Daily Archives: March 15, 2009

NY Times Week in Review: Has the Economy Hit Bottom Yet?

Which leads to a question: When we do hit the bottom ”” this year or years from now ”” how will we know?

There’s no easy answer.

Mr. Galbraith was not the first or last economist to acknowledge fallibility at predicting turning points. (Just think back to assurances by top government officials in early 2007 that the growing problems with subprime mortgages were “contained.”)

Forecasting the end of the current recession is even more difficult because it will hinge on how quickly and efficiently governments resolve the crisis in the banking system. Many investors continue to worry that the world’s biggest financial institutions are insolvent, despite assurances from Washington that those firms have plenty of capital.

How political leaders diagnose and fix the banks will be critical. Analysts say misguided and erratic government responses exacerbated Japan’s “lost decade” in the 1990s and the Depression of the 1930s. “The things that can screw it up are bad policies,” said Thomas F. Cooley, dean of the Stern School of Business at New York University.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The U.S. Government, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner

Philip Ashey responds to James Jones on TEC

Clearly, Professor Jones has ignored or is somehow unaware of these facts. Otherwise he would not have complained that “some of the speakers felt that the schismatics (as I think of them) were being persecuted by lawsuits, and needed to be protected from the American Church.” If he knew or cared about the facts, he would have known that TEC has initiated almost 60 lawsuits against churches, clergy and individual lay leaders whose only offense has been to try and “mend the tear” in the fabric of our beloved Anglican Communion by seeking refuge in other Anglican jurisdictions. Those who have fled to other provinces of the Anglican Communion have been appealing to the rest of the Communion for protection from the American Church, and rightly so. Our office keeps track of these legal actions: they are increasing at an astonishing rate and in flagrant violation of the Primates Meeting in Dar es Salaam (2007) where the Primates demanded that TEC stop the litigation. Literally millions of dollars have been wasted by TEC in emptying church buildings-and to what end?

Professor Jones ought to know better than to claim that “the power of the executive branch (the President and the Presiding Bishop of TEC) is carefully circumscribed.” This is nonsense. Unlike the checks and balances provided in the Constitution of the United States, TEC has no independent judicial branch that can circumscribe abuses of power by bishops. For this exact reason, the Presiding Bishop of TEC has been able to flagrantly torture the plain meaning of the canons in order to unlawfully depose 12 bishops. TEC diocesan bishops have been free to do the same to their clergy, inhibiting and deposing over 108 deacons and priests. In addition, the Presiding Bishop has violated both constitution and canons in dismissing lawfully constituted Standing Committees and substituting her own, in furtherance of litigation. These facts document both the abolition of the rule of law within TEC and an imperial expansion of the Presiding Bishop’s powers.

Read it all

[i]We’ve corrected the headline. Apologies to the Rev. Ashey for not catching the misspelling sooner. — the elves[/i]

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Conflicts, TEC Polity & Canons

James Jones on TEC: Churches talking past each other

I Think that the American Church has done an embarrassingly poor job of articulating its theology. I found its response to the Windsor report (the document To Set our Hope on Christ) lacking in theological argu­ment, and have said so publicly.

The American response em­phasised the personal experiences of members of the Body of Christ in the United States, and the historical context that led to the American Church’s current position. This re­flects the nature of theological discus­sion in the United States, where ex­perience and historical context are given great weight. This is a theo­lo­gical epistem­ology that I think is quite defensible. But I think that theo­­­logical epistem­ology itself needed to be defended, and that was not done.

In addition, by putting so much emphasis there, doctrinal issues that are part of the debate ”” such as scrip­­tural authority and human nature ”” were not discussed in enough depth. Theologies of scrip­tural authority and human nature were implied, but not elaborated. The American position deserves (and can receive) a stronger theological ration­ale.

Read it all.

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

Georgians push lawmakers to take action on tax policy

Polish the pitchfork, fire up the torches, and join the revolt preparing to storm the Bastille.

That’s the impression from several corners of the state about the public’s mood. Voters already steamed about the recession, rising unemployment and corporate bailouts are growing angry about taxes, too.

News that one in 10 Georgia lawmakers is a repeat violator of tax laws has fueled a call for a rewrite of the state’s tax code. And it’s not just conservatives who feel that way.

When a series of President Barack Obama’s appointees to senior posts revealed they hadn’t paid their taxes, the anger grew. When the Georgia Department of Revenue distributed a list of outstanding taxes owed by 19 unnamed legislators, frustration boiled further.

