Daily Archives: May 26, 2010

California Lawmakers call for new oil tax and raiding pop bottle revenues for Help

State Assembly Speaker John A. Perez on Tuesday outlined an alternative path to balancing California’s budget that would raise oil taxes, delay corporate tax breaks and borrow billions from the nickel-and-dime deposits consumers make on recyclable bottles — and would not require any Republican support.

At the heart of the proposal is the idea of raiding the state’s bottle deposits for the next 20 years and then getting an $8.7-billion loan from Wall Street. The programs currently funded by bottle deposits would be reimbursed by a new tax on oil production.

Perez (D-Los Angeles) called his budget plan a “unique and creative approach.” A spokesman for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called it “legal gymnastics.”

Read the whole thing.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Politics in General, State Government

The Archbishop of Canterbury's sermon to commemorate Carthusian Martyrs

In one of the great historical novels of the twentieth century, Hilda Prescott’s ‘The Man on a Donkey’ we follow the events around the Pilgrimage of Grace, events around the time, of course, of the martyrdoms we commemorate today. And towards the end of that extraordinary novel, we watch and listen to Robert Aske, the leader of the Pilgrimage of Grace, in his last anguished moments, hanging in chains from the Keep of the Castle in York: “God did not now nor would in any furthest future prevail. Once he had come and died. If he came again, again he would die, and again and so forever, by his own will, rendered powerless against the free and evil wills of men. Then Aske met the full assault of darkness without reprieve of hoped for light, for God ultimately vanquished was no God at all. But yet, though God was not God, as the head of the dung worm turns, so his spirit turned blindly, gropingly, hopelessly loyal, towards that good, that holy, that merciful – which though not God, though vanquished – was still the last dear love of a vanquished and tortured man.”

The cross stands while the world turns. If Christ came again so would his cross. Because that evil, that passionate commitment as it so often seems, to destroy and undermine the good, is written into the experience of fallen humanity. There is no shortcut, there is no happy ending, in any ordinary sense. The dying martyr in that passage can only turn to what he does not know; and what he does not know is very distant from, and very different from, the God who is a God of happy endings and solutions. But the cross that stands while the world turns is the cross of God: and so we are taken to a second level, where we realise what it is that is being transacted in the cross of Christ, and what it is that is transacted in every moment of reckless, generous, terrible suffering for the sake of God’s truth. Aske turns to what is still ‘the last dear love of a vanquished and tortured man’. In darkness and in torture, men and women throughout the centuries have turned to the crucified Christ; they have addressed the crucified Christ with the last calling of their lips and the last movement of their hearts, as did John Houghton. They know that whatever else may disappear, there is something on which they may call – and it is Christ crucified.

The God who has, it seems, been vanquished, is yet a God who cannot be abolished. In many ages and many places, authorities even more appalling than Henry VIII have believed that they could abolish God and the cross of God; and they have had to discover that while they may vanquish, they cannot destroy. That which is the last hope, the last longing of the condemned and tortured, remains. The cross stands while the world turns.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Archbishop of Canterbury, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics

Terry Sanderson–Theology ”“ truly a naked emperor

In my work as president of the National Secular Society I sometimes receive manuscripts from people who have come up with what they imagine is the definitive refutation of Christian claims. “Publish this,” they say, “and Christianity will end within a year!” (See here for an example.)

I find these turgid tomes no more convincing than the ones that they seek to refute. They are anti-theology, and given that theology is drivel, efforts to unpick it are hopeless.

What is theology? I think one of the best definitions was given by the sci-fi writer Robert A Heinlein when he said: “Theology … is searching in a dark cellar at midnight for a black cat that isn’t there. Theologians can persuade themselves of anything.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Archbishop of Canterbury, England / UK, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Theology

Ephraim Radner–Ten Years and a New Anglican Congregationalism

Why mince words here? For some years now ”“ since even before the Virginia Report of the late 1990’s ”” it has been stated formally over and over again that the structures of the Anglican Communion needed redefinition and rebuilding, so as to be able to function fruitfully. Key efforts were made to give direction to such reconstruction. A decade of failure, however, has simply borne out an already established and publicly stated fear.

But trying to set up alternative structures has not fared much better. If the recent Singapore meeting exposed a ten-year lapse in credibility for existing Communion structures, it also put the lie to any attractive claim for alternative structures that, in the past 10 years, some portions of the Communion have so assiduously been at work to erect: new provinces in North America; special “primatial councils” for common confessors; extra-jurisdictional missionary fiefdoms; episcopal netwoks of alternative oversight. Instead, the gathering proved to be what every other Anglican gathering has been in the past decade: in addition to faithful witness and counsel, also a time for political maneuver, secretive changing of agendas at the last moment, North Americans coming in and grabbing the microphones and running meetings, disagreements over this and that strategy and doctrine. That a common communiqué emerged at all was cause for surprise by the end; that it expressed little tangible except a shared dislike for Communion structures and for TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada was probably the most one could have predicted, which isn’t very much, let alone particularly edifying.

