Daily Archives: July 27, 2010

Bob Herbert: Long-Term Economic Pain

The pain coursing through American families is all too real and no one seems to know what to do about it. A rigorous new analysis for the Rockefeller Foundation shows that Americans are more economically insecure now than they have been in a quarter of a century, and the trend lines suggest that things will only get worse.

Rampant joblessness and skyrocketing medical costs are among the biggest factors tearing at the very fabric of American economic life so painstakingly put together in the early post-World War II decades.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Children, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Psychology, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The U.S. Government

NY Times: Document Leak May Hurt Efforts to Build Afghanistan War Support

In Congress, House leaders were rushing to hold a vote on a critical war-financing bill as early as Tuesday, fearing that the disclosures could stoke Democratic opposition to the measure. A Senate panel is also set to hold a hearing on Tuesday on Mr. Obama’s choice to head the military’s Central Command, Gen. James N. Mattis, who would oversee military operations in Afghanistan.

Administration officials acknowledged that the documents, released on the Internet by an organization called WikiLeaks, will make it harder for Mr. Obama as he tries to hang on to public and Congressional support until the end of the year, when he has scheduled a review of the war effort.

“We don’t know how to react,” one frustrated administration official said on Monday. “This obviously puts Congress and the public in a bad mood.”

Mr. Obama is facing a tough choice: he must either figure out a way to convince Congress and the American people that his war strategy remains on track and is seeing fruit ”” a harder sell given that the war is lagging ”” or move more quickly to a far more limited American presence.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Blogging & the Internet, Defense, National Security, Military, Politics in General, War in Afghanistan

RNS/ENI: Lutherans Apologize to Mennonites

A global Lutheran assembly in Germany has asked for forgiveness for the 16th-century persecution of Anabaptists, the religious reformers whose modern-day descendants include Mennonites.

“We remember how Anabaptist Christians knew suffering and persecution, and we remember how some of our most honored Reformation leaders defended this persecution in the name of faithfulness,” said Bishop Mark Hanson, president of the Lutheran World Federation, at a joint service of repentance with Mennonites on Thursday (July 22).

Anabaptists, whose originally pejorative name means “re-baptizers,” stressed the need to baptize Christian believers, including those who had been baptized as infants. Both Protestants and Catholics persecuted Anabaptists as heretics, and many fled to America.

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Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Ecumenical Relations, Lutheran, Other Churches

USA Today Editorial–Gas Tax holds the key to ending nation's addiction to oil

Four decades of experience suggests the only way to wean the nation off its ruinous oil addiction is prices that go up and stay up. And, although it’s a political non-starter for now, the simplest and best way to achieve that is to gradually raise the federal gasoline tax, now 18.4 cents a gallon, where it has been since 1993.

The arguments for a gas-tax increase are no less compelling for their familiarity. Higher taxes would produce substantial revenues ”” roughly $1 billion a year for every extra penny in tax ”” that could be used to fix roads and reduce the budget deficit. They would make fuel-efficient cars more attractive.

Ultimately, higher taxes could help drive alternative technologies that would slow the flow of money to finance some of the world’s worst regimes and multinational oil companies, such as BP.

Whether increasing the gas tax would reduce the need for drilling in environmentally sensitive areas such as the Gulf depends on worldwide demand for oil, which is being driven upward by the rising economies of China and India. But those countries have their own efforts to curb gasoline use, and reducing consumption in the USA, the world’s top oil consumer, is essential.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, Senate, Taxes

ENS: Standing Committee decides Episcopal Church's 'separation would inhibit dialogue'

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Consultative Council, Episcopal Church (TEC)

AP: US braces for blowback over Afghan war disclosures

Intelligence officials, past and present, are raising concerns that the WikiLeaks.org revelations could endanger U.S. counterterror networks in the Afghan region, and damage information sharing with U.S. allies.

