Daily Archives: August 6, 2011

(NY Times On Religion) A War-Hardened Filmmaker Delves Into Islam

“Koran by Heart” simultaneously embraces and subverts a familiar documentary genre. As several critics noted when it played last spring at the Tribeca Film Festival, it follows the formula of cute, precocious kids under win-or-lose pressure that was popularized by the 2002 film “Spellbound” and “Mad Hot Ballroom” in 2005.

Unlike a spelling bee or a dance tournament, though, the International Holy Koran Competition, held annually in Cairo, has consequences beyond triumph or tears. In Mr. Barker’s supple, subtle hands, the contest provides a means of exploring the tension within Islam between the kind of fundamentalism typified by rote, literalist instruction and the modernity outside the madrasa’s door.

“I was interested in Islam as a force in the world,” Mr. Barker, 48, said in a Skype interview from his home in the Los Angeles area. “The struggles, the conversation about modernity within the faith. It’s not what most people are aware of. I was looking for a way to put a human face on the religion and on the struggle. And as a filmmaker, I was looking for a way in.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Islam, Movies & Television, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

(CNS) Growing influx of refugees poses challenge for giant Kenyan camp

– It took 32 days for Fatima Mohammed to make it from her drought-racked farm in Somalia to the relative safety of a sprawling refugee settlement in northeastern Kenya. There were days, she recalled, when her children were so thirsty that they could not walk and the men in her family would ferry them ahead, returning to carry two more children in their arms.

Fatima Mohammed told Catholic News Service that her family had lived through drought before, but that support from aid agencies helped them survive until the rains returned.

“This time, al-Shabaab won’t let them in,” she said, referring to the Islamist group that controls portions of Somalia. “So when our animals started dying, our only choice was to stay and die ourselves, or else start walking for Kenya.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Charities/Non-Profit Organizations, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Kenya, Poverty, Somalia

Economist on U.S.A–A lousy debt deal, rising fears of a recession, danger of longer-term stagnation

Does it have to be this way? Not necessarily. Barack Obama or one of his Republican challengers may yet discover the courage to tell the truth about the American economy in next year’s presidential election. But given the politicians’ current uselessness, the only institution with the power to avert danger is the Federal Reserve. With interest rates so low, that means more quantitative easing. Printing more money is justifiable in the circumstances, but still a tool offering diminishing returns. Fiscal help would have been much better.

If America does manage to avoid recession and slowly begins to pull out of this mire, it will be testimony to its underlying strengths. It still has huge advantages over other rich countries: a younger, less-taxed population, a more innovative economy and, for now at least, the dollar as the global reserve currency. If only it had the political leaders to match, its chance of avoiding recession would be far better than one in two.

Read it all (emphasis mine).

Posted in Uncategorized

(Washington Post) Charles Krauthammer–How the super-committee can strike a Grand Bargain

[If done properly]….Tax reform will already have slashed rates radically. In one Simpson-Bowles scenario, the top rate plunges to 23 percent. Conservatives could at that point contemplate increasing net revenue by slightly tweaking these new low rates, say, back to Reagan’s 28 percent, still much lower than the current 35 percent and Obama’s devoutly desired 39.6 percent. The deviation from revenue neutrality would yield new tax receipts for the Treasury, in addition to those resulting from the economic growth stimulated by the lower rates.

Democrats would have to respond by crossing their own red line on entitlements. That means real structural changes. That means raising the Medicare and Social Security ages, indexing them to longevity (until 70 becomes the new 65) and changing the inflation formula. Perhaps even means-testing Social Security (after one has recouped what one originally paid in).

The result of such a grand bargain would be debt reduction on a scale never before seen. World confidence in the American economy would rise dramatically. Best of all, we would be back on the road to national solvency….

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, House of Representatives, Medicare, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Social Security, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

Yves Smith–Will S&P Downgrade Be Another Y2K Scare?

Just as the Y2K threat was overstated but nevertheless had unexpected, adverse intermediate term consequences, I doubt this chicanery will be cost free to the public at large. But the debt overhang that ideologues have used to whip the public into a funk is profoundly deflationary unless addressed head on, via writedowns and bankruptcies offset by fiscal stimulus. Deflation means that high quality bonds are the place to be, as the market action of last week confirmed, so Treasuries benefit from the very condition that S&P depicts as a disaster.

Thus the best outcome would be if the bond and currency markets shrug off the S&P action, which would reveal that the much feared downgrade was a paper tiger. But even if the marker response is underwhelming, it is hard to imagine that Obama will not take a political toll for his colossal miscalculation. It was he who stoked the debt ceiling phony crisis to implement a neoliberal agenda, who refused to reverse course and threaten to circumvent the debt limits when the process had clearly spun out of his control.

So even if S&P fails to land a body blow in the markets, its ploy has garnered press that seems certain to taint the Administration, and thus confirms the power of its reckless conduct. Thus the cost is not likely to show up in bond yields, but in something far more fundamental: in yet more destruction of the foundations of our society for short-term, selfish ends.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Budget, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Foreign Relations, Globalization, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, The Banking System/Sector, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

Barry Ritholtz–10 Questions About Last Night's S&P Downgrade

1. The change in trajectory of US debt was in service of Banks: It began with TARP, and continued with every other bailout/stimulus/economic plan. What was S&P’s role in creating that crisis?

2. How will non-US investors (Private and Central Banks) view the downgrade?…

9. The Rating Agencies were downgraded by Dodd-Frank, with all regulatory and legal references to be removed. Was S&P’s move retaliatory?

