Sunday, November 23, 2008

Gospel According To Luke

Over the past couple Sunday's the Gospel readings at Liturgy have come from the Book of Luke and have been chock full of content. Last week was the familiar story of The Good Samaritan ( Luke 10:25-37).This well-known parable will get it's own post shortly.

Today's reading was from Luke 12: 16-21.

16And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:
17And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?
18And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.
19And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.
20But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?
21So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God

What I find fascinating about this passage is that it is so universal in it's application. In this particular parable we are dealing with a rich man who is enjoying the fruits of his labor and is doing nothing "wrong'' per se. He's not a bad man-- at least as far as we can tell. In fact he is being prudent in that he is building bigger storage facilities for his goods. I think the message here is that he is totally focused on his worldly existence and is busy making plans for his future, yet his life is about to end that very night and he is woefully unprepared for that. When I think about it this story in a nutshell is about all of us. In some cases we are making business plans. In other situations we are making Thanksgiving and Christmas plans.We are all about planning our future and we spend a lot of time involved in this planning. There is nothing inherently wrong with any of that kind of stuff. It's just that the emphasis is totally misplaced and that emphasis --the eat, drink and be merry and the storing up of our earthly goods is what so preoccupies much of our existence in present day America. We are the rich man in the story, we just don't want to admit it.

It's also interesting to look at the 3 verses preceding this parable for some context:

13And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.
14And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?
15And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth

I believe the wisdom proclaimed in verse 15 will become more and more evident as we work our way through the economic mess we find ourselves in. Maybe some good will come out of our travails after all.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


This morning there are numerous stories documenting the mounting problems at Citigoup .Here's an example from the paper of record Shares Falling, Citigroup Talks to Government .

So the mighty Citi is in trouble and company top dogs are "entered into talks with federal officials about how to stabilize the struggling financial giant. "

Screw Citigroup , Sandy Weill and Chuck Prince!

I did my Saturday Post Office run and pulled an official looking document with a Citi logo on the envelope out of my PO Box ( I do have a Citi MasterCard). Amazing! This is what the letter from Citi said:

1) We are changing how we calculate your variable APR for purchases:
We are increasing your variable APR for purchases . Your purchase APR will equal the
US Prime Rate plus 8.99% with a minimum APR of 14.99%. As of October 1,2008 this purchase APR is 14.99%.
2) We are changing how we calculate your variable APR for cash advances:
We are increasing you variable APR for cash advances. Your cash advance
APR will equal
the US Prime Rate plus 16.99% with a minimum APR of 21.99%. As of October 1,2008 this cash advance APR is 21.99%.

Number 3 had something to do with what they call a Default APR. I'm not sure that that is but this was the bottom line.

The default APR equals the greater of 1) the Prime Rate plus up to 23.99% or 2) up to 29.99%

If I understand this properly they can charge me almost 30% for the right to borrow money from them. There is a word in the English language called usury. Some consider it a sin. It's good to know that our government is considering helping Citi get out of their financial mess. I think they should just die.

Citigroup RIP!!!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day

I woke up this morning and with great excitement drove with my wife over to the local firehouse to cast my ballot. The act of voting , especially in a Presidential Election always gives me a special feeling---almost one of reverential awe. When I think of the joyful faces of the Iraqi's a few years ago after they voted for the first time and I often ponder how much we take for granted in our own country.

There is no mystery as far as my vote. Obama! I think we are looking at an Electoral Landslide tonight, but even with that, I really wonder if our new President has any idea what he is about to encounter. We as a nation have spent ourselves silly. We are in the early stages of what could be an ugly recession and have very little ammunition to fight it with. Things could get ugly quickly. My vote for Obama had very little to do with policy ---I guess his opposition to the Iraq War would be one stance in particular. Taxes are probably going to go up, and who really wants to pay more taxes? It's pathetic that the current campaign dialogue has focused on taxes, yet almost nothing has been said about our prodigal ways. Who do we expect is going to pay the bill for all of our spending?

I said back in April of '07 that I was betting Obama on the come and my support was based more on hope than anything else. Well, hope is grossly underrated as a human emotion and something we've not had much of--at least in the political sense over much of my adult life.

As far as hope is concerned, this short essay from yesterday's CS Monitor is worth a read. It was written by a 55 year old white conservative Southerner who was dragged by his wife out to canvass for Obama. Here's a tid-bit:

I don't see either of the candidates as having all the answers.
I've learned that this election is about the heart of America. It's about the young people who are losing hope and the old people who have been forgotten. It's about those who have worked all their lives and never fully realized the promise of America, but see that promise for their grandchildren in Barack Obama. The poor see a chance, when they often have few. I saw hope in the eyes and faces in those doorways.