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October 17, 2006

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Tutor, power players have studied and reverse engineered the consensus process in order to ensure they get their way. They're steeped in a variety of methods, which mainly benefit people with complete certainty. Therefore I would choose the Wealth Bondage Charity Ball, as being the least vulnerable to abuse. I urge the reputable to submit whatever they like in the ludic spirit. The seriousness of the seriously reputable has not worked out at all well.

WB Charity Ball would be the most innovative and would have the most unpredictable outcomes. Why would a person of wealth and influence participate?

Perhaps a few of them see a downside to living in a world where "detainees" who have escaped the clutches of enema commandos start thinking about ways to blow them up. Maybe a few think that policies based on angry, sadistic stupidity are not all they're cracked up to be. The puerile spite of demented frat boys may have palled, a bit, and the chance for something better than misanthropic attacks on the poor might look all shiny and appealing.

You never know, Tutor. The oddest people get together for the strangest things. That should not, I hasten to add, be taken as commentary on the current Dumpster denizens, who bring a level of sobriety and rectitude to the proceedings that makes Robert's Rules look like a prank pamphlet.

Or we could let them post chapters somewhere reputable, then comment from afar, here in the Dumpster, and let them figure it out gradually.

If you wish to have an actual conversation, consider having a forum in which people must be open about their identities. You can have another venue for those who prefer masks. As you suggest, anyone who has a stake in the game, and who is willing to participate in propria persona, doesn't stand a chance against wisps of internet smoke. And they won't stick around. If the rules insist on openness, the lovers of mankind in their own selfhoods could always visit the smoke and play rough.

My impression, Tutor, is that big time donors are only interested in remedies over which they'll retain some control. To engage them outside a familiar context, one must have something uniquely appealing. It's not enough to have demonstrated that current practices aren't working well, or are counterproductive. The current context already has the option of them posting in a comfortable venue, with commentary from the fringes. Perhaps a Dumpster version of The Thunder Panties would work*.

*a suggestion to be taken with a grain or two of salt.

Thank you, Doctor. We did try the convention at The World We Want of appearing in propria persona or not at all. It produced quite a bit of negative feedback from those whose identity is masked.

You are quite familiar, Dr., with viscissitudes of openness in an increasingly closed and airless society.

I am not sure we really talked through the issues; it got pretty emotional.

Peter may go with a moderated discussion, with everyone on best behavior. But the result may be pretty stilted. Yet, if it gets even that far, the internet being what it is, others, the univited revelers, can comment from afar.

best behavior = lethal decorousness? The polarity shouldn't be invited/uninvited, but simply, if you show up, you show up as yrself, perhaps with bio or other backgrounder, so that whatever you say, regardless of behavior, is traceable to your own bad self. The only way one could uninvite oneself is if he/she declined to be present under her/his own name.

There's a different feel to this iteration of the discussion, Tutor. I'm making some assumptions with this, but. . .

Participants with a large stake in how they're viewed, who need to maintain a certain persona as part of their social standing, are not necessarily averse to criticism, however they want to be assured that it's relevant and not part of some nasty scheme.

They will be associating, already, with competitors who are not entirely trustworthy, some of whom could benefit from nasty tricks.

The internets facilitate a form crankery that's very unpleasant and are also conducive to aberrations from otherwise sober and restrained individuals. Morevoer, some of the ostensibly respectable descend into wild behaviors that are extraordinarily shameful, without any consequence. Indeed, they're often rewarded for it.

There is therefore a need for good faith moderating and editorial wisdom from a trusted party. Peter Karoff certainly fills that role, should he choose to adopt it. I think the nice fellow at the Gift Hub could too. There's a lot of work in facilitating this.

Buffett & Gates Go Back to School screened on PBS tonight:

On Sept. 30, 2005, the two men spent the day at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, where they filled the Lied Center with students and faculty from the College of Business Administration.

The setup: The Boys agreed to take questions from students and only students -- "no parents, faculty, or reporters" -- hoping to meet head-on some of the best and brightest about to enter the business world. The Boys would not know the questions they'd be asked.

(Faculty DID choose the student/question combos that would reach the mic, however, undercutting the setup just a tetch.)

