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October 02, 2005

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"Each man takes care that his neighbor shall not cheat him. But a day comes when he begins to care that he does not cheat his neighbor. Then all goes well—he has changed his market-cart into a chariot of the sun." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thanks, Phil A. Emerson well-quoted.

"Meantime, this spawning productivity is not noxious or needless. You would say, this rabble of nations might be spared. But no, they are all counted and depended on. Fate keeps everything alive so long as the smallest thread of public necessity holds it on to the tree. The coxcomb and bully and thief class are allowed as proletaries, every one of their vices being the excess or acridity of a virtue. The mass are animal, in pupilage, and near chimpanzee. But the units, whereof this mass is composed are neuters, every one of which may be grown to a queen-bee. The rule is, we are used as brute atoms, until we think: then, we use all the rest. Nature turns all malfaisance to good. Nature provided for real needs. No sane man at last distrusts himself. His existence is a perfect answer to all sentimental cavils. If he is, he is wanted, and has the precise properties that are required. That we are here, is proof we ought to be here. We have as good right, and the same sort of right to be here, as Cape Cod or Sandy Hook have to be there."
Considerations By The Way
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Emerson can be quoted to almost any purpose. The quotation above would do well in a sales training meeting. The air of auto-intoxication in him makes me squirm a bit. A great writer, a wonderful aphorist, and his cadences are hypnotic, but what high flow gibberish, if you strip away the language-effects. "That we are here is proof that we ought to be here," said the Cheshire Cat to Alice. "Bang!" spoke Alice's shotgun. "That you are not here is proof that you ought not to be here."

The argument that foreign aid always hurts its recipients is an hoary old piece of rightwing shit, and it’s the lowest, most dishonest and most corrupted kind of thinktank sadism. Just get Halliburton in there! (And if you don’t think that’s where this is going, look at Turner over there on the sidebar and suffer reading some of the things he has to say on the subject. Besides, you’re smart enough to see that “Hotel Rwanda” is an oblique recasting of Katrina and, behind the crocodile tears, a plump for the financial “rebuilding” in N.O.--all the more disgusting and contemptible for being parsed out with all that winky-allegorical, passive-aggressive, plausible-denial “how shocking you would accuse me of that” ambience.)

Lenore is beyond dialogue or redemption. To imagine that her position is naive and correctable constitutes an even more dangerous kind of naivete on your part, and you're going to severely compromise your own principles by falsely imagining that you can move her two millimeters toward something more humane.

T.V., she could cast me out, as you have her. We are all devils to the other party these days. Your world too is about to change. Many a doctor is wealthy and conservative. Lenore and her set share many of the values, prejudices, religious beliefs of people I work with daily. The difference is a PhD and intellectual range of reference. If we cannot even converse with Lenore & Co, how can we inflect the minds of those who are propagandized by them? "If a lion could talk, we would not understand him," wrote Wittgenstein. I sometimes feel that way about those around me. I can understand how they understand themselves, sort of, but cannot understand how that belief system is supportable. But if I can't feel myself into it, how can I even satirize it? Intellectual curiosity comes into it also. I am patiently plodding through Leo Strauss, and some of the background books on his clique. He is a much more substantive and original thinker than most who write in English. I don't agree with his conclusions or feel at ease in his attitudes and ethos, but he frames important political issues with urgency. Next I am determined to read Ayn Rand, never have, not I am determined to do it. Think about this too, Doctor, the set around Lenore raise billions from rich people. That is the wing of WB in which I earn my keep. Say you end up as a cosmetic surgeon, would be turn away wealty Repubs? Or a heart surgeon? Universities are overtly ideological these days. I am not sure you can be so in a medical practice when it comes to whom you treat; nor can I as a factotum in WB. So, what goes aroud comes around, if the circle remains unbroken, and what passes around are contacts, leads, speaking engagements, money, as well as new ideas. Yes this is unprincipled but in the way of liberal market-based democracy, which softens our tribal hatreds and makes us break break around the table together as we prepare to do bidnis. Believe me, WB is my attempt to gain perspective on all this, and the fractured quality bears witness to my inability to do so.

I'm not the best person to comment on this, as my ethics yield to attempted pragmatism on a regular basis, and fail to make the cut on that as often as not. But the practise of physical medicine is different from the practise of dumpster medicine. I highly doubt T.V. will wind up in a vanity field, and the Hippocratic oath won't preclude treating the most awful individuals.

When I read his admonitions to you, Tutor, I get more a sense of warning you away from an exercise in futility. Someone who could point to website where the appearance of sincerity is held to represent actual conviction, in spite of all evidence that it promotes rent seeking and sanctimony, and also use the polemics of Ivan Illich as a justification for increasing the size of a punitive nanny state, is not someone amenable to persuasion, is not someone from whom anything can be learned.

To extrapolate a universal warning from the single circumstance he addresses is a little risky; whether one extends it to all intellectuals serving state and corporate power, and dismisses them as hopeless -- which I have done -- or when one holds out hope for some benefit from the exchanges, regardless of the infamies they promote as virtues, as you have done.

