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August 2007

July 2007

Does Martial Law Trump Impeachment?

Democracy Now:

At least forty-five people were arrested on Capitol Hill Monday in a sit-in calling on Democrats to pursue the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. The demonstrators were jailed after refusing to leave the office of House Judiciary Chair John Conyers following a meeting with him. Conyers had floated the idea of impeachment last year. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi dismissed the talk during the mid-term elections when she declared that impeachment is off the table. Among those arrested Monday -- Cindy Sheehan.

If the President, under Directive 51, declares martial law, and suspends the Constitution in order to protect it, can impeachment have legal effect? My sense is that the man who commands the guys with guns is the one in charge, regardless of what John Conyers or Nancy Pelosi might do with some paper with "impeached" written on it.  Plus you have to think what the FOX News followers will do. At least here in Dallas they are going to side with the Commander in Chief against our country's enemies, internal or external.  Bottomline: Don't mess with a man who has anyone he wants tortured in secret by experts who have had years of experience, and all the best training.  The relatives will never find the body.  Not smart to buck the system.  It will all work out for the best.  Protest doesn't work any more. What works is obedience.

Should Nonprofits Play An Active Role in Election Campaigns?

"Charities Must Challenge Politicians,” Robert Egger, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, May 31, 2007. “Charities Should Remain Nonpolitical,” Pablo Eisenberg, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, June 28, 2007.

Egger versus Eisenberg moderated by Stacy Palmer at Hudson Institute's Bradley Center. August 9 from 12 N- 2 pm.

Who should be able to buy politians? Will additional lobbying money simply drive up the price of political favors, and thereby reduce political return to investors? My thought would be an open outcry auction, like a charity slave auction. How much am I bid for an hour with Hillary? At least the process would be transparent. We would know to whom and how our country has been sold.

What Have We Learned from the Experiment?

Lucy Bernholz, Give and Take, and The Chronicle of Philanthropy speculate on the shut down of  If it were my funeral, I would want more grieving and less commentary. The conversation will find new homes, and the friendships will persist, but the end of an experiment that was started with such high hopes leaves sadness and gratitude.  "What have learned?" would be a better question than, "How come they shut it?" What have we learned that will be useful in extending the conversation of giving going forward?

My biggest take-away is that we are tribes and tribes of tribes.  Whatever sites we have going forward to support the conversation of giving need to be built around specific tribal groups and their "owners," or leaders. We need cohesiveness within tribes, some distance among them, and some connections too. The unit of cohesion is larger than one and less than 200. We need ways to include and exclude (or at least socialize)  participants and commenters. We need ways to make things private, tribe-only, or public. On-site email and directories of participants are good. ( is one site with such functionality.) Celebrity or a draw is also helpful. The site got going because of the Omidyar name, and their connections, let alone the glamor of their wealth and the possibility of getting some, more so than the the technology. I think it fell apart because the "point system" for posts and participants did not sufficiently filter the flow. They wanted a site that ran itself, one that could be scaled to many sites. They proved in the end that a strong personality, a tribal leader, may well be necessary if you want to invite, please, and keep a cohesive, talented audience.  (Pierre or Pam could have played that role, but their participation waned, leaving paid Omidyar employees who could tinker with the point system but were not given the responsibility to moderate or lead.)  The tribal leader has to have the respect and personal connection to each member. That is why scale matters. A federation or tribe of tribes may be the way to scale to thousands of users. An unpaid tribal leader presupposes passion. And passion is not always corporate in style. Hence of the tacit Omidyar dream of a corporate site that runs itself and scales, while everyone remains upbeat and decorous may be hard to achieve, regardless of the technology. Much praise and gratitude to all who set the site in motion and kept it moving.


At Peter Rees has started a thread responding responding to the question, "What Have We Learned at"

Holden on Why He Helps the Poor

One of the most interesting and satisfying things about working with givers is that no matter how we disagree at the level of theory or vocabulary, often we are moved by what moves another.  When Holden writes likes this, all I can say is "Bravo!"

Every poor minority student who grows up to be a successful businessman/politician/writer is one more slap in the face of people who think the world as of 2007 is a reflection of justice.

