Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Parag Khanna: Waving goodbye to hegemony

The self-deluding universalism of the American imperium — that the world inherently needs a single leader and that American liberal ideology must be accepted as the basis of global order — has paradoxically resulted in America quickly becoming an ever-lonelier superpower. Just as there is a geopolitical marketplace, there is a marketplace of models of success for the second world to emulate, not least the Chinese model of economic growth without political liberalization (itself an affront to Western modernization theory). As the historian Arnold Toynbee observed half a century ago, Western imperialism united the globe, but it did not assure that the West would dominate forever — materially or morally. Despite the “mirage of immortality” that afflicts global empires, the only reliable rule of history is its cycles of imperial rise and decline, and as Toynbee also pithily noted, the only direction to go from the apogee of power is down.

Read the whole (8 page) article on the NY Times website.

Monday, January 28, 2008

re the lending spree at Countrywide

Marketwatch reports that Angelo Mozilo is giving up a large chunk of his overly generous severance package. Good for him.

Of course, he already made quite a bit of money off selling Countrywide shares before the other shoe had dropped.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Henry Whipple, a path-breaking Episcopal bishop

From Episcopal Cafe

By Howard Anderson

I have just been reading the proofs of a most interesting biography of Bishop Henry Bishop Whipple, the first bishop of Minnesota. He was elected bishop when there was scarcely any church activity in Minnesota, and persevered for over 42 years as bishop building the diocese into a large diocese with over 200 parishes and missions. He also created a second diocese, The Missionary Diocese of Duluth, which survived until World War II. He cut a wide swath in world wide Anglican circles- a personal friend of five Archbishops of Canterbury and Queen Victoria, his colleagues in the House of Bishop’s held him in highest regard. He was a personal friend of Presbyterian leaders in the U.S and Scotland, well known to the Coptic Pope and Armenian Patriarch. He was a personal friend of a number of U.S. Presidents, counted the nations greatest industrialists as friends and certainly donors to the ministry of the diocese.

Traveling by canoe, horse drawn wagon, horseback (his huge and elegant horse, Old Bashaw, served him for 29 years and was a celebrity across Minnesota) he built the diocese into one of the strongest west of the Mississippi, and even got the perennially Eastern location of the General Convention moved to Minneapolis in the 1890’s, the first time it had ever been held in “the West.” He did battle with Congress over Indian rights, and often won. He convinced Presidents Lincoln, Grant, McKinley and Cleveland to modify federal Indian policy, and even got famed “Indian fighter" Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman to admit publicly that he was a liar and backed Gen. Phil Sheridan into changing a war like Indian policy for the federal government into a less bloody policy.

He did all this on a financial shoestring. He was in ill health his whole life, bedridden often, and on doctor’s orders spent many winters in Florida to avoid recurring pneumonia and other respiratory problems. This never seemed to slow him down. In addition to the many Ojibwe and Dakota Episcopal churches, he launched missions to the Swedes and Norwegian’s flooding into Minnesota. When he was wintering in Florida he pressed for better treatment of African Americans, and advocated for the Seminole Indians to be able to keep their title to the Everglades. The schools (Shattuck, St. Mary’s and St. James) and seminary (Seabury) he founded educated women and Native Americans at a time when this was rare. He was faithful in adversity, struggling against great odds to advocate for the voiceless. He seldom found a disenfranchised group which he could not advocate for, drawing deeply from the gospel. Whipple felt that indigenous people across the globe needed to be given autonomy “to overcome the colonial nature of the genesis of their churches through the Church of England’s missionary endeavors.”

The most interesting thing I found in this new biography was a warning to the Communion that we should heed in the 21st Century. When the Lambeth Conference of 1897 was held, and the precursor to the Anglican Consultative Council was created under the leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Whipple warned “In the past, centralization of authority beyond national bounds has been full of mischief and has brought sorrow to the Church.” He reminded the bishops present in a speech that “each national church had its own peculiar responsibilities to God for the souls entrusted to its care…and any intervention of one national church in the affairs of another will certainly bring sorrow.” Whipple had been very supportive of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, and saw in its insistence on a very broad and generous spirited approach to unity, rather than uniformity, the future of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Oh if we had only taken his advice to beware of the meddling by primates and bishops in the affairs of national churches!

When I look at the raredos at the National Cathedral and see the statue of Whipple, I realize that he was a man of great courage, vision and, it appears, connected to the deepest roots of the Anglican tradition.

