October 2010


26th Week of Common Time, Year C

perhaps i shall back track a bit from my previous post.  saying one thing, then saying the opposite is in fact a delicately christian art.  we call it tension.  it is often muddy and confusing.  but living in this tension is pretty well what we’ve got.  to live in dying, and to glory in the cross.

Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom! Listen to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah! What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls…

If you think about all of these things as the output of a semi-organized agrarian economy, then it pretty well lines up with the consumer goods of our day.  Perhaps Coke, a Disney movie, and a BMW.  There is not much use in offering up directly the work of our hands.  It is hard to imagine then, that shareholder rights are really high up on God’s list of things to accomplish.  Why then, should they receive more than a passing thought from me?

We some how imagine that the commands we hear shall be accomplished when we have more to give, are stronger to that we might help the weak.  This is a particularly difficult imaginative frame to break.  It seems borne out in some ways.  The doctor who does not protect herself will soon find herself of no help against a plague.  But there is something insidious about the new buildings full of well-fed aid workers that stands over the refugee tents.  I wish I had answers here, but sadly, all i’ve got is a question here.  There must be purpose to that work of our hands, so that it becomes set apart.

When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.

The passage then ends with some hope.  God tells Isaiah that they shall argue it out…and the sins of the people will be cleansed.  But it takes that argument to get there.    In celebration of all God’s Saints, and in hope for all souls…

Let us argue it out.  Let us learn how do as we are commanded.

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back by popular demand.

in other words, one of my friends told me she’d “read the shit out of” this blog.  and since i do owe her for loaning me a cocksucking copy of fucking Deadwood, i’d best oblige.

that, and it just doesn’t take much for me to start writing again.  whether i keep up with myself is another question.  i thought this time around i’d try to mix things up.  i’ll still try to do some reflections on the lectionary on sundays or thereabouts, but i’d also mix in some financial news with my regular pomo-ness.

it’s not something i studied, or have some special insight into…except as someone who has both gotten a good and raw deal from the american economy as of late.  so from time to time, i’ll put a few words up about what i’ve learned.

i’ve been thinking about the govenor’s election a lot, and how the donations to MN Forward played out.  what i keep coming back to is that I’m glad i don’t own any Target.  it’s not that the expenditure was particularly large, or the blowback that painful.  but it was clear that the management was willing to risk store openings in key urban locations just to have their say in local politics.  and there’s something really odd about that.  if you own a stock for the long haul, i’d venture that there are very few political issues that will actually be worth donating for.  and many would be too radioactive to be smart.  unless your sector has a truly burdensome regulation…think stem cell research….politics is just too short term to really have an impact on your investment.

but for the c-level exec, politics matters a great deal.  your shelf life is short enough that no matter what the board might say about long-term incentives, there is just too much for them to lose in a year, a quarter, or even a day.  so they look to protect it by chasing faster moving money.  the tax treatment of profits, the power they can wield to render corporate boards toothless, and otherwise take the capitol of others and turn it into private income…these are all the short term interests of the ceo looking to hir stock options.

so oddly enough, Citizens United and the flow of corporate money might not actually be a very capitol friendly tactic.  it is, however, awfully kind to the professional management class that has stepped in…the Tony Haywards, the Jack Donaghys, Angelo Mozilos of the world.  they might be rich, but not on the same scale that a Ford, Rockefeller or Carnagie was.  Certainly, they never own the percentages of the underlying company that those guys did.  and so their time frame is shorter than we as a society need it to be.

so as we start trying to move our nation again, i have the following suggestion.  look at institutional ownership percentages.  and support shareholder rights laws.  the new player in the economy is going to be the retirement fund…the endowment officer, and the trust manager.  the folks who have as long a horizon as the rest of the nation.

honest services laws might prove too vague to actually pin folks to the wall, but modern capitol behaves too erratically, too dangerously for us to really be okay with it.

-sc