Thursday, September 29, 2005

Iowa $180 million rain forest

If it wasn't so disturbingly true, I'd give this a big "Heh" in the fashion of Instapundit.

Would Jesus take money for a parking garage? :: BillHobbs

A wealthy private Christian university really ought not to be asking taxpayers to fund its parking garage. Lipscomb is currently in the middle of one of those alumni giving drives. I received the pledge/donations mailer just the other day. Until Lipscomb returns the $3 million, or donates it to hurricane relief, I won't be donating another dime to the school - and I'll be urging other alumni to take the same stand.

Episcopal sect proposes reunion with Rome :: keepMEcurrent


The sect, called the Anglican Church in America, is part of a worldwide group of conservative churches that split from the mainstream Anglican Communion in 1979, opposing the ordination of women clergy and changes to the Book of Common Prayer, which catalogues the church’s basic doctrines and prayers.

The Anglican Communion has its roots in the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, which resulted in several religious groups separating from the Roman Catholic Church for theological and political reasons. In the U.S., most Anglican churches go by the name “Episcopal” while retaining their ties to the English church, led by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Some churches, including St. Paul’s Cathedral in Portland, split from the mainstream Episcopal Church USA and joined a more conservative group, the Anglican Church in America.
. . .
Traditional Anglican Communion leaders have been discussing unifying with Rome for the past few years, according to York. These discussions have included former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who is now Pope Benedict XVI.

By next year Traditional Anglican leaders hope to propose a formal plan to the Vatican outlining how intercommunion may be accomplished. It is unclear how long this process will take, as it has never been attempted by churches that descended from the Reformation.

Episcopal churches file civil lawsuit against Ct. bishop :: Boston Globe

September 28, 2005

HARTFORD, Conn. --Six Episcopal parishes at the center of a dispute over gay clergy filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday alleging that their civil rights have been violated by Connecticut's bishop, the head of the U.S. Episcopal Church and others.
. . .
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit include the six parishes, their leadership and five of the six priests. The only priest not named is the Rev. Mark Hansen of St. John's Church in Bristol, whom Smith "inhibited," or suspended, in July. Cynthia Brust, a spokeswoman for the six priests, said she did not know why Hansen is not a plaintiff.

The lawsuit also names Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, alleging that the state has entangled itself in the dispute because state law requires Episcopal parishes to operate under the rules of the Connecticut diocese.

"The Episcopal Church has been given special status that other denominations are not given," Brust said. "In some ways, when Bishop Smith acts, he's basically representing the government." But Blumenthal said the state is not involved. "We have no idea what factual or legal basis there could be for naming the attorney general of the state," Blumenthal said. "Neither I nor my office has played any role whatsoever in this ongoing controversy which seems to be an internal religious dispute."

The wide-ranging 67-page lawsuit alleges that the six priests threatened with suspension were fraudulently charged with abandoning communion and denied due process because they were not tried in religious courts.

The plaintiffs also contend that the diocesan officials violated state law when they took over St. John's Church in July and appointed a priest to fill in for Hansen. Diocesan officials said Hansen was suspended for six months because he took an unauthorized sabbatical and St. John's had stopped making payments on a loan for its building. Hansen maintains that he notified Smith about his plans.

The lawsuit also names Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, head of the New York-based U.S. Episcopal Church, alleging that he provided Smith with resources and support and failed to act when the six priests asked him to intervene.
Hmmm. Wide ranging indeed. And if you got your trial in the religious court would you recognize its decision if you disliked it? Or would you claim it too is an arm of the government?

Actually, I am intrigued by the special status argument. My uninformed conjecture, though, is that the peculiar ownership and authority structure of the Episcopal Church is open for any denomination to adopt under state law. The Episcopal Church is not given special status. What seems to be the case is that - the recent California case being an exception - the ownership and authority structure of the Episcopal Church is enforceable.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Louisiana's Looters :: WaPo

The mainstream media has not made it widely known, but they grossly overstated the post-Katrian mayhem in Louisiana.