The Rev. Dr. Howard Anderson is Warden and President of the Cathedral College at Washington National Cathedral. He was a long time General Convention deputy.

When English at work is the rule

The NY Times has an article about businesses that formally or informally mandate the use of English only at the workplace. Spanish speakers seem to be the prime target of these regulations. If true, then they clearly are the result of anti-immigrant sentiment.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed suit against the Salvation Army for dismissing two Spanish-speaking clothing sorters.

Under the Civil Rights Act, rules limiting which languages can be spoken in a workplace are allowed only if they are nondiscriminatory and if they serve a clear business or safety purpose. In 2004, the Salvation Army decided to enforce an English-only rule after the sorters had been working in the Framingham store for several years, the commission’s complaint said. The commission found no such reason for the limitation. A Salvation Army spokesman declined to comment on the specifics of the case, which is pending, but the organization says it believes there is no legal basis for the suit.

Politicians like Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, have jumped into the fray. Last year, Mr. Alexander introduced legislation to prevent the commission from suing over English-only rules. After that measure died in conference committee, he introduced a similar one in December.

“This bill’s not about affecting people’s lunch hour or coffee break — it’s about protecting the rights of employers to ensure their employees can communicate with each other and their customers during the working hours,” he said in a recent statement. “In America, requiring English in the workplace is not discrimination; it’s common sense.”

In some industries, such as air traffic control, there are safety issues. However, language use should be primarily a management and human resource issue. If English-speaking workers feel excluded or gossiped about when Spanish speakers converse in Spanish, the solution is not to ban Spanish.

Wachovia Bank does things the right way. The bank offers services nationwide, and now overseas as well. Sharon Matthews, director of workforce policy, says, “We expect our employees to be able to speak with colleagues in English, but we also place a great emphasis on bilingual or multilingual skills."

In more cases, combat trauma takes the stand

The New York Times has a very harrowing article on Iraq veterans who suffer from PTSD and commit murder. It is crucial to note that simply having served in combat does not mean that one becomes a time bomb. However, some people are seriously affected. Some commit murder. Punishing those who commit murder is necessary but it doesn't solve anything.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California has signed a bill passing a jail diversion program, which attempts to divert veterans with PTSD out of the criminal justice system. It is important to do this, but jail diversion programs do not deal with serious felonies.

Pray for the troops. On both sides.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Smartmoney: US corporations are NOT heavily taxed; tax code should be simplified

Igor Greenwald, writing for, says that despite rhetoric, American corporations do not face high tax rates compared to others in Western nations. True, the tax brackets may seem high, but corporations are getting a lot of tax breaks.

IF YOU SAY SOMETHING long enough and loud enough, there's every chance people will come to believe it's true, especially if your opponents tire of rebuttals.

This time-honored political strategy has been working overtime of late, as Republican presidential hopefuls romance the richer Florida retirees with appeals for cuts in corporate taxes.

You may have heard: U.S. corporations face one of the highest income tax rates in the world, though the mention of "rate" is often enough excised, so that what comes through is the assertion that corporations pay too much in taxes. This is simply untrue if your basis for comparison is the developed world. The truth is that while the 35% corporate income tax rate is high indeed, the creativity and global reach of U.S. corporations make them among the most lightly levied.

Between 2000 and 2005, U.S. corporate taxes amounted to 2.2% of the GDP. The average for the 30 mostly rich member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development was 3.4%.

Why the disparity given the high federal rate, which rises to 39% counting state taxes? Part of the answer is that big U.S. companies have become expert at hiding profits in tax havens overseas. And many of the smaller ones simply pass through their income to owners who then report it on their personal returns.

According to one analysis, if so much corporate income hadn't moved to the personal tax rolls over the last 20 years, U.S. corporate taxes would account for 3.2% of the GDP, still a bit below the OECD average. "Usage of pass-through forms of business organization can be viewed as a form of 'self-help' corporate tax integration," writes Peter R. Merrill, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Greenwald says that the tax code is excessively complex. This is to the benefit of tax lawyers, and to the detriment of everyone else, including ordinary citizens. Simplifying the tax code, and eliminating a lot of income shelters, while also reducing top tax rates, could benefit everyone. He contends that effective US corporate tax rates peaked at 32% in 2000, but declined to 25% in 2005. Sweden charges 28%. Perhaps this should cease being a left/right issue.