This underlines once again the need for massive tax simplification. Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, State Government, Taxes

Pakistan protesters clash with police

Police clashed with stone-throwing protesters today as opposition politician Nawaz Sharif defied a house-arrest order and denounced what he called the government’s creation of a “police state.”

Pakistan’s burgeoning political crisis has alarmed Western governments, who fear the power struggle will sideline efforts to rein in a growing Islamic insurgency. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton separately telephoned Sharif and President Asif Ali Zardari on Saturday in an effort to calm the situation, but street violence was escalating.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Asia, Pakistan, Violence

Pittsburgh Presbyterian Leaders Keep chastity, Fidelity requirement for clergy

…A proposed agreement between the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Episcopal Church to recognize each other’s sacraments and allow case-by-case acceptance of each other’s clergy stirred debate.

Several people were concerned or confused about how it would apply locally, where there are two bodies called the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. The larger of the two is aligned with an Anglican province in South America rather than with the Episcopal Church. The Episcopal agreement passed 140-135.

Two fathers of gay men spoke on opposite sides of the chastity and fidelity amendment.

“The current ordination standard cuts like a knife into the heart of what many presbytery members believe about their friends and family members who are gay,” said Mike Fazzini, an elder at Fox Chapel Presbyterian Church. “It sends my son the message that he is not worthy … because the love of his life happens to be of the same sex.”

Thomas Fox, an elder from Lebanon Presbyterian Church in West Mifflin, said one of his sons was gay and had died of AIDS.

“My son Don was a very loving son and I miss him greatly,” he said. “However, he chose to live a life of sin … I would not have recommended him for a position of leadership in the church.”

Read it all.

Posted in Uncategorized

They're trained for war . . . and Wall Street

[John] Jones and a fellow soldier, Army Master Sgt. George Holmes, are the first two students in a six-month course designed to train seriously injured veterans for finance industry jobs. The Philadelphia brokerage firm that runs the program was founded by a wounded Vietnam veteran who believes that anyone who excels in combat can flourish in the high-pressure world of Wall Street.

The timing may not seem opportune: The financial sector is in meltdown, the stock market is volatile, layoffs are rampant, and the public backlash against Wall Street is fierce and unsparing.

So why bring wounded veterans into this cauldron?

“These are the guys who sacrificed to keep us free. If you don’t trust them, you don’t trust anybody,” said Lawrence Doll, the disabled Vietnam veteran who started the Drexel Hamilton brokerage.

Read it all and do not miss the picture.

Posted in Uncategorized

College of Charleston baseball player passes on pro career to serve in ministry

Clay Caulfield balanced a worn Bible in his lap as he grasped the outstretched hands of fellow worshippers in the cramped church office. His eyes closed tight, he bowed his head in prayer, his words spilling forth in a fervent stream.

“We pray for your guidance, God, as you change us and make us grow,” Caulfield said to a chorus of “Amens.”

This time last year, the tall, toned 23-year-old would have been on the mound, pitching for the College of Charleston Cougars. Those days are behind him.

Just weeks after being drafted by the New York Yankees last June, the hard-throwing right-hander decided to hang up his cleats and pursue a higher calling: working as a servant of God. Caulfield walked away from the Yankees, gave up his sports scholarship and hasn’t played baseball since.

Read it all from the front page of the local paper.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Sports

Religious Intelligence: New questions over 'Buddhist' bishop

On March 13, the annual convention of the Diocese of South Carolina urged Dr Forrester’s election be rejected arguing it was not “confident that this is someone who will preach and uphold the apostolic Trinitarian Faith.”

South Carolina urged the “Bishops and Standing Committees of all other Episcopal Dioceses,” a majority of whom must affirm the Northern Michigan election, “carefully and thoroughly to study especially those writings, statements, and sermons of the Reverend Kevin Thew Forester pertaining to the Doctrine of the Trinity and the nature of God.”

The Executive Board of the Diocese of Dallas on March 10 questioned the legality of the election, saying no valid election had been held.

In planning the election Northern Michigan said its new bishop would not be given the authority of a traditional bishop, but would be part of a 12-person Episcopal Ministry Support Team (EMST). “While the Bishop will carry out the roles designated by the Constitution and Canons such as ordination, confirmation, and attendance at the House of Bishops, other “episcopal/ apostolic/ oversight” roles will be fulfilled by members of the [EMST],” the discernment committee said.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Northern Michigan, Theology

Vicky Evans: Is ideology trumping science and money?

