I opine

A Christian Sacrifice

Posted in Uncategorized by jaeminuf on October 14, 2008

On October 10, 2008, Father Geoff Farrow was suspended as a priest and removed as pastor of the Newman Center, which still lists him as pastor, for speaking out against California Proposition 8, “Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry.” I thank and applaud him for speaking out even though he knew he would be rejected by his church and lose the life to which he’d dedicated himself. His immense and noble sacrifice hopefully will not have been in vain, for in making his sacrifice he is truly following in his shepherd’s footsteps.

a question arose which has haunted me: “At what point do you cease to be an agent for healing and growth and become an accomplice of injustice?” By asking all of the pastors of the Diocese of Fresno to promote Catholics to vote “Yes” on Proposition 8, the bishop has placed me in a moral predicament.

there are TWO ends to marriage: 1) Unitive and 2) Procreative. The unitive end of marriage is simply a union of love and life. The Procreative end is, of course, to create new life. It is important to understand that the unitive end of marriage is sufficient for a valid marriage. The Church sanctions, and considers a sacrament, the marriage of elderly heterosexual couples who are biologically incapable of reproduction. So, if two people of different genders who are incapable of reproduction can enter into a valid marriage, then why is that two people of the same gender, who are incapable of reproduction, cannot enter into a valid marriage.

I do not presume to tell you how to vote but I do ask that you pray to the Creator of us all. Think and consider the effects of your vote on others, especially minorities in our society who are sitting next to you in church, and at work. The act of casting a vote takes you a few minutes but it can cause other human beings untold happiness or sorrow for a lifetime. It can grant them hope and acceptance, or it can cause them to lose civil rights. It can be a rebuff to bigotry and hatred, or it can encourage bigotry and hatred. Personally, I am morally compelled to vote “NO” on Proposition 8. It is my hope that the people of California will join with those others around the world such as Canada, Europe and South Africa who welcome their gay and lesbian family members fully into society by granting them the civil right to marry.

I know these words of truth will cost me dearly. But to withhold them, would be far more costly and I would become an accomplice to a moral evil that strips gay and lesbian people not only of their civil rights but of their human dignity as well. Jesus said, “The truth will set you free.” He didn’t promise that it would be easy or without personal cost to speak that truth.

Father Geoff Farrow’s blog post

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From My Senator on the Bailout of Wall Street

Posted in economy, politics by jaeminuf on September 27, 2008

Senator Feinstein‘s veeeeeeeery long response to a letter I submitted to her office. Her key points are:

  • Necessity for a bailout
  • Phased funding of bailout
  • Paulson plan thumbs down because too much power in one person. Entrust responsibility not just to one person. More oversight/accountability necessary.
  • Legislative reform of the financial system in the first quarter of 2009
  • Protection for tax payers in the form of warrants/stock/etc. Learn from the Swedes.
  • Cap on executive compensation for firms that participate in bailout. If executives balk, let them sink or swim on their own.
  • Mortgage relief

Dear Ms. XXX:

Thank you for your letter expressing concern about Congress’ consideration of a plan to meet our Nation’s credit crisis with financial help from the Federal Government. This is a difficult situation for which there are no perfect solutions, and I would like to share my thoughts and concerns about this issue with you.

On September 19, 2008, Secretary of the Treasury Henry M. Paulson, Jr. announced a legislative proposal to use $700 billion to purchase illiquid mortgage-related assets from ailing financial institutions. Secretary Paulson’s three-page proposal was a non-starter, and without critical changes it has no chance of approval from Congress.

This proposal would have given a blank check to an economic czar who would have been empowered to spend it without administrative oversight, legal requirements, or legislative review. Decisions made by the Treasury Secretary would be non-reviewable by any court, agency, or Congress. The proposal also lacked a requirement for regular reports to Congress on the status of the program. This was simply untenable.

Since this announcement, my offices have received thousands of comments from Californians like you concerned about how this action will affect them. Yet, I believe prudent action must be taken. The bill should include the following principles: a phase-in of funding; oversight, accountability and transparency; a mechanism allowing the Secretary of the Treasury to modify mortgages to prevent additional foreclosures; and a precise cap on executive compensation.

