–Pope sees sex scandal as greatest threat to Catholic church

The clerical abuse scandal represents the greatest threat to the Roman Catholic Church and the crisis was “born from sins within the church” not outside, Pope Benedict XVI said Tuesday on a trip to Portugal.

He called for profound purification and penance within the church as well as pardon and justice.

In some of his strongest comments to date, Benedict said the Catholic church had always suffered from internal problems but that “today we see it in a truly terrifying way.”

“The greatest persecution of the church doesn’t come from enemies on the outside but is born from the sin within the church,” the pontiff said. “The church needs to profoundly relearn penitence, accept purification, learn forgiveness but also justice.”

Read it all.

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

New Zealand Anglican Church backs tough drinking measures

Meeting in Gisborne today, the Anglican General Synod invited Professor Doug Sellman from the National Addiction Centre to speak about binge drinking culture.

He put forward a number of solutions to deal with the issue: raising alcohol prices, raising the purchase age, reducing the accessibility to alcohol, reducing marketing and advertising, increasing drink-driving countermeasures and increasing treatment opportunities for heavy drinkers.

“We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to change the way we regulate alcohol in society. It is a national crisis and way of life, and you have a role to address what science tells us what needs to be treated as a Class B drug,” he said.

The Synod today backed Prof Sellman’s proposals, and members also voted to increase their own vigilance of alcohol consumption and to hold each other to account.

Read the whole article.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Alcohol/Drinking, Alcoholism, Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, Anglican Provinces

A.S. Haley on the Global Anglican Communion Situation–The Silence Has Been Deafening

We are now less than six days from ECUSA’s “consecration” of a partnered lesbian to the (ECUSAn, at any rate) episcopacy. As I wrote in this earlier post, in so consecrating Canon Mary Glasspool, ECUSA will shoot itself in the foot. Even so, the silence from Lambeth Palace over the past weeks has been deafening.

Contrast to the present scenario the weeks following the confirmation of the election of V. Gene Robinson as bishop by both Houses at General Convention 2003….

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Covenant, Archbishop of Canterbury, Episcopal Church (TEC), Global South Churches & Primates, Instruments of Unity, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Los Angeles

China's inflation accelerates as house prices soar

China’s inflation accelerated in April after house and food prices jumped and bank lending increased.

The news will fuel concerns that the world’s third-largest economy is overheating and that Beijing may need to raise interest rates.

April’s consumer prices were up 2.8% from a year ago, the highest rate in 18 months, and property inflation hit 12.8%, China’s statistics bureau said.

Read the whole article from the BBC.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Asia, China, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Globalization, Housing/Real Estate Market

Ross Douthat–Our families aren't alike anymore, in part because of abortion

This is one of the themes of “Red Families v. Blue Families,” a provocative new book by two law professors, Naomi Cahn and June Carbone. The authors depict a culturally conservative “red America” that’s stuck trying to sustain an outdated social model. By insisting (unrealistically) on chastity before marriage, Ms. Cahn and Ms. Carbone argue, social conservatives guarantee that their children will get pregnant early and often (see Palin, Bristol), leading to teen childbirth, shotgun marriages and high divorce rates.

This self-defeating cycle could explain why socially conservative states have more family instability than, say, the culturally liberal Northeast. If you’re looking for solid marriages, head to Massachusetts, not Alabama.

To Ms. Cahn and Ms. Carbone’s credit, their book is nuanced enough to complicate this liberal-friendly thesis. They acknowledge, for instance, that there are actually multiple “red family” models, from the Mormon west to the Sun Belt suburbs to the rural South.

More important, Ms. Cahn and Ms. Carbone also acknowledge one of the more polarizing aspects of the “blue family” model. Conservative states may have more teen births and more divorces, but liberal states have many more abortions.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Theology

Washington Post–Abortion could be sleeper issue in Supreme Court confirmation process

White House spokesman Ben LaBolt told the AP that “judges confront issues differently than staff attorneys for an administration.”

For the White House, the idea that Kagan might support tougher restrictions on abortion presents a complicated set of political opportunities and risks. The revelation may help to mute right-wing groups who often use support for abortion rights as a way of attacking a nominee.

But the 1997 memorandum may give further rise to the concerns already expressed on Monday by liberal groups, who fear that the lack of evidence of Kagan’s strong support for abortion rights throughout her career suggests that she will not be an advocate for their cause on the court.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Religion & Culture, Senate

Oil firms blame each other for Gulf of Mexico spill

The two oil firms at the centre of the huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico will attempt to blame each other for the disaster when they go before a US Senate hearing today.

Lamar McKay, president of BP America Inc, Steven Newman, president of the drilling company Transocean Ltd and Tim Probert, a senior executive at Halliburton Co, will face intense questioning before two Senate committees.

BP is expected to tell the Senate that the spill was due to the failure of Transocean’s safety equipment designed to close off the flow of oil in case of sudden pressure change, according to US media reports.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General

John Hussman–Greek Debt and Backward Induction

Put yourself in the position of a holder of Greek government debt a few years out, just prior to a probable default. Anticipating a default, you would liquidate the bonds to a level that reflects the likelihood of incomplete recovery. Working backward, and given the anticipated recovery projected by a variety of ratings services and economists, one would require an estimated annual coupon approaching 20% in order to accept the default risk. For European governments and the IMF to accept a yield of only 5% is to implicitly provide the remainder as a non-recourse subsidy. Even then, investors are unlikely to be willing to roll over existing debt when it matures – the May 19th roll-over is the first date Europe hopes to get past using bailout funds. In the event Greece fails to bring its budget significantly into balance, ongoing membership as one of the euro-zone countries implies ongoing subsidies from other countries, many of which are also running substantial deficits. This would eventually be intolerable. If investors are at all forward looking, the window of relief about Greece (and the euro more generally) is likely to be much shorter than 18 months.

