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What is the difference between Ireland and Iceland, Alex?

Yes, I’m stealing the joke, but it is a rather darkly funny one borne out of the latest round of currency crisis.  The EU is coming under fantastic pressure right now, as the spread between German debt and the weaker members of the union widens.  Unless you have a real stomach for potential losses, I would not be holding Irish, Portuguese, Greek, Italian, or Spanish debt right now.  There might be some interesting plays in there for short term gains, but the bailout plans that Germany has offered have been telegraphed to involve the bondholders taking losses.  So trade away, but don’t be caught holding the hot potato.

There are a lot of factors that go into all of these crises, and it would be far to simple to identify one factor.  But there are some common threads that explain some of what happened.  In my not so humble opinion, I think there has been some good press covering the unevenness of revenue collection in several of these nations.  Iceland is a little different, but it will share a root in the problem of shared goods and costs.

The NYT did a good story on tax evasion in Greece, and Vanity Fair had one on the Vatipedi Monestary and their role in land swaps and private enrichment.  And now, in the story at the top, we see another strange imbalance.  An unreasonably low business income tax that gives name to the Double Irish, a tax evasion scheme that is used by large multinationals to bury profits and inflate losses.

I will grant my colleagues on the right one thing.  Eventually, a tax rate can become so high as to induce evasion.  But what that doesn’t say is how that rate gets raised.  In my mind, there are two great promises we’ve made that we can’t keep.  The first is an effective rate of business taxation that allows for hyper-wealth creation.  I know our rates are still respectably high, but as long as there is low ground elsewhere, money will move.  Evasion makes sense if there is somewhere to go.  The other promise comes in the form of pensions and entitlements.  I acknolwedge that many of these may need to see reductions in future years.  But those promises were made to individuals, ones who right or wrong, depended on the assurances they recived.  A last minute clawback can’t be considered fair.  See also, the Minneapolis Police/Fire pension mess.  We shouldn’t have promised those benefits.  But we did.  We might be wiser about future promises when it comes to entitlements, but it really is too late to negotiate most of the deals we’ve made in the past.

The first promise, however, is one that has been implicit, not set in stone.  Businesses do rely on it, but they were never granted such assurances.  They still have the possibility to generate income against which to balance increased liabilities.  Austerity measures rightly get a bad rap.  They are generally creatures of conservative governments willing to create economic retrenchment to avoid re-balancing the field.  The rich always survive a recession better than the poor.

But how else to talk about laying clear which promises we can’t keep?  Or to take a hard look at the effect of a Irish level business tax? Austerity implies a harshness, but it also invokes a simplicity and clarity..the equality of monastic asceticism.  Should a Irish deal go forward, or the German economic engine be further required to backstop European losses, it is my sincere hope that austerity will mean a renewal of shared sacrifice, not saddling Labor with a bill that Capitol rang up.  Let’s take this moment to say collectively…you can’t run a nation on a 12.5% business tax rate, or with huge numbers of people evading ever rising taxes.

When Iceland and Ireland were pressed to assume the debts of their banking sectors, we saw the urge to nationalize losses similar to our own TARP and bailouts.  This, to some extent, will remain irresistible.  Immediate losses require capping for the general good.  But the question is if the resulting austerity will be the poverty of the people who took losses on both ends of the transaction, or if it will be a clarity about who will pay the next round?

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

Anonymity has a lot of different effects, and most of it depends on where you’re standing.

For Delgado Cero, it’s lifeblood. I don’t think anyone could doubt that the continued existence of EZLN and their struggle depends on a carefully guarded and secretive leader.

But that same concern of “privacy” looks a whole lot different when it’s Bushies claiming that they have the right to operate the goverance of a democracy without any fucking oversight.

That’s why I posted “docs.” Sure enough, as i guessed, anonymous delivered.

Sarah Palin, taking a page out of the Rovian handbook, decided to use Yahoo to conduct the business of the state of Alaska. For Bush and Cheney, the appeal of such moves (they at least had the brains to use RNC servers which are slightly more secure) is to hide their actions from any potential review. It makes the use and abuse of power easier, since you know your communication can’t be reviewed.

Oddly enough, in order to gain this “privacy” to use the power of the government as she personally saw fit, she put valuable information within the reach of those who are, shall we say….chaotic neutral.

We have a choice. We can insist transparency, that the secrets of the government are best protected by archived servers that will allow for total accountability…

Or we can allow our leaders to continue to rely on obscurity for security and do things like use yahoo for government business, exposing their machinations not to the people at large, but a select few that dare to break in and get them.

Whether she knew it or not, Palin did something incredibly reckless and dumb.

My hope is that something exposed in this leak helps bury her rise to power, and the idea that archived government email isn’t a requirement of a truly free state.

After all we know, do we really believe that we can allow any government to operate without total review of what they’re doing? We need to turn the surveillance state back on itself.

-sly

So, it turns out that Palin uses yahoo email to conduct the business of the state of Alaska.

Docs.  You need moar of them

Just sayin.

-sly

I keep hoping that I’ll shake free of the writer’s block that keeps gripping me. it doesn’t happen.

