News: Discouraging and Encouraging

Rocco Palmo broke the news last night in Whispers in the Loggia that Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton was removed from his post at St. Leo’s Church in Detroit. The news was confirmed today in the National Catholic Reporter where Gumbleton regularly contributes “The Peace Pulpit” column. While Gumbleton is gracious in his quotes I suspect there is a political motivation of the type that plagues our Church behind the removal. The most interesting quote to me is Gumbleton’s commentary on clustering of parishes:

“I don’t think the church becomes most alive when parishes become mega-churches. I think smaller communities are much more vibrant and much more expressive of a community of disciples than big churches. [Big churches] become big service stations.”

In totally unrelated but more encouraging news, Streetsblog reports on a pedestrian safety initiative in Chicago which includes sting operations by police disguised as ordinary pedestrians.

Streetsblog emphasizes the lessons New York could learn from Chicago, and I add that Boston too could profit by example. Drivers on the Larz Andersen Bridge turning onto Soldiers Field Road in Boston and Memorial Drive in Cambridge are notorious in driving in a manner that puts pedestrians, cyclists, and their fellow motorists at risk. I’ve long thought that police stationed near the bridge fining all the violators could solve the financial problems of both cities.

Sidewalk Snow Removal

It’s another warm and sunny day for December, but the snows will be coming soon. Sean Roche recently wrote an opinion piece “Walkers get short end of the shovel” published in the Newton Tab. Roche writes on the proposal to have home owners required to clear snow from sidewalks abutting their property and sarcastically adds that people should have to clear the streets as well.

In all seriousness, what does it say about Newton that the needs of pedestrians are so underserved by the town that we have to dragoon townsfolk to provide an essential service?

While I question his assertion that city streets are clear and dry within hours using the streets by my home as exhibit #1, I do agree that relying on property owners to clear sidewalks of snow leads to inconsistent and unsafe conditions. Roche cites examples of sidewalks cleared only a shovel width and snow trampled down into an uneven layer of thick ice. Property owners clearing their driveways and city-operated snow plows both dump additional piles of snow on the sidewalk. The situation is unfair and unsafe.

Not mentioned in the article is who is responsible for clearing sidewalks in front of empty lots? I live on a rather steep hill and the sidewalk in front of an empty lot halfway up the hill is treacherous in ice and snow. Furthermore, sidewalks that do no abut private property, such as on bridges, are never cleared of snow. Shouldn’t the city be responsible for clearing these sidewalks?

The Great Wealth Transfer

An interesting article by Paul Krugman called The Great Wealth Transfer (published in Rolling Stone of all places, I guess Krugman is a rock star economist) discusses why even in a growing economy many Americans are not happy with the economy. This is because most Americans are not participating in this economic growth as the gap between the rich and the poor to middle class grows.

Rising inequality isn’t new. The gap between rich and poor started growing before Ronald Reagan took office, and it continued to widen through the Clinton years. But what is happening under Bush is something entirely unprecedented: For the first time in our history, so much growth is being siphoned off to a small, wealthy minority that most Americans are failing to gain ground even during a time of economic growth — and they know it.

Reasons for the widening wage gap include corporate greed, union busting, and failure to increase the minimum wage. And the Bush administration’s tax cuts aren’t helping anything.

What about the claim that the Bush tax cuts did wonders for economic growth? In fact, job creation has been much slower under Bush than under Clinton, and overall growth since 2003 is largely the result of the huge housing boom, which has more to do with low interest rates than with taxes. But the biggest irony of all is that the real boom — the one in the 1990s — followed tax changes that were the reverse of Bush’s policies. Clinton raised taxes on the rich, and the economy prospered.

I will say that as interesting as this article appears Krugman does fail to provide the statistical analyses and background to support his claims. Maybe just because it’s a popular article in Rolling Stone, but I still have doubts even if (and perhaps because) this is exactly the kind of thing I want to hear.

A Christian Nation?

My eyes perk up when I see the same topic pop up in two different blogs I read. Either someone is assigning essay questions or the zeitgeist is being tapped.

The topic for today: Is America a Christian Nation?

Two commentators argue for religious plurality.

First Jim Wallis of Sojourners in the God’s Politics blog.

What we have grown to call the separation of church and state is good for both the government and religion — that citizenship should have no religious tests and faith can’t or shouldn’t be implemented by the state. The path of Jesus, for example, could never be followed by the state and the prophetic integrity and power of religion to hold governments accountable to higher values and better behavior specifically depends on the faith community’s political independence. Neither should religion need the state’s power to enforce its language and theology, which is why the “war against Christmas” discussion is finally so absurd. Does Jesus’ message really depend on our being reminded to have a “Merry Christmas” just before we plunge into shopping malls and engage in orgies of holiday consumerism that run so directly contrary to his message? Are Wal-Mart and Target to be seen as critical places of theological and spiritual reflection?

Next Right Rev. Mark Sean Sisk of the Episcopal Diocese of New York in Faithful America:

Frankly, I shudder to imagine the nation that is envisioned by those who would like this country to become what its founders never intended: a nation grounded in Christian doctrine. Much as I want for all people to know the love of God as revealed in Jesus, I, emphatically, do not want this nation to become “Christian” in any formal political sense. I am convinced that a theocratic nation, that is a nation that understands itself to be living under and out of the direct leadership of God, is a deeply dangerous place. Such a nation naturally and inevitably comes to believe that its positions and policies are nothing less than a mandate from God. Hence its programs and policies can not fail to result in the stifling of individual initiative and human freedom.