NY Times: Inside the lending spree at Countrywide Financial

It's a bit of a long article, but the New York Times tells us how it went down in Countrywide Financial, one of the poster children for the subprime fiasco. I'm not going to put the whole article up here, but you can read the whole thing if interested. If you are, skip the spoilers below.

This is basically a tale of greed - is anyone surprised? Countrywide gave their salespeople financial incentives to steer consumers to loans that were the most profitable for Countrywide. It goes without saying that consumers didn't always get the cheapest loans they would have qualified for.

Countrywide's computer systems excluded borrowers' cash reserves until last September (by which time Countrywide was already in financial distress). If it had not, some borrowers could have qualified for lower-cost loans than they received.

Meanwhile, Angelo Mozilo, Countrywide's preternaturally bronzed CEO, sold hundreds of millions of dollars worth of stock, including on the way down to nearly zero. He hasn't made a share purchase since 1987. In other words, he wasn't willing to put his money where his mouth was, in his own business. It's also regarded as bad form to sell when the stock is going down. Stocks can go down when a company is suffering through correctable problems and is investing in its future, so a good CEO should in fact be buying on the way down. Countrywide was also incredibly generous with stock option grants. Companies that are overly generous with options are basically giving shareholders' money away (although options are not bad per se, and are used well by companies like American Express and Microsoft).

And Countrywide continued to have lax lending standards even pretty late into the crisis.

I think I read a survey somewhere, showing that Americans were somewhat in favor of extending aid to at least some borrowers, but were dead against extending any aid to the lenders. I find that a reasonable proposition. The problem is it will be very, very difficult to do that.

As for Countrywide, it is to be acquired by Bank of America. Countrywide was the nation's biggest mortgage servicing platform, and allowing it do die completely would make it harder for people to get mortgages. I've heard bad things about Bank of America's customer service, but they will at least enact stricter lending standards, and they will have the financial resources to cut some borrowers a break so that they can repay their loans. They have no legal requirement to do so, although it would be in their financial interest as well as good PR.

As for Mozilo, it will be hard to prove criminal or civil wrongdoing. One Senator (a Democrat and a man, but I forget his name) asked Mozilo to give away most of his profits to charity. You think he will?

It is within the remit of the Federal Reserve to control lending standards. Alan Greenspan, because of his ideology, refused to even consider doing so. When he cut interest rates after the tech bubble burst, his ideology blinded him to the fact that he was igniting a preventable bubble in housing. Now, some say he should not have cut interest rates so deep; I don't believe I have the information to say that he should not have. However, he could and should have controlled lending standards, but he did not do so. He should share in the blame for this crisis, and I hope the present Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, will do better. Bernanke is a Republican, but he seems a smart man.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Oh the vanity of material possessions

Those of you who are into investing will note that, while the U.S. market was closed for MLK Day, overseas markets dropped over 5%, spooked by worries over financial stocks hit by the subprime fiasco.

It's interesting that American subprime borrowers could cause a global financial selloff - their debt got packaged into collateralized debt obligations, which were then sold and traded. Bond rating agencies rated them unreasonably highly, because when interest rates were low and property prices were rising, people could pay their mortgages. However, interest rates started to rise, and people couldn't pay. Then, masses of houses were sold, there was a glut of homes, and property prices started to drop. And then interest rates started falling, but that made no difference when people couldn't sell their houses.

I wonder why Wall Street venerates Martin. But anyway, a lot of people got greedy. Some bought houses they couldn't afford. Some facilitated the lending of money to the previous two groups; these folks had MBAs from top financial institutions, and surely they knew that someday it would come to an end?

I once scrawled, "Oh the vanity of material possessions" over all my boxes when I moved apartments. It didn't completely stop me from buying new stuff. However, it did help me to remember that stuff has a purpose. It must serve me for the long haul.

Businesspeople should remember the long haul. Too many thought they could make money in the short term. They invested for the short term. Well, there are a lot of investors who are investing for the long term. They have cash on the sidelines, ready to scoop up bargains - and there will be a lot of them. Those are the folks who will come out ahead.

All of us should remember that: think long-term. And remember, material possessions are vain: they only matter so far as they meet our needs or the needs of others.

Monday, January 21, 2008

I am a White moderate

‘And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the origin* of God’s creation:

‘I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth. For you say, “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.” You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.

Revelation 3:14-18, NRSV

Today, America celebrates the life of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As I've mentioned earlier, saints in the Catholic tradition are celebrated on the day they entered into glory. I will have a further reflection on Martin later.