On March 9, President Obama signed an executive order lifting restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. This is not surprising. It was a campaign promise. What is surprising is that, at the very time the federal government is throwing its full faith and credit behind experimentation on human embryos, science appears to have progressed away from embryonic stem cell research, leaving the government – and politicians – in the dust.

Whatever you thought about the Bush Administration’s limitations on funding for embryonic stem cell research, that policy decision had the effect of promoting scientific research on alternative and ethical sources for stem cells. It is likely that these avenues of research would not have been pursued if all available funds had been channeled into embryo research. These avenues have been among the most successful in developing the promised cures that embryonic stem cells have failed to even begin to achieve. The most notable ethical stem cell advancements have taken place on three fronts.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Science & Technology

John Norton: True scientific integrity

The president fails to understand that “scientific integrity” does not exist in a vacuum; it must always answer to the demands of ethics. Science is not free to pursue what it is able to do; it must be limited by what it should do in an ethical world that seeks to protect every individual as well as benefit the whole of humanity. .

The cold calculus behind embryonic stem-cell research frankly frightens us. If it is OK to “derive” stem cells from the living bodies of human embryos, causing the destruction of those innocent human lives, what does that say but that some lives have more value than others? That we may sacrifice some human lives for the benefit of others?

Don’t fool yourself. Someday you’ll be sick and weak, aged and infirm. A society that places no value on intrinsic human value is no place you’ll want to live — or eventually be allowed to.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Health & Medicine, Life Ethics, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Science & Technology

Religion and Ethics Weekly: Stem Cell Dilemmas

DAVID MASCI (Senior Fellow, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life): Well, there are a range of different opinions in the American religious community. Jewish denominations and mainline Protestant churches, particularly more liberal mainline Protestant churches, support embryonic stem cell research. They say that embryos have intrinsic value and worth, but the incredible possibilities that stem cell research offer ”” cures for cancer and things like that ””outweigh those concerns and considerations. On the other side, you have the Roman Catholic Church and you have more evangelical Protestant churches like the Southern Baptist Convention or the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church. These churches oppose embryonic stem cell research. They say an embryo was a person and a person has the right to life and you can’t take that life away, even for the best of reasons.

[KIM] LAWTON: What about the people in the pews? Do they agree with the leadership of these institutions?

Mr. MASCI: White evangelical Protestants tend to support their churches’ positions on this, only 31 percent of evangelicals support embryonic stem cell research, so a substantial majority say no, we don’t want embryonic stem cell research. With Catholics it’s the other way around. Fifty-nine percent of American Catholics support embryonic stem cell research, which of course goes exactly against what the Church’s leadership is saying. Now when you ask Catholics who attend Mass regularly, weekly, whether they support embryonic stem cell research, that number drops to 46 percent. So people actually in the pews, people who are attending Roman Catholic services, they do ”” they are more likely to support their leadership’s views on this than Catholics as a whole.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Health & Medicine, Life Ethics, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

The Economist: The jobs crisis

Nothing evokes the misery of mass unemployment more than the photographs of the Depression. You can see it in the drawn faces of the men, in their shabby clothes, in their eyes. Their despair spawned political extremism that left a stain on society; but it also taught subsequent generations that public policy has a vital part in alleviating the suffering of those who cannot get work. Thanks to welfare schemes and unemployment benefits, many of which have their origins in those dark days, joblessness no longer plunges people into destitution, at least in the developed world.

Not even the gloomiest predict that today’s slump will approach the severity of the Depression, which shrank America’s economy by more than a quarter, and put a quarter of the working-age population out of a job. But with the world in its deepest recession since the 1930s and global trade shrinking at its fastest pace in 80 years, the misery of mass unemployment looms nonetheless, and raises the big question posed in the Depression: what should governments do?

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Globalization, Politics in General, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

William Rhoden: A Reminder of Why the Game Matters

There are moments in time, moments in sports that we never forget. Moments emblazoned on our hearts and on the consciousness of a community.

For fans who were at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night/Friday morning, the quarterfinal classic between Syracuse and Connecticut was one of those moments. Syracuse prevailed, 127-117, in the longest Big East tournament game ever played and one of the longest college games ever played: a six-overtime marathon.

