Daily Archives: February 10, 2008

In manga Bible, the tough guy is Jesus

Ajinbayo Akinsiku wants the world to know Jesus Christ – just not the gentle, blue-eyed Christ of old Hollywood movies and many illustrated Bibles.

Akinsiku says his Son of God is “a samurai stranger who’s come to town, in silhouette,” here to shake things up in a new, much-abridged version of the Bible rooted in manga, the Japanese form of graphic novels.

“We present things in a very brazen way,” said Akinsiku, who hopes to become an Anglican priest and who is the author of “The Manga Bible: From Genesis to Revelation.” “Christ is a hard guy, seeking revolution and revolt, a tough guy.”

Publishers with an eye for evangelism and for markets have long profited by directing Bibles at niche markets: just-married couples, teenage boys, teenage girls, recovering addicts. Often the lure is cosmetic, like a jazzy new cover.

Sales of graphic novels, too, have grown by double digits in recent years. So it makes sense that a convergence is under way, as graphic novels take up stories from the Bible, often in startling ways. In the last year, several major religious and secular publishing houses have announced or released manga religious stories.

The medium shapes the message. Manga often focuses on action and epic. Much of the Bible, as a result, ends up on the cutting room floor, and what remains is darker.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Morning Worship in the Hinterlands

When I visit Dad I worship at Church of the Cross in Ticonderoga, New York. It snowed all night and is still snowing presently so the drive from Silver Bay to Ticonderoga was quite treacherous, even on the ploughed roads. There is maybe 1 to 1 /2 feet of snow on the ground; it is a beautiful winter wonderland. During worship the snow came off the roof and spilled onto the parish walkway so the rector, Marjorie Floor, announced that unless one wanted to go through a lot of snow to get to the parish hall the best means available was through the main worship area–KSH.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * By Kendall, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Parish Ministry, TEC Parishes

Brits at Their Best: Anglican Church needs a refresher course in Christianity

Making things even worse by indicating they have no understanding of Christianity and its relationship to Britain’s common law, the Anglican Church stepped in to defend the Archbishop of Canterbury after he faced fresh criticism from MPs, Muslim leaders and rights activists over his comments that the adoption of parts of sharia law in Britain was “unavoidable”.

Dr Williams has “sought to carefully explore the limits of a unitary and secular legal system in the presence of an increasingly plural society”, said the Church in a memorandum to MPs.

Common law is indeed unitary, that is, it is one body of law for all, whether they are Christians, the adherents of another faith, or non-believers, but it is not a “secular” law. It was founded on Judaeo-Christian principles and created by Christians for practical and spiritual reasons.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

Reaction in quotes: Sharia law row

There has been a mixed reaction to Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams’ comments about adopting Sharia law in Britain from politicians, spiritual and cultural figures in the United Kingdom.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, England / UK, Islam, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

Understanding the Gospel According to Huckabee

If you heard Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee’s victory speech on Super Tuesday, you may have noticed him speaking in what is almost a separate dialect. Some listeners have even asked us what he was talking about. So NPR headed off to the National Mall in search of people who understood Huckabee’s biblical allusions.

It proved almost as hard as getting a camel through the eye of a needle.

We started by recounting this story: In November, as Huckabee surged in the polls, a student at Liberty University asked him what was driving his startling success. Huckabee responded, “It’s the same power that helped a little boy with two fish and five loaves feed a crowd of 5,000 people.”

We played the tape for Leitha Anthony, who was waiting to go into the Washington Monument. Did she know what he was talking about?

“That’s when Moses … had to feed all the people, the multitude of people that left Egypt,” Anthony hazarded. “That’s what it was?”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture, US Presidential Election 2008

Some Pittsburgh Episcopal lay leaders support break from church

Nearly 100 leading laity in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh have signed an open letter expressing their “strong support for the godly direction” of Bishop Robert W. Duncan Jr. in removing the diocese from the national church and realigning it with a more biblically conservative province of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

The letter, the idea of Edith M. Humphrey, a professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, and Leslie Thyberg, chair of the diocese’s board of examining chaplains, was written in response to a separate letter last month by 12 conservative clergy who broke with the bishop in declaring their intention to remain in the Episcopal Church.

“We were just talking about the letter that the 12 clergy had written openly to the diocese and we were concerned that people might not understand the whole story,” said Dr. Humphrey, a member of the Church of the Ascension in Oakland.

Read it all.

