Daily Archives: September 26, 2010

Michiko Kakutani reviews Bob Woodward's new book "Obama's War"

Throughout this volume, the Obama administration is depicted as deeply divided and riven with suspicions: the president feeling boxed in by the Pentagon, members of the military battling the White House and one another. In addition to the well-known putdowns of the president’s national security team by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, then the commander of forces in Afghanistan (which appeared in Rolling Stone magazine and led to his firing last June), and the much-chronicled tensions between senior military officers and Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, Mr. Woodward recounts a cornucopia of conflicts and adversarial agendas ”” and much pettiness, in-fighting and score-settling that stand in awful contrast to the sobering realities of a nearly nine-year-old war that has already claimed more than 1,000 American lives.

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s former campaign strategist Mark Penn is described as urging her to take the job of secretary of state because, in Mr. Woodward’s words, “if she did the job for four years, Obama might be in trouble and have to dump Biden and pick her to run with him as vice president.”

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is described as trying to withhold a “hybrid option” ”” requiring a fewer number of troops ”” from consideration, and even knocking heads with Gen. David H. Petraeus, then the commander of the United States Central Command, over a memo about prospects in Afghanistan.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Afghanistan, Asia, Books, Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, Office of the President, Pakistan, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, War in Afghanistan

Injecting a Sense of Play in Religious Tradition

At this moment of national religious anxiety, it’s tempting to ask what would happen if other religious rituals were turned inside out and opened to public view. If the people behind the proposed Park51 Islamic cultural complex had put all their plans forward and invited the entire city to comment, could outside observers have made them sound so scary? One of the Sukkah City architects wrote about the goal of making a structure “transparent enough to be inclusive, but dense enough to create a sense of belonging.” Inshallah.

I returned to Union Square Park on Wednesday night, as the actual holiday began, worried that the winning (and by then only remaining) structure might have devolved into a battleground, with different tribes of Jews trying to lay public claim to it. But I found no black hats and gray beards wielding prayer books. No blissed-out Israeli ravers eating organic produce from Whole Foods. No observance of any kind. The sukkah was roped off and ignored.

It seemed sad that a competition that spawned such excitement about design and open-mindedness made no effort to also support actual religious practice. But on the Upper West Side, where one of the runner-up sukkahs had been deposited on a sidewalk, a few neighborhood families that discovered it had run home and grabbed food, then reconvened for dinner under the stars.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Art, Religion & Culture

The Economist–The President needs to change his reputation for being hostile to business

Winston Churchill once moaned about the long, dishonourable tradition in politics that sees commerce as a cow to be milked or a dangerous tiger to be shot. Businesses are the generators of the wealth on which incomes, taxation and all else depends; “the strong horse that pulls the whole cart”, as Churchill put it. No sane leader of a country would want businesspeople to think that he was against them, especially at a time when confidence is essential for the recovery.

From this perspective, Barack Obama already has a lot to answer for. A president who does so little to counter the idea that he dislikes business is, self-evidently, a worryingly negligent chief executive. No matter that other Western politicians have publicly played with populism more dangerously, from France’s “laissez-faire is dead” president, Nicolas Sarkozy, to Britain’s “capitalism kills competition” business secretary, Vince Cable (see article); no matter that talk on the American right about Mr Obama being a socialist is rot; no matter that Wall Street’s woes are largely of its own making. The evidence that American business thinks the president does not understand Main Street is mounting

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Taxes, The 2009 Obama Administration Bank Bailout Plan, The 2009 Obama Administration Housing Amelioration Plan, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The Fiscal Stimulus Package of 2009, The Possibility of a Bailout for the U.S. Auto Industry, The U.S. Government

Time Cover Story–How the First Nine Months Shape the Rest of Your Life

What makes us the way we are? Why are some people predisposed to be anxious, overweight or asthmatic? How is it that some of us are prone to heart attacks, diabetes or high blood pressure?

There’s a list of conventional answers to these questions. We are the way we are because it’s in our genes. We turn out the way we do because of our childhood experiences. Or our health and well-being stem from the lifestyle choices we make as adults.

But there’s another powerful source of influence you may not have considered: your life as a fetus. The nutrition you received in the womb; the pollutants, drugs and infections you were exposed to during gestation; your mother’s health and state of mind while she was pregnant with you ”” all these factors shaped you as a baby and continue to affect you to this day…..

Read it all.