But today, I'm forced to ponder something Martin said. A bunch of bishops, including some Episcopal ones, had written to reproach him for going too far. At the time, he was in the jail in Birmingham, Alabama.

"the Negro's greatest stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to ‘order' than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice."

In the passage from Revelation, Jesus is asking John, the author of the book, to write to seven churches, rebuking them for their sins. The church in Laodicea is allegedly lukewarm - kind of like the "white moderate".

God, however, calls us to seek first the Kingdom of God. Like Jesus entering the temple and chasing the money changers away, what is unjust will be reworked.

Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me. To the one who conquers I will give a place with me on my throne, just as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.’
Revelation 3:20-22, NRSV


Friday, January 18, 2008

Sign up for an online savings account at Shorebank and get $25

Shorebank is a community development bank that serves Chicago, Cleveland, and Detroit.

Welcome to ShoreBank, a community development and environmental bank that enjoys a proud heritage of serving Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit. ShoreBank is committed to building stronger communities, creating a healthier environment, and helping its customers achieve financial success. When you bank at ShoreBank, you will experience friendly, expert customer service while also having the satisfaction of knowing that your deposits will have a positive impact in the community.

They've never offered attractive interest rates before, but looks like they are doing so now. I believe you can get 5% interest, plus a $25 bonus, as reported by this article on Bank Deals.

Banks earn money by taking your money and loaning it out to others at higher interest rates. It's a very good business to be in. Typically, the cheapest money for banks is the money in your checking account, and income from fees (the overdraft fees they keep charging you, credit card fees, etc). Another relatively cheap source is money from CDs and online savings accounts. The latter are pretty low maintenance and can get a bank a lot of deposits. Of course, people can also pull their deposits out.

5% is actually above the Federal Funds Rate, so don't expect this to last for long. It's obvious that Shorebank wants deposits. They are also FDIC insured like all banks (credit unions are insured through the NCUA), so if they go bankrupt, your deposits up to $100,000 are insured and will be returned. However, Shorebank's financial condition is also below its peer group (using Bankrate's Safe and Sound rating). They will not be able to sustain that rate for long. However, they're also not a distressed institution.

Bottom line, your money gets loaned out to community development projects. You get 5% for a short time, plus a $25 bonus. Shorebank will likely cut this, and it will be to below the Federal Funds Rate. Their goals are to maximize the economic development of their communities and to operate profitably, so they're not going to give their depositors a free ride. But your money will go to do good.

Please pray for Shorebank and similar banks and credit unions all around the world.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Making a flat tax progressive

Having a flat tax is appealing to some Republicans. Although you would gut the tax preparation industry, you could also conduct a major downsizing of the IRS, and save lots of time and effort preparing tax returns. This saves the government, citizens, and businesses time and money, and is not to be sneezed at.

Liberals wish to preserve a progressive tax system, and a flat tax on its face isn't appealing.

Eddy Elfelbein did us a favor. He went through historical tax rates and calculated how to structure a flat tax in a revenue neutral fashion. He also said that if we insisted on doing that, conservatives might not like it so much: to be revenue neutral for 2005, you would exempt $35,725 in income, and tax every penny above that (including business, social security, regular and investment income, etc) at 31.85%.

Perhaps a flat tax is just and perhaps it is not. However, we can say that policy makers should not try to use tax policies to micromanage people's behavior. Do that and you get monstrously complicated systems like American tax laws.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Some personal reflections

First, apologies for the lack of posts. I've been busy and jet-lagged.

I'm graduating in April, and I'm trying to find a job. Right now, my dream job is at Group Health Cooperative in Seattle. As a vice president in a student housing cooperative, the co-op model is very appealing to me. I find some of my current fellow co-oppers to be severely lacking in social skills, but that won't be the case at GHC. They've done a lot of innovative stuff in chronic care improvement, and I want to be a part of that. The problem is that my degree is more policy focused as opposed to hospital management focused. I will not be GHC's first choice.

If I were to do things over, and if I could keep the values and the ability to perceive injustice I acquired in undergraduate, I would either do a Bachelor of Business Admin degree followed by the policy MPH, or I would do social science in undergrad, and the management MPH.

Nonetheless, I believe I have competencies that will appeal to them, and I can make a very good case for myself. I am also applying to two health policy jobs, one based in DC, and one based in Austin, TX. I would be an excellent fit for either position.