Posted in Uncategorized

Transcript reveals details of French trader's actions

A transcript of conversations between Jérôme Kerviel, the trader whom Société Générale says cost it nearly 5 billion euros ($7.2 billion), and a broker at one of the bank’s subsidiaries suggests that the second man had an intimate knowledge of Kerviel’s surreptitious trading and that Kerviel was well aware of the gravity of his actions.

The correspondence took place in instant messages sent on the Reuters system from October 2007 to January. The messages add to pressure on Société Générale to explain how Kerviel could have engaged in the furtive trades alone. They also show a side of Kerviel that was alternatively fearful and boastful.

The second man, Moussa Bakir, a 32-year-old broker at Newedge, Société Générale’s futures brokerage previously known as Fimat, was released after 48 hours of questioning by the French financial police.

Bakir faces further questioning in the case, French officials said on Saturday. Judges named Bakir as a person of interest to the investigation, a status between a formal suspect and an ordinary witness.

In excerpts of the exchange, first published on the Web site of the French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur on Saturday and confirmed by a person with knowledge of the investigation, Kerviel and Bakir tried to calm each other and made jokes about going to prison.

Read it ll.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Economy, Europe, Stock Market

Court: Nebraska Electric Chair Not Legal

The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled Friday that electrocution is cruel and unusual punishment, outlawing the electric chair in the only state that still used it as its sole means of execution.

In the landmark ruling, the court said the state Legislature may vote to have a death penalty, just not one that offends rights under the state constitution. The evidence shows that electrocution inflicts “intense pain and agonizing suffering,” it said.

“Condemned prisoners must not be tortured to death, regardless of their crimes,” Judge William Connolly wrote in the 6-1 opinion.

“Contrary to the State’s argument, there is abundant evidence that prisoners sometimes will retain enough brain functioning to consciously suffer the torture high voltage electric current inflicts on a human body,” Connolly wrote.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Capital Punishment

Irwin Stelzer–American voters must choose: more benefits or more defence

Healthcare remains another important point of difference. And here we have a three-way split. McCain would attempt to bring down costs and make insurance more affordable by stimulating competition and cracking down on the big pharmaceutical companies that he believes overcharge patients. Obama has some as-yet-unspecified plan to make insurance more accessible to those who want it. Clinton, clinging to the approach that proved politically disastrous when she headed her husband’s healthcare taskforce, would make insurance compulsory, even for young workers who neither need nor want it, and deduct the cost from their pay cheques if necessary.

Enough detail to make the broad point. This is one of the few elections that create for Americans what Ronald Reagan once called a time for choosing. In 1932 we elected Franklin Roosevelt and put paid to the notion that “that government is best which governs least”. In 1980 we elected Reagan, a Roosevelt-Democrat turned Republican, and put paid to the conservative war against Roosevelt’s New Deal.

This year we will have to choose between a man who is confident that America can ”“ indeed, must ”“ play a leading role in maintaining world order, even at the expense of domestic spending, and a man or woman who believes that America must concentrate its resources on the home front, while relying more on international institutions to keep the world’s democracies safe from its enemies. Little wonder that this American election has attracted so much attention in Britain and around the world. What happens in America won’t stay in America.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Foreign Relations, Iraq War, US Presidential Election 2008

A Posthumous Blogger

Watch it all from NBC.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Blogging & the Internet

Christians Wrong About Heaven, Says Bishop

I’ve often heard people say, “I’m going to heaven soon, and I won’t need this stupid body there, thank goodness.’ That’s a very damaging distortion, all the more so for being unintentional.

TIME: How so? It seems like a typical sentiment.

[Bishop of Durham Tom] Wright: There are several important respects in which it’s unsupported by the New Testament. First, the timing. In the Bible we are told that you die, and enter an intermediate state. St. Paul is very clear that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead already, but that nobody else has yet. Secondly, our physical state. The New Testament says that when Christ does return, the dead will experience a whole new life: not just our soul, but our bodies. And finally, the location. At no point do the resurrection narratives in the four Gospels say, “Jesus has been raised, therefore we are all going to heaven.” It says that Christ is coming here, to join together the heavens and the Earth in an act of new creation.

TIME: Is there anything more in the Bible about the period between death and the resurrection of the dead?

Wright: We know that we will be with God and with Christ, resting and being refreshed. Paul writes that it will be conscious, but compared with being bodily alive, it will be like being asleep. The Wisdom of Solomon, a Jewish text from about the same time as Jesus, says “the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,” and that seems like a poetic way to put the Christian understanding, as well.

