Daily Archives: June 14, 2010

Post-Gazette Editorial–The Afghan mire: Kandahar is the next challenge in an endless war

U.S. generals planning the promised offensive against Kandahar may now argue that the scheduled July 2011 beginning of the U.S. pullout from Afghanistan encourages the Taliban to push the United States against the wall it constitutes.

At the same time, the advantages of more vigorous combat directed against the Taliban must be factored into the effort by the Hamid Karzai government to draw at least some Taliban into greater cooperation with the Afghan authorities through means such as the just-completed loya jirga, or grand council meeting of tribes and factions in Afghanistan.

All in all, the complexities of Afghan politics, plus the rising toll in U.S. lives and expenditure on this war, argue strongly for drawing it to an end.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, War in Afghanistan

Child-porn industry using web-based system to move funds

Authorities are banding together ever more closely with the financial sector and Internet providers in hopes of disrupting the multibillion-dollar global child-pornography trade.

These concerted efforts come as the child-porn industry has shifted in the last five years to a more anonymous, web-based system for moving funds, according to law-enforcement officials, technology specialists and money-laundering experts.

To root out the companies that supply an estimated $20 billion annual global child-porn market, the Financial Coalition Against Child Pornography — comprised of Internet service providers, financial heavyweights and technology companies — is working closely with law-enforcement agencies in the United States and around the world.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Blogging & the Internet, Children, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Pornography

Oliver Thomas: What's the godly way to treat animals?

What comes to mind when I say moral blind spots? Abortion if you’re a conservative? Gay rights if you’re a liberal? But how can anything be “blind” if half the country is talking about it?

Mahatma Gandhi”” viewed by many (including Martin Luther King Jr.) as one of the greatest moral leaders of the 20th century ”” opined that the moral fiber of a society is best gauged by how we treat our animals. So as a Baptist preacher who is interested in the morality of my country, I decided to check us out. What I found has alarmed me. Worse still is the fact that so few of us are talking about it. Eureka. A moral blind spot.

Let’s start with the animals we profess to love: our pets. Many of us cherish our dogs, cats or other critters and consider them part of the family. We spare no expense when caring for them. Others of us just skirt by, particularly once the novelty of owning a pet wears off. Owner complacency becomes indifference; indifference becomes neglect. One of the saddest outcomes is a dog that is chained and left in the backyard. A tethered dog lives in utter misery without physical or mental stimulation. Owner neglect on a much larger scale results in 3 million to 4 million dogs and cats being euthanized each year. That’s about 10,000 per day. Much of this results from pet owners simply failing to spay or neuter their animals. With free and discounted spay/neuter opportunities galore, that’s inexcusable.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * General Interest, Animals, Religion & Culture

Fannie-Freddie Fix at $160 Billion With $1 Trillion Worst Case

The cost of fixing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage companies that last year bought or guaranteed three-quarters of all U.S. home loans, will be at least $160 billion and could grow to as much as $1 trillion after the biggest bailout in American history.

Fannie and Freddie, now 80 percent owned by U.S. taxpayers, already have drawn $145 billion from an unlimited line of government credit granted to ensure that home buyers can get loans while the private housing-finance industry is moribund. That surpasses the amount spent on rescues of American International Group Inc., General Motors Co. or Citigroup Inc., which have begun repaying their debts.

“It is the mother of all bailouts,” said Edward Pinto, a former chief credit officer at Fannie Mae, who is now a consultant to the mortgage-finance industry.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Economy, House of Representatives, Housing/Real Estate Market, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

Frank Mazur writes a letter to the Editor in Vermont: Pensions are a time bomb

Public school teacher pensions are a ticking time bomb. They’re short by $933 billion in assets needed to cover promises to retirees, or more than $18,600 per public school pupil.

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

Notable and Quotable

The awareness of sin used to be our shadow. Christians hated sin, feared it, fled from it, grieved over it. Some of our grandparents agonized over their sins. A man who lost his temper might wonder whether he could still go to Holy Communion. A woman who for years envied her more attractive and intelligent sister might worry that this sin threatened her very salvation.

[Today] preachers mumble about sin. the other custodians of moral awareness often ignore, trivialize, or evade it.

–Cornelius Plantinga, Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), pp. ix-x

Posted in Anthropology, Pastoral Theology, Theology

Multimedia Bible aims at digital generation

For a generation growing up with digital media, the written word printed on paper has little appeal ”” even if it’s the word of God. It’s for them that an Orlando, Fla., company has come up with the multimedia digital Glo Bible.

“You have entire generations of people that don’t engage with paper very well,” says Nelson Saba, founder of Immersion Digital. “If you look at Bible literacy among younger generations, it’s dismal.” The Glo Bible “is designed to be a digital alternative to the paper Bible.”

A Gallup poll in 2000 found that about one-quarter of people ages 18 through 29 read the Bible weekly ”” about half the rate of those 65 or older. Part of that, Saba contends, is the younger generation’s aversion to the printed word.

“There is nothing wrong with paper. I have lots of paper Bibles, but it’s just not the media they engage,” he says.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Blogging & the Internet, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Teens / Youth, Theology, Theology: Scripture, Young Adults

Debt Burden Falls Heavily on Germany and France

French and German banks have lent nearly $1 trillion to the most troubled European countries and are more exposed to the debt crisis than the banks of any other countries, according to a new report that is likely to add pressure on institutions to detail their holdings.