The current credit crisis affects all Americans. If action is not taken to stem the crisis, Americans risk losing their homes, jobs, personal savings, life insurance and more. Banks will cease to lend to businesses and homeowners, and credit will be increasingly difficult to come by for average Americans. I strongly believe that the consequences of failing to act now would be greater than not acting at all.

Attached please find a statement I recently made on the floor of the Senate expressing my feelings on this issue. Please know that I will keep your thoughts in mind as this situation unfolds.

Once again, thank you for writing. If you have any additional questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 224-3841. Best regards.

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (more…)

And They All Fall Down

Posted in economy, ethics by jaeminuf on September 25, 2008
Front Cover of The Predator State by James K. Galbraith

Glad to get confirmation that my years as a financial analyst weren’t for notta. A few days ago, I wondered aloud whether it would be feasible and helpful to create a federal entity with oversight for home loan refinancing, an entity modeled on federal student loans program. Well…

James K. Galbraith, the author of The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too and the son of renowned economist John Kenneth Galbraith, questions whether the bailout is necessary and proposes a new Home Owners Loan Corp., which would rewrite mortgages, manage rental conversions and decide when vacant, degraded properties should be demolished.

All five big investment banks have disappeared or morphed into regular banks. Is this bailout still necessary?

The point of the bailout is to buy assets that are illiquid but not worthless. But regular banks hold assets like that all the time. They’re called “loans.”

With banks, runs occur only when depositors panic, because they fear the loan book is bad. Deposit insurance takes care of that. So why not eliminate the pointless $100,000 cap on federal deposit insurance and go take inventory? If a bank is solvent, money market funds would flow in, eliminating the need to insure those separately. If it isn’t, the FDIC has the bridge bank facility to take care of that.

Next, put half a trillion dollars into the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. fund — a cosmetic gesture — and as much money into that agency and the FBI as is needed for examiners, auditors and investigators. Keep $200 billion or more in reserve, so the Treasury can recapitalize banks by buying preferred shares if necessary — as Warren Buffett did this week with Goldman Sachs. Review the situation in three months, when Congress comes back. Hedge funds should be left on their own. You can’t save everyone, and those investors aren’t poor.

With this solution, the systemic financial threat should go away. Does that mean the economy would quickly recover? No. Sadly, it does not. Two vast economic problems will confront the next president immediately. First, the underlying housing crisis: There are too many houses out there, too many vacant or unsold, too many homeowners underwater. Credit will not start to flow, as some suggest, simply because the crisis is contained. There have to be borrowers, and there has to be collateral. There won’t be enough.

In Texas, recovery from the 1980s oil bust took seven years and the pull of strong national economic growth. The present slump is national, and it can’t be cured that way. But it could be resolved in three years, rather than 10, by a new Home Owners Loan Corp., which would rewrite mortgages, manage rental conversions and decide when vacant, degraded properties should be demolished. Set it up like a draft board in each community, under federal guidelines, and get to work…

James K. Galbraith – A Bailout We Don’t Needwashingtonpost.com

For a review of Galbraith’s book by The Journal of Economic Issues, go to the Economist’s View, a blog by Mark Thoma, Professor of Economics at the University of Oregon. More information on Galbraith’s book can be found at:

 

Nigerian Scam?

Posted in economy, ethics, politics by jaeminuf on September 23, 2008

Forwarded to me today.

>Dear American:
> I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship
> with a transfer of funds of great magnitude.
>
> I am Ministry of the Treasury of the Republic of America. My
> country has had crisis that has caused the need for large transfer
> of funds of 800 billion dollars US. If you would assist me in this
> transfer, it would be most profitable to you.
>
> I am working with Mr. Phil Gramm, lobbyist for UBS, who will be my
> replacement as Ministry of the Treasury in January. As a Senator,
> you may know him as the leader of the American banking deregulation
> movement in the 1990s. This transactin is 100% safe.
>
> This is a matter of great urgency. We need a blank check. We need
> the funds as quickly as possible. We cannot directly transfer these
> funds in the names of our close friends because we are constantly
> under surveillance. My family lawyer advised me that I should look
> for a reliable and trustworthy person who will act as a next of kin
> so the funds can be transferred.
>
> Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund
> account numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to
> wallstreetbailout@treasury.gov so that we may transfer your
> commission for this transaction. After I receive that information,
> I will respond with detailed information about safeguards that will
> be used to protect the funds.
>
> Yours Faithfully Minister of Treasury Paulson

Wall Street on the Dole

Posted in economy, ethics, politics by jaeminuf on September 23, 2008

Someone tell me why that $700 billion can’t be put to actually helping out individuals rather than Wall Street.

