Good News in Advent

4 12 2008

Here’s a great blog post from The Caucus, the NYTimes politics / US blog.  You may read the whole thing here

Apparently, someone in Virginia is helping some folks witness the Inauguration of Barack Obama in DC in January by giving them an all-expense paid weekend in Washington.

Recipients will be those who are down on their luck, veterans, battered women, and the terminally ill.

A Virginia businessman has purchased a $1 million inaugural package at the JW Marriott in Washington. The package comes with 300 rooms, four suites, $200,000 in food and beverages, and a heated tent atop the hotel from which to view the inaugural parade down Pennsylvania Avenue. He is also adding $600,000 worth of breakfasts and inaugural balls. (The extravaganza does not include one of the most precious commodities in Washington — tickets to the swearing-in.)

Read more below the fold ….

Read the rest of this entry »

How much is $700 Billion?

24 09 2008

A few random notes on the week …

The big news in the US is, of course, not That Topic I Cannot Speak Of (see sidebar! 🙂 ) but the proposed $700 billion bailout.  To put it in perspective, if he is granted the entire amount at once, the Secretary of the Treasury could be his very own G7 nation.  $700 billion is more than the expenditures of the People’s Republic of China in 2007.  Here is this chart courtesy of the CIA World Fact Book of 2008:

1 United States $2,731,000,000,000
2 Japan $1,575,000,000,000
3 Germany $1,477,000,000,000
4 France $1,372,000,000,000
5 United Kingdom $1,237,000,000,000
6 Italy $1,029,000,000,000
7 China $634,600,000,000
8 Canada $551,200,000,000
9 Spain $544,900,000,000
10 Netherlands $352,300,000,000

John Cole, over at Balloon Juice, does a good job in summarizing what many Americans are probably feeling right now … snippets are below the fold, but I encourage you to read the whole thing. Read the rest of this entry »

Understatement of the Year

19 09 2008

The Understatement of the Year award goes to ….

Steve Schwarzman, Chairman and CEO of The Blackstone Group, an investment bank in New York City …

Title of an article on a blog in the Wall Street Journal a few days ago …

“Something is Amiss in the Financial System.”

Uh … yeah.

I have to tell you, though, if there is anywhere safe in this climate, it’s Blackstone.  Those guys are solid.

Click on the title to read the full article.

People of Hope

15 09 2008

As Christians, we are if nothing else, supposed to be people of hope and love.  There’s a lot of reasons to be anxious in the US today.  My walk to work takes me past the Lehman Brothers’ building and sure enough, there were cameras all over the place.  Someone having a twisted sense of humour actually placed a “For Sale” sign on it!  The financial markets are reeling from everything that is going on …. Lehman, Merril Lynch, AIG, Fannie / Freddie Mac … I am not equipped to comment about these things, but suffice it to say there is a palpable sense of uncertainty in the city that I haven’t seen since 2001.  Of course, it hits a little closer to home to me because I work in the financial industry.  Overshadowing all of this is, of course, something else.  I draw your attention to the side bar … you know what I’m talking about.

As a person of hope, we are called to proclaim the Good News in all things.  So here’s my little bit of Good News to share with everyone.

1)  Today is Holy Cross Day.  The Cross is our reminder, that no matter what happens, God’s got it covered through Jesus.

Almighty God, whose Son our Saviour Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross that he might draw the whole world to himself:  Mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption, may have grace to take up our cross and follow him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen. (BCP, The Episcopal Church)

O God, who by the passion of your blessed Son made an instrument of shameful death to be for us the means of life and peace:  Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ, that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen. (Church of England)

2)  The Kingdom of God continues to break through into the world.  The Miami Herald has a story about how two men are allowed to adopt a teenage boy they have been raising since 2001.  A Monroe Circuit Court judge in Key West (who happens to know one of my friends down there) made the ruling that Florida’s 31-year-old gay adoption ban ”unconstitutional.”  The story can be found here

3)  The next two for me are examples of good things in my life … The investment bank where I work is probably one of the best and safest places to be at the moment in this financial climate.  It’s going to be a bumpy ride, but we’re gonna be OK.

4)  Last but not least … SIR is coming home today !!!! He’s had a successful, but bumpy season up on Cape Cod this year and it has prevented us from visiting each other much.  Last time we saw each other was late July!

Isn’t he handsome?

Even with all the anxiety in the world .. we can still be people of hope.  What Good News do you have to proclaim today?