As a side note, the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, which contains Austin, is on the approved list, as opposed to, say, Fort Worth. Austin is a great city to live in, but Texas is a very red state, and I might not feel very comfortable as a Texan. That said, there are Asians in Texas, and I would probably like Austin.

As a side note, cycling is a hobby of mine. I love road bikes. I prefer old style steel road bikes to the newer carbon bikes these days. There are a number of one person artisan steel manufacturers in the US, and I recently bought a bike from one. Most carbon bikes are mass manufactured. However, Nick Crumpton is a one-person carbon bicycle manufacturer, and he is based in Austin. Richard Sachs, probably the premier steel builder, has recommended Crumpton among a bunch of other highly skilled steel builders.

Prayers would be appreciated for my job search. I do want to work in the US, as opposed to Singapore, because a) there is much work to be done, and b) on balance, Americans value innovation more than simply doing things by the book, which appeals to my personality and my training.

My church's vestry had a retreat yesterday at the Emrich Retreat Center in Bloomington, Michigan. The grounds are beautiful and peaceful. Our seminary intern led us off with a Celtic prayer service, whose enunciation of creation theology went well with the surroundings. I've always been attracted to the Celtic theme on some level, despite not knowing much about it; in some ways, I have always been attracted to Native American theology as well, again without being Native American or knowing them in depth.

One thought came out of our retreat: our church is doing a tremendous amount of good work.

One other desultory thought: we did an assessment of spiritual gifts, based on Paul's teachings. There are supporting gifts, like administration, mercy, and helping. There are equipping gifts, like leadership (more the vision as opposed to the administration, although one could have both), exhortation, and teaching. And there are "other" gifts, like healing and discernment. The questions used to determine if we had gifts of discernment included things like, do you like to discern the difference between good and evil? Can you sense if something is in God's plan, or not? Do you like to thwart Satan in some way?

As Episcopalians, we don't mention the Devil much, and we don't often divide the universe sharply into good and evil. However, Evangelicals often do, and I was raised Evangelical. And I boldly acknowledge that there is evil in the world (but homosexuality is NOT included). I scored very high on discernment, much to the amusement of the rest of my fellow Vestry members. I was not surprised at all; my sermon on Kamehameha and Emma was practically an archetypal example of discernment in the context of spiritual gifts: discerning what is light, dark and gray. However, I do think my church is much better at discernment than they think.

Incidentally, as a psychology major, the categories overlapped significantly. From the point of view of factor analysis (think the Big 5 traits), the inventory was very poorly designed; the traits were not orthogonal to each other. Of course, Christians find it valid. And if you don't know what I was talking about, it doesn't matter.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Diversity in business: no excuse not to

An excerpt from an interview with John Rogers, of the Ariel Funds

Smartmoney: You have talked about the lack of diversity in corporate America. Do you look at a company's diversity policy when investing?

John Rogers: It is part of the mosaic in determining if the management team is smart or not, do they get it or not. We ask questions and have been able to move the needle somewhat and push companies to have their Jackie Robinson moments. If they are really stubborn, have no excuses and no good reasons about the lack of diversity, it affects our view on how smart, thoughtful and talented management is.

They're all peddling change, all of a sudden

No man will work for your interests unless they are his.
Share With Friends Seabury, David

American presidential candidates are peddling change, all of a sudden. Obviously copying a successful forumla started by Barack Obama.

On one level, it doesn't matter who wins the damn election. Obama is probably the least wealthy of all those running, and he is a millionaire (albeit just barely).

As a Christian, my thoughts turn to the poor. And then they turn to the ways that companies use financial incentives to produce performance. Stock options sharply reduce the downside, but they may encourage unnecessary risk, and are dilutive to existing investors. Restricted stock grants work better. But lately we've seen disgraced executives who leave actually getting their grants vested immediately. Some companies that hire a CEO away compensate them for their 'lost' stock options or grants, thereby rendering meaningless the restricted nature of the grants.

On the other hand, if done well, option or stock grants can be very effective. American Express recently got some good press for intelligently structuring a stock option grant to their CEO.

Now, what will it take to get our elected officials to produce policies that will meaningfully assist the nation's poor? They increase their salaries and grant themselves benefits, and yet the income of the poor remains flat.

Perhaps we should tie any increases in our leaders' pay to the increase in incomes of the bottom 5% of all wage earners. Maybe that would be a start. If the bottom 5% have wages that remain flat with inflation, our leaders get no pay raises!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Hypocrisy + Hypocrisy + Bigotry = ?