The Feds will need to create some administrative infrastructure that will handle doling out – yes, I am using the rhetoric of welfare intentionally here – $700 billion to Wall Street. There will be some wrangling over how many cents to each dollar of debt to be acquired. Blah blah blah.

How much more difficult would it be to set aside that money, create the administrative infrastructure by which mortgage owners who are suffering can apply for re-financing from that pot of money? The banks will get their loans back, homeowners would be able to keep their homes (presuming that a majority will be able to afford discounted mortgage rates), and the fed will get its money back over time, and bankruptcy laws wouldn’t need to be changed?

And really, I can’t be the only person who thinks this may be feasible and far preferable than what Paulson, Bernancke, and the Bush administration are demanding, oops, “proposing as necessary to avoid financial meltdown, global economic crisis, a recession, Armageddon (choose your pick).” Other than that this may be impolitic, why can’t this work?

And tell me again, why ought the US Treasury include foreign investors in the bailout? Nevermind why Wall Street can’t pull itself up by its bootstraps.

I’m asking, not being rhetorical. Sarcastic, but not rhetorical.

Dr. Pan for POTUS!

Posted in ethics by jaeminuf on September 22, 2008

Yes. Obviously I’m being hyperbolic. Besides, yes, I know. He’s ineligible since he’s neither an American citizen nor a natural born one. But find out why I would feel impelled to nominate him for POTUS.

White-headed langurs are born canary yellow. Here, a newborn langur clings to its mother.

Need a break from trying to decide whether or not the boy who cried wolf is crying for real this time? From trying to decide whether to laugh or cry at the sheer embarrassment that is the American federal government, primarily the White House but the other two hallowed halls aren’t so sacrosanct themselves?

Our leaders can learn a thing or two from Dr. Pan Wenshi, one man who is singlehandedly saving a species from extinction, a village from the poverty that had driven them to cannibalize their natural resources, and humanity’s tenuous faith in its own perfectibility which Mencius propounded.

Read on and enjoy the warm fuzzies! You’ll need it to get back to watching the tragicomedy that is becoming an epic by the day.

A breakthrough in protecting the species came in 1997 when he helped local villagers build a pipeline to secure clean drinking water. Shortly thereafter, a farmer from the village freed a trapped langur and brought it to Dr. Pan.

“When you help the villagers, they would like to help you back,” he said.

As self-appointed local advocate, Dr. Pan raised money for a new school in another village, oversaw the construction of health clinics in two neighboring towns and organized physicals for women throughout the area.

“Now, when outsiders try to trap langurs,” Dr. Pan said, “the locals stop them from coming in.”

It Takes Just One Village to Save a Species:
By helping a Chinese village out of poverty, Pan Wenshi protects the endangered langur

The New York Times

Socialization of Wall Street

Posted in Uncategorized by jaeminuf on September 16, 2008

For the past decade, much brouhaha has been made of privatizing social security, formally known as the federal Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) program. That private individuals will better manage their own retirement funds than the federal government can. That it doesn’t perform as well as private pension funds do. That, all in all, it is in the best interest of the individual to invest directly into the financial markets than to turn over that money for the government to safekeep until due time.

The present Bush administration has been a strong proponent of the privatization of social security. In general, they extol the virtues of the free market. That deregulation can only be a good thing.

