Daily Archives: September 23, 2011

(WSJ Houses of Worship) Tevi Troy–The White House's Advice for Your Rabbi

The Jewish High Holidays are upon us, so naturally it’s time for the White House to feed political talking points to rabbis.

As has become its annual practice, the Obama administration on Thursday convened a conference call with several hundred rabbis and Jewish leaders. According to a participant on the call, President Obama promoted his jobs bill””noting that those who have been more blessed should pay their fair share””and briefed the rabbis on U.S. efforts to counter the push for a declaration of Palestinian statehood at the United Nations.

I was on another such call recently, the purpose of which””according to the Jewish rabbinical group that invited me””was to help listeners “understand the current state of the economy; learn about the impact of the proposed budget cuts on the poor and disenfranchised; consider the consequences of the increasing gap between the rich and poor in America; and, glean homiletic and textual background to help prepare their High Holiday sermons on this timely topic.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Judaism, Office of the President, Other Faiths, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Religion & Culture

(CEN) Churches examine investment strategy

Global investment strategy was planned by representatives of 40 churches from North America, Europe, Australasia and Africa in a historic meeting in Paris on 14 September.

The event was hosted by the Church Investors Group (CIG) of Britain and Ireland, which commands £12.6 billion of assets. By working together, the churches not only increase their influence by combining their assets, but their investment arms can share local expertise that can ensure that the global strategy adopted allows all the churches to enforce Christian attitudes.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Stock Market, Theology

(Washington Post) In Europe, bonds deemed risk-free fueled debt crisis, analysts say

Before the euro zone, individual countries issued bonds in their local currency and could print more of it, whether it be francs, lire or drachmas, if a crisis was making it difficult to pay off the loans.

Today, with the European Central Bank in charge of euros, governments in Athens, Rome and elsewhere no longer control the “printing press.” Yet even as individual governments lost the power to pay off debts by printing money, the politics and regulations of the euro zone encouraged banks, insurance companies and other financial firms to load up on government bonds ”” and countries to issue them.

The “persistence in sustaining risk-free status .”‰.”‰. has, in our view, directly contributed to the development and severity of recent market turmoil,” Achim Kassow, a member of the board of managing directors of Germany’s Commerzbank, wrote in a recent study of the bank rule for the European Parliament. “Both the course and the severity of the crisis can clearly be tied to incentives set by current regulation.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, England / UK, Euro, Europe, European Central Bank, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Peter Berger–What Happens when a Leftist Philosopher Discovers God?

[Philippe] Portier distinguishes three phases in [Juergen ] Habermas’ treatment of religion. In phase one, lasting up to the early 1980s, he still viewed religion as an “alienating reality”, a tool of domination for the powerful. In good Marxist tradition, he thought that religion would eventually disappear, as modern society comes to be based on “communicative rationality” and no longer needs the old irrational illusions. In phase two, roughly 1985-2000, this anti-religious animus is muted. Religion now is seen as unlikely to disappear, because many people (though presumably not Habermas) continue to need its consolations. The public sphere, however, must be exclusively dominated by rationality. Religion must be relegated to private life. One could say that in this phase, at least in the matter of religion, Habermas graduated from Marxism to the French ideal of laicite””the public life of the republic kept antiseptically clean of religious contamination.

Phase three is more interesting. As of the late 1990s Habermas’ view of religion is more benign. Religion is now seen as having a useful public function, quite apart from its private consolations. The “colonization” of society by “turbo-capitalism” (nice term””I don’t know if Habermas coined it) has created a cultural crisis and has undermined the solidarity without which democratic rationality cannot function. We are now moving into a “post-secular society”, which can make good use of the “moral intuition” that religion still supplies.

Read it all.

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

REM's 'Losing My Religion' More Than Just a Song for Christians?

In a survey released last year, it was found that 72 percent of millennials were “more spiritual than religious.” According to Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, the group that conducted the study. Rainer explained to USA Today that young adults today do not pray, worship, or read the Bible.

In studying the data of 1,200 18-29 year olds, Rainer found that among the 65 percent who described themselves as Christians, “many are either mushy Christians or Christians in name only; most are just indifferent,” said Rainer. “The more precisely you try to measure their Christianity, the fewer you find committed to the faith,” he added.

The study found that 65 percent rarely or never pray with others, and 38 percent almost never pray by themselves. In addition, 65 percent rarely or never attend worship services, while 67 percent don not read the Bible or sacred texts.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Religion & Culture, Young Adults

In Rush to Assist Solyndra, U.S. Missed Warning Signs

The government’s backing of Solyndra, which could cost taxpayers more than a half-billion dollars, came as the politically well-connected business began an extensive lobbying campaign that appears to have blinded government officials to the company’s financial condition and the risks of the investment, according to a review of government documents and interviews with administration officials and industry analysts.

While no evidence has emerged that political favoritism played a role in what administration officials assert were merit-based decisions, Solyndra drew plenty of high-level attention. Its lobbyists corresponded frequently and met at least three times with an aide to a top White House official, Valerie B. Jarrett, to push for loans, tax breaks and other government assistance.

Read it all. Also, see James Pethokoukis–“Solyndra, the logical endpoint of Obamanomics” which may be found over here.

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

Church Times– Meeting heralds new era for episcopacy

The House of Bishops must be ready for a change of culture now, before the final vote on accepting women into the episcopate, Dr Williams heard on Monday.

A day-long conference was hosted by the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace on Monday, after discussions with groups such as Women and the Church (WATCH), and the women Deans, Archdeacons, and Residentiary Canons group (DARC).