TIME: But it’s not where the real action is, so to speak?

Wright: No. Our culture is very interested in life after death, but the New Testament is much more interested in what I’ve called the life after life after death ”” in the ultimate resurrection into the new heavens and the new Earth.

Read it all.

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

Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali: English Law and the Sharia

English law is rooted in the Judaeo-Christian tradition and, in particular, our notions of human freedoms derive from that tradition. In my view, it would be simply impossible to introduce a tradition, like Sharia, into this corpus without fundamentally affecting its integrity.

The Sharia is not a generalised collection of dispositions. It is articulated in highly concrete codes called fiqh. It would have to be one or the other, or all, of these which would have to be recognised. All of these schools would be in tension with the English legal tradition on questions like monogamy, provisions for divorce, the rights of women, custody of children, laws of inheritance and of evidence. This is not to mention the relation of freedom to belief and of expression to provisions for blasphemy and apostasy.

We should learn from the debate on this question which recently took place in Canada. Here it was mainly Muslim women’s group that succeeded in preventing the application of Islamic law in matrimonial matters. The importance of a single law for all was strongly re-affirmed.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Islam, Other Faiths

From the Sunday Telegraph: Sharia law may result in 'legal apartheid'

Senior religious leaders attack multiculturalism and sharia law today, warning that they are “disastrous”, socially divisive and are destroying Britain’s culture and values.

Lord Carey and Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor rebut the call of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, for Islamic law to be recognised in Britain.

Lord Carey, the former archbishop of Canterbury, said: “His acceptance of some Muslim laws within British law would be disastrous for the nation. He has overstated the case for accommodating Islamic legal codes.

“His conclusion that Britain will eventually have to concede some place in law for aspects of sharia is a view I cannot share.

“There can be no exceptions to the laws of our land which have been so painfully honed by the struggle for democracy and human rights.”

Read it all and follow all the links and read them also.

While I am going to post some stories on the Rowan Williams-Sharia Law flap, I am seeking to avoid letting it become the entire focus of the blog. A news search right now turns up over 1000 stories, for example, and a look at the givesover 3200 entires.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, England / UK, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

AP: Obama Leads Clinton by Only 2 Delegates

Three days after the voting ended, the race for Democratic delegates in Super Tuesday’s contests was still too close to call. With nearly 1,600 delegates from Tuesday contests awarded, Sen. Barack Obama led by two delegates Friday night, with 91 delegates still to be awarded. Obama won 796 delegates in Tuesday’s contests, to 794 for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, according to an analysis of voting results by The Associated Press.
In the Republican contest, Sen. John McCain had a commanding lead in the race for delegates.

Nearly a third of the outstanding delegates are from Colorado, a state where Obama won the popular vote. California, a state that Clinton carried, had 20 Democratic delegates still to be awarded. Neither state expected to have complete results before next week.

Obama won the popular vote in 13 states Tuesday, while Clinton won in eight states and American Samoa.

In the overall race for the nomination, Clinton has 1,055 delegates, including separately chosen party and elected officials known as superdelegates. Obama has 998.

A total of 2,025 delegates are need to secure the Democratic nomination.

Read it all. I see on Intrade that Mr. Obama is at 59.2 and Mrs. Clinton is at 38.7.

Posted in Uncategorized

Pictures of our Youngest Child Competing on her Horse

Here is one picture as a sample.

If you wish to see more go to this website. Then click on 2008- February 2&3 USEA Horse Trial (top left). Look for Selimah Harmon’s name (alphabetical–right column). When you get to the set of pictures her pictures actually begin at about number 7.

Posted in * By Kendall, * Culture-Watch, Sports

On a personal Note

I am up at Lake George visiting my Dad. It is snowing outside and beautiful–KSH.

Posted in * By Kendall

Bishop Ingham discusses issues facing the diocese

The Bishop stressed that Anglicans belong to a diocesan Church. Dioceses establish parishes””and not the other way round. There is no legal precedent which would allow members of a congregation who choose to leave the diocese and the Anglican Church of Canada to take parish lands, building, or other assets with them.

In November, the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone indicated it would accept as members Canadian Anglican churches that are in theological dispute with their bishops and dioceses.

A group of parishes forming the “Anglican Network in Canada” have indicated that if their membership agrees, they would attempt to leave the diocese and join this foreign province, based in South America. Four parishes in the Diocese of New Westminster are listed on the Anglican Network’s website as member parishes.

