Luxury Real Estate

Manhattan

Since I don’t look at mainstream media (for the most part, although– digression alert– I sometimes cannot resist the temptation of things like the dog-emerges-from-tornado-wreckage footage on the AOL Homepage), I do not know if this week’s Occupy Wall Street protest at the Department of Justice is getting any air. I found it only after googling “whatever happened to the Occupy Movement?” That the protest at Justice is focused on home foreclosures is apropos of last Sunday’s front-page New York Times article (link below), on a luxury apartment tower being built in Manhattan.

“Luxury” is an understatement: “… the top penthouse is already under contract for $95 million,” the Times’ Charles Bagli reports; the total amount under contract, at this point in the development of the building at 432 Park Avenue, is $1 billion. For those with modest desires, the asking price for a 2-bedroom apartment (1789 sq.ft.) is $9.7 million. The people who can afford this housing are the worlds’ super-rich. Because they are super-rich, they generally own several properties; but because they are human, they can only inhabit one of those properties at a time. Consequently, the 84-story building will usually be 3/4 empty.

Those protesting this week at the Department of Justice over home foreclosures are angry because they feel like the Americans who are in the class of the  rich and super-rich (who can afford multi-million dollar properties) got away with making the mistakes that led to people losing their homes. For them, “Too Big to Fail” has become “Too Rich to Jail.”

On the other hand is the defense of the rich and the super-rich: they worked for it, they earned it; and their risk-taking entrepreneurship is the rising tide that lifts all boats. Stifle that, and stifle all economic growth.

These are irreconcilable views. What is not debatable, is that the gap between the rich and the poor is increasing.

That widening gap leads to these twin questions: assuming that some gap between the rich and the poor is inevitable, at what point on the acceptability scale does the size of the gap become morally unacceptable? Politically unsustainable?

Here’s an answer: the size of the gap becomes morally unacceptable when a class of people in a society avoidably bear disproportionate pain in hard times. I think we have crossed that line.

via Boom in Luxury Towers Is Warping New York Real Estate Market – NYTimes.com.

Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik, in Homs

The War Within

CNN, Al Jazeera, and Reuters, among others, are reporting on the deaths of American journalist Marie Colvin, and French journalist Remi Ochlik, in Homs, a city to the north of the Syrian capital of Damascus. The unrest in Syria is now nearly a year old.

Of course it happens every day that people– blameless and blameworthy alike– are killed in war. It is simply not possible for us to name them all, imagine them all, hold them all, and grieve them all. Our human limitation is a mercy here; loss and pain abound, and could easily swamp all of our boats. It’s not up to us to carry the pain of the world.

For the sake of our humanity, though, there are times when our compassion needs some exercise; when we need to re-contact our ability to feel– to some very, very small degree– the suffering of others. I am grateful for journalists who feel called to be witnesses for the victims of injustice and war, and to tell the stories of those who do not have a voice. It is a high calling.

Here is an excerpt from Al-Jazeera’s report, and the link to the full story:

Two foreign journalists have been killed in Homs, as activists said shelling of a district of the Syrian city continued amid warnings of an escalating humanitarian crisis. Omar Shakir, an activist in the city, told Al Jazeera that the deaths of Marie Colvin, a US reporter working for the UK’s “Sunday Times” newspaper, and French photographer Remi Ochlik occurred as a building used by activists as a media centre was shelled on Wednesday….

Victoria Nuland, a US State Department spokesperson, said the incident was “another example of the shameless brutality of the Assad regime.” France demanded access to the victims of the attack and summoned Syria’s envoy to Paris. “I am asking the Syrian government to immediately stop attacks and respect its humanitarian obligations,” Alain Juppe, the foreign minister said. “I have asked our embassy in Damascus to require the Syrian authorities provide secure medical access to assist the victims with the support of the International Committee of the Red Cross,” he said in a statement.

“Marie [Colvin] was an extraordinary figure in the life of ‘The Sunday Times,’ driven by a passion to cover wars in the belief that what she did mattered,” Sunday Times editor John Witherow said in a statement. “She believed profoundly that reporting could curtail the excesses of brutal regimes and make the international community take notice.”

In a phone interview with British broadcaster BBC on Tuesday, Colvin described the situation in the area as “absolutely sickening.” She said she had witnessed the death of a two-year-old boy after he was hit by shrapnel, and said there was a “constant stream of civilians” in the field clinic she visited. “No one here can understand how the international community….”

via Foreign journalists killed amid Homs shelling – Middle East – Al Jazeera English.

Revenge, Blood, and the Victimization of Victims

One compelling theology of the Cross is that God in Christ interrupts the machine of blood-for-blood justice by refusing to retaliate. God in Christ suffers, thereby laying legitimate claim to revenge– and then freely chooses to forgive: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” In affirming the divinity of Jesus, Christianity affirms non-violence and redemptive suffering  as being of God’s essence. It follows, then, that to practice Christianity is to practice mercy and forgiveness– in short, to practice ways of being in the world that interrupt the machine of blood-for-blood justice. This can be done in international diplomacy, at New England town meetings, and at home over the dinner table. Wherever people are in relationships, there will be pain and the desire to settle scores.

Neither the security apparatus of the United States, nor Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, will act as Christ did on the Cross. Blood for blood is the way of the world– has been, always will be. Meanwhile, faithful and courageous followers of Jesus will continue to witness to another way– God’s way– and give bodily expression to the possibilities for reconciliation and new life: a life that is stronger than death.

Here is Al Jazeera’s report on Al-Qaeda’s desire for revenge:

Al-Qaeda has confirmed the death of its leader, Osama bin Laden, and said in an online posting that it would continue to launch attacks on the West. The group said it would not deviate from the path of armed struggle and that bin Laden’s blood “is more precious to us and to every Muslim than to be wasted in vain.”

The statement was released on forums sympathetic to al-Qaeda and translated by the SITE monitoring service on Friday. “It [bin Laden’s blood] will remain, with permission from Allah the Almighty, a curse that chases the Americans and their agents, and goes after them inside and outside their countries,” al-Qaeda said.

The message called upon Pakistan, where bin Laden was discovered, to “rise up and revolt to cleanse this shame that has been attached to them… and to clean their country from the filth of the Americans who spread corruption in it.”

via Al-Qaeda vows revenge for bin Laden death – Central & South Asia – Al Jazeera English.