Questions, Questions

10 09 2008

Maureen Dowd, Op-Ed columnist for the NYTimes, has written a list of questions she would like Charlie Gibson to ask the Republican VP Nominee when she sits for her interviews later this week….

What kind of budget-cutter makes a show of getting rid of the state plane, then turns around and bills taxpayers for the travel of her husband and kids between Juneau and Wasilla and sticks the state with a per-diem tab to stay in her own home?

Why was Sarah for the Bridge to Nowhere before she was against the Bridge to Nowhere, and why was she for earmarks before she was against them? And doesn’t all this make her just as big a flip-flopper as John Kerry?

What kind of fiscal conservative raises taxes and increases budgets in both her jobs — as mayor and as governor?

When the phone rings at 3 a.m., will she call the Wasilla Assembly of God congregation and ask them to pray on a response, as she asked them to pray for a natural gas pipeline?

Does she really think Adam, Eve, Satan and the dinosaurs mingled on the earth 5,000 years ago?

Why put out a press release about her teenage daughter’s pregnancy and then spend the next few days attacking the press for covering that press release?

As Troopergate unfolds here — an inquiry into whether Palin inappropriately fired the commissioner of public safety for refusing to fire her ex-brother-in-law — it raises this question: Who else is on her enemies list and what might she do with the F.B.I.?

Does she want a federal ban on trans fat in restaurants and a ban on abortion and Harry Potter? And which books exactly would have landed on the literature bonfire if she had had her way with that Wasilla librarian?

Just how is it that Fannie and Freddie have cost taxpayers money (since they haven’t yet)?

Does she talk in tongues or just eat caribou tongues?

What does she have against polar bears?

.Enquiring minds want to know …. The entire column is here

Anglican Wine Bars .. No, it’s true!

2 09 2008

We take a break from talking about politics and wincing at the theology of Southern Gospel to bring you this important announcement from the UK’s Telegraph … Graphic shamelessly stolen from Dr.Vino, to whom I am also giving a hat-tip….

Cathedral Turns to Wine Bars to Woo New Business

Now you can go to church, have coffee hour AND have brunch all in the same place! I hope someone told Dennis

Dr. Vino writes, “If you’ve wanted to work for the Church of England but have felt constrained by the whole clergy thing, Birmingham Cathedral in England may have just the position for you: sommelier.

Excerpts from The Telegraph say (emphasis mine, click on the link above for the whole article.

The first “director of hospitality and welcome” at an English cathedral has unveiled far-reaching plans to make its operations more business-like……His plans, revealed today, include a chain of city-centre wine bars and “loyalty cards” for regular worshippers to obtain discounts at the cathedral’s shops.  The new appraoch to attracting and retaining worshippers could become a blueprint for dioceses across the countr.  The wine bars would feature stained-glass windows, pictures on a religious theme and be decorated in “episcopal purple”.

Staff would have to be sympathetic to Christianity and times of cathedral services would be posted on the walls.  Mr Hope-Urwin said: “We’re not trying to encourage drinking, but the cathedral has to engage more with the city and find ways of meeting people on their territory.

“Cathedral wine bars should be seen as a potential commercial operation with profits going into the upkeep of the building and paying for evangelistic work… People have all kinds of distractions in their busy lives and at the moment too many just see the cathedral as a big brick monolith. That has to change if we are to bring people in.”

Except for the whole loyalty card business, this actually sounds kind of fun.

Oh! Oh! and wait!  There’s a traditional “orthodox” nay-sayer just waiting in the wings to point out just one more way the God’s Church is going to hell in a handbasket.

The Rev David Phillips, the general secretary of the Church Society, a traditionalist group, said: “Opening wine bars doesn’t seem an appropriate way to generate money.

“People who attend church should give more so that this doesn’t have to happen. The idea of the Church getting involved with selling alcohol will worry people.”

Oh, for the love of Mike … whatEVER Rev. Phillips.

Now here’s the fun part … Let’s come up with fun names for our favourite vintages at the church pub wine bar.  How about “De Vine and De Branch?”

Headline of the Day …

22 07 2008

From the Guardian (hat-tip to Thinking Anglicans)

Escorts on offer for lonely bishops at Lambeth conference

Bad Taste Comment: I wonder if this means that will be included in the fringe festival?  Or if they were in contact with former NY Governor Eliot Spitzer’s office?  Probably better off just not knowing….