Bishop Ingham told the group that met at Christ Church Cathedral, where the taping took place, that there is sincere disagreement as to what the few passages in the Bible say about such things as homosexuality.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Provinces

The Economist: A row in Britain after an Archbishop says that Muslims live in part by Sharia

“What a burkha” declared the Sun newspaper, alongside a picture of a head-covered figure making a rude gesture. To judge by the tone of the British press (and not only the tabloid press), the Archbishop””who is also the leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, numbering 80m people””might have been advocating the mandatory covering of every female British head, plus the instant introduction of amputation, whipping and stoning for the most trivial misdemeanours.

In fact, of course, he said nothing of the kind. But what he did advocate was not uncontroversial: he suggested there could be a “plural jurisdiction” in which Muslims could freely decide whether disputes (in which only co-religionists were involved) were resolved in secular courts or by Islamic institutions which offer an alternative forum for arbitration.

As long as the decision to seek, and abide by, a form of arbitration is freely made, it is hard to see how any secular legal system could actually ban people from using it. But the extent to which state law can recognise and “use” decisions made by such private arbitration services is a difficult grey area. And perhaps””to interpret the Archbishop charitably””he was merely pointing out that such difficulties are bound to grow.

In any case, for those who are already making political capital by playing on people’s fears of multi-culturalism, the speech by the Archbishop was a gift And for some of the people who are concerned to defend the cultural rights of Muslims, both the speech and the reaction it prompted were an embarrassment, to put it mildly.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Archbishop of Canterbury, England / UK, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

After split in Michigan, Anglican church finds its way

“A lot of people felt that we were the splinter group. We feel that the Episcopal church left us,” said Finola Hewitt, a member of the new Christ the King Anglican Church.

While watching the congregation at Christ the King, one could hardly suspect the roiling tensions, defections and splintering factions within the Episcopal church.
Like a lightning-struck tree, the international Anglican church, which the Episcopals are part of, is splitting into irreconcilable branches.

“We’re not looking much toward the Western church for leadership,” Dalton said. “We’re looking to the third world.”

The small Christ the King church, along with about a dozen others in Michigan, is part of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, which defected from the Episcopal church to join with the church of Nigeria more than three years ago.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, CANA, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Conflicts

Anglican Group splits off St. Paul’s Episcopal church in Western Washington

The top clergy member of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church is stepping down to lead a fledging congregation of former members who feel the nationwide Episcopal Church no longer represents the core of their faith.

The Rev. Kevin Bond Allen announced late last month that he was resigning from one of the city’s largest churches to become rector of St. Brendan’s Anglican Church, a new congregation launched last fall by former St. Paul’s members.

In a letter to the congregation, Allen said he has loved his time at St. Paul’s, but his dissatisfaction with The Episcopal Church made it difficult for him to continue within the organization.

“During the last few years, our (national) Episcopal Church has continued to embrace a wide range of and often conflicting teachings regarding scriptural authority, the divinity of Christ, and affirming other religions at the price of evangelism,” Allen wrote.

“Since I do not agree with their direction,” he wrote, “my leadership as a rector would become a divisive issue rather than a reconciling blessing in future parish discussions about how we should participate with and support our diocese and national church.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Conflicts

Cardinal DiNardo to address Texas Episcopal leaders

he 159th gathering of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas will begin with a keynote address by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Galveston-Houston Catholic Archdiocese.

“It makes our hearts glad that he, the first cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church in Texas, will preach at the opening service,” said Ron Pogue of Galveston’s Trinity Episcopal Church. Pogue is one of the host pastors for the meeting.

Getting along with Catholics hasn’t always been a hallmark for Anglicans. The movement began when King Henry VIII broke with the pope in 1534 and founded The Church of England. That became the basis for the Anglican Communion, which later produced the American branch, the Episcopal Church. More recently, relations have been cordial between Windsor and Rome. And passing attempts at merging the two churches have been repeatedly floated.

The high-profile conflicts in this century are no longer between Anglicans and outsiders, but instead have come from within: between the liberal and conservative wings of the American Episcopal Church, as well as between the U.S. church and many of the other 40-plus member churches of the Anglican Communion worldwide.

During the past few years, a number of U.S. parishes have broken, or threatened to break, with their American bishops. In order to avoid leaving the Anglican movement entirely, they have chosen to report to more conservative bishops overseas.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Episcopal Church (TEC), Other Churches, Roman Catholic, TEC Diocesan Conventions/Diocesan Councils

Dwight Longenecker: The Tale of 2 Churches

The two groups are distinguished not so much by what they do, the way they worship or the causes they espouse, but by their underlying understanding of just what the Catholic Church is for.