.... I shouldn’t care about proving jerks wrong...; I should just care about helping people. But I’m human, and what motivates me isn’t quite that simple, and I can be honest about that and still do my job well.

Proving jerks wrong motivates the heck out of me too.  How would you feel, Holden, if you discovered that some funders actually hire think thank thinkers to create the ideology that jerks use to justify their prejudices? The Bell Curve comes to mind.

My Favorite Cause

Holden hosts a Giving Carnival in which participants are asked to say what moves them most to give and why.  The world I want is one in which each person is treated as a means, not an end. Each person is treated as precious, as a human being or soul. Each person is able and willing to interact in adulthood as a citizen among citizens, not just as a consumer or producer or salesperson.  Each citizen passionately pursues his or her vision of the good, while honoring others for doing the same.  The world I want is held open by a Constitution to which all adhere, in which all have within broad limits, the right to pursue their own concept of the good, their own happiness, even if others find it distasteful. What stands in the way of this vision are economic disparities, educational deficits, a mentality that those who are dupes deserve to be duped, those who are weak deserve to be exploited, and the to the victor go the spoils. What also threatens the world I want is fear. Those who are afraid may trade the safety of a security state for the freedoms and liberties of open society.

How to advance the world I want?

  • Blog as a peer among peers.
  • Volunteer for grassroots organizations devoted to citizen engagement or social justice.
  • Promote giving and giving circles.
  • Speak out against (dispute and satirize) conceptual systems that provide alibis for those committed to a winner take all approach.
  • Honor in others their gifts, even if the giver has a vision or values quite at odds with my own.
  • Trust that in helping others bring their gifts to fruition I help advance the world I want too, since the world I want is open, tolerant, and pluralist.
  • Speak out against the erosion of Constitutional rules, rights, and protections.
  • In the spirit of "serio ludere" (serious fun) lighten fear with frolic and so defeat the enemies of open society at home and abroad who would terrify that they might subjugate.



We strive to make online storytelling dead simple for time constrained leaders. We work on three areas: content production, technology platform, content distribution.

Sean used them for his recent podcast with Jim Canales. Seems like a very interesting service that could help a lot of "time constrained leaders" get the word out.

Paying Attention to What Matters Most


But then, the whole point of the “war on terror” is that we’re all “suspects,” and thus subject to the unceasing scrutiny of the State — through its electronic surveillance capabilities and its growing army of paid informants. And the Regime’s official position is that it is not necessary to prove that an American citizen is connected to a specific plot in order to convict him of terrorism.

I am attending a Philanthropy, Consciousness, and Social Change conference whose theme is, "Paying Attention to What Matters Most." Closing ceremonies in a tent up in the Forest Primeval start in 5 minutes, ending 5 days of meetings.  Soros Institute is here. People connected to Rockefeller are here. Calvert is represented.  A few other foundations with hundreds of millions and Foundation officers in beards and beads. No one has mentioned the closing of our open society and of our compatriots' minds.  I am afraid that when the unspoken is unspeakable we would rather just get on with our lives as best we can.  In my 15 seconds in the closing circle,  around our makeshift New Age altar, after our meditation and our Eskimo chant, after the childlike dancing in a ring bespeaking our innocence, I will ask, "If the summer of 07 marks the end of democracy in America, did we  pay attention to what matters most?"

Foundation Board Meetings Posted to Web?

Holden at Clear Fund posts Foundation Board minutes to web in bid for transparency. Give and Take at the Chronicle asks, "Is transparency a good idea?"  No comments at Give and Take as of my post here.  At a Regional Association of Grantmakers meeting, I happened to overhear Senator Dick Minim's mother, Mummy Minim, murmur, "Quite appalling, really. Holden is such a brash young boor. Harvard yes, Yale no. Thank God."  More on transparency at Tactical Philanthropy with Jim Canales, of The James Irvine Foundation. I do wish Hudson Institute would post their Board Minutes, and hallway conversations too.  I am not interested in what Holden says behind closed doors. He has no secrets worth knowing. I am very interested in what Conrad Black says off the record to the flacks and hacks.  A transparent think tank? All closed door sessions recorded and posted to the web? Now that would be good for democracy.