If Shikwati is right, our calls for philanthropic response and state-based foreign aid, fueled by our genuine compassion at the images of human suffering the media presents to us, should perhaps be replaced by a more thoughtful and consistent effort to understand how we might best use our resources to promote the development of human systems that pave the way for trust, communication, free exchange, and social learning. It is in societies where these and other related traits are healthiest where we find the most resistance to the corruption of men and their institutions and the most resilience in how people deal with disasters that do strike.

That is a quote from the Marxian philanthropist Lenore Ealy.

Lenore's problem is that she is thinking backwards from the correct conclusion to an incorrect premise.

That state-based foreign aid does as much harm as good is not so tendentious an assertion, because it can be launched from both a conservative and a socialist platform, but the conservative fails acknowledge capitalism as the source of the failure.

Exactly what I was thinking, Klaus. The reduction of value and motivation to cash money is ultimately corosive and leads directly to corruption. Or from another direction, if you send money after a problem, those who chase after the money will end up with all of it whether or not they or forced to get something done with it. Big piles of money are easier to steal.

Harry, I read TV as making a much more pointed comment, about essentially my ethics or soul. That to consort with propagandists and servile think tank thinkers, to allow them a place to stand, to countenance them, is morally reprehensible and unbecoming a dumpster dwelling diogenes wannabe. It would be as if Diogenes were to suck up to a servant of Alexander the Great. It might be good business or might make pragmantic sense, or might even be courteous, or even "good citizenship" in some banal way, but would invalidate his claim to being outside WB, if only in a Dumpster.

I take TV's criticism at face value and honor his point. I struggle with it. It just feels too easy to me, to walk away from a conversation with Lenore and her friends. How we conduct that conversation, or battle, is another matter. But I can't willingly break it off. Debate and reason is not the answer. The drills of detournement, Carnival, satire, clowning around - could they be?

People who are willing to question their premises are at a disadvantage when dealing with people who have absolute certainty, and can override any dissonance. They can fall into incremental acceptance of the normally unthinkable. That's why I think T.V.'s words to you were more an admonition. I think you're too stubborn -- i.e. have sufficient integrity -- but I worry too.

Thanks, all, for being my external conscience. Can you be more specific about the concern? That I would coopted and become an exponent of the Hayekian worldview? Isn't this rather small minded? Like a gangsta saying, "Your a crip, we can't trust you. I saw you talking to a blood." How did it become a sign of low integrity to listen to, read up on, and try to feel ones way into the worldview of those to whom you are viscerally opposed? Isn't the name for that liberalism, in the old highest and best sense? Even the Jesuits read heresy, and play the devil's advocate. Dont we in theory have parliaments, law courts, and the public square to allow for debate, discussion, and the free and frank exchange of insults, jibes, and humor?

I have seen groups I have been a part of "ostracize" their opponents, only to fall silent themsleves as history turned and the outs became the ins. I think we need a strategy better than "ignore them and they will go away," or "pretend they don't exist," or "cast them out and demonize them."

I don't have such a strategy, and you could say that "pitch defileth," but I have never been one to hang around with like-minded people; I congenitally prefer disagreement, ferment, and abrasion. So, I don't mind, you all questioning my judgment, integrity or sanity.

And furthermore.... In this very post, of the Saved, who equate the market with God, I wrote, "The deadness in our eyes, the eyes of the Saved, is beyond God's grace." Surely it is Lenore who should be offended?

You answered your own question, Tutor. It would be very small minded to think you susceptible to Lenore Ealy's warmed over, comic book version of Hayek. That's not my concern. My concern, and it's a small one, is that you might not realize the wingnut intellectuals are as open to reason as Scientologists. They're as blind and as wedded to the corporatist dream as Robert McNamara, who to this day fumbles for reasons why it was bad to throw human beings into the meat grinder of lunatic neocolonial adventurism. Even in his apology, it was all about him and his failure to follow sound management practises.

They argue, as I have said, in bad faith. They mine great works to snatch justifications for the old game of creating an ideological coat of wax for the cruel games of the powerful. There's practically no chance any of them will have a Road to Damascus moment and, "whoops! I guess I was evil!". It's all about Vogon poetry in a lobbyist's astroturf site.

What a discussion. It's a long road back.

OK, Harry, my view, and I am sticking to it is that Lenore and Frederick Turner are happily and productictively ensconced inside Wealth Bondage. To throw them out into the Dumpster would be contrary to the entire purpose of WB. Agreed?

It's a respectable view, Tutor, and I've been the beneficiary of it myself.

What I respond to, T., is that your satire of Lenore is too gentle. It wears kid gloves, it broadcasts this "all in the family" vibe. You break your own rules with her: you don't allegorize, you address her by name. But for that reason you back off too much. "Just kidding."

Consider why you're driven to name her, to address her, at all. It's because you're aware that an allegorical riposte wouldn't touch her. Her smugness, her Christian narcissism, is a completely impenetrable shell of self-forgiveness. She wouldn't recognize herself in your displaced satires, or she'd shrug off your vulgar silliness, or she'd agree with you about "those people" without even realizing she'd been implicated.

