The World We Want Feed

UK 'must check' US torture denial

BBC News:

Andrew Tyrie MP, the chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on extraordinary rendition, said the government must demand answers from the US.

"The committee's conclusions amount to saying that we can no longer rely on assurances from a US administration that purports to uphold the civil and political standards of behaviour, while in fact kidnapping people and taking them to places where they may be maltreated.

"Only by practising what we preach will we be able to win back the support of Muslim communities at home and abroad and build the strongest coalition around the world against terrorism."

"Counter terror with justice," says Amnesty International.

The World We Want Financed by Those in Charge of The World We Have

The Guardian: US accused of using ghost ships for special renditions.

In working earnestly for a better world, one in which we respect human rights, are transparent and honest in our dealings, and promote public goods for the benefit of all, a world in which we see our neighbors prosper we might ask who supports torture, dictatorships, subterfuge, propaganda, war, international lawlessness, looting of public goods, and the shifting of burdens to the naive, stupid, or poor? Presumably the winners will have the money to finance philanthropy for which I remain profoundly grateful. God works in mysterious ways his wonders to perform. Without torture and death there could have been no Resurection.

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. 

The Happy Tutor at Council on Foundations

I was attending Council on Foundations, as as honored guest, when to my horror, I saw that the Happy Tutor was on the agenda for the Evening Plenary Session: "Making the Most of Wealth Bondage:  Mastering Social Change Before It Masters You." I see him walk, or really, swagger, in the front door of the Biltmore. I had been afraid he would come naked, his normal business attire, but no, he has on that god-awful white bell bottom leisure suit, with the rayon shirt open to his waist, and those gold chains, or gold-plated chains, over his hairy chest. He has shades on that looked like they had belonged to Sony Bono.  He flashes me a sign with both hands raised high, index fingers and pinky extended - Hook 'em Horns

I follow him into the packed ballroom, acting like we are strangers.  Down the aisle he goes, doing that Chuck Berry air guitar act of his, with the splits, every third chord. By the time, he gets to to the podium, he is wiping his brow with a scarf, like Elvis, "Thank you, that you very much...."  When he starts his lecture, or really it was more like karaoke, the red-jackets were serving the baked Alaska. Within 10 minutes, he had them all on the dance floor. The dowager in the low cut dress was waving her waffled arms, and doing the hokey-pokey. The waiters were doing the monkey with trustees in pin stripes.  Admiral Harlan Proctor, head of the finance committee,  was doing the samba with his daughter, Missy.  Senator Dick Minim (D. MA) was slow dancing with Smoky Joe, Senior Public Relations Counsel for Wealth Bondage. Joe McPatriot, drunk as a skunk, was running around saluting all the flag lapel pins, and there were hundreds. Even Sister Lucy was smiling. She may have taken a vow of silence, but it didn't stop her from tapping her foot. The little kids in their Sunday Best were tearing around the tables throwing water as their parents chased them.  I didn't have the heart to stick around and see what kind of party this all degenerated into. I went back to my room and watched one of those cable movies.

Next morning checking out, there was Tutor, buck naked, dragging a garbage bag he had borrowed from the maid to use as luggage. I asked him how it had turned out. "Phil, he said, it was going good until someone lit the table cloth on the dais on fire. That set off the sprinklers, the police showed up, Missy was arrested for public indecency,  and the Convener got tazed and dragged off in cuffs. They pulled her by her hair all the way down that hall. I think they are trying to bail the two of them out now."  I asked if he had accomplished his objectives. "Yes, he said, "we turned the world upside down pretty good. Do you know that our esteemed Founder, Diogenes, asked to be buried faced down so that that when the world was turned upside down, he would be right side up? Well, the world keeps turning over. This morning the guests were eating their omelets and reading the Wall Street Journal, same as ever. The wait staff was as invisible as ever, and I am out of here.   We don't any of us really want social change, not until the check clears anyway."

The Cynics, the real ones, were actually a serio-comic school of moral philosophers. Serio ludere, "play seriously" was their motto, or so I am told, by Dr. Amrit Chadwallah, Senior Adjunct in Charge of Hidden Meaning, but I wish that foolish tradition had died out for good. The last thing we need is a real Morals Tutor in a field like this. For those of you saw me with the Happy Tutor, forgive me. I do not know the man. Philanthropy is a serious businesses.  I cannot stress enough the importance of being earnest

The Century of Self

4 part BBC Series available on line.  Shows how propaganda, public relations, marketing, and brands in cooperation with psychology, polling, and focus groups have made us who we are, as individuals and as societies. We have highly responsive markets now for goods, services, meaning, politicians, and of course philanthropy.  There is no outside of Wealth Bondage, nor need there be since we express ourselves, and actualize ourselves, best through atomized market choice. We simply have to make the markets more effective, efficient, and responsive to desire.  How many of us in philanthropy are in the thrall of this market-based vision of humanity? Lucy? Sean? Holden? Kevin? Goodnight, sweet children, good night. May throngs of markets sing thee to thy rest!