Fast forward to September 2008

Treasury chief Paulson unveils historic government takeover of twin mortgage buyers. Top executives are out. – U.S. seizes Fannie and FreddieCNN.com

and

A.I.G., The New York Times

Acting to avert a possible financial crisis worldwide, the Federal Reserve reversed course on Tuesday and agreed to an $85 billion bailout that would give the government an ownership stake in troubled insurance giant American International Group. – Fed to Loan A.I.G. $85 Billion in RescueThe New York Times

I’m really confused…
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Alternate Reality

Posted in ethics, politics by jaeminuf on September 13, 2008

I’ve been very gloom and doom. Fretting over the election. Fretting about many things. Doesn’t help that I’m reading text after text on neo-Confucian ethics, including the memoirs of a Korean noblewoman whose husband, the crown prince, was sealed into a rice chest by his father, the king, and left to die: The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyŏng, translated by JaHyun Kim Haboush. So, yes, I’ve been fretting about the moral/ethical failings of our world.

Then, I read this article.

The Year of the Cloned Candidates

By GAIL COLLINS
Published: September 13, 2008

We have been approaching this presidential race the wrong way. It’s not political science. It’s science fiction. Something is amiss in the space-time continuum.

The presidential candidates running now are not the same ones we started out with. It’s “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” all over again. We’re watching the clash of the pod people. – The New York Times

 

Theyre here already! Youre next!

They're here already! You're next!

 

And I laughed. Lots. Gaffawing laughter.

Methinks I need to schedule in regular doses of the Daily Show with John Stewart.

If this were indeed a sci-fi horror flick, the kicker I’d like to add is this: the final scene takes us to a facility where the Republicans, unbeknownst to the American public, have been conducting secretly cloning experiments from stem cell lines. The final shot pans across glass pods of clones and zooms in slowly on the pod containing the protagonist’s clone. Mwahahahahahah.

 

David Frum on Equality – “Never Can Be or Should Be a Conservative Goal.”

Posted in class, economy, education, ethics, politics by jaeminuf on September 8, 2008

Question to David Frum. Do you really want to assert the following on record?

Equality in itself never can be or should be a conservative goal.

The Vanishing Republican Voter: Why income inequality is destroying the G.O.P. base.
– David Frum,
The New York Times

WTF?

I reread it and the surrounding passage repeatedly to make sure I hadn’t misunderstood that the author was asserting that conservatives should not prioritize equality in itself as a worthwhile objective. I didn’t misread it.

Wow, really? Somebody needs to brush up on his civics lessons:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal…”

The Declaration of Independence, 2nd paragraph

 

Well-Intentioned But Misguided

Posted in education, ethics, gender, politics by jaeminuf on September 7, 2008

When I returned from my first year at Bryn Mawr College, I was a bit of a firebrand. Full of zeal, passionately committed to righting wrongs, to disabusing grossly mistaken notions less enlightened folks held, and so on. (Yes, cringe all you’d like… It’s totally deserved.)

One of the issues of note for me was the politics of naming. Of ensuring that we did not continue to perpetrate violence by denying people their right to self-definition. So, holier than thou I was, thumping on my soapbox (yep, this tendency is obviously not new) that it’s not merely about being politically correct (which to me meant wanting pat, easy answers so that those who were so hung up on being pc would not have to really reflect upon their own complicity in the perpetration of violence) but about putting an end to violence psychically, socioeconomically, culturally, that it was about radical change, and so on.

So, here I was, a zealous eighteen year old telling my very kind thirtysomething neighbor (who was trying to raise her son on her own after a divorce all the whilst trying to pursue a meaningful career that’d utilize the top knotch education she’d received at William and Mary) how horrible it was that people continued to say “indians” to refer to Native Americans, that this name reiterates the violence of Euro-American hegemony. At that moment, my good neighbor tried to get me to step back and question whether I might be shooting myself in the foot by being so aggressively dogmatic in “enlightening” and “raising the consciousness” of my neighbors. And to question whether I was not in my own way doing violence to Native Americans by reducing them to being nothing but dignified victims of Western hegemony, by allowing myself to regard them primarily in terms of their victimization. And to ask myself if every single person who was of indigenous descent would choose to self-identify as Native American, that might it not be that Native American was yet another externally imposed label, one that says more about those other Americans who are not Native? If I remember correctly, I think she tried to tell me that, if anything, it was a more common practice amongst those I was calling Native American to identify themselves by their tribal affiliations.

I didn’t catch it then. In fact, (more…)