Or, perhaps not. The small government libertarians on the Washington Post editorial board are on to something:

The state's representatives have come up with a request for $250 billion in federal reconstruction funds for Louisiana alone -- more than $50,000 per person in the state. This money would come on top of payouts from businesses, national charities and insurers. And it would come on top of the $62.3 billion that Congress has already appropriated for emergency relief.

Like looters who seize six televisions when their homes have room for only two, the Louisiana legislators are out to grab more federal cash than they could possibly spend usefully.
. . .
The Louisiana delegation has apparently devoted little thought to the root causes of the Hurricane Katrina disaster. New Orleans was flooded not because the Army Corps of Engineers had insufficient money to build flood protections, but because its money was allocated by a system of political patronage. The smart response would be to insist that, in the future, no Corps money be wasted on unworthy projects, but the Louisiana bill instead creates a mechanism by which cost-benefit analysis can be avoided. Equally, Katrina was devastating because ill-conceived projects have drained coastal wetlands and caused their erosion, destroying a natural buffer between hurricanes and human settlements. The smart response would be to insist that future infrastructure projects be subject to careful environmental review. But the Louisiana delegation's bill would suspend the environmental review process. Rather than grappling with the lessons of Katrina, Louisiana's representatives are demanding an astonishing $40 billion worth of Corps of Engineers projects in their state. That is 16 times more than the Corps says it would need to protect New Orleans from a Category 5 hurricane.
. . .
The Louisiana bill is so preposterous that its authors can't possibly expect it to pass; it's just the first round in a process of negotiation. But the risk is that the administration and congressional leaders will accept the $250 billion as a starting point, then declare a victory for fiscal sanity when they bring the number down to, say, $150 billion.

The Washington Post and Judge Posner are in agreement. Imagine that.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

U.S. government announces a comprehensive transitional housing assistance program for Katrina evacuees

Department of Homeland Security press release:

Evacuees eligible for housing assistance through IHP will receive an initial three month rental assistance payment in the form of check or electronic fund transfer in the amount of $2,358. This initial payment is calculated based on the average fair market rent rate for a two-bedroom unit nationwide. This payment is portable and may be applied to transitional housing costs for any location an evacuee determines.
Makes sense. A considerable improvement over the alternative.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Our bonds of affection :: Virginia Episcopalian

Lynne Washington reports on her experience at third International Conference on Afro-Anglicanism, held July 20-27 in Toronto, Canada.

The headline link above goes to html text provided by titusonenine.

The September 2005 Virginia Episcopalian is available here (pdf).

The plight of African Christians? :: allAfrica

Thanks to Mark of Saluda for drawing my attention to this opinion piece by Bugalo Chilume. Quoting:

The current trials and tribulations of African Christians emanates from the fact that you cannot divorce indigenous culture from indigenous religion. When this happens, a society becomes dysfunctional, thus impeding its advancement economically, politically and spiritually.

Religion is the foundation upon which cultural values of a society are based; a framework within which these values function. By forsaking his own religion to embrace the religion of another race (white) that has totally different societal values from his, has left the African in a cultural limbo. As a result, African Christians, at least the Anglicans, are now in despair and utter confusion over the recent developments within the Anglican Church. Indeed, even without the consecration of the gay bishop, African Christians on the whole have always found it difficult to harmonise the spiritual demands of Christianity with their traditional African way of life.

Despite their opposition to the consecration of Robinson, there is nothing much the African and other non-white Anglicans can do to reverse this milestone in the Christian history, although they outnumber their white counterparts by far - clearly a master-servant relationship.

