Daily Archives: May 13, 2010

60 minutes–Uncovering the Roots of Homegrown Terrorism

“What we’re facing here is not an episodic series of terrorist events. What we’re facing is a group of people who see themselves as revolutionaries,” Phillip Mudd said.

Until he retired a few months ago, Mudd was the senior intelligence advisor to the FBI and its director. He is an authority on homegrown terrorism and believes the recent activity has been poorly organized and executed by lone wolfs or clusters of individuals who aren’t part of an organized network or a terrorist cell. Instead, they see themselves as part of global movement that is being facilitated by the Internet.

“The Internet often is not the initial spark, but it helps them go down a path,” he explained.

Asked what they are seeing on the web, Mudd said, “They’re seeing images, for example, of children and women in places like Palestine and Iraq, they’re seeing sermons of people who explain in simple, compelling, and some cases magnetic terms why it’s important that they join the jihad. They’re seeing images, and messages that confirm a path that they’re already thinking of taking.”

And according to Mudd, they are seeing all of this in English.

Read or better yet watch it all via video.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Asia, Defense, National Security, Military, Globalization, Islam, Other Faiths, Pakistan, Terrorism, Yemen

NCR–New Report Confirms Pornography’s ”˜Devastating Impact’ on Society

Recent headlines about pornography use at the Securities and Exchange Commission stirred public disgust with government officials who viewed thousands of hard-core images while Wall Street banks imploded.

Yet experts and religious groups that have struggled for years to raise awareness about the destructive consequences of pornography use hope the news will contribute to a sea change in social attitudes.

In fact, anti-pornography crusaders received another boost from the American Psychiatric Association, which just released new draft diagnostic guidelines that identified pornography addiction as a form of “hypersexual disorder” and thus worthy of serious study and treatment.

The breakthrough at the American Psychiatric Association provides additional context for a new report endorsed by a broad swath of academic leaders: “The Social Costs of Pornography: A Statement of Findings and Recommendations.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Pornography

David Leonhardt–In Greek Debt Crisis, Some See Parallels to U.S.

It’s easy to look at the protesters and the politicians in Greece ”” and at the other European countries with huge debts ”” and wonder why they don’t get it. They have been enjoying more generous government benefits than they can afford. No mass rally and no bailout fund will change that. Only benefit cuts or tax increases can.

Yet in the back of your mind comes a nagging question: how different, really, is the United States?

The numbers on our federal debt are becoming frighteningly familiar. The debt is projected to equal 140 percent of gross domestic product within two decades. Add in the budget troubles of state governments, and the true shortfall grows even larger. Greece’s debt, by comparison, equals about 115 percent of its G.D.P. today.

The United States will probably not face the same kind of crisis as Greece, for all sorts of reasons. But the basic problem is the same. Both countries have a bigger government than they’re paying for. And politicians, spendthrift as some may be, are not the main source of the problem.

We, the people, are.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Budget, Credit Markets, Economy, Europe, Greece, Social Security, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

Tara Parker-Pope–The Science of a Happy Marriage

Why do some men and women cheat on their partners while others resist the temptation?

To find the answer, a growing body of research is focusing on the science of commitment. Scientists are studying everything from the biological factors that seem to influence marital stability to a person’s psychological response after flirting with a stranger.

Their findings suggest that while some people may be naturally more resistant to temptation, men and women can also train themselves to protect their relationships and raise their feelings of commitment.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Marriage & Family, Psychology, Science & Technology

Jason Byassee: Rowan Williams’ reckless generosity

When I was a grad student at Duke in the mid-1990s, I met Williams — and in fact got to drive him and his family around Durham for four days while he was lecturing here. When I picked him up, he helped his family clamber into my student-mobile, turned and gazed at me intently and said, “Tell me about your work.” I could have said, “No, see, I don’t have work. You have work. You’re Rowan freaking Williams.” I didn’t. He’d made me feel important. I told him about me. Years later, when I met him as a journalist covering a World Council of Churches meeting, he interrupted as I reintroduced myself: “Jason, Jane and the children would want me to pass on their greetings.”