One student asked how the two men assured that their upper managers would make decisions parallel to those they themselves would make.

Buffett answered that he didn't require that kind of consistency with his style and vision, but did require that managers operate creatively/productively within legal and ethical constraints. He said he stressed to them that "the company had plenty of MONEY to lose but could not afford to lose a shred of REPUTATION," recommended that they imagine a "smart but unfriendly reporter" monitoring their every move, and be guided by the thought of their actions appearing in print the next day. If they were still unclear they should consult him, he said, but he didn't think that should often be necessary. Gates said something dull.

Both men agreed that growing class and opportunity divides must be narrowed -- nationally and globally -- to realign reality with core American ideals. The heirs of both men will "certainly be rich," but each felt the bulk of his great wealth should be returned to do some cultural and humanitarian good. Gates' children are on a strict allowance and he believes they should know the meaning of "no".

There was a lot of forced laughter (Buffett is rich, not funny) a lot of "deer in the headlights" shots of students stuck at the mic after asking their questions, and Gates took off his Harvard sweatshirt early on. (He seemed glad to be rid of it, tossing it off-camera on the floor.)

I fell asleep during the last ten minutes but I'm sure there was a big finish (presumably without benefit of masks.)

I just had an epiphany of sorts - from the standpoint of Gifthub, I am a Troll! In fact that is the whole point of Carnival, of Diogenes, of Situationism, of Socratic conversation with the powers that be, of parable. An intact social system organized for great good things does not welcome into its midst the meme that renders it past tense. Yet, that is the role of a certain viral strain of memeology.

Whoever organinized the press dinner for Bush, where Colbert mocked an unsmiling Decider, no doubt regrets the decision to include Colbert.

Yes, the nice man at Gifthub could moderate a safe place without jeopardizing his standing as a minor factotum in the intact social system or ecosystem of philanthropy. So what? That is his day job in Wealth Bondage, why do it after hours for nothing?

How about this: A discussion site where you have to register to be allowed to comment. Persisten Pseuds are acceptable, or Fetish Action Figures, but have to be tied to a real email, available to the moderator. The moderator would elicit from each participant basic biographical facts and a bio that was acceptable for online use. "Dick Minim" is a persistent pseud of a highly educated financial services executive working iwth affluent families and their advisors on their family values, their philanthropy, and their civic participation. Dick went to Yale, where he majored in English Language and Literature. His masters dissertation was on Christopher Smart's cat. Dick is the son of Mummy Minim, nee Hyena, of the fabled dog chow fortune...."

Participants could reach each other online through the site's email?

Probably too elaborate a premise, but I would enjoy having a fictive element, and identities which are shall we say "translucent."

Another way to make a discussion site safer would be to keep it google-proof, though that might diminish the point of having it on line at all, as opposed to a list serv.

Here is a thought for honest self inquiry: When the conversation turned angry at The World We Want, who were the Trolls? Is it fair to say that the comments, some of them, were designed to render the premise of civil cross class conversation inoperable?

No one will participate in a forum where they are subjected to continual malice, based not on who they are as individuals, but based on the class or group to which they are perceived to belong.

Good manners are one way to express respect and solidarity. Including the other in a joke is another way, good natured banter is another, milder forms of satire that include the target in the laughter, is another. But there are forms of satire that mean to kill, whatever protestation the perp gives afterward. I know, I have written such. The target looms as a ritual scapegoat and must be slaughtered, all the more so if the target is a higher ranking authority. I have written such, and admire it. You can't blame the writer of such satire for using a mask, or operating hit and run under an evershifting alias, or from site to site. When you hit to kill the soul and social standing of someone who is more powerful than you, someone you do not like and have no reason to trust, someone who can wound you back with impunity, of course your efforts will include stealth and deniability and you will, having delivered the blow, vanish in a puff of smoke. This is vigilante justice. The lynch mob operates in sheets, or masked like Zorro. The next day everyone is back at work, duly dutiful.

I will tell you one thing, "good humor and good sense" is a pretty good Augustan standard. If you are not made to smile or laugh, you are probably not going to make a satiric post work, and if the laugh is malicious, leaving the high ranking, high value target resentful and wounded and seeking revenge, then you had better slip away fast.