Still, for Greece, it appears that the IMF and EU will provide the funding for the May 19th rollover of Greece’s debt, so there’s some legitimate potential for short-term relief. The larger problem is that Portugal and Spain are also running untenable deficits (think of Greece as the Bear Stearns of Euro-area countries). European officials deny the possibility of contagion that might call for additional bailouts, but my impression is that Greece is the focus because its debt is the closest to rollover. The attempt to cast Greece as unique is a bit strained – Christine LaGarde, the French finance minister suggested last week “Greece was a special case because it reported special numbers, provided funny statistics.” In other words, Greece gets the bailout because it had the most misleading accounting?

The bottom line is that 1) aid from other European nations is the only thing that may prevent the markets from provoking an immediate default through an unwillingness to roll-over existing debt; 2) the aid to Greece is likely to turn out to be a non-recourse subsidy, throwing good money after bad and inducing higher inflationary pressures several years out than are already likely; 3) Greece appears unlikely to remain among euro-zone countries over the long-term; and 4) the backward induction of investors about these concerns may provoke weakened confidence about sovereign debt in the euro-area more generally.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Credit Markets, Economy, Europe, Greece, Politics in General, Portugal, Spain, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Clifford Longley offers some Reflections in the Midst of a Hung Parliament

It’s a great pity we can’t have a Coronation Renewal Ceremony every ten years, just to remind ourselves who we are as a people. The sovereign represents and embodies the nation. All that Her Majesty the Queen swore before God to do in 1953, she swore on behalf of all those ministers of the Crown who govern in her name, and all those judges who dispense justice in her name. It would be an excellent idea if each new minister or judge, on being sworn in, was given a copy of the Coronation Service so they could see what the Queen had committed them to.

For instance when she was handed the Sword of State, the Archbishop of Canterbury intoned this prayer over her: “With this sword do justice, stop the growth of iniquity, protect the holy Church of God, help and defend widows and orphans, restore the things that are gone to decay, maintain the things that are restored, punish and reform what is amiss, and confirm what is in good order… Amen”. That is a charter for good government.

Read the whole thing.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, England / UK, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

Archbishop John Sentamu: The price of freedom is to stand up and vote

You should have been at my home last weekend when dozens of teenagers gathered to write their post-election manifesto. Only three were actually old enough to vote, but they were all as keen as mustard to get to grips with the issues of the day and list their priorities. They really cared about their country and beyond.

And now that the General Election has dawned, with the major parties competing for your vote in a number of marginal seats here in Yorkshire, there should be at least as much commitment to voting as anywhere else.

Can it be true that some will not be sufficiently motivated to vote at all?

From the long line of shpuld have already been posted material–read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Economics, Politics, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of York John Sentamu, Church of England (CoE), Politics in General

The Changing Veteran Poses Challenges For The VA

Carolyn Schapper was an Army sergeant who served in Iraq with a military intelligence unit north of Baghdad. Today, several years out of uniform, she keeps up with veterans online ”” on Facebook, blogs and chat groups.

Schapper taps on her computer at her kitchen table and pulls up a community on the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America site.

“They’ve got 11 people online now doing a chat,” she says of the nonprofit group. “So there are about seven different groups that didn’t exist three years ago that you can start communicating with people online.”

She says that veterans of today don’t go to American Legion halls or the VFW for a drink and a game of pool. They’ve created a virtual community.

Read or listen to it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Economy, Health & Medicine, Military / Armed Forces, The U.S. Government

From the Morning Bible Readings

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, the testimony to which was borne at the proper time.

–1 Timothy 2:1-6

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Fouad Ajami (WSJ): Islam's nowhere Men

“A Muslim has no nationality except his belief,” the intellectual godfather of the Islamists, Egyptian Sayyid Qutb, wrote decades ago. Qutb’s “children” are everywhere now; they carry the nationalities of foreign lands and plot against them. The Pakistani born Faisal Shahzad is a devotee of Sayyid Qutb’s doctrine, and Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter, was another.

Qutb was executed by the secular dictatorship of Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1966. But his thoughts and legacy endure. Globalization, the shaking up of continents, the ease of travel, and the doors for immigration flung wide open by Western liberal societies have given Qutb’s worldview greater power and relevance. What can we make of a young man like Shahzad working for Elizabeth Arden, receiving that all-American degree, the MBA, jogging in the evening in Bridgeport, then plotting mass mayhem in Times Square?
The Islamists are now within the gates. They fled the fires and the failures of the Islamic world but brought the ruin with them. They mock national borders and identities. A parliamentary report issued by Britain’s House of Commons on the London Underground bombings of July 7, 2005 lays bare this menace and the challenge it poses to a system of open borders and modern citizenship.

The four men who pulled off those brutal attacks, the report noted, “were apparently well integrated into British society.” Three of them were second generation Britons born in West Yorkshire. The oldest, a 30-year-old father of a 14-month-old infant, “appeared to others as a role model to young people.” One of the four, 22 years of age, was a boy of some privilege; he owned a red Mercedes given to him by his father and was given to fashionable hairstyles and designer clothing. This young man played cricket on the eve of the bombings. The next day, the day of the terror, a surveillance camera filmed him in a store. “He buys snacks, quibbles with the cashier over his change, looks directly at the CCTV camera, and leaves.” Two of the four, rather like Faisal Shahzad, had spent time in Pakistan before they pulled off their deed.

Read it all

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, History, Islam, Other Faiths, Terrorism