I could blog for months out of “Rowan’s Rule.” I’m struck in particular by Oliver O’Donovan’s keen eye for sizing up his former colleague’s strengths and weaknesses. O’Donovan, a Christian ethicist who taught with Williams at Oxford, has observed that he views theology and leadership as a sort of graduate seminar, with never-ending banter, but no point at which someone comes to a steady conclusion. Williams’ theology holds that Jesus interrupts our easy consensuses — this is handy against fundamentalisms of all kinds (like Jack Spong’s and Pullman’s), but less helpful in situations of, say, church discipline. All the same, to have a spectacular theologian as head of a church is somewhat novel today. One would think those liberals and conservatives in the Anglican Communion who are frustrated with Williams for not disciplining their opponents might have read his “Truce of God” or his “Resurrection.” They would realize that the Archbishop sees the risen Christ as one who meets us in the enemy with whom we cannot leave fellowship. For him to kick the bad guys out of the church would, unfortunately, be to kick out Jesus himself.

Read the whole thing.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Archbishop of Canterbury, Books

Notable and Quotable

As we begin a new year, fearfully yet expectantly, we reflect upon the mournfully long obituary list for 1968: Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert J. Kennedy, Franklin Clark Fry, Augustine Cardinal Bea, Norman Thomas, Thomas Merton, and now to the list we must add Karl Barth.

–Theology Today, January 1969

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, Parish Ministry, Theology

Martin Wolf in the FT: Governments up the stakes in their fight with markets

Now governments are struggling to cope with the aftermath. But, in insisting that there will be no defaults, they are protecting the financial sector from its stupidity. The people of indebted countries are expected to pay, instead. Is this going to prove an acceptable bargain, in the absence of a return to growth in stricken countries? Hardly.

So where do we go from here? We must start by recognising that all we have done is buy a little time. In the eurozone’s first real crisis, governments have been driven to desperate attempts to prevent defaults, as finance has dried up. Now they confront big choices.

The first and most fundamental is whether to go towards greater integration or towards disintegration. The answer has to be the former. Of course, it is possible to imagine a return to national currencies. But this would cause the financial system to implode, since the relations between assets and liabilities now in euros would become so uncertain. There would be massive capital flight into the banks of those countries deemed safe.

The second is how to manage divergence. The eurozone cannot rely on markets alone. It will have to police divergence in upswings and cushion adjustment in downswings.

Read it all.

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

Terry Mattingly–Sermons by Billy and Obama

Both men faced rows of loved ones still wrapped in grief after shocking tragedies.

Both men quoted the Psalms. Both concluded with visions of eternal life and heavenly reunions. Both referred to familiar songs that offered comfort.

Facing those gathered in Beckley, W.Va., to mourn the loss of 29 miners, President Barack Obama asked them to remember a rhythm and blues classic ”” “Lean on Me” ”” that had its roots in coal country life.

Songwriter Bill Withers wrote: “Sometimes in our lives, we all have pain, we all have sorrow. ”¦ Lean on me, when you’re not strong and I’ll be your friend. I’ll help you carry on, for it won’t be long ”˜til I’m gonna need somebody to lean on.”

The Rev. Billy Graham was more daring at the 1995 prayer service for the 168 victims of the bombing at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The world’s most famous evangelist even quoted an explicitly Christian hymn.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Evangelicals, Office of the President, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Preaching / Homiletics, President Barack Obama, Religion & Culture, Theology

RNS–Church Closures Spell Hard Times for Candle Maker

One of [Syracuse, New York’s]…oldest candle makers is planning to slash its work force in part because of decreased demand from a shrinking number of Catholic churches to buy its products.

Emkay Candle told its 46 employees that as many as 38 of them will be laid off in 90 days. That would leave just eight people to make candles at the company, which has been making them at the same location since its founding in 1925.

Rolly DeVore, Emkay’s general manager, said the actual number of layoffs may wind up at less than 38, but not much less. “I think maybe 15 will remain after the whole thing is done, but I don’t know,” he said. “It all depends on what the order input is going to be in the next two months.

Read the whole thing.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Roman Catholic, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Mark Noll review's Robert Alter's new Book on American Prose and the KJ Bible

Robert Alter’s careful examination of the ways in which the KJV informed the novels of six significant American authors aims to record how “the resonant language and the arresting vision of the canonical text” continue to echo in American cultural memory. His title is itself taken from the KJV’s rendering of Jeremiah 17:1”””The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond: it is graven upon the table of their heart.” Without stating his intention in so many words, Alter is recording a specific indebtedness before awareness of its presence fades, as the biblical origin of so much common English has faded into a mere recognition of something old-fashioned, quaint, or musty in the prose of Herman Melville, William Faulkner, Saul Bellow, Ernest Hemingway, Marilynne Robinson, and Cormac McCarthy.