Our friends at Episcopal Cafe have a link to an expose on Richard Mellon Scaife, a financier of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. The IRD, as we know, is a notorious bunch of homophobes.

Scaife funneled millions of dollars into the attack on Bill Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal.

Additionally, CNN has this quote about Scaife:
A former Scaife employee, Pat Minarcin, said, "He has the emotional maturity of a very angry 12-year-old, and he has all this money and he can do whatever he wants with it."

In Pittsburgh, Minarcin edited a magazine for Scaife, but resigned. "He [Scaife] presented a list of people who he wanted the magazine to attack, a kind of enemies list," Minarcin said.

Vanity Fair's expose, however, reveals a more complicated picture. Despite allegedly being a family values supporter, Scaife has been an open philanderer - his word, not mine. He compared himself in that regard to Bill Clinton. His two marriages were ... tumultuous and marred by petty vindictiveness on both sides.

From Vanity Fair:
Asked whether his infidelity is hypocritical, in light of his political commitments, he refers not to a moral principle but to his own personal history. “My first marriage ended with an affair,” he says, amused. And monogamy is not, he continues, an essential part of a good marriage. “I don’t want people throwing rocks at me in the street. But I believe in open marriage.” Philandering, Scaife says with a laugh, “is something that Bill Clinton and I have in common.”

Those are surprising words indeed to hear from a man who spent so lavishly to uncover Bill Clinton’s sexual peccadilloes and to advance the movement fueled by family values. But it would be a mistake to read the saga of Richard Mellon Scaife’s divorce as simply a story of moral hypocrisy. His treatment of women, especially his first wife, suggests a high regard for his own gratification. His commitment to conservative politics has never been primarily about upholding traditional morality; it has been about promoting policies that help to preserve his own wealth and that of people like himself.

So, there you have it.

But, there's also this tidbit:
Scaife left the meeting with an autographed copy of Bill Clinton’s My Life and a head full of thoughts about the “scourge of aids” in Africa, which the two had discussed in detail—though Scaife emphasizes, twice, that Clinton “did most of the talking.” Back in Pittsburgh, Scaife decided to send a $100,000 personal check to the Clinton Global Initiative. That got him thinking about aids locally, he says, and so when he found a direct-mail solicitation for persad, Pittsburgh’s aids service center, in his mailbox, he wrote that group a check, too. Does he think his best gay friends should be able to get married? Scaife throws his hand in the air and exclaims, “Yes, I do!” A moment later he adds, “I haven’t really thought about it. But if they want to get married, that’s their business. I couldn’t care less.”

And yet, this man's foundation donated $1.6 million to the IRD between '85 and '01; the IRD is attempting to split three mainline denominations (Methodist, Presbyterian, and Episcopal) over the issue of homosexuality.

The simple interpretation is that Dick Scaife is spoiled, stupid and hypocritical. However, simple interpretations aren't always right. Only God can know what's in our hearts. Personally, I don't like what I see, but there's a good reason I'm not God.

Katharine Jefferts Schori, the Presiding Bishop, recently sent this Christmas card, by janet McKenzie, out to all Bishops in the Episcopal Church.

Narrative: Wise women throughout time and in every culture know themselves to be seekers and seers of the Divine. In Janet McKenzie’s interpretation of the Magi, women around the world find an image of the Epiphany that includes and validates their encounters with the One Who Saves, celebrated here in the powerful, protective and tender manifestation of a mother and her child, embraced and nurtured by a loving community. Here is global inclusiveness and a vision of mutuality and interdependence – the giving and receiving of the three gifts essential to life itself: presence, love and daily bread. Epiphany proclaims again and anew: Christ for all people. God’s favor extends to all!