French banks had lent $493 billion to Spain, Greece, Portugal and Ireland by the end of 2009 while German banks had lent $465 billion, according to the report by the Bank for International Settlements, an institution based in Basel, Switzerland, that acts as a clearing house for the world’s central banks.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010, Credit Markets, Economy, Euro, Europe, European Central Bank, France, Germany, The Banking System/Sector

Time Magazine Cover Story–The Gulf Disaster

Terry Vargas is living with the oil. Nearly three weeks ago, the third-generation shrimper pulled into port in Grand Isle, in southeast Louisiana, with a catch worth $1,400. But that was before authorities closed the rich Delta waters to fishing, thanks to the massive oil spill that has swamped the shoreline. Like many furloughed Louisiana fishermen, Vargas took a check from BP ”” part of the energy giant’s promise to Gulf Coast residents to “make things right” in the wake of the biggest environmental disaster in U.S. history. It was for $5,000, an amount Vargas says he can make in two nights during a good shrimping season. Still, $5,000 is better than nothing, but Vargas knows it won’t cover his expenses now or in the uncertain weeks ahead. So he has taken on carpentry jobs ”” the only paying work he can find ”” and today is building a small shed among the houses on Grand Isle, many of which stand on stilts, stork-like, to endure the inevitable floods.

Vargas thinks about the hurricane season that began on June 1 ”” forecasters predict a major one ”” and remembers when Katrina hit and left a pile of sand in his living room. Hurricanes pass; people evacuate, and then they rebuild. But the spill is a disaster of a different kind. He worries about a storm hitting the oily waters, raining crude on his hometown. “If that oil comes ashore,” Vargas says, “it’s all over.”

Read the whole thing.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, --The 2010 Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill, Energy, Natural Resources

Roderick Strange: The call may not be welcome but it cannot be resisted

It goes without saying ”” but must never be forgotten ”” that priority must always be given to the victims and survivors of abuse. They have suffered more than anyone. But at the same time, as the stories swirled around in newspapers and on television, it was impossible for many other ordinary Catholics and priests not to feel mired, sucked into the swamp.

One focus of attention became Rome, not simply because of the misconceived efforts to snare the Pope in the scandals, but also out of curiosity: there were people who wanted to know how those of us who live in Rome were coping. In particular they were wondering about the effects of the scandal in a college such as the Beda, where older men from the English-speaking world are preparing for priestly ordination. How was morale? Did we feel tarnished?

But quite soon I began to notice a shift in the line of interest. It became less a matter of how we were coping, and more a question of why people still wanted to be priests at all. The questions were not hostile. They were respectful. Nevertheless, people wanted to know, if our instinct is to shun failure, who would want to be associated with Catholic priesthood?

One part of the answer to such a question comes from remembering that the behaviour of a few priests, even one, however much it shames all those who have been ordained, is not the behaviour of the many. We find it as repellent as anyone.

And another part of the answer lies in the nature of vocation itself. Vocation, a sense of calling, is something compelling, like falling in love.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Theology

Archbishop Rowan Williams' Sermon for the New Parliament

There is the big picture for every politician who seeks to be more than a mere manager of the state’s business, a part of the mechanism of collecting Caesar’s taxes. Good government from a Christian point of view is about the acknowledgement and reinforcement of human dignity. And to see it in this way may help us out of the useless standoff that sometimes arises when we try and talk about what ‘strong’ government is and whether it is desirable.

We react against certain kinds of strong government or ‘big’ government on the grounds that we don’t want to be patronised or bullied or stripped of the fruits of our own work. And the mistake is then to hand over all responsibility to non-state agents ”“ which in practice often means non-accountable interests. Or, on the other hand, we try to make sure that government controls all outcomes and averts all risks by law and regulation. And this produces a culture of obsessional legislation, paralysis of initiative and pervasive anxiety.

Well, the last three decades have seen plenty of both these odd growths ”“ the delinquent children of Milton Friedman and Sidney Webb. Is it a fantasy to think that we just might be on the verge of discovering another register for talking politics and doing politics? One thing that the remarkable recent election has surely told us is that some of the historic party identities of British politics are not making much sense to a lot of the electorate; party loyalties are not what they were, because people have been unclear about what the arguments really are (despite the high-profile debating). The leaders of a new government, a new leadership in opposition, have the chance to put the question of human dignity at the centre of public debate by affirming that strong government is government that makes strong citizens ”“ not by resigning responsibility but by deliberately building capacity for co-operation, encouraging mutual dependence and skill-sharing, helping to create what some have called a ‘social-quality market’ in which people collaborate to define the goods they are seeking together instead of being reduced to the level of the simple relations between producer and consumer.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

An ENS Article on the California/Saint James News

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Los Angeles, TEC Departing Parishes

California Supreme Court Unanimously Grants Review of St. James Church Petition

In a unanimous decision, the California Supreme Court agreed…to hear St. James Anglican Church’s appeal that it has a constitutional right to continue its property rights battle against The Episcopal Church. By granting the St. James petition, the Court has acknowledged that this property rights dispute is far from over as the Episcopal Church has claimed, and that the Court must decide whether a defendant can be deprived of its property before it has had the opportunity to defend itself with evidence in a court of law.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Los Angeles, TEC Departing Parishes

The Primus' Charge to the Scottish Episcopal Church General Synod

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Scottish Episcopal Church

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Basil the Great

Almighty God, who hast revealed to thy Church thine eternal Being of glorious majesty and perfect love as one God in Trinity of Persons: Give us grace that, like thy bishop Basil of Caesarea, we may continue steadfast in the confession of this faith, and constant in our worship of thee, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; who livest and reignest for ever and ever.

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