So you crank it up a little to get to her conscience. You name her. But then, because you want to preserve the relation, you temper your blows and reframe your own critique as harmless hyperbole. Here, we're talking obliquely about how there should have been no government help for Katrina victims (because the deliberate destruction of aid agencies "proves" how ineffective they are). Or, overtly, we're talking about how genocide "proves" that businessmen should be allowed to have their way with supine populations. Ealy is burping out Cato Institute talking points. The tone is important. It doesn't quite have the reptilian tone of a Bush press conference. It's the creamy self-regard of an involuted Christianity, the oozy sanctimony of someone who'll destroy the village to save it because she really, sincerely cares. You got it right once, with Turner: the iron fist in the velvet glove. Ealy is just as murderous, and this post shows it in the raw.

Ealy and Turner have a very special function in wealth bondage: their place at the table derives from the assistance they provide in processing empathy to leave behind a synthetic substitute compatible with a murderous social darwinism, during the transition period when a few consciences still need to be salved. It's the programmed destruction of empathy through virusing it with a cold simulacrum. There is just about nothing in the social world as evil as this, and I don't think you have your eyes open. In fact, when you pretend that *I* have some power to exclude *Ealy* or exercise some countertyrannic power on the oligarchy she serves, I know you don't have your eyes open. This is dangerous stuff, T. You don't dare play with it until you see clearly what it is, and in this case I'm not sure you do.

I guess I read the Ealy post, and the articles it references, differently. It’s not as clear to me, as it is to others, what her basic premises are. It’s not that we should stop all foreign aid abruptly, without further discussion; nor is it that people in other countries who suffer terrible catastrophes don’t deserve our compassion and our help. Colson and Shikwati appear to argue that we need to examine how U.S. aid can contribute to maintaining systems of oppression in desperately poor countries. Fine, I think, we can examine that. Ealy’s post has many such openings: she refers to the “horror” of the Rwandan genocide; Colson lauds both government and private assistance for the victims of the Tsunami. The post is all questions—hardly the stuff of devils.
As to the nefarious subtext that T.V. ascribes to Ealy: perhaps, but I have limited grounds for making that judgment. I’ve read 500 words that she’s written, and I’ve never met the woman. I have no basis for developing a sense of her as a person. I don’t know what causes she gives to and how much. I don’t what she teaches her children.

I read far more than 500 of Ealy's words before rendering judgment and taking sides.

Why didn't you?

Gerry, you did meet Lenore at the Open Space Giving Conference, and you can read more of her material, or stuff she has solicited and edited at her main site, the philanthropic intitiative, accessible from her blog.

TV, what makes you a pain in the ass is your intelligence and your ability to read with subtlety. You got me. You have given me plenty to consider. You are dead right that I make an exception of Lenore, since she has been a friend in real life, showing up for me at events I have organized, puttig me on her email list, trading emails, introducing me by email to Wm Schambra, and in some emails, quite charmingly admitted her own doubts, and concerns about some of the positions she takes, or belief systems that she has pulled together from sundry sources, without being able, as she admits, to fully reconcile them.

You are right that my underlying tone is respectful or courteous and that the punches are pulled.

I very much wish she would come here and add to this specific thread, among others. Imagine what an experience that would be for her, and the courage it would take.

How does I satirize savagely those who read this site from time to time, know me personally, and have continuing personal or business connections, or mutual friends, and friends of friends?

You are telling me that I have not solved that challenge. I think you are right.

But be fair: What would you do, from beneath your mask, if the head of your med school had a friend or colleauge whose name was Lenore and knew that TV was {insert real name here}. I am not trying to hit you back, far from it, just asking you to consider how treacherous is the rhetorical context. "First do no harm" - to oneself.

TV, one more point, or query. Did you notice that the last post Lenore made included a shot at WB, some weeks ago. We responded uproariously, driving, I am sure, the bulk of the hits she has received since then. I can't help but notice that she and her team have remained totally silent since WB took them on. Could be a coincidence, but I just don't think Lenore and friends are ready yet to go "frame against frame" with WB. I truly hope to provoke a continued cross blog collision. I hope she shares that goal. And integral to the strategy from the side of the WB Battle Wagon is you, Mr. TV, and others here with their irreverent wit. I may be the "moderator" of sorts, in that stacked battle, but you are invited. What gets said in the comments is devastating, not to me so much, because I agree with so much of it, including the criticisms of me, but to Lenore and her whole project. Cato, by the way, was a good guess. She is busy right now on a project for them, I believe, on vouchers or charter schools or something like that.

I think we can be civil if only to insure a rematch, blog on blog, again and again, until we draw into this conversation, or onto this killing field, the hired guns like Bill Schambra. Wouldn't it be an honor to go up against the biggest bullies they have in those think tanks? But to get them to do it, I do think I have to keep moving in and out of their world, as an ambigous civic friend. I know Lenore would love to get a debate between her and Tracy Gary or