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

Google chief sees Bing as main threat

Google chief executive Eric Schmidt on Friday said that Microsoft’s Bing search engine was the company’s main threat, not Facebook or Apple.

“While it’s true Web search is not the only game in town, searching information is what it is all about,” Schmidt said in Wall Street Journal interview video posted online.

He described Apple as a well-respected competitor and Facebook as a “company of consequence doing an excellent job in social networking,” but said that Microsoft’s latest-generation search engine was Google’s main competition.

“We consider neither to be a competitive threat,” Schmidt said, referring to Facebook and Apple. “Absolutely, our competitor is Bing. Bing is a well-run, highly competitive search engine.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Science & Technology

Job Loss Looms as Part of Stimulus Act Expires

Tens of thousands of people will lose their jobs within weeks unless Congress extends one of the more effective job-creating programs in the $787 billion stimulus act: a $1 billion New Deal-style program that directly paid the salaries of unemployed people so they could get jobs in government, at nonprofit organizations and at many small businesses.

In rural Perry County, Tenn., the program helped pay for roughly 400 new jobs in the public and private sectors. But in a county of 7,600 people, those jobs had a big impact: they reduced Perry County’s unemployment rate to less than 14 percent this August, from the Depression-like levels of more than 25 percent that it hit last year after its biggest employer, an auto parts factory, moved to Mexico.

If the stimulus program ends on schedule next week, Perry County officials said, an estimated 300 people there will lose their jobs ”” the equivalent of another factory closing.

“It’s very scary, because there’s just no work,” said Brian Davis, a 36-year-old father of four, who got a stimulus-subsidized job with the City of Lobelville after he lost his job of 17 years at an auto parts plant that shed hundreds of jobs. Now he faces the prospect of unemployment again.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The Fiscal Stimulus Package of 2009

Local Paper Faith and Values Section–South Carolina Episcopal Diocese to meet in Summerville

“We wish to call to your attention the recent actions … which we believe are accelerating the process of alienation and disassociation of the Diocese of South Carolina from the Episcopal Church,” the [Episcopal] Forum [of South Carolina] wrote in a letter to the Executive Council and House of Bishops.

Diocese officials say the resolutions, if approved, would assert the authority of Scripture and be a step toward realizing a vision of “Making Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age.”

Bishop Mark Lawrence said the Forum was resorting to fear tactics.

“With this latest attack, the Episcopal Forum continues its weary institutional approach to God, as if you can keep people in a church by fear.” Lawrence said. “What we are seeking to do in the Diocese of South Carolina is to hold fast to the best of our Episcopal heritage while sharing Christ’s transforming freedom to the needs of people today.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Episcopal Church (TEC), General Convention, Presiding Bishop, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Diocesan Conventions/Diocesan Councils, TEC Polity & Canons

Local paper Front Page: In 2011, South Carolina will grapple with bigger budget woes

The last time the state’s budget was this small, gasoline cost a buck a gallon and South Carolina had a half-million fewer residents.

That was in the fall of 1999, when George W. Bush was running for his first term as president and the Internet stock bubble had yet to pop.

Now, more than a decade later, we’ve been through two recessions and just about everything costs more — fuel costs have more than doubled, college tuition has nearly tripled, health care has soared.

Read it all.

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

(NY Times)–Making History, Twice, at Grace [Episcopal] Cathedral

The installation of Jane Alison Shaw as the eighth dean of Grace Cathedral on Nob Hill on Nov. 6 is a milestone ”” she will be the first woman to lead the cathedral, which was founded during the Gold Rush in 1849.

Dr. Shaw will also be the cathedral’s first openly gay dean.

“I’m glad I live in a moment in history when I can answer the call,” Dr. Shaw said in a telephone interview from England, where she is finishing work as the dean of divinity at Oxford University.

While one’s sexual orientation rarely raises an eyebrow in San Francisco these days, the Episcopal Church has been torn apart over the issue of full inclusion for gay men and lesbians. Dr. Shaw’s elevation to lead one of the denomination’s most prominent churches is “a signal moment,” said The Rev. Marc Handley Andrus, bishop of the Diocese of California. “We seek to be a house of prayer for all people.”

Read it all.

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

A prayer to Begin the Day

O God of love, we yield thee hearty thanks for whatsoever thou hast given us richly to enjoy; for health of mind and body, for the love and care of home, for the joys of friendship, and for every good gift of happiness and strength. We praise thee for thy servants who by their example and encouragement have helped us on our way, and for every vision of thyself which thou hast given us in sacrament or prayer; and we humbly beseech thee that all these thy benefits we may use in thy service, and to the glory of thy holy name; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord.