I came across this by way of Susan Russell. It is interesting to note that one of our (likely soon to be former) bishops, Jack, had a bit of an allergic reaction.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

South Park: Blame Canada

Sheila: Times have changed
Our kids are getting worse
They won't obey their parents
They just want to fart and curse!
Sharon: Should we blame the government?
Liane: Or blame society?
Dads: Or should we blame the images on TV?
Sheila: No, blame Canada
Everyone: Blame Canada
Sheila: With all their beady little eyes
And flapping heads so full of lies
Everyone: Blame Canada
Blame Canada
Sheila: We need to form a full assault
Everyone: It's Canada's fault!
Sharon: Don't blame me
For my son Stan
He saw the damn cartoon
And now he's off to join the Klan!
Liane: And my boy Eric once
Had my picture on his shelf
But now when I see him he tells me to fuck myself!
Sheila: Well, blame Canada
Everyone: Blame Canada
Sheila: It seems that everything's gone wrong
Since Canada came along
Everyone: Blame Canada
Blame Canada
Copy Guy: They're not even a real country anyway
Ms. McCormick: My son could've been a doctor or a lawyer rich and true,
Instead he burned up like a piggy on the barbecue
Everyone: Should we blame the matches?
Should we blame the fire?
Or the doctors who allowed him to expire?
Sheila: heck no!
Everyone: Blame Canada
Blame Canada
Sheila: With all their hockey hullabaloo
Liane: And that bitch Anne Murray too
Everyone: Blame Canada
Shame on Canada
The smut we must stop
The trash we must bash
The Laughter and fun
Must all be undone
We must blame them and cause a fuss
Before somebody thinks of blaming uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuus!!!!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Hypocrisy + bigotry = ?

Dennis, a fellow blogger, has a post concerning Lindsay Urwin, Bishop of Horsham (Church of England). Lindsay had recently expressed support for the breakaway (former) Diocese of San Joaquin in the US.

Regarding the Bishop of Horsham
Back in 1993 I was working for an English MP. While most of my time that spring was spent in London, a few weekends I went and stayed with a friend in Brighton. That friend was a priest in a small parish outside of Brighton. His friend Lindsay was also a priest in the Diocese of Chichester and was the "missioner" of the diocese.

Lindsay was 37 or so at the time and a good looking man for his age (being 38 myself now that seems like a silly thing to say but it was how I saw things as a 23 year old back then).

We hooked up twice in Holy Week of 1993. I fell for him in one of those puppy dog crushes newly out gay men sometimes have.

My friend warned me that Lindsay had a reputation for "teahouses" (by which he meant frequenting public restrooms). His advice was "don't fall for Lindsay. He wants to be a bishop". At this point Lindsay had even been a candidate to be a bishop in some other country (I think some island in the Pacific Ocean or somewhere in Africa, I don't remember). My friend's point was that Lindsay was a man who kept his sexuality hidden because he wanted a miter.

I took his advice and dropped my interest in Lindsay.

Soon after that I returned to the US.

Two years later Lindsay became the youngest bishop in the Church of England at 39. He had a chance to speak for the place of gays and lesbians. Instead, I am told, he got scared. Some time after Lindsay became a bishop, my friend told me, the political satire magazine Private Eye made a crack about a new young bishop who had once pulled pints as a bartender in a gay bar in Australia. This supposedly scared Lindsay to some degree.

I -would- leave this alone.

I would avoid outing a man who I know is well liked and charming.

But he continues to offer support for homophobes who do not want gay men in the church. The issue is not who he is interested in. It is hypocrisy that is the issue here.

I know that Lindsay, even then, was vehemently opposed to women's ordination. But instead of changing his mind as he saw how effective women priests really are in England and in America, he has not only hardened his stance against women in ministry, he has actually thrown in his lot to support homophobes in America.

Here is a link to a gathering of homophobes he joined in Fort Worth, Texas this year.

Here is a link to him signing a letter of support for the anti-gay ex-bishop of San Joaquin. And Here is another, showing how he has given aid and comfort to people who oppose the role of gays and lesbians in the church.

I have rarely believed in outing people. My one exception has been when it publicly exposed someone who has deliberately worked against the rights of his own.

The time has come to out Lindsay. The letter was the last straw.

If there are requests for more information I'll post it. Lindsay is a gay man. At least he was when we fooled around.

He has thrown in his lot and gotten some notoriety from lending support to bigots. They deserve to know more about him. I am willing to share more information about him.

After this latest effort to support the opponents of gays and lesbians in the Episcopal Church the Bishop of Horsham needs to apologize to gays and lesbians in the church. He needs to be honest to the people that he has joined on the right. Perhaps he should even now take a stand for the kind of equality that would recognize the role of other gay men (besides him) to be bishops in Anglican churches.

Lies and hypocrisy are hardly the basis to build a ministry in the church upon. Time for honesty, please.

If you feel that it is wrong for me to out a hypocrite please feel free to say so. I am willing to listen to that argument. But I sincerely believe that it is time to stand for honesty.