Thanks for the Wisdom!

Everyone wants to jump onto the Occupy Wall Street wagon.  Today’s New York Times:

The Vatican called on Monday for an overhaul of the world’s financial systems, and again proposed establishment of a supranational authority to oversee the global economy, calling it necessary to bring more democratic and ethical principles to a marketplace run amok.

Maybe a little tiny wee bit of perspective is in order? Last year the Vatican Bank had almost $30 million in assets frozen by Italian authorities for suspected money laundering. In July, the head of a Catholic research hospital in Milan that has close ties to the Vatican committed suicide amid a scandal over its finances: it declared itself 1.5 billion euros in the red, with records of investments in mango plantations and staff use of personal aircraft. Investigative journalist Jason Berry has a new book out, Render Unto Rome, in which he says the Vatican has routinely taken the roughly $80 million in annual collections from Third World parishes that worshippers believe will go to help the poor and applied it to its own operating expenses. Berry says only 11% of the funds are accounted for.  Berry also notes that in its annual financial statement the Vatican values St. Peter’s Basilica at 1 euro.

And oh yes, also in today’s New York Times is the story of a Vatican investigation being launched into sex abuse at an abbey in London whose former headmaster, Father David Pearce (aka “the devil in the dog collar”) went to prison for sexually abusing young boys over a 35 year career. To date, the Vatican has paid out $2 billion in settlements to U.S. sex abuse victims as well as for treating priests. The funds used to make amends for what amounts to a global ring of child rape located within the Church’s internal structure (oops) come from the sale of churches and schools. But the sale of churches and schools is justified because fewer people want to belong to an organization that fosters and harbors child rapists.  That actually makes some sense, financially and otherwise.

Occupying More Space

As Occupy Wall Street spreads in its wondrous way (Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong, Pittsburgh, Nevada City, California), journalists are reaching the conclusion that the story to report on is the lack of a central storyline. As protesters gathered in Amsterdam, journalists circled, hunted for a leader (or a lede), found none, and eventually concluded that that was okay–which is remarkable in itself, as if the nature of what qualifies as hard news is in the process of evolving. As Dutch journalist Bas Heijne said in the daily NRC, “Here is where you have to be, even if you don’t know exactly where you are.” Exactly.

We Are All Chinese

Great article in the IHT today about how China is funding its global buying spree.  Ordinary Chinese wage-earners put a large chunk of their income into savings. But their only option is state-run banks, which pay interest rates that are about half the rate of inflation. The government then uses this enormous moutain of money to fund its state-owned companies, which in turn are buying up airports, energy companies, car companies, national debts, and everything else, all over the planet. Ordinary Chinese, however, can’t keep this up. With every passing year, their savings shrinks. In China, then, the people are being systematically robbed by the powers that be.

Wait–that sounds familiar.  Isn’t that what the Occupy Wall Street people are worked up about?