There are some obvious conclusions to draw from these ten years.

First, that Anglican Communion “structuralism” ”“ building offices and commissions and adjudicating bodies, in the wake of the 1963 Toronto Congress ”“ is at an end, at least in its presently imagined forms. This is true for the official structures; it is also true for the alternative structures. The drift now between national churches and confessional bodies is too great to ensure their continued functioning and support in any energetic fashion. Not that any of these structures, official or otherwise, are simply about to disappear; they won’t and they shouldn’t, given that they continue to provide important links to the wider Church and mission, and can, in any case, be renewed. But fewer and fewer really care for them, no one really trusts them, no one really wants to let them have power over their lives. If I were an employee of the Anglican Communion Office or of its shadow embodiments, I would look for a new job, if only for economic motives: the money is drying up.

Second, the Anglican Covenant is both a product of this descending drift, as well as a response to it….

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Commentary, Anglican Covenant, Ecclesiology, Global South Churches & Primates, Instruments of Unity, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Windsor Report / Process

Brentwood Tennessee Mosque not alone in defeat

“There comes a time when you have to say, ‘We can’t do this anymore,’ ” said Jaweed Ansari, a Brentwood physician and spokesman for the Islamic Center of Williamson County.

Every year, hundreds of new houses of worship are proposed around the United States. A growing number face resistance from neighbors and government officials who see places of worship as a nuisance because they don’t pay taxes, often ask for special exceptions to zoning rules and cause traffic congestion. But religious liberty advocates say these objections can trample the First Amendment right to freedom of religion.

Ansari admits the mosque plan wasn’t perfect. Most of the 14 acres is on a flood plain, a problem exacerbated by Middle Tennessee’s recent storms. Only about 4 acres was needed for the mosque, so organizers didn’t see that as a problem. They also felt the site, which borders a park and has neighbors only on one side, would be fairly unobtrusive.

“We realized going into this that nobody wants anything in their backyard, regardless of whether it is a church or a Walmart or whatever,” he said.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, City Government, Islam, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

Books: Creating congregations for all abilities

The Rev. Brett Webb-Mitchell of Chapel Hill, N.C., is a nationally recognized author and advocate for people with disabilities. His new book, “Beyond Accessibility: Toward Full Inclusion of People with Disabilities in Faith Communities,” is an attempt to delineate what a congregation might look like if it valued the talents of every member, regardless of ability.

An interview:

Q: Why did you want to write another book on people with disabilities?

A: This was an unfinished project. It began when I was asked to be a writer and consultant for the Presbyterian Church (USA) in helping write their policy on people with disabilities. When you write for a large committee, you don’t always get to say what you want to say. I wanted to suggest in this book what it would look like to be a fully inclusive faith community in which labels such as “abled” and “disabled” are secondary to being members with one another in a faith community.

Q: What congregations do a good job in including people with disabilities and what congregations need help?

A: There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to being fully inclusive. Some places will use a sign-language interpreter. Some places will actively include a person with developmental disabilities in a leadership position. The tricky part is helping faith communities be open to all who want to enter their community.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Books, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care

Robert Lipsyte–What do Wall Street and baseball have in common?

A new book by Tom Clavin and Danny Peary, Roger Maris: Baseball’s Reluctant Hero, along with re-runs of Billy Crystal’s HBO’s film 61*, could help the effort to bring Maris his due. But I’m not optimistic about baseball cleaning up its act, and I’ll believe a Wall Street cleanup when I see the final score. Meanwhile, it’s business as usual at the Hall of Fame and at Yankee Stadium.

Credit default swaps and performance-enhancing drugs seem to be in the same league ”” destructive and unethical instruments that need to be heavily regulated, not just repackaged.

Let’s at least shape up the pastime, because the nation will be a tougher task. Let’s put Maris in the Hall of Fame and get a true accounting of who took steroids and how it impacted the game. Then we can move on. The alternative is to give up and root for the Yankees, the corporate champions.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, History, Sports, Stock Market

USA Today: Public colleges, universities grapple with tuition hikes

Tuition increases for undergraduates attending public colleges and universities in their home states appear to be all over the map this fall.

The range so far ”” from no change at Maine’s community colleges to double digits at some Virginia and Arizona universities ”” reflect the variety of strategies schools and states are trying to balance their economic challenges with those of students and parents.

“States are starting from different places,” says Julie Bell of the National Conference of State Legislatures. But in general, money for higher education “just isn’t there.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Education, Politics in General, State Government, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

David Brooks: Two Theories of Change

We Americans have never figured out whether we are children of the French or the British Enlightenment. Was our founding a radical departure or an act of preservation? This was a bone of contention between Jefferson and Hamilton, and it’s a bone of contention today, both between parties and within each one.

Today, if you look around American politics you see self-described conservative radicals who seek to sweep away 100 years of history and return government to its preindustrial role. You see self-confident Democratic technocrats who have tremendous faith in the power of government officials to use reason to control and reorganize complex systems. You see polemicists of the left and right practicing a highly abstract and ideological Jacobin style of politics.