The consecration has taken place and the church has accepted it. African Anglicans just have to bear it, toe the line and conform to the dynamics of the cultural values of their white masters, even if these are at loggerheads with their own African values. Christianity is a religion of the white race, and therefore impervious to the cultural and social needs of its African and other non-white followers.
. . .
Christianity is a white man's religion that he rightly wants to be in tandem with the dynamics of his own culture, and, needless to say, culture evolves over time to accommodate changing needs of society.
. . .
African Anglican ministers are reported to have accused their white counterparts of allowing their societies' increasingly secular morals to corrupt the traditionalist beliefs of Anglicanism.

What do they know? African Christians accepted the white man's religion when they were not party to its formation, now, what gives them the right to dictate to the owners of the religion?

Whites own the religion and should do whatever they damn well please with it!

In fact, over the years whites have made changes to their religion to suit the requirements of the times. Ineffectual gestures such as severing ties with the diocese of which Robinson is bishop is the most that African Anglican leaders can do to show their consternation at the consecration.

If, indeed, they believe that the consecration of an openly homosexual man as a bishop goes against the basic teachings of the Bible, and that it is an abomination, why don't they break away from the Anglican Church altogether? The church has broken up many times in the past to spawn new Christian denominations over less contentious issues.
. . .
The sad truth is that there is nowhere for them to go, no other spiritual home, for they were party to the destruction of their own true spiritual home. Meekly, they will toe the line because they have been conditioned to always obediently follow the white man wherever he leads them, even if it is to their own deaths. Poor Africans.
Is there "nowhere for them to go"? There is. But what stands in the way is that the African leadership worships the Anglican Church, and not God. In the same way, the white Anglican Church puts false pride in its success in Africa and ignores the unintended negative consequences of unhitching a culture from its inherited religion. We all worship the Anglican Communion when instead it would better serve God and God's people to allow schism to takes its natural course.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Asking the right questions :: the star

Marina Mahathir muses:

I TRY to be fair to people as much as I can and the other day I had a major epiphany. I realised that I really had not been very fair to our religious officials by constantly criticising them for their obsession with topics that are either trivial or beyond their field of expertise. Then it occurred to me that the reason they feel compelled to comment on little topics . . . is because that’s what the media keeps asking them.

I think the media should realise that they are really insulting our religious lot by asking them these questions. Nobody asks Really Important people these questions because, frankly, it is beneath them to answer them.

But there they are, our self-sanctified guys, having to endure these silly questions all the time, and then getting flak for it. It’s really not their fault! . . .

Therefore I have decided to provide a list of questions that the media should ask our religious leaders in order to show them the respect they deserve. Here are some of them:

What do you think should be done to reduce global poverty?

The world’s richest 500 individuals own a combined income that is greater than that of the poorest 416 million. What do you think should be done about reducing this massive gap between rich and poor in the world?

70% of the world’s people are uneducated, with only minimal schooling. Do you think this is a bad thing, and what would you do about it?

According to the latest UNDP Human Development Report, every hour 1,200 children die around the world, mostly because of poverty. What do you think would be the best way to help children such as these?

Monday, September 19, 2005

What could go wrong? :: Newmark's Door

Newmark's Door draws our attention to this fact: LAPD HQ is very vulnerable in the event of an earthquake.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Bishop Gulick: You don't get to choose your bishop :: WAVE 3 TV

A retired priest who started a breakaway congregation in Elizabethtown has been ordered by an Episcopal bishop not to do ministry or present himself as an Episcopal priest.
. . .
Gulick said Episcopal and Anglican rules clearly state that only one bishop oversees a diocese and that other bishops cannot interfere.

"You don't get to choose who your bishop is," Gulick told The Courier-Journal of Louisville. "Your bishop is the chief pastor of the geographic area in which you reside."

Gulick issued his order Aug. 4 and notified Litchfield and officials in the Episcopal Church, but he did not announce it to the public.
. . .
Under civil law, Gulick cannot stop Litchfield from leading the new congregation, but his action puts the Episcopal diocese on record as not being associated with it or with Litchfield's ministry.
. . .
Gulick said he acted on the recommendation of a diocesan advisory committee, which concluded that Litchfield had "abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church."

