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Blackwater in New Orleans

Highly successful double bottom line social venture, Blackwater, is under contract in New Orleans. The market for private armies can only get better as our taxes are farmed for the benefit of well connected private merchants of  state sanctioned violence. Private armies could be a good place for your law and order social investment portfolio? A good play on the upside and a great hedge , if you know what I mean, on the downside, should, God forbid, people wake up. Balanced scorecard looks good on this one. Strong buy, Sean? (I realize that Blackwater is privately held, but what an opportunity when they go public to do good while making a killing.)


The Role of Philanthropy in a Security State

Headinsand The comment on an earlier post by my old nemisis, Captain Blowtorch, raises certain life and death issues for philanthropists. May I expound upon them? (Hop in and be so kind as to pull the lid closed on the dumpster. Not all messages are for all ears. This is strictly need to know. You never know these days who is listening or for what purpose or how what you say may be used against you in a court of law, or in some dark alley for that matter.)

The world we have is all screwed up. The world we want is very different. But the world we have is owned and operated by people with money and power who will defend their own interests by fair means and foul, up to and including rewriting our Constitution, torturing people, and having them assassinated. We all know this, right? And that is why we are silent about it? We know it, but we know not to talk about it? We know it is now to late to resist? There is no alternative?

Anyway, let's say that we are in fact still committed to the world we want, a world characterized by the rule of law, openness, transparency, freedom, economic opportunity, and justice for all. How, then do we work towards that world when it is anathema to those who profit from being above or outside the rule of law, and who benefit from operating by force and guile in secret and with impunity, while hurling down edicts, propaganda, laws and and swat teams on those who want nothing more than to have America's promise restored through loving and peaceful means?

What action items come to mind for the good people in this country to take our country back against the forces of darkness, including but not limited to Captain Blowtorch, and his compatriots in Wealth Bondage, a front some say, for the CIA? How about these steps?

  • "Many pieces loosely joined," or a network for a loving and peaceful version of  "net war."
  • Not secrecy, but brazen openness - loving kindness expressed openly in thought, word, and deed.
  • Awards and prizes and honors for whistle-blowers, truth tellers and dissidents
  • Think tanks with real thinkers in them
  • Political organizing outside the party system by all citizens to retore our Constitution
  • Media specializing in investigative journalism
  • A database of dissidents and whistle-blowers to track their mortality and morbidity against societal averages. The longitudinal data to serve as a starting point for further investigations if the population of dissidents and truth tellers proves more than normally susceptible to accident, disease or suicide.
  • Scholarship programs for budding young satirists
  • Investment programs that bypass Wall Street and put money to work on Main Street
  • Advisors who work with high capacity clients to determine how much capital the client can put to work for social good in imaginative ways, hedged against potential counter-measures.
  • Broad-based communications networks to activate citizens who are slowly waking up the the new realities of life in a security state.
  • Civic dialogues, formal and informal, online and off, to make us more at ease in discussing such things as dirty tricks, wet work, death squads, suicide teams, torture, lies in high places,  and how to turn that around to love, justice, and peace.
  • Artists, dramatists, novelists, singers, to help us form a shared consciousness, living in truth.
  • Philosophers, historians, critics, sociologists, and critical theorists to teach us how the weapons of the weak have been used in ages past to keep hope alive under oppression.