All I can add is, "Pick your shots." Not all wealthy and powerful people are high value targets. Some are in fact pretty good people, once you get to know them. In fact most can be reached, and most can be taught, if the teaching is wiley enough.


You are the farthest thing from a troll, Tutor.

One might dream of a conversational mode supple and wise enough to bring into thoughtful exchanbge target and vigilante, noble figure and satirist, king and fool, and in some respects you've managed something along these lines in the past.

trolls fall completely out of that system. the satirist is not a troll. nor is a troll to be subsumed under any system of value, phil- or misanthropic. A troll ingratiates then uses that capital to distract, stymie, or derail any building of goodwill, consensus, or position.

It struck me at the time that the boisterous "International Town Hall Meeting" at Ohio State University in 1998 would be a watershed.

It made the people look too powerful, flawed, and vulnerable. Likewise the government, but in a different order.


The other person removed from the audience was Rich Theis, a freelance writer from Columbus. Theis' yelling caused the broadcast to cut to an unplanned commercial. After a brief shouting match with CNN host Bernard Shaw, Secret Service agents removed Theis.

Theis returned at the end of the event to voice his opinion.

"This is not an open forum," Theis said. "It is a media event held by CNN."

Ghose [the other person removed] said he agreed with Theis. He said the ASU [African Student Union] came to the event under the impression that it would not be a completely open discussion.

"It was a staged media event," Ghose said. "We weren't going to be fooled."

"We have people here representing opposition and criticism, and you would not be able to do that in many countries, including Iraq," Cohen said.
"Iraq is a long way from Ohio, but what happens there matters a great deal here," Albright said.

There are the trolls; bad faith ingratiating, red herrings and goading.

The troll has most in common with Spam. There is no intent to communicate anything of import except to the spammer or troll.

It still isn't clear to me what you are looking for in terms of widening the discussion. You certainly don't want to leave behind any of the voices who have contributed at WB, or do you? What are we to make of those who will not participate in open dialog? So there are risks as there are with any exchange. It isn't clear to me that those who you want to include have any interest in openness and transparency, masks or no masks.

Sit-Comity

William Cohen and Rich Theis met at an off-campus bar after the International Town Hall Meeting. Here's a concise transcript of their exchange:

P:   Dump the charade.

G:   Can't. Won't.

P:   Then we will vote for those who will.

G:   Then we will nullify your vote.

Cheers!  (Where everybody knows your, and their, names.)

Well, we are indeed getting down to the nub of it, aren't we?

"My house, my rules," is the name of the game for the media, congress, think tanks. We play by their rules, as open, transparent, accountable nobodies and get finessed. Or, we act up and get tossed out or excluded. Or, we somehow induce them to come to our house, as does, say, Colbert, or Saturday Night Live. In which case, they won't come or come back unless they trust us to leave their persona, their "true self," relatively undisturbed, as concoted and ossified and as complacent as that public persona may be.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the state of the play. What do I want? To unsettle the rules, so the public personas collapse like rubber masks, and reveal the human faces beneath, still learning, still capable of learning and of moral improvement. Tall order, but that is the dream.

Long ago, maybe in 2003, I asked Peter Karoff to do an online interview with The Happy Tutor. He agreed. I emailed him questions. Months later he remarked we was still interested and working on the answers. But nothing came of it.

I wonder if interviews with the Happy Tutor here on Gifthub might be a gimmick that would appeal to some big names. They would write their answers and control their persona that way. Yet, within the frame of Wealth Bondage their formal and guarded replies would have, to cite Brecht's characterization of art, "been made strange, or alienated." WB would their funhouse mirror in which their public persona would be reflected and distorted in a spirit of play. To do that I would have to get the nice man at Gifthub to send the invitations. And for him to do that would be for him to admit that we know one another. Generally, he pretends we don't, thereby preserving his reputation for probity and good sense, and keeping his options open. Gutless wonder.

I thought that the mask has slipped enough that the association is generally known? Maybe only online in the blogs. I suppose disclosure before any interview would be best to make certain there is no confusion.