Alter’s short book spins off enough sparkling asides to inspire a shelf of very long volumes. On, for example, why England’s canonical novelists seem less indebted to the language of the KJV than the United States’ (because American fiction has always exhibited a heteroglossia, to use Bakhtin’s term, where writers deliberately mix levels of diction that English deference to decorum did not permit). Or how academic literary study now treats works written in English as if they were translations originally composed in another language (because translated fiction can capably communicate the power relationships in novels, but hardly ever what is communicated by an author’s style, and American English departments have been obsessed with questions of power instead of “reading the untranslatable text”). Or why in Alter’s view the KJV remains the best of all English Bible translations (because it comes closest to the direct, concrete, and parallel style that marks the Hebrew and much of the Greek in Scripture).

Read the whole article.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Books, History, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Bret Stephens (WSJ): What is happening to Turkey?

Last week I asked Bernard Lewis where he thought Turkey might be going. The dean of Middle East historians speculated that in a decade the secular republic founded by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk might more closely resemble the Islamic Republic of Iran””even as Iran transformed itself into a secular republic.

Reading the news about Turkey from afar, it’s easy to see what Prof. Lewis means. Since coming to power in 2002, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has dramatically recast the traditional contours of Turkish foreign policy. Gone are the days when the country had a strategic partnership with Israel, involving close military ties and shared enemies in Syria and Iran and the sundry terrorist groups they sponsored. Gone are the days, too, when the U.S. could rely on Turkey as a bulwark against common enemies, be they the Soviet Union or Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

Today, Mr. Erdogan has excellent relations with Syrian strongman Bashar Assad, whom the prime minister affectionately calls his “brother.” He has accused Israel of “savagery” in Gaza and opened a diplomatic line to Hamas while maintaining good ties with the genocidal government of Sudan. He was among the first foreign leaders to congratulate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his fraudulent victory in last year’s election. He has resisted intense pressure from the Obama administration to vote for a new round of Security Council sanctions on Iran, with which Turkey has a $10 billion trade relationship. And he has sabotaged efforts by his own foreign ministry to improve ties with neighboring Armenia.

Read the whole article.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Europe, Religion & Culture, Turkey

Washington Post–Marylanders continue to favor death penalty

The death penalty has sparked intense debate in Maryland in recent years — but attitudes among residents haven’t changed much.

Sixty percent of Marylanders favor use of the death penalty for people convicted of murder, while 32 percent are opposed, according to a new Washington Post poll.

Those figures don’t tell the entire story: Given a choice, more say they prefer the punishment of life in prison with no chance of parole than the death penalty — by 49 percent to 40 percent.

Neither result has changed much since The Post asked the same questions three years ago.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Capital Punishment, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, State Government

Barack Obama plans to punish BP with tax hike as Gulf spill worsens

Oil companies face an immediate tax rise of 1 cent per barrel to help to pay for the clean-up in the Gulf of Mexico under proposed legislation rushed out by the White House.

The measure, unveiled as BP began a new attempt to contain the ruptured well that has leaked millions of gallons of crude oil into America’s southern coastal waters, would put an extra $500 million (£340 million) over ten years into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, which covers damage caused by such disasters.

Under a $118 million spending plan outlined in the package, people affected by the spill ”” such as fishermen who have lost their livelihoods because of the contamination ”” will be granted financial assistance, and federal agencies will get additional funds to monitor the slick and assess its impact.

President Obama, said by a spokesman to be “deeply frustrated” that the leak has still not been plugged three weeks after it erupted, intends that BP will pick up most of the cost of his new plan.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Taxes

From the Morning Scripture Readings

I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.

–Daniel 7:13-14

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

A prayer for Ascension Day

O Lord Jesus Christ, who after thy resurrection didst manifestly appear to thine apostles, and in their sight didst ascend into heaven to prepare a place for us: Grant that, being risen with thee, we may lift up our hearts continually to seek thee where thou art, and never cease to serve thee faithfully here on earth; until at last, when thou comest again, thou shalt receive us unto thyself; who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end.

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