Now, look, let me make myself clear. I am not declaring war on Wealth Bondage, not even a covert or cold war. That would be suicide. I am as dependent upon the forces of Wealth Bondage as anyone else. I am deeply implicated in the status quo. Every dollar I have invested, every dollar I make, circulates around inside one or another institution of Wealth Bondage, or goes in taxes to Wealth Bondage projects, or piddles about in various Wealth Bondage philanthropies.  If Wealth Bondage goes down, so does my pension, my mutual funds, everything I have, as little as that might be. My clients are mostly Wealth Bondage bigshots. My generous patron is the CEO of Wealth Bondage; she who rules us all. I do not in any way want to jeopardize what little I have, and the little credibility I have earned by being a Faithful Servant and Trusted Advisor to Wealth Bondage Private Banking Clients. I have always been loyal to Wealth Bondage.  I buy into the concept. I have drunk the Koolaid. I am on board.  I pledge allegiance to Wealth Bondage.  I have no desire to become a lightning rod for whatever Wealth Bondage does to retain its control if challenged. Those people are morally insane. They will stop at nothing here or abroad. They creep me out. So, don't get me wrong. I am a happy camper. I am really just thinking that promoting civic philanthropy might be a good double bottom line social investment opportunity, catering to the needs of those wealth holders in Wealth Bondage who prefer democracy, or a more credible simulation of it.  The pro-democracy movement is a niche, a small one, but maybe profitable? High risk for high return? A piece at least of a prudent philanthropic social venture portfolio, if only as a hedge against the possibility that democracy and the rule of law might one day be restored, and the malefactors brought to justice? Surely, in Wealth Bondage there is room for a brand of philanthropy catering to a taste for even a niche product like democracy? It wouldn't change anything, it would keep trouble-makers occupied, and it would be good for business?

I am going to pitch Candidia, and see what she says. With any luck she will be my first investor.

(Tag, Catherine, you are it.)


Mapping The Philanthropic Ecosystem

The Ecosystem of Philanthropy

Who is part of your "better world" ecosystem? That is, if you want to create for yourself and those you love a better life in a better world, what other "players" impinge on you, for good or ill? And how might you, then, uplift both your own actions and the overall ecosystem so that a better world is possible? That is the line of thought that I have been pursuing within an informal network over the last several years. I will organize for my own use these observations under key names in my ecosystem.

Tracy Gary

Key actors in her vision are donor, advisor, and nonprofit. Key indicator of success is the number of dollars raised. Key driver of dollars raised is donor training to help the donor manage the planning process with advisors towards a more inspired, but also prudent result. As donors are trained to ask for philanthropic plans that very request will motivate more advisors to provide such plans.  Training for advisors would then be well-received, since tied to a practical result, that of meeting a real demand. Also, a key actor is the next generation, the children of the donor. If money goes to charity it might come at the expense of taxes first, but at some point it will come at the expense of inheritance. Hence, children must be raised and mentored in their roles as carriers on of a giving tradition. Nonprofits on this model become the convener of the appropriate training and conversation and network.

Tracy and I will present this vision to Advisors in Philanthropy at their Annual Conference next week. The following week I will present a version of it to Southeastern Council of Foundations.  We do have some early success stories. A number of other professionals have expressed interest in this way uplifting the philanthropic ecosystem.

Catherine Austin Fitts

A former investment banker, and former assistant director of HUD, Catherine seems to have stumbled upon the dark side of money and become for awhile an "enemy of the state," as she puts it with a smile, suffering the tribulations of Job, as a lesson in civics for herself and others. She is not keen on philanthropy, because she has seen where money, in certain cases, comes from, with whom it consorts behind the scenes, and how brutally those who control so much of the world's money and power behave when their insider games are outed or challenged. She has seen philanthropy used as cover or cleanser for the reputations of people who should probably be in jail for financial fraud, extortion, drug running, betrayal of the public trust, mere graft, or high crimes and misdemeanors. She also sees that philanthropy will be tolerated as a cleanser as long as it remains both upbeat and ineffectual. Philanthrocapitalism is also safe because it does not challenge, in fact personifies the hegemonic game.

You might think, then, that while Tracy is liberal that Catherine is a revolutionary Marxist taking her cue from Che. In fact she is a Christian Conservative taking her cue from Adam Smith and Jesus Christ, which makes her a dangerous mind. She is not asking capitalism to give way to socialism. She is demanding that capitalism live up to its own founding ideals: financial transparency, honest  book keeping, the rule of law, and the prosecution of criminals regardless of their wealth, rank, philanthropy, connections, or access to armed force, or criminal networks.

Catherine urges us to create a better, more financially intimate world, by withdrawing wealth from the rigged and gamed financial markets and reinvesting in places governed by the rule of law, maybe New Zealand, or maybe your home town, or among a circle of friends who have farms, small businesses, or a local bank.  As an investment banker she thinks bigger than that too, asking who will own the water supply, for example, in your town? Who will commandeer the food supply? Might we not form investment pools that would allow local decision makers to steward such resources for the good of the town, rather than, say, Nestles?