The big bump I see is the aversion to being memorably misrepresented or memorably represented all too accurately. In neither case can I see any upside to a public figure following up in a public way. Sometimes defending a "brand" is the worse thing you can do. It legitimizes critique.

Being memorably misrepresented impresses me as the greater social status peril, especially if it were done in a forum attended by members of ones own class. There's an odious macho factor.

There's no apparent upside to it for people who have to carefully manage their public perception. Not the ones with some career ambitions. They've got rivals who would be delighted to flog something awkward, guilt them up by association or paste a label for indiscreet practices on them. They drag leaden lumps of propriety around. It's political correctness with a vengeance. Safest to stick to publishing thoroughly vetted commentary on friendly ground or ground they can control.

Funny old world, in which inflicting gross indiginities and cruelties is not shameful, but saying something that could be material for office snarking is.

Link

This is why I think it several layers of deniability serves the interest of public figures best. I can't in good conscience ask anyone to facilitate that, however. The blowback potential is too much. I'm sticking with the conclusion I came to previously, Tutor. Big donors are best left alone.

Big Bulls are best left alone too, but that is what draws the crowd to the bull ring. Let the bull chase the cape.

Charity ball!

Charity Ball has the most votes among the riffraff. Will it play among the cognosciente? Maybe if we charge $1,000 a plate and give $100 to charity? That way we do good things and keep the losers at bay. Anyone can come, as long as they have the cash. So it is quite democratic. Bigger donors can buuy a whole table. Corporate sponsors can be recognised on the Wealth Bondage Banner.

Hope this is the Elvis room.
You have to win the election first. Get the house in order. The lesser of two evils...right now are the Dems. All this discussion could be after the election. Another way to make sure it's won, is a commercial...real mom, speaking straight to the camera. It's already written in my head. A seven day run targeted to many.
Gonna cost bo-co bucks but it's needed as added insurance...although the tides are turnin and I do feel the election may already be won without the added insurance.
An idea that is already working but can appeal to the mom voters...the red states..the conscience of the American people. You can direct a website on the add to perhaps that charity ball...wealth bondage title has to go though. Need an anonymous funder too.
Been drinking too, hope I make sense...off the drunken cuff.

How about Wealth Freedom? Would that work?

In the long run...wealth freedom may...the election.."no", it has nothing to do with wealth as in money and the red states...the moms, I just don't think they care about wealth right now...maybe the lack there of..but they care about freedom about high gas prices, sadness in the lies, the corruption. The war...we must get across to the voters that we are hurt, we don't trust the government and we want change. We don't want war, high gas prices etc, etc.

"Freedom from the lies", would work to help the election but the ultimate changing of the world...well, I'm not real into group thinking, I do like diversity but you need to get to the heart of matters..everyday things...think Moms. Like you do already...think fear, like they did.

Moms don't like the thought of our childrens future comprimised or people controlling our minds. Possible names of sites...

Speak your peace
Freedom of speach
Be the real American
Take back our country
Heal America****
Do not cry for America
We are the REAL americans**

something like that.

My mind is comprimised itself at the moment.
But I believe I know what is wanted, real and just.
American Change****

which are probably all taken!!

Argh!


YouAreAmericanFreedom.com is available

too long of an address...
cripes!

Fell asleep in my chair last night, shortly after this comment...my mouth wide open three sheets to the wind...luckily my dog came over and licked the inside of my mouth and woke me up! (my teeth are really clean now)

Anyway...typical American I was last night...forgeting to think globally
Global-ution!...with the tune.

Heal America is very good. Transpartisan politics? Finding common ground on whath had been the constitution and getting back to it?

Yes.

Sorry, "America" is taken. No matter what sentence or syntax you employ, it cannot mean what you want it to mean.

Heal Americans
is available

American Healing is for sale.

Noticed in the comments section at Hullabaloo blog:

... but here we differ.
If forced to choose sides for a contest of ideas, I'll pick having my team represented by satirists and comedians instead of "intellectuals" EVERY TIME!