He said he had tried to accommodate Litchfield by, for example, allowing a conservative bishop from Tennessee to conduct a confirmation service last year at Christ Church rather than going himself. Gulick said his action, known in church law as an "inhibition," is the mildest form of discipline available and that he can immediately rescind it if Litchfield agrees to return to the church.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Critics Fear Trailer 'Ghettos' :: WaPo

It's a sad day in the neighborhood. Reason has not prevailed.


If they simply put poor people in mobile homes, they would be re-creating the same troubled neighborhoods that were destroyed," said Susan J. Popkin, a housing expert at the Urban Institute. "And we know how to do this better."

Bruce Katz, a liberal housing policy expert at the Brookings Institution, rushed to draft an opinion article, urging the administration to learn from the experience of the 1994 Northridge, Calif., earthquake. Within a week of the quake, the first of 22,000 low-income displaced families were moving into new apartments with expanded HUD housing vouchers. Within a month, a major landlord-recruitment effort was pushing low-income Angelenos into higher-income neighborhoods.

"It's not rocket science," said Katz, a HUD chief of staff in the Clinton administration. "If you turned on the voucher faucet, you'd have people in apartments in a week."

Edgar O. Olsen, a conservative housing economist at the University of Virginia, said he pestered the Federal Housing Administration and HUD with faxes, imploring them to scrap the mobile home contracts for rental vouchers.

After all, he noted, rental occupancy rates are at historic lows, as are rents. There are more than 1.1 million available units in the South, with an average rent of less than $700 a month. Houston's vacancy rate stands at 15.6 percent. But Olsen said he has received no response.
Marginal Revolution posted Olsen's appeal here.

UPDATE. Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution hammers the point home in his post "Rotting in FEMA City."

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

In Times of Stress, Can Religion Serve as Insurance? - New York Times

Virginia Postrel:

Economists are increasingly interested in the role of such networks in economic life. They want to understand "the way that an individual's social connections somehow translate into an economically valuable tool," Rajeev Dehejia, a Columbia University economist currently visiting at Harvard, said in an interview.
Difficult to summarize more than Postrel already has. Read the whole thing. Another source for the Postrel's column here.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Invoking Insurrection Act would have been required :: NYT


To seize control of the mission, Mr. Bush would have had to invoke the Insurrection Act, which allows the president in times of unrest to command active-duty forces into the states to perform law enforcement duties. But decision makers in Washington felt certain that Ms. Blanco would have resisted surrendering control, as Bush administration officials believe would have been required to deploy active-duty combat forces before law and order had been re-established.
. . .
"Can you imagine how it would have been perceived if a president of the United States of one party had pre-emptively taken from the female governor of another party the command and control of her forces, unless the security situation made it completely clear that she was unable to effectively execute her command authority and that lawlessness was the inevitable result?" asked one senior administration official, who spoke anonymously because the talks were confidential.
. . .
Aides to Ms. Blanco said she was prepared to accept the deployment of active-duty military officials in her state. But she and other state officials balked at giving up control of the Guard as Justice Department officials said would have been required by the Insurrection Act if those combat troops were to be sent in before order was restored. In a separate discussion last weekend, the governor also rejected a more modest proposal for a hybrid command structure in which both the Guard and active-duty troops would be under the command of an active-duty, three-star general - but only after he had been sworn into the Louisiana National Guard. Lt. Gen. James T. Conway, director of operations for the military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the Pentagon in August streamlined a rigid, decades-old system of deployment orders to allow the military's Northern Command to dispatch liaisons to work with local officials before an approaching hurricane.