Fundraiser as Philanthropic Advocate in Our Commonwealth

His eyes alert, though bloodshot, his face red with philanthropic passion and habitual boozing, Phil Cubeta, pro bono Morals Tutor to America's Wealthiest Families, pops up naked in his Dumpster to harangue his fellow philanthropic advisors and fellow citizens as follows....

Questions for major gift and planned gift officers:

  • Have you ever been close to closing a large gift only to have the donor's advisor kill it?
  • When you ask for a large gift do you do so with a full understanding of the gift's impact on the donor's overall financial situation and his or her other goals for self, family, and society?
  • Do you always make it a point to engage the donor's advisors early in the gift cultivation process?
  • When the donor plans his or her overall financial and estate plan, do you have a seat at the table?

Now, reflect on your answers.   Do you see a pattern? You push on the donor to close the gift. She needs advice. She asks advice from her advisors. The advisors know more about the donor's situation than you do. They have a seat at the table; you do not. They kill the deal to protect the donor, or for some other reason. And you are left frustrated and in the dark.

Why Advisors Kill Charitable Proposals

  • "Not invented here." A trusted advisor who is not involved early in the gift cultivation process may by reflex kill a deal simply because he or she did not think of it first, or feels threatened.
  • An advisor who has done a good estate or financial plan for the client may clearly see that the gift as proposed will upset those prior plans and leave the client's other goals under funded.
  • An advisor may see that while the gift size is feasible, the proposed structure is not optimal.
  • The advisor may be paid in part by money under management. The proposed gift may reduce the total money managed by the advisor and hence the advisor's own income.
  • (On the other hand, the proposed gift may require redoing the donor's overall plans and may drive significant fee income, particularly for fee-based planners and legal advisors.)

Counsels of Perfection for Fundraisers

  • Begin with philanthropic motivation and education.
  • Rather than trying to close the gift, suggest that you might contact the donor's trusted advisor to discuss the possibility of a gift and to see how best it might be structured, all things considered.
  • Go to advisors with a range of ideas for gifts now and later.
  • Seek your place at the table as a team mate.
  • Bring to the table not just your own cause, but the overall responsibility to speak for philanthropic motivation, for the benefits of giving for the family, for the positive effect on children, for the meaning and purpose it gives the donor's life.
  • Bring to the table whatever specific gift proposals (Charitable Trust, Outright Gift, Charitable Lead Trust, Bequest) you might have, but also listen to other scenarios and ideas from the advisors. (Educate yourself about as many of the tools as possible, and try to learn at least some of the financial and estate planning lingo that goes with them.)
  • See as the ideal outcome not just a gift to you. See as the ideal outcome the best possible financial and estate plan that works for the donor, family, and society, by the donor's own best judgment - a judgment illuminated by the noble considerations you have kept uppermost.

Practical Tips

  • Do not stop doing whatever works for you now.
  • Add this multi-disciplinary approach as a long term project.
  • Recognize that the process recommended here can take 12-18 months to close from the time that the donor first sits down with advisors.  (It can be much faster than that, but the larger the case, the longer the planning time, generally.)
  • As the larger gifts mature from that process, spend more time on the larger gifts and less time on your current giving process.
  • Seek out the best advisors in town. Have lunch. Build bridges. Make friends.
  • If you don't have a Board of Professional Advisors, start one.
  • Consider events for advisors. In those events elevate the advisor's own vision from tools and techniques to vision, values, meaning, purpose.
  • Make referrals to advisors. That is how you get get referrals (or more referrals) from advisors.