Fell asleep in my chair last night, shortly after this comment...my mouth wide open three sheets to the wind...luckily my dog came over and licked the inside of my mouth and woke me up! (my teeth are really clean now)

Just out of curiousity, if you were asleep, how do you know your mouth was wide open, while you were asleep?

Assumptions can be dangerous things.

Shouldn't we consider the possiblity (among many) that someone PRIED your mouth open and LED fido to your fragrant maw, knowing it's weakness for teeming enamel and skill at collecting evidence?

Homeland Security, mayhaps?

Could be terrorists, too, I reckon.

Or the Red-Faced Homeowners Association...

The clues are always in the details...my teeth were cleaned.
The dog is my Homeland Security...does a better job too.
I also vote comedy.
Philosophers and comics
The Ghandi and Gumby Show

Speaking of sin tax, Trotsky died of emphysema in a US public facility. Should we, as conscientious non-smokers, have to pay for that?

I thought he died of a pickaxe blow to the head in Mexico.

As usual, the tutor bears off the bowl.

This is why I blog along at WB. My mind unaided could not get from how to set up a decorous discussion site for The World We Want to Leon Trotksy with an ice pick in his skull. Yet, clearly, that is the inevitable logic here, surreal as it may be. "Stalin," such were Trotsky's last words, "has finished what he started." Thus, we return as we began to a defense of capitalism.

The task is so large and the reality is...you can try and change one person at a time. But it is up to the individual to see for themselves. Which you already know. Or you can try to change many as in the legacy of music, art, poetry.... words. Like YOU all already do, in WB, etc. I believe we have all changed many already for the better...think of the tone of the world just 2 years ago or just one year ago. Take comfort in that. As I try to do.
Everything happens for a reason and all that...
Be the change you wish to be.....Ghandi
cliche' after cliche'
But do we pay attention to them....daily?
We must believe, in spite of the curve balls.
Find your reminder and use it daily.
We are one in spirit but not in flesh.

What did Havel say, something to the effect that hope is not an emotion, nor dependent on forseen outcomes, it is a way of living towards something better, without necessarily expecting it to materialize.

Constructive delusion, then?

Somebody said this:

I remember learning with some surprise that depressed people tend to be more realistic than happy ones, but that happy people are more productive.

In the same vein, here's a blog post (with links to more sources) suggesting that marriage works out best when people delude themselves.

What other delusions sustain civilization? Is the story of civilization the story of delusion as much as it is of failure?

Scruggs talks about futilitarianism and inconsequentialsm -- with a decidedly positive vibe. And now he's gone fishin', the dirty dog...  ;-)

The American Dream of Wealth Bondage all around.

The cheerful embrace of delusive thinking, the jettisoning of the reality principle for the sake of "happiness" -- at a moment when we've embroiled ourselves in a disastrous war and talked ourselves into suspending habeas corpus thanks, precisely, to all that cheerful, delusive "optimism" about the glorious war's outcome --fuck all those unpatriotic gloomsayers! --

well, this really is the sign of the terminal decadence of a managerial-ruling class, not least its "liberal" wing.

Here's a related clue about enforced cheerfulness and the protocols of affect display. Try probing the way that the momentary display of an "adolescent," angry affect in an educated liberal enclave triggers all the vendettas, exclusions, the roiling herd-cry, the full swinging Sauron's Eye of exposure and humiliation. Watch the maniacal, theory-laden overkill! The sheer fucking squash-the-bug overkill of it.

What you're probing here is the rule of the workplace: the boss (or those who identify classwise with the boss's social position) can have tantrums, can snide and snark and humiliate as lazily and irresponsibly as a teenager, but the cubicle worker dare not display anything but smiling deference or just the proper and approved sort of homosocial banter. For the bull goose in a social hierarchy, snarking humiliation is a privileged marker of power and status, but those lower down dare not display, even once, any upward-directed snark. For that would be a revealing lapse of an underlying and potentially explosive dissent, a "hysteria," a "narcissism," a self-negating "childishness," a dangerous irrationality, which must be terminated without prejudice or leniency.

This rule-set has been institutionalized in the workplace for two or three decades, and every person in America lives through it daily with only a lunch break for respite if they're lucky.