The Church of England Newspaper via TitusOneNine

TitusOneNine provides the text of two articles that appeared in the COE Newspaper recently. One is on the report "The Future of the Church" by Christian Research. The other is on an advertising campaign for Alpha.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The decision on whether to rebuild New Orleans :: POSNER


The decision to abandon or not cannot be left to the market. It could be if federal, state, and local government could credibly commit not to provide any financial assistance to the city's residents, businesses, and other institutions in the event of another disaster--but government could not make such a commitment. Or if government could require the residents, businesses, etc. to buy insurance that would cover the complete costs of such a disaster. But again it could not; insurance in such an amount, to cover so uncertain a set of contingencies, could not be bought in the private market.

So the decision would have to be made by government, and, ideally, it would be based on cost-benefit analysis. In such an analysis, the expected cost (that is, the cost discounted by the probability that it will actually be incurred) of a future disastrous flood would probably weigh very heavily and could easily tip the balance in favor of abandonment.
. . .
New Orleans is becoming more vulnerable not only because of the terrorist threat, but for three other reasons as well. The city is sinking because (paradoxically) flood control has prevented the Mississippi River from depositing sediment to renew the subsiding silt that the city is built on. The wetlands and barrier islands that provide some protection against the effects of hurricanes are disappearing. And global warming is expected to increase sea levels and also to increase the severity and frequency of storms--all factors that will make New Orleans more vulnerable to future floods.
Posner goes on to discuss the costs of rebuilding, including the expected cost of future flooding. In the process, he sheds light on the estimated economic costs of Katrina.

The Good Samaritan Problem :: BECKER


Location decisions would be optimal if those making these decisions had to bear the full social cost of any damages to their property and person from a disaster. Under these conditions, greater insurance premiums in areas that are prone to hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, and other disasters would reflect the greater risk to life and property in these areas. The expected loss for those not insuring would rise in proportion to the greater risk. People, companies, and governments would then build homes, roads, businesses, and the like in disaster-prone regions only if the benefits exceeded the full risk of damages.

However, generous private and public help to victims of terrible disasters, while highly desirable, distort such rational calculations.
. . .
This distortion goes under the name of the "Good Samaritan" paradox in philosophy and economics. To illustrate this problem, consider the behavior of loving parents toward their children. Such parents would come to the assistance of their children if they get into financial trouble, have serious medical problems, or experience other difficulties. At the same time, they want their children to use their money wisely, work and study hard, prepare for future contingencies, and lead healthy life, so that they can avoid personal disasters.

Unfortunately for the parents, children can distinguish reality from lectures, and threats that will not be backed up by parental behavior. If they anticipate that their parents will help them out if they get into trouble, and if they are not so altruist to their parents, they would consume and possibly gamble excessively, and they might quit good jobs to "find themselves". Parents might then be indirectly encouraging the very behavior by their children that they want them to avoid.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

God's punishment? :: The Volokh Conspiracy

What is the Christian interpretation of natural disasters? Do they prove what God views as sin? Do they prove that poor people are sinful?

I don't think so.

They do prove that there are a lot of things we don't understand. But I do know that how we respond to people in need matters to God.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Teaching of creationism is endorsed in new survey :: New York Times

American pragmatism: 'Let the kids figure it out'


nearly two-thirds of Americans say that creationism should be taught alongside evolution in public schools. The poll found that 42 percent of respondents held strict creationist views, agreeing that "living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time." In contrast, 48 percent said they believed that humans had evolved over time. But of those, 18 percent said that evolution was "guided by a supreme being," and 26 percent said that evolution occurred through natural selection. In all, 64 percent said they were open to the idea of teaching creationism in addition to evolution, while 38 percent favored replacing evolution with creationism.
. . .
John C. Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum, said he was surprised to see that teaching both evolution and creationism was favored not only by conservative Christians, but also by majorities of secular respondents, liberal Democrats and those who accept the theory of natural selection. Mr. Green called it a reflection of "American pragmatism." "It's like they're saying, 'Some people see it this way, some see it that way, so just teach it all and let the kids figure it out.'"
The Pew Forum's description of the results of its survey are found here.