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Stock Market, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

The Federal Reserve, The FDIC, NCUA And OCC Issue Guidance on Federal Debt

From here:

Earlier today, Standard & Poor’s rating agency lowered the long-term rating of the U.S. government and federal agencies from AAA to AA+. With regard to this action, the federal banking agencies are providing the following guidance to banks, savings associations, credit unions, and bank and savings and loan holding companies (collectively, banking organizations).

For risk-based capital purposes, the risk weights for Treasury securities and other securities issued or guaranteed by the U.S. government, government agencies, and government-sponsored entities will not change. The treatment of Treasury securities and other securities issued or guaranteed by the U.S. government, government agencies, and government-sponsored entities under other federal banking agency regulations, including, for example, the Federal Reserve Board’s Regulation W, will also be unaffected.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Federal Reserve, Stock Market, The Banking System/Sector, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

(FT) Mohamed El-Erian–S and P downgrade of the U.S. Heralds a new era

…there a sliver of a silver lining ”” and an important one. America’s downgrade may serve as a wakeup call for its policymakers. It is an unambiguous and loud signal of the country’s eroding economic strength and global standing. It renders urgent the need to regain the initiative through better economic policymaking and more coherent governance.

There is a risk, of course, that different political factions will use S&P’s action as a vindication of their prior beliefs. Democrats would argue that it is recent Republican political sabotage that pushed S&P over the edge while Republicans would argue that we are here due to irresponsible government spending by the Democrats.

For the sake of their country and the wider global economy, both parties should resist the urge to begin bickering. Instead they should seize this potential “Sputnik Moment…”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Budget, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Foreign Relations, Globalization, History, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Psychology, Senate, Stock Market, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

China Tells U.S. It Must ”˜Cure Its Addiction to Debt’

Though Beijing has few options other than to continue to buy United States Treasury bonds, Chinese officials are clearly concerned that the country’s substantial holdings of American debt, worth at least $1.1 trillion, are being devalued.

“The U.S. government has to come to terms with the painful fact that the good old days when it could just borrow its way out of messes of its own making are finally gone,” read the commentary, which was published in Chinese newspapers.

Beijing, which did not release any other official statement on the downgrade, called on Washington to make substantial cuts to its “gigantic military expenditure” and its “bloated social welfare” programs.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Asia, Budget, China, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Stock Market, The Banking System/Sector, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

Johnny Cash's Daughter Rosanne Cash on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me

The segment description is as follows:

It’s tough to have a famous parent, really hard to go into the same business, and almost impossible to create a brilliant career in your own right … but that’s exactly what singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash, daughter of Johnny Cash, has done.We’ve invited Cash to play a game called: “Man, you sing a lot better now than you did at that Padres game!” Three questions about another Roseanne ”” Roseanne Barr ”” who famously butchered the National Anthem at a baseball game in 1990.

I thought of this last night as I was posting Johnny Cash’s song Walk the Line. My favorite part is when she talks about her own daughter–KSH.

Read or (better) listen to it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., History, Music

Anglican TV this week with George Conger, Kevin Kallsen, Alan Haley and Bishop Iker from Fort Worth

The segment description is as follows:

George Conger and Kevin Kallsen bring you back to the “new media” of the 1980’s in their “On this day in History” segment. They also discuss the use of analogies and their place in a violent world. Alan Haley discusses some specifics from the court case in the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin; and our guest Bishop this week is Bishop Iker from the Diocese of Fort Worth. Bishop Iker brings news from the Fort Worth law suit and the new heat record for DFW.

Watch it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, - Anglican: Analysis, - Anglican: Latest News, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Fort Worth, TEC Conflicts: San Joaquin

(Washington Post) S&P downgrades U.S. credit rating for first time

Standard & Poor’s announced Friday night that it has downgraded the U.S. credit rating for the first time, dealing a symbolic blow to the world’s economic superpower in what was a sharply worded critique of the American political system.

Lowering the nation’s rating to one notch below AAA, the credit rating company said “political brinkmanship” in the debate over the debt had made the U.S. government’s ability to manage its finances “less stable, less effective and less predictable.” It said the bipartisan agreement reached this week to find at least $2.1 trillion in budget savings “fell short” of what was necessary to tame the nation’s debt over time and predicted that leaders would not be likely to achieve more savings in the future.

“It’s always possible the rating will come back, but we don’t think it’s coming back anytime soon,” said David Beers, head of S&P’s government debt rating unit.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, City Government, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, State Government, Stock Market, The Banking System/Sector, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

A Prayer for the Feast Day of The Transfiguration

O God, who on the holy mount didst reveal to chosen witnesses thy well-beloved Son, wonderfully transfigured, in raiment white and glistening: Mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world, may by faith behold the King in his beauty; who with thee, O Father, and thee, O Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth, one God, world without end.

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

From the Morning Bible Readings

On the holy mount stands the city he founded; the LORD loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwelling places of Jacob. Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God. Among those who know me I mention Rahab and Babylon; behold, Philistia and Tyre, with Ethiopia–“this one was born there,” they say. And of Zion it shall be said, “This one and that one were born in her”; for the Most High himself will establish her. The LORD records as he registers the peoples, “This one was born there.” Singers and dancers alike say, “All my springs are in you.”

–Psalm 87

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

US Sees Possible Standard & Poor's Debt Rating Downgrade Coming, Officials Say

The federal government is expecting and preparing for bond rating agency Standard & Poor’s to downgrade the rating of U.S. debt from its current AAA value, a government official told ABC News.

Although the Obama administration is preparing for the possible downgrade, it is not 100 percent positive it is going to happen, a second government official said, and if it does happen officials are not sure when it will happen.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Budget, City Government, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Globalization, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, State Government, Stock Market, The Banking System/Sector, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government