Gets concatenated into nearly every academic & professional discourse don't it?

Which is why reading most philanthropic websites or liberal-alpha weblogs has the exact vibe of an episode of The Office.

You're right that the lonely path of Diogenes is the only human way through, T., but I can't really see how that can be scaled up into any redemption of the institution, nor am I sure that's our responsibility.

It's hard enough learning how to be lonely Diogenes. A full time task really, because--Christ--what prepared us for having to learn that? What is there in the academic or professional culture of this country that's provided any training or model whatsoever for that level of heroic autonomy?

Nothing I grew up with or learned in my "theory" classes, that's for damn sure.

TV, kept reading your comment carefully, looking for points with which I might disgree. Didn't find any. We must be the next best thing to a happily married delusional couple. Berube has done well, better than we have. So have many others. Now we must lure them to their encounter with Destiny.

In my brief corporate-world moment, I discovered the problem with failing to adhere to the rule-set. See, one corollary of upbeat optimilitude of corps spirit is that actual horror shows are supposed to go unremarked. So when I learned that a "team member" was privately siphoning off clients that were supposed to be getting talked into buying ads, a practice that was killing the bottom line of our little team, I made the mistake of bringing the matter to the attention of those responsible for the bottom line. The offending member was gone the very next day. And from that point on, I was a placid surface disturbation factor. No longer could I be trusted to ignore unsightly things. It was not long before any sense of corporate teaminess evaporated at my approach. I had become that worst of all possible cases: one who had seen what management could not manage not to see. A stench accompanied me, an open sore.

O, yes, well said, Dr. I have a core question, that has haunted all the blogging I have done or read. "Do insiders in the professions really see their own setup?" That is, do journalists see from the inside the ways they are maniuplated, and they ways they pass manipulation along? Do Senators see how corrupt and money hungry they have become? Do advertisers who might have been poets or artists, feel the soul dying in their innermost being? Do philanthropy advisors see how crass they and their clients might be about 'metrics,' 'results,' and 'values'? Or, do we all believe our own bullshit? Or do we kind of suspend our disbelief in order to go along to get along? My core question is, "How would the world be different, if each of us blogged what we know from the inside, even if we had to do it in masquerade, in parable, in allegory, but multiple indirectins, in code, under an alias?" Tom Matrullo is one of the few I can see how blogs a profession, that of journalism in his case, not to advance his career, not to do a cheap expose as if he were a moral paragon set above those he critiques, but as well acculturated insider who is fully cognizant of his discipline's manners, mores, rules, hidden rules, and 'habitus.' I love reading him for that double perspective, adumbrated, rather than asserted. He remains loyal to his craft and his fellow journalists, but reflects on what he is doing, and provides a kind of literary 'estrangement' from the day to day practice, so as to reveal its deeper moral structure. That is my effort here with wealth planning services and philanthropic services. The parables go unremarked among insiders, even when they stop here. I guess that is a good thing, since as you point out, disturbing a placid surface, or upsetting a profitable suite of language games, is not good for business, nor for one's career, but it may be good for society, and even for those of us trapped inside wealth bondage, inside the games that work so well that they must not be questioned upon pain of ostracism. That to me is the whole point of blogging, to work that ragged dangerous edge, out by the Dumpster, just behind Wealth Bondage, where it abouts the public right of way, where personal property and propriety verge over into garbage, carnival, and the public interest.

Maybe here is the issue. Diogenes lived naked in a barrel and lived to a very ripe old age, a legend in his own time and down to our own. What would it have been like, however, if he had had a lucrative day job, a wife and kids, and a house in suburbs of Athens? Let's say the job was Counselor to Wealthy Athenians on their Values, and that he made big bucks going along to get along on company time. Then, fed up, let's say, he stripped naked in the evenenings and on weekends and went about, in masquerade - what else is running about naked but carnival? -- accosting Athenians and really making them think, by upsetting, over turning, the every day lanaguage games and habitus. Same guy, same issues, same clients. Could he have made that work?

No, I don't think so either. And that is my challenge in convening an online conversation of philanthropy, here and elsewhere.

a mask lives as a mask does ... blogging cracks masks, often enough

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