You can see that this is not your idea of "philanthropy," but the actors named by Catherine (the drug dealers, the slum lords, the corrupt governmental officials gaming the sub-prime mess, the investment bankers bringing for profit prisons to market, the private bankers who own the Fed, the governors owning prison stocks and passing "three strikes you're out" laws, the shadowy actors trading drugs for arms and arms for hostages,  the corrupt accountants of both business and government, the blackmailers and hit squads operating here and abroad to silence those who out the dirty game) are part of the same ecosystem in which philanthropy goes about its upbeat work.  Some capitalist like Boverton Beaver who has made billions out of buying companies in, say, the liquor business, gambling stocks, the porn business, or armaments, or in for profit prisons, might call himself a Double Bottom Line Social Investor and might start a double bottom line bakery employing at low wages the convicts on parole from the prison he owns up the hill from the ghetto, blighted by the drug lord whose Harvard educated son sits with Boverton on the board of the local hospital, or the home town newspaper, or serves on a Blue Ribbon Commission studying urban poverty.  That philanthrocapitalist might then endow a business school, or a chair in social venture capitalism, or might fund a DC Think Tank on Engaged Philanthropy, or on Pro-Market Public Policy, or might hire out the writing of any number of white papers and scholarly studies on metrics for double bottom line firms.  All this might then be applauded by leading philanthropy bloggers who, in their business life, consult to the banks and the brokerage houses with their captive philanthropy departments catering to private wealth from sources both light and dark, or who make their living managing Boverton's money. So the world closes back on itself in an ecosystem in which the herbivores, the carnivores, and the hominids thrive and prosper - up to a point, though that punctuated equilibrium is far from optimal from the standpoint of human flourishing. 

H. Peter Karoff, Amy Kass, Bill Schambra, and others Devoted to the Liberal Arts

What other actors? What are we leaving out? How about the teachers, writers, artists, prophets, and thinkers who are the masters of our spiritual, intellectual, ethical, and cultural traditions? (If you are not familiar with such figures you might think instead of Star Wars or Marvel Comics or Grand Theft Auto or the Matrix; those may be close enough to wisdom, if that is all you have and you don't know the difference.) If our better world is to be guided by what T. E. Hulme called "the best that has been thought and said," then we must listen to voices of the graces, or the holy spirit, or the muses,  or the voice that speaks out of the thunder, or the still voice we have been ignoring, or whatever one wishes to call that voice that rises in us when we are obedient to what is greater than ourselves, what is most alive and life-giving in our traditions. I could go on at great length on this point. Eloquence trumps power. The pen is mightier than the sword. Love conquers all. And the dead shall rise into eternal life, dead or not, as they live on within the tradition they would not betray, even at the cost of their own life, the ultimate gift.  As different as are the three figures mentioned above they share an almost helpless love for the life of the mind and of the spirit. When they discuss giving, it is within the shadow of Mt Ararat  within eyeshot of the ruined garden. I am not implying that they would get crossways with worldly wealth or power. We catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Phil to Thee

Well, you can see that the company I keep makes my head ache and buzz.  What I come down to is this: Whatever is the correct map of the ecosystem in which we live, whatever actors you see, or think you see, whichever you name, or fear to name, whatever your personal resources, you cannot blink the questions:

  1. What kind of person do you want to be?
  2. In what kind of world?

As you meditate on those questions, you will need your own vision of success, and a realistic model of your current situation - whether upbeat or dark or chiaroscuro. Given that vision of a better life in a better world, and given your assessment of what you are up against, you will have to make your own decisions, in the light of the traditions that speak to you and through you, as to how you will deploy your money, your time, your attention, your life energy, and your love within a risk profile that includes your assessment of the probability of success or failure under conditions you can barely discern. Each of us can see only a little.