We receive our foundational assumptions from those who first educated us.

These underlying assumptions, like the foundations of a building, are invisible yet they support everything else.

Two very different sets of underlying foundations have created the two churches within the Church. The two opposing views can be called “Happy Here” and “Happy Hereafter.” Those who hold the first believe that the point, not only of the Church but of the whole of human existence, is to produce human happiness here in this life.

The second is concerned with finding eternal happiness. According to this basic assumption, this life is a vale of tears. This mortal life is hard because it is a place to battle against sin and to produce those diamond-hard souls called saints.

Those who hold to the “happiness hereafter” viewpoint expect to sacrifice their happiness here to win happiness hereafter.

If this is your basic assumption, then your expectations for this life are realistic. You consider yourself and other people, while created in God’s good image, to also be sinners who need redemption and daily discipline. You believe in the reality of evil and consider this life to be the place and time to engage in spiritual warfare for the winning of souls.

This underlying assumption used to be the foundation belief not only of Catholics but of all who called themselves Christian.

All Christians understood life here and hereafter in this way. To do so was simply what Christianity was all about.

Unfortunately, this basic assumption has been eroded within every branch of the Christian community.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Eschatology, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Roman Catholic, Theology

From the Wall Street Journal: Mormons Dismayed by Harsh Spotlight

Soon, the Mormon Church began posting its videos on YouTube — 22 so far. One clip, for example, showed Mr. Ballard, the church apostle, answering the question “Are Mormons Christian?” It has drawn 26,000 views. By contrast, a cartoon clip from “The God Makers,” a 1980s film that mocks Mormon beliefs, has been viewed 945,000 times.

Mr. Ballard’s call for more new-media activism inspired dozens of new Web sites. On Politicalds.com, several Mormons of different political views write about the presidential race. Founder Mike Rogan, of Chandler, Ariz., says he started the blog “to combat some specific misconceptions about Mormons,” including that all Mormons are “conservatives with a mindless ‘sheep’ mentality.”

Mr. Hitchens, the best-selling author of “God is Not Great,” wrote last fall that Mr. Romney owed voters a discussion about “the mad cult” of his church. Similar commentaries inspired Ryan Bell, a Salt Lake City attorney, to start a Web site, Romney Experience.com last summer. “Every faith has wacky doctrines,” he says, adding that the press seems fixated on his faith’s more sensational side.

Mormon fury boiled over after Mr. O’Donnell’s appearance on the “McLaughlin Group,” when he called Mr. Smith a proslavery criminal and rapist. He said Mr. Romney “was” a racist because he was a member of a church that discriminated against blacks until 1978.

Mr. Bell and others responded on their Web sites that church founder Mr. Smith, who faced many charges in his turbulent life, including treason, was never convicted of any crimes. (At least one Mormon historian says he was found guilty of a misdemeanor as a minor for fraud, but others say incomplete court records make it impossible to determine.)

The allegations about blacks stung the most. Many Mormon historians say Mr. Smith welcomed blacks from the church’s inception, had ordained some blacks, and ran on an abolitionist platform for president in 1844. Blacks were barred from being church leaders, they say, by his successor, Brigham Young. Many Protestant churches, Mr. Bell pointed out, were segregated well into the 20th century. In 1978, the church lifted the ban on blacks becoming leaders.

Read it all from the front page of yesterday’s WSJ.

While I consider this an important article, I found it frustrating because it did not really plumb the depths of the source of the concern. The first, as I have said before, is not Mr. Romney’s Mormonism, but his truthfulness about it. The second, which is the most glaring failure of the article, is the issue of what Mormons actually believe (much of which remains carefully hidden in a number of instances from the public, and which was the screamingly silent omission from Mr. Romney’s Texas speech on religion and public life). This is then not about the harsh spotlight, but about legitimate scrutiny and concern which should be present in the same way for every candidate–KSH.

Update: The Deseret Morning News has a related article, “With Romney out, Utahns in quandary” which is also worth perusing and which includes the following:

Many Mormons interviewed in the past months about why they support Romney insisted his faith alone wasn’t the reason they wanted him to become president, citing everything from his family values to his ability to tackle economic issues.

“First and foremost, I support Mitt Romney because I think he’s the man with the right qualities,” said Utah Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert, who traveled to Boston to help raise money for Romney. “Secondarily, he happens to be a Mormon.”