Posted in Uncategorized

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, for you know that we who teach shall be judged with greater strictness.

–James 3:1

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

(FIF) Anglican Catholics Rally to protect and preserve Anglican tradition

(A Statement issued yesterday on behalf of the Bishop of Chichester, the Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe, the Bishop of Beverley, the Bishop of Burnley, the Bishop of Edmonton, the Bishop of Horsham, the Bishop of Plymouth, the Bishop of Pontefract, Bishop Lindsay Urwin OGS and others.)

Anglican Catholic bishops have announced that in addition to the provision of an Ordinariate offered recently by Pope Benedict there is to be a new Society [of St Wilfrid and St Hilda] for bishops, clergy, religious and laity in order to provide a place within the Church of England where catholics can worship and minister with integrity without accepting innovations that further distance the Church of England from the greater churches of the East and West.

At two upbeat gatherings this week of over 600 clergy and religious from the northern and southern provinces of the Church of England, there was unanimous condemnation of proposed legislation to allow the ordination of women as bishops that will soon go to the dioceses for discussion, debate and approval.

The unveiling of The Missionary Society of St Wilfrid and St Hilda reflects a determination not to accept a Code of Practice as currently suggested by the General Synod but to work for and create a more realistic approach which allows the integrity of those who cannot accept this innovation to be preserved, to flourish and grow within the Church of England. This development represents a constructive initiative on the part of those who cannot accept the innovations proposed in legislation and who are hurt and frustrated by the General Synod’s inability to provide for their theological position.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint Sergius

O God, whose blessed Son became poor that we through his poverty might be rich: Deliver us, we pray thee, from an inordinate love of this world, that inspired by the devotion of thy servant Sergius of Moscow, we may serve thee with singleness of heart, and attain to the riches of the age to come; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, Church History, Europe, Russia, Spirituality/Prayer

(NY Times) A Wave of Addiction and Crime, with the Medicine Cabinet to Blame

Police departments have collected thousands of handguns through buy-back programs in communities throughout the country. Now they want the contents of your medicine cabinet.

Opiate painkillers and other prescription drugs, officials say, are driving addiction and crime like never before, with addicts singling out the homes of sick or elderly people and posing as potential buyers at open houses just to raid the medicine cabinets. The crimes, and the severity of the nation’s drug abuse problem, have so vexed the authorities that they are calling on citizens to surrender old bottles of potent pills like Vicodin, Percocet and Xanax.

On Saturday, the police will set up drop-off stations at a Wal-Mart in Pearland, Tex., a zoo in Wichita, Kan., a sports complex in Peoria, Ariz., and more than 4,000 other locations to oversee a prescription drug take-back program. Coordinated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, it will be the first such effort with national scope.

The take-back day is being held as waves of data suggest the country’s prescription drug problem is vast and growing. In 17 states, deaths from drugs ”” both prescription and illegal ”” now exceed those from motor vehicle accidents, with opiate painkillers playing a leading role. The number of people seeking treatment for painkiller addiction jumped 400 percent from 1998 to 2008, according to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

read that second to last sentence again and think about its implications–it simply boggles my mind. Now read the whole article–KSH.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, City Government, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General

WSJ Front Page–Credit Unions Bailed Out

Two years after the peak of the financial crisis, the federal government swooped in to stabilize a crucial part of the credit-union sector battered by losses on subprime mortgages.

Regulators announced Friday a rescue and revamping of the nation’s wholesale credit union system, underpinned by a federal guarantee valued at $30 billion or more. Wholesale credit unions don’t deal with the general public but provide essential back-office services to thousands of other credit unions across the U.S. The majority of retail credit unions are sound, but they will have to shoulder the losses through special assessments over the next decade.

Friday’s moves include the seizure of three wholesale credit unions, plus an unusual plan by government officials to manage $50 billion of troubled assets inherited from failed institutions. To help fund the rescue, the National Credit Union Administration plans to issue $30 billion to $35 billion in government-guaranteed bonds, backed by the shaky mortgage-related assets.

Officials said the plan won’t cost taxpayers any money. Still, it marks the latest intervention by the U.S. government into a financial system weakened by the real-estate bust….

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Credit Markets, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The U.S. Government