This was not a classic case of execution ”” five players missed an opportunity to hit a game-winning shot ”” and in terms of an N.C.A.A. tournament berth there really wasn’t much on the line for either team. Instead, it was the game itself, an exhibition of will, emotion and fortitude, that gave the matchup meaning. It reminded us why we continue ”” despite scandals and hypocrisy that so often occupy our attention in sports ”” to embrace games.

Whether it’s Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer playing the Wimbledon final at dusk last summer or the Immaculate Reception by the Steelers’ Franco Harris in 1972, memorialized by a statue of Harris at the Pittsburgh airport, there are unforgettable moments that lift the spirit.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Sports

Why March Madness is so Irresistible and Exciting

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Sports

In rural South Carolina, jobs and hope fade

On most days, freight trains rumble past vacant storefronts in the center of town, seldom ever stopping anymore. The rail spurs leading to a shuttered grain elevator are brown with rust, the buildings closed off by a chain-link fence.

Along nearby U.S. Highway 301, the gutted remains of a half-dozen motels recall the days four decades ago when 17 million motorists passed through each year on their way to Florida. That ended when Interstate 95 opened to the east, bypassing Allendale altogether.

Allendale has been suffering for a long time, but now the recession has worsened its woes, and the town – with a crippling 23.4 percent unemployment rate – stands as perhaps the most distressed spot in one of the most distressed states in America. South Carolina’s jobless rate is 10.4 percent, second only to Michigan’s 11.6 percent.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina

Uncommon Female Chaplains Serve Country, Creator

It sounds like the start of a joke.

Four female ministers – an Episcopalian, a Unitarian Universalist, a Southern Baptist and an African Methodist Episcopal ”“ all join the military ”¦.

But there’s no punch line here, just four strong-willed pioneers working in a career field with few others of the female persuasion.

Read the whole article.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Military / Armed Forces, Religion & Culture

Weary of Looking for Work, Some Create Their Own

Alex Andon, 24, a graduate of Duke University in biology, was laid off from a biotech company last May. For months he sought new work. Then, frustrated with the hunt, he turned to jellyfish.

In an apartment he shares here with six roommates, Mr. Andon started a business in September building jellyfish aquariums, capitalizing on new technology that helps the fragile creatures survive in captivity. He has sold three tanks, one for $25,000 to a restaurant, and is starting a Web site to sell desktop versions for $350.

“I keep getting stung,” he said. And his crowded home office is filled with beakers and test tubes of jellyfish food. “But it beats looking for work. I hate looking for work.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market

Peter Steinfels: In Stem Cell Debate, Moral Suasion Comes Up Short

Almost no one was surprised this week when President Obama lifted restrictions on stem cell research that involved the destruction of human embryos. Even jaded Washington watchers are adjusting to the idea that this is a president with an eerie determination to do exactly what he said he would do during his campaign.

Those who approve such research applauded Mr. Obama’s action. (“Fantastic,” said one stem cell scientist on PBS.) Those who disapprove condemned it. (“Deadly,” said an anti-abortion leader in The New York Times.) But some commentary focused at least as much on the nature of the president’s moral argument as on the specific conclusions he reached.

When it comes to the controversy over human embryonic stem cell research, moral argument has not been much in evidence. The president spoke of a popular consensus in favor of it reached “after much discussion, debate and reflection.” That is a kindly description of the hype, exaggeration and denunciation that have dominated the controversy.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

Pope to make historic visit to Britain

The German pontiff will make the first Papal visit to …[England] in nearly three decades.

It is understood that the historic event is being timed to coincide with the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman, who is on the path to becoming the first British saint for 40 years.

Details of the visit, which will attract crowds of hundreds of thousands of people, are still under discussion, but cities being considered include London, Birmingham, Oxford, Edinburgh, Armagh and Dublin.

Read it all.

Posted in * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, England / UK, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic

Nearly a year later, Obamas still looking for a church home

Nearly a year after a painful break from his Chicago church, President Barack Obama and his family are considering joining several churches of various denominations in the nation’s capital but have yet to settle on one, and aides said that they’re unlikely to decide before Easter.

The delay reflects how the economic crisis has crowded out some personal considerations since Obama’s inauguration in January, but it also underscores the complexities of this personal decision by a public man.

Past presidents have grappled with how and where to worship, but Obama’s pick is especially guaranteed to provoke interest and scrutiny.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Religion & Culture