The children of the British Enlightenment are in retreat. Yet there is the stubborn fact of human nature. The Scots were right, and the French were wrong. And out of that truth grows a style of change, a style that emphasizes modesty, gradualism and balance.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., History, Philosophy, Politics in General

Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves explains her absence from the recent Los Angeles Episcopal Consecrations

For myself personally, I rejoiced at Mary and Diane’s election. I would have been happy to get just one more woman bishop in California – but two! It was like Christmas! I knew though that many did not share this joy, and that included people in our partnership and in my diocese. After weeks of prayer and conversation I realized I had an opportunity to make no one particularly happy, but importantly to act in a way where the integrity of everyone’s deeply held beliefs – and their very beings – could be honored so we might remain at the table. In our system, it is consents that allow a bishop to be ordained. I consented to Mary’s election without hesitation. The laying on of hands makes a bishop, and in other provinces where there is no consent process like ours, this is a very key symbol. It took awhile, and as +Michael said, I did not come easily to the decision of not attending on Saturday. But the truth is, Mary and Diane had plenty of bishops to get the job done, and my hands were not needed there on May 15th. They were needed to reach other places and so I did.

As people have emailed me or blogged their anger and concern it seems that people think I was pressured by my partner bishops. Indeed, they made a request – as did many in the Anglican Communion of our entire church – for us not to consent or consecrate Mary. While listening is an important part of our partnership, we respect one another’s autonomy. Hopefully we the body of Christ all make prayerful decisions with one another in mind. You may not like the decision I made, but let me be clear, it was mine to make, not +Michael’s or +Gerard’s.

My gesture of not attending on Saturday was received graciously by both partner bishops, and we will just have to see what the future holds for our unusual and extraordinary relationship.

Read it carefully and read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Commentary, - Anglican: Primary Source, -- Statements & Letters: Bishops, Ecclesiology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Los Angeles, Theology

NPR–What Went Wrong In Spain But Why It Isn't Greece

With the sudden drop in construction here, jobs disappeared. This shows another problem with a growth model built on construction: Employment swings up and down dramatically.

Professor JOAQUIN ARANGO (Director, Center for the Study of Migration and Citizenship, Ortega y Gasset Foundation): The Spanish economy is labor intensive.

GJELTEN: Joaquin Arango, of the Ortega y Gasset Foundation, points out that the economic boom in Spain brought more people into the workforce but mostly in low skill areas, like construction. A lot of the jobs could be filled by foreign-born workers. Arango, a sociologist, has documented the surge in the immigrant population that began with the economic boon in the last 1990s.

Prof. ARANGO: As a percentage of the population, at the beginning of that period, was two and a half percent or so. And now it is over 12 percent.

GJELTEN: Thats dramatic.

Prof. ARANGO: Yeah, spectacular.

Read or listen to it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Economy, Europe, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Politics in General, Spain, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Augustine of Canterbury

O Lord our God, who by thy Son Jesus Christ didst call thine apostles and send them forth to preach the Gospel to the nations: We bless thy holy name for thy servant Augustine, first Archbishop of Canterbury, whose labors in propagating thy Church among the English people we commemorate today; and we pray that all whom thou dost call and send may do thy will, and bide thy time, and see thy glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

The saying is sure: If any one aspires to the office of bishop, he desires a noble task. Now a bishop must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sensible, dignified, hospitable, an apt teacher, no drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and no lover of money. He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way; for if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how can he care for God’s church?

–1 Timothy 3:1-5

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Still One More Prayer for Pentecost

O Holy Spirit of God, Lord and Giver of life: Come into our hearts, we beseech thee; that enlightened by thy clear shining, and warmed by thine unselfish love, our souls may be revived to the worship of God, and our lives be dedicated anew to the service of our fellows: for Jesus Christ’s sake.

–H. C. Cooksey

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

WSJ Asia: Japanese Lessons for the Fed

The causes of Japan’s lethargy and deflation rest in a failure to push ahead with structural reforms such as in postal savings or cuts to corporate tax rates that would unleash animal spirits, not a shortage of liquidity.

Mr. Bernanke may take comfort that Japan’s situation is in key respects different from America’s. For instance, U.S. households are more prone to consuming than their Japanese peers, and American banks and companies less averse to risk (sometimes to an extreme, as we’ve discovered in the past few years). Mr. Bernanke’s own exceptionally easy monetary policy has already filtered through the economy and has shown up in higher prices in nations pegged to the dollar and in higher global commodity prices (until the recent flight to the safety of dollar assets).

Still, for an economist who has famously examined Japan’s lost decade to avoid a recurrence in America, Mr. Bernanke could usefully come away from his Tokyo sojourn with a few updated lessons in mind. The most important message he could spread when he gets back to Washington is that for all monetary policy’s importance, it’s no substitute for pro-growth fiscal and regulatory policies.

Read the whole article.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Asia, Economy, Federal Reserve, History, Japan, The U.S. Government