The day was reflective and wide-ranging in its discussions, said the Rector of St James’s, Piccadilly, the Revd Lucy Winkett. “People talked about issues like clergy couples and flexible working, and the impact on a priest’s vocation ”” all issues that have been highlighted by the ordination of women….

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Women

Walter Russell Mead–The World Financial System is in Real Danger

There are many more reasons for concern. The continuing inability of Europe to cope with the euro troubles, the political impasse over economic policy in the United States, and the deer-in-the-headlights immobility of Japan do not inspire confidence. The emerging economies ”” China, India, Turkey and Brazil ”” face increased difficulties of their own and will not pull the global economy out of the dumps. That large corporations are sitting on cash hoards or buying back stock rather than making new investments is bad news; that consumers are cutting down debt and doing what they can to increase their savings is good news for the long term, but bad news now. And it seems clear that two years of frantic efforts in Washington have failed to breathe new life into the nation’s housing market….

Global economic events are moving so rapidly that we have no way of foreseeing the economic environment for next year. It will probably not be very good, but how bad it will be and how it will look to voters cannot yet be foretold.

More to the point, we need policy discussions more than we need political ones. This is not just about how big the deficit should be; it is about whether the international financial system will survive the next six months in the form we now know it. It is about whether the foundations of the postwar order are cracking in Europe.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Euro, Europe, European Central Bank, Federal Reserve, G20, Globalization, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Stock Market, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The U.S. Government

(WSJ) David Reilly–The lunacy of pension funds continuing to believe in 8% Annual returns

Stocks are getting pummeled as the prospect of a global slowdown increases. The S&P 500 is now down more than 10% year-to-date. Meanwhile, already superlow bond yields are getting even lower, thanks to the Federal Reserve’s latest extraordinary easing action. The 30-year U.S. Treasury bond at one point on Thursday yielded less than 2.8%.

That is the kind of one-two punch that will worsen pension deficits while also making the contributions required to fill holes even bigger. This could crimp earnings and cash flow at some publicly traded companies while putting already strained state and local-government plans under even greater pressure. In turn, this could be another weight on markets and add to further economic uncertainty.

And, if nothing else, the market’s current malaise again highlights the lunacy of both public and private pension funds continuing to believe on average that they can generate annual returns of 8%.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Economy, Pensions, Personal Finance, Psychology, Stock Market, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

(NPR) Shel Silverstein's Poems Live On In 'Every Thing'

When Shel Silverstein wrote the poem “Years From Now,” he seemed to know that one day he’d be gone but that his playful words and images would still be making children happy. “I cannot see your face,” he writes to his young readers, but in “some far-off place,” he assures them, “I hear you laughing ”” and I smile.”

The beloved children’s poet and illustrator died in 1999 at age 68. “Years From Now” is one of the poems in a new book called Every Thing On It that has just been released by Silverstein’s family. If you liked Silverstein’s other books, such as Light in the Attic and Where the Sidewalk Ends, you’ll recognize poems ”” like “Frightened” ”” as vintage Shel:

“There are kids underneath my bed,”
Cried little baby monster Fred.
Momma monster smiled. “Oh, Fred,
There’s no such things as kids,” she said.

Read or listen to it all (audio highly recommended since it includes children reading some of the poems).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Books, Poetry & Literature

A Prayer to Begin the Day

O Lord Christ, by whose single death upon the cross the members of thy body also die to servitude and sin: Grant us so to crucify the old man, that the new may daily rise with thee in the immortal power of thy free Spirit, who liveth and reigneth with the Father and thee, one God, world without end.

–Eric Milner-White (1884-1963)

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

From the Morning Bible Readings

“And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our debts, As we also have forgiven our debtors; And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

–Matthew 6:7-15

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Pakistan’s Spy Agency Is Tied to Attack on U.S. Embassy

The nation’s top military official said Thursday that Pakistan’s spy agency played a direct role in supporting the insurgents who carried out the deadly attack on the American Embassy in Kabul last week. It was the most serious charge that the United States has leveled against Pakistan in the decade that America has been at war in Afghanistan.

In comments that were the first to directly link the spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, with an assault on the United States, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, went further than any other American official in blaming the ISI for undermining the American effort in Afghanistan. His remarks were certain to further fray America’s shaky relationship with Pakistan, a nominal ally.

Read it all.

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

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard–Global Economic Fear gauge enters the red zone

Key indicators of credit stress have reached the danger levels seen before the Lehman Brothers failure three years ago, with Markit’s iTraxx Crossover index ”“ or “fear gauge” ”“ of corporate bonds surging 56 basis points to 857 on Thursday….

The yield spread between Italian 10-year bonds and Bunds reached a fresh record of 408 basis points before the European Central Bank (ECB) intervened in late trading. It is near the level at which LCH.Clearnet raises margin requirements, the trigger that forced Greece, Portugal and Ireland to request bail-outs.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, England / UK, Euro, Europe, European Central Bank, France, G20, Germany, Globalization, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

(NPR) The Federal Reserve's 'Twist' Not Enough To Keep Markets Happy

“The storyline is that global growth is decelerating,” Mike Ryan, chief investment strategist at UBS Wealth Management Americas, told Bloomberg. “Financial stresses are rising and policymakers are finding few viable options to stabilize the real economy.”

That leaves [Ben] Bernanke and company in a bind.

“The Fed can only do so much,” Greg McBride of the financial website Bankrate.com, told NPR’s Scott Horsley. “Their most effective tools are things that they have used up already. At this point, they’ve got a few options left, but none of them is a surefire way to either jump-start the economy or get people to borrow or get banks to lend. There’s still a demand problem. And that is not something that the Fed alone can fix.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Federal Reserve, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Stock Market, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The U.S. Government