Herbert acknowledged that he and other Mormons feel “gratitude and pride” seeing a fellow member of the faith in the national spotlight. But, the lieutenant governor said, Romney’s candidacy has also made it clear not everyone is ready for a Mormon leader.

“There is probably also a realization that Mormon bigotry is out there still in the country as we’ve seen it bubble up. There is still some work to do,” he said, to show that Mormons are “acceptable people to be your neighbors and your leaders.”

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Mormons, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, US Presidential Election 2008

The Rise of the Mortgage 'Walkers'

Now the bloom is off the residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) rose. And some borrowers, even those who can theoretically afford to keep their homes, realize they owe much more than what comparable houses in the neighborhood are selling for — and think that prices won’t rebound anytime soon. So they’re walking away, according to anecdotal reports as well as recent statements by top executives of both Wachovia and Bank of America.

In most cases, once a homebuyer splits, the mortgage-securities investors are stuck with the loss. In some states, including California and Arizona, this provision is the letter of the law. In others, the bank forgives the balance of the loan — a common practice that’s unlikely to change now, given the criminal and civil investigations banks are already sweating through.

Essentially, mortgage-bond investors, seemingly unwittingly, sold homebuyers a put option, without properly pricing it, and now homeowners are exercising that option. Moreover, prime borrowers in many markets face the same incentives.

Yes, this behavior is new — but only when it comes to houses. Americans have long been able to cut their losses from bad investments and start over. It stands to reason that when the market made houses into yet another speculative investment, Americans would do the same.

Borrowers acted rationally in response to market forces and incentives during the bubble: Buy a house because prices always go up; you can’t lose. Many are acting rationally now: Mail the keys back and un-borrow the money, because prices are sinking fast while the debt isn’t. When the house was purchased not as a first home but as a rental investment, the decision is even easier.

Imagine: Politicians keep saying that Americans need protection from their big, bad lenders — but that protection is already there.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market

Iam Kershaw: How Democracy Produced a Monster

Could something like it happen again? That is invariably the first question that comes to mind when recalling that Hitler was given power in Germany 75 years ago last week. With the world now facing such great tensions and instability, the question seems more obvious than ever.

Hitler came to power in a democracy with a highly liberal Constitution, and in part by using democratic freedoms to undermine and then destroy democracy itself. That democracy, established in 1919, was a product of defeat in world war and revolution and was never accepted by most of the German elites, notably the military, large landholders and big industry.

Troubled by irreconcilable political, social and cultural divisions from the beginning, the new democracy survived serious threats to its existence in the early postwar years and found a semblance of stability from 1924 to 1928, only to be submerged by the collapse of the economy after the Wall Street crash of 1929.

The Nazis’ spectacular surge in popular support (2.6 percent of the vote in the 1928 legislative elections, 18.3 percent in 1930, 37.4 percent in July 1932) reflected the anger, frustration and resentment ”” but also hope ”” that Hitler was able to tap among millions of Germans. Democracy had failed them, they felt. Their country was divided, impoverished and humiliated. Scapegoats were needed.

It was easy to turn hatred against Jews, who could be made to represent the imagined external threat to Germany by both international capitalism and Bolshevism. Internally, Jews were associated with the political left ”” Socialist and Communist ”” which was made responsible by Hitler and his followers for Germany’s plight.

Read the whole opinion piece from last weekend.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Europe, Judaism, Other Faiths, Politics in General

Notable and Quotable

This is the new America, Southern California’s affordable edge city, drowning in a sea of debt. In the Inland Empire, the eastern-most suburbs of Los Angeles, one out of every 43 households is facing foreclosure proceedings.

Peek behind the palm trees and there you see the most shocking sight: abandoned swimming pools, fetid and green, left to the elements and choked with algae. Thousands of people have walked away without even draining the water. Mosquito control agents now patrol these murky pools, treating them with pesticides to keep disease-carrying larvae from forming.

“With the skyrocketing foreclosure rate, the problem is compounding daily,” said Jared Dever, a spokesman for the government district that monitors insect breeding grounds. He said about 2,000 abandoned swimming pools would have to be treated in just one part of Riverside County.

The new year dawned with banks set to repossess more homes than any time since the Great Depression ”“ about 2 million residences, according to various forecasts.

Is this the image of our consumptive age: the empty swimming pools of Riverside County? The epitome of middle-class life as just another cash play? People who took out loans on houses they never could afford, hoping for a quick flip, have left this squalor under the sun to the mosquito-control agents.

Timothy Egan

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market