Best Practices within a Learning Community

As we find our way, across this landscape, let us share what we see, share what we learn, mapping our terrain, and sharing the paths that lead out of the dark wood into the light. As you address the two questions above (and they cannot be evaded for the evasion itself is an answer), consider sharing what works and does not work so that we can collectively do better than we could alone. I am trying to take that approach here sharing my notes on what I am learning, and hope you will share as well, whether through a note to me, or on your own blog, or however you wish.  Perhaps if we live in truth, and speak what we know, and look out for each other, we  not only ameliorate specific ills,  and prosper in our own lives, but also uplift the overall ecosystem of which our efforts individually are but a tiny part. 


Questions on Philanthropy for Presidential Candidates

Here, adapted from an email to me from Charles Bernard Maclean and published with permission, are questions for Presidential Candidates. These are the kind of questions that voters, journalists, and those organizing debates might ask:

1. Who is your role model for good giving and why?

2. What's the most satisfying gift you've given? And, what benefits for yourself and others resulted?

3 What do you care about, give to now and why?

4. America is the most giving country in world. What will you do to continue and expand that ethic?

5. What's your stance on encouraging volunteering and dollar donation by all Americans?

6. What stops people from giving? What national policies and legislation will you champion to overcome these obstacles to giving?

For strategies to quiz candidates visit the Nonprofit Congress.  Also visit the New Hampshire Center for Nonprofits, and see the Chronicle of Philanthropy story, "Nonprofit Primary Pursuits: New effort seeks to get candidates to focus on the charitable world," by Suzanne Perry.


Blackwater, Philanthropy and Dynastic Wealth Planning

Apparently the founder and sole owner of  Blackwater Worldwide, Eric Prince, is a generous man:

Prince serves as vice president of the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation. Salon reports that "between July 2003 and July 2006, the foundation gave at least $670,000 to the Family Research Council and $531,000 to Focus on the Family"[15] headed by James Dobson. The foundation is also a major donor to Calvin College[16], a conservative Christian institution in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Prince also serves as a board member of Christian Freedom International, a non-profit group with a mission of helping "Christians who are persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ."

Since 1998, Prince has personally donated over $200,000 to Republican causes.[17][18][19]Prince is a donor, along with beverage company Bolthouse Farms through the Bolthouse foundation, to the Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative Christian legal group.[20] Prince had also contributed money to the Green Party of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, though this has been interpreted as an unsuccessful attempt to help Republican candidate Rick Santorum in his race against Democratic challenger Bob Casey.[21]

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards has characterized Prince as one of George W. Bush's "political cronies."[22] Prince has denied using family clout to obtain contracts for Blackwater.[23]

The chair of Mitt Romney's  Counter-Terrorism Advisory Council, by the way, is Cofer Black, a former director of the CIA's counter-terrorism center,  now Vice Chairman of Blackwater.   I wonder if any of the players here could use a good Morals Tutor? Probably not, but I could certainly help them pass on their values along with their valuables or to maintain their Family Dynasties for 100 Years or more. Philanthropy helps keep a family at the top of the heap; political power is better; but a private army is the best thing, really.


Nonprofits Without Honor by John Dililulio, Jr.

Dililulio:

The next president, Democrat or Republican, should have a "philanthropy czar" in the West Wing whose only job is to report objectively on how the nation's massive nonprofit sector serves the public interest (or not), and to recommend legislative and other reforms to improve the sector's self-governance and call it to public account the way that government once called for-profit corporations to public account. I hereby nominate the steadfast Senator Grassley.

Do we need a Philanthropy Czar to straighten out the sector? Well, whom do you nominate? Bill Clinton?


Post-Mortem America and the Hard Way Ahead

 Criminal means once tolerated are soon preferred, Edmund Burke, from Reflections on the Revolution in France

Chris Floyd on how democracy died in America while we were discussing giving, or the Super Bowl, or whatever it was that preoccupied us as consumers and citizens over these years since 9/11. The hard way ahead will have few philanthropists, I am afraid, but many givers. Those who create a new currency of conversation and show us how to live in truth without paying a high price for it will be the most valuable.  I have no idea what I am talking about and would suggest that you have no idea either.  By way of bibliography you might find these helpful.

To this list I might append the life and works of Paul deMan.  My fellow citizens, we are all collaborators now. In the spirit of the liberal arts, the arts of liberty, let us collaborate for the world we want.