Expanding your Donor Pool

  • In every town and city there are high profile big money people who are philanthropic. All nonprofits have then on their list of prospective donors. But take a walk down Main Street. Every small business that is successful is worth something. What do you think a lumber yard goes for? A McDonald's franchise? A car dealer? A Roto-Rooter franchise? A plumbing supply store?
  • From experience, I can assure you that the most successful life insurance agents, and tax planners in your town are making their living working with Main Street closely held businesses.
  • These businesses are not liquid. The owner can't write a big check today. But as the owners consider their exit strategies and their estate plans, they sit down with advisors to plan. In those plans philanthropy can and should play a big role in reducing taxes (income tax and estate tax). Philanthropy can also provide the owner with something productive and fun to do when he or she goes through "the founder's transition," passing the business on to kids, or selling it to outsiders.
  • The time to make the gift plan is before not after the business interest is sold. Why pay capital gains tax when it can be avoided by selling the property in a charitable trust, for example?
  • So, as you call on the advisors in town, ask them about these Main Street Millionaires. Offer to do client briefings for them or client appreciation nights.
  • If you know your business, the advisor will see that together you and the advisor can bring real value to these Main Street clients. You won't push your charity, you will push for wise and inspired planning with an eye to benefits for self, family and society.
  • Your nonprofit will surface naturally as the client gets to know you and becomes a small donor, a volunteer, an active participant, and then a major donor as the business goes through its once in a lifetime transition.
  • Given that the Boomer are in their fifties, and given how many Boomers need this kind of work, you might find yourself getting in early on a major demographic "wealth wave."

Thought Leaders

Philanthropy and Democracy: The Role of the Fundraiser in This Our Commonwealth

  • Speaking of Jay Hughes, I constantly harp on the elitist, dynastic "suck up," or Machiavelian, or Courtier-like, element in his work. (Takes one to know one, really.) I see him as a serious thinker, and also see his ideology and the rapid propagation of it among advisors and wealthy families as a serious threat to democracy. But then again so were Aristotle (Morals Tutor to Alexander the Great), Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, and more recent political figures I will refrain from naming.
  • Concentrated dynastic wealth with a lock on the language of high culture, or covered in the mantle of religion and patriotism, and with preferential access to those in power, is a nightmare, not a dream to me, though it is a dream I have partly lived (as an over-educated super-prep who figured he would be teaching the rising Jay Hugheses all about moral philosophy around an oak table in some Ivy Classroom) and from which I awakened in a Dumpster, born again, though not necessarily for the better.
  • By way of caveat: I prefer a good, well educated Aristocrat, like Jay, to an Oligarch, Plutocrat, or Mafioso Godfather. I don't mean to run down Aristocracy in comparison with Tyranny, or even Anarchy, just to put in a plea for representative democracy, even at this late date, when the game is about over and the victors are dividing the spoils, whether it be the newspapers, the internet, the airwaves, our legislatures, or anything else that can be bought.
  • I see philanthropy, that is, social change philanthropy, as does Tracy Gary, as the best in our American tradition - call it largess, or magnanimity, or largeness of soul, or identifying with the underdog, or call it the living ferment of democracy. In stressing Main Street philanthropy in this post, I mean to gesture from within the high-toned thought world of a Jay Hughes or other suck ups to Dynastic Wealth towards giving from the bottom up, not just the top down.
  • Giving from peer to peer, and from blessed to those less blessed is central to the Christian tradition ("Faith, hope and charity and the greatest of these is charity.") Who is our neighbor? Not just those in our gated community. Tsedekah in Judaism and the heart of compassion in Buddhism speak to the centrality of giving in making us successful as well-socialized human beings in whatever spiritual tradition we were raised. As we give so it will be given to us. As we seek grace so our gracious giving is rewarded, whether from on high or from the kingdom within.
  • As fundraisers working with all kinds of wealth, blue collar as well as preppy, self made as well as inherited,  religious as well as secular, conservative as well as liberal,  Main Street as well as Wall Street, big money and small, you and your peers are stirring the great stew of democracy, as well as serving your particular organization.
  • Out of our differences come a resonant order, as from dissonance comes concord in music. (Concordia discors, the underlying dynamism of open society.) Our gifts and giftedness we bring to the hurly burly of the public square to create a culture and a community where there might have been only a society or a market. Nonprofits are at the center of that enlivened experience of our shared humanity.
  • As a fundraiser you serve your organization, but also the donors who make common cause with you. Through you and your organization, the donor serves the larger community to which the donor belongs.
  • Your organization may be central to a donor's identity and instrumental in sustaining the world donors want for themselves and their heirs, every bit as much as they might want anything sold in stores or brokered (or betrayed) by government.
  • Rich or poor, whatever your role in the great game of wealth, love, and power, stop by the Dumpster any time. What do we owe one another in this our Commonwealth?

....A big garbage bag, full of old books, magazines, stale bread, lemon rinds, coffee grounds, chicken bones, cigarette butts, and beer bottles, ends this oration, burying the speaker before he can beg for spare change, as had been his intention in what was to have been the closing section on "giving back to those less fortunate."