Since i left academia, i feel like the ideas are drying up even more that i could have guessed they would. which is honestly more disturbing that just being writer’s block. i’d hate to think i was dependent on that kind of thing for my ideas.

part of it is the sense of reaction, that i was constantly being expected to respond to nearly everything that came across my path. at a certain point, though, it started to feel awfully rote. I was writing stuff that would have been really good, if it was the first time that i’d written it. But instead, it was in perpetual rehash, a stuck note in my understanding.

another part is that i’m getting shy again. i’m not sure that it comes across in my online persona much, but in person, i am painfully shy, but trapped with the social needs of an extrovert.

i recall staying the night at a friend’s house once…because i’d had too much to drive home. she went off with her boy after they walked me to her place and i woke up the next morning, and for a moment, i felt amazing. the rain was coming down, i was in a good friend’s bed. i felt the cool air around me, the smell of the rain, and the indescribable joy of simply having the hospitality of amazing person i really admired.

it didn’t take long for the anxiety to kick in. that strange grace of knowing that i was a trusted and appricated friend vanished into a baseless paralysis. i stayed, trapped in her room, not making a sound because i couldn’t imagine actually talking to her house mates as i left…even though i knew both of them.

i ended up leaving the keys on the counter after waiting for 4 hours for them to leave…and locking the door. Yeah. So caught up in avoiding human contact that i’d completely forgotten that i was locking my friend out of her own house. when she called to pick up her keys, she was….surprised…to hear that i’d managed to do this. to this day, i’m not quite sure what she made of it.

it’s strange living like this…and i’m incredibly grateful for the friends who humor my oddities.

it’s just been making it very hard to write lately…but i am trying. i can’t tell if my academic ennui is real, if i truly am writing the same things over and over again…but i sure am paranoid that’s what’s happening.

i need to find something very different to write about for a change. ideas, anyone?

-sly

When i was working on a paper on mental health and theology, i had some questions about how churches have dealt with suicides in the past. i asked around a little, and started to expect a fairly disappointing answer. I read stories about refusals to inter bodies or even conduct the most basic of services.

A true moment of light was when Fr. Pat Malone talked to me about the options that a priest has when facing that decision. As of now, the preference is to bury and to give rites. But even prior to those reforms, a priest always had a choice to declare the matter private, of the internal forum. What amazed me was the strength of belief in a system of resolution beyond that of hierarchy. Not exactly my pre-conceived notion of Catholicism.

Simply, as I understand it from his explanations, there are matters of faith and personal life that cannot be expected to be resolved by church courts or strict adherence to teaching. Like Christ, the church too must be merciful and responsive to the individual soul.* The most common use of internal forum today is to allow Catholics to return to the sacraments after getting divorced. As long as they come to understand through prayer a reconciliation of their actions and their faith to God. It might be repentance of sin or it might be the finding of a clear conscience, doing what was truly best.

This simple notion has come to underscore my entire theology of queerness and the church. Queer issues are primarily pastoral, not theological to me. There is nothing about the character of God or the scriptures that are at stake for me. I know God to be loving, and I understand the witness of the Bible as reflective of that love.

The question is not transcendent. It is entirely immediate. What are we doing, pastorally, to care for those who are in pain?

This is where Father Pat comes in. When a family is in pain because of suicide, a sudden and traumatic loss occurs, he tells me that the clear choice is to move matters out of dispute and into the care of the church. To address the human need to know that God is with them in their pain, the priest has a wide authority to do what they need. Most often, it came in the form of burying the deceased and offering blessings and prayers that gave the family hope. Despite a ostensibly clear teaching that suicides were damned, the reality of the church has been a steady move towards a more humane approach. Many times, this was done quietly. Other times, it came in the form of a public burial that served to reconcile the deceased, the family, and the community.**

So what do we do in the face of queer issues in the church today? Protect people, care for the hurt, and do what we can in a broken world.

The time to break with tradition is when the application thereof leads to more pain, not the grace of the Kingdom. And even if we cannot, as a whole Body come to an agreement, individual pastors still have an obligation to provide care in the interim.

If that means blessing a marriage so that couples have a greater chance of being able to see each other in the hospital….then that’s what we do.

If that means publicly fighting transphobia to try to stop the violence…then we have an obligation to do so.

If it means trying to address the concerns of those who are leaving the church because they are conservative…then, as church leaders, we do that too.

Grander theological concerns notwithstanding, a clear pattern emerges. The conduct of the church on the local level can have real effects of the quality of people’s lives. Do they feel as if God loves them? Can they be protected by the social privilege given to the church?

Even when Christendom as a whole fights over what to do, these remain pastoral issues. This is not revolutionary, this is a move to compassionately meet people where their lives are. That’s gospel, right there.

This post is dedicated to a wonderful ally in the Lutheran Church who has given me much to think about.

-sly

*Mark 2:27
**The teachings and law on internal forum are varied on this point. Many authorities point to the need for the resolution obtained in internal forum not to damage the rest of the faithful. This might outlaw any public recognition of variances, but that hinges on the definition of damage. I, for one, think there is plenty of theological room for seeing the pastoral needs of the harmed and the dishonored coming before the strong. 1 Corinthians offers an extended vision of what it means that God has sought out what has been despised, to show the full breadth of grace and reconciliation made known in Christ Jesus.

does anyone remember the story where a woman was basically forced to drop charges or else the judge was going to notify immigration?

i think it was this summer.

if anyone has links, etc…

that’d be great.

if this is a mirage of my memory…

oh well.

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