People in Afghanistan or Pakistan who have worked with American intelligence agents or the military against the Taliban or al-Qaida may be at risk following the disclosure of thousands of once-secret U.S. military documents, former and current officials said.

Meanwhile, U.S. allies are asking whether they can trust America to keep secrets. And the Obama administration is scrambling to repair any political damage to the war effort back home.

The material could reinforce the view put forth by the war’s opponents in Congress that one of the nation’s longest conflicts is hopelessly stalemated. Congress has so far backed the war, and an early test of that continued support will come Tuesday when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, led by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., holds a hearing on the Afghan war.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, War in Afghanistan

ACNS: The Standing Committee Daily Bulletin – Day 2

A proposal from Dato’ Stanley Isaacs that The Episcopal Church be separated from the Communion led to a discussion in which Committee members acknowledged the anxieties felt in parts of the Communion about sexuality issues. Nevertheless, the overwhelming opinion was that separation would inhibit dialogue on this and other issues among Communion Provinces, dioceses and individuals and would therefore be unhelpful. The proposal was not passed, and the group agreed to defer further discussion until progress on Continuing Indaba project had been considered….

…[{The} Revd Canon Kenneth Kearon]’s report highlighted three Communion initiatives: the Evangelism and Church Growth Initiative, the Anglican Relief, Development and Advocacy Alliance; and the Healthcare Network’s pilot micro health insurance project in Tanzania. He also celebrated the ecumenical work of the Communion and the annual Canterbury Bishops and Seminarians courses. Canon Kearon also commented on his time at the Anglican Church of Canada’s General Synod and noted the way six sessions had been given over to Indaba-style conversations to consider responses to same-sex issues. The resulting document was, he said, well received and welcomed by all perspectives as representing accurately the mind of the Church at this time.

He concluded by noting that the credibility of the Primates’ Meeting and the ACC was being openly questioned by some and this criticism was increasingly focused on the Standing Committee itself. Chair Bp James Tengatenga stressed it was important for everyone to remember that ACC members were elected and sent by their own Provinces and Synods and represented a very wide spectrum of views across the world. Vice Chair Canon Elizabeth Paver said the Committee needed to respond to criticisms “positively and robustly”, welcomed the appointment of the ACO’s new Director for Communications and said that improved communication and openness would promote trust and better understanding of the work of the Instruments.

Read it carefully and read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Primary Source, -- Reports & Communiques, Anglican Consultative Council, Archbishop of Canterbury, Episcopal Church (TEC)

Bradford Whitaker resigns his post at Christ Church, Grosse Pointe, Michigan

The resignation of the Rev. Bradford Whitaker, senior pastor at Christ Church Grosse Pointe, was read to the Episcopal congregation members at a parish meeting Tuesday night.

Whitaker, a popular leader of the church for the past eight years, had been on suspension since April. The congregation was stunned by news the Michigan Episcopal diocese was investigating “a serious allegation” that was not immediately specified. Whitaker was banned from the church or from communicating with church leaders during the inquiry. It was later revealed that the diocese was looking into claims that Whitaker had an affair while serving in a previous church. Whitaker and his wife Harriet, a teacher, and three children live in a home on the church grounds on Grosse Pointe Boulevard in the Farms.

Whitaker apparently will retain his ordination status, but will not be allowed to preach in an Episcopal Church for at least three years, according to church members.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, TEC Bishops, TEC Parishes

Oregon budget stands at precarious crossroad

Oregon government stands at the edge of a financial chasm as precarious as any in its 151-year history, hemmed in by the global recession, questionable spending decisions and a budget-draining combo of skyrocketing expenses and sluggish growth.

Consider this sobering fact: State expenses, including payroll, health and retirement benefits, and debt payments, are slated to rise by nearly $4 billion over the next two years — a 26 percent jump. During the same period, however, revenues to pay those expenses are expected to increase by a little less than $2 billion, or about 14 percent — and that assumes a return to a robust economy.

Oregon simply can’t keep up.

Lacking a substantial tax increase, which appears unlikely, the state won’t have the money to offer the same level of services, pay and benefits to the same number of people.

The state has faced tough times before, but this crisis is a game changer, economists and political leaders agree. Past budgetary tricks, such as borrowing or sweeping money from other state funds, won’t cut it.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Pensions, Personal Finance, Politics in General, State Government, Taxes, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Companies and Workers in the Economy: "Even if sales do improve, a surge in hiring is unlikely"

“Because of high unemployment, management is using its leverage to get more hours out of workers,” said Robert C. Pozen, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School and the former president of Fidelity Investments. “What’s worrisome is that American business has gotten used to being a lot leaner, and it could take a while before they start hiring again.”

And some of those businesses, including Harley-Davidson, are preparing for a future where they can prosper even if sales do not recover. Harley’s goal is to permanently be in a position to generate strong profits on a lower revenue base.

In some ways, the ability to raise profits in the face of declining sales is a triumph of productivity that makes the United States more globally competitive. The problem is that companies are not investing those earnings, instead letting cash pile up to levels not reached in nearly half a century.

“As long as corporations are reinvesting, the economy can grow,” said Ethan Harris, chief economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “But if they’re taking those profits and saving them, rather than buying new equipment, it hurts overall growth. The longer this goes on, the more you worry about income being diverted to a sector that’s not spending.”

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Politics in General, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

A Prayer for the Feast Day of William Reed Huntington

O Lord our God, we thank thee for instilling in the heart of thy servant William Reed Huntington a fervent love for thy Church and its mission in the world; and we pray that, with unflagging faith in thy promises, we may make known to all peoples thy blessed gift of eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Church History, Episcopal Church (TEC), Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Now the angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, “I brought you up from Egypt, and brought you into the land which I swore to give to your fathers. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, and you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall break down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed my command. What is this you have done?

–Judges 2:1-2

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

NY Times: Lutherans Offer Warm Welcome to [non-celibate] Gay Pastors

With a laying on of hands, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on Sunday welcomed into its fold seven openly gay pastors who had until recently been barred from the church’s ministry.

The ceremony at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in San Francisco was the first of several planned since the denomination took a watershed vote at its convention last year to allow noncelibate gay ministers in committed relationships to serve the church.

“Today the church is speaking with a clear voice,” the Rev. Jeff R. Johnson, one of the seven gay pastors participating in the ceremony, said at a news conference just before it began. “All people are welcome here, all people are invited to help lead this church, and all people are loved unconditionally by God.”

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, known as the E.L.C.A., with 4.6 million members, is now the largest Protestant church in the United States to permit noncelibate gay ministers to serve in the ranks of its clergy ”” an issue that has caused wrenching divisions for it as well as for many other denominations.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Lutheran, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

Thomas Friedman on the Failure to pass an energy/climate bill: We’re Gonna Be Sorry

We’ve basically decided to keep pumping greenhouse gases into Mother Nature’s operating system and take our chances that the results will be benign ”” even though a vast majority of scientists warn that this will not be so. Fasten your seat belts. As the environmentalist Rob Watson likes to say: “Mother Nature is just chemistry, biology and physics. That’s all she is.” You cannot sweet-talk her. You cannot spin her. You cannot tell her that the oil companies say climate change is a hoax. No, Mother Nature is going to do whatever chemistry, biology and physics dictate, and “Mother Nature always bats last, and she always bats 1.000,” says Watson. Do not mess with Mother Nature. But that is just what we’re doing.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, House of Representatives, Law & Legal Issues, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate

New Wave of Whistleblowers Could Become Millionaires

Did you know?

Under an underreported set of new provisions of the new financial reform law, whistleblowers who notify the SEC about alleged fraud will be entitled to collect 10%-30% of money actually recovered by the government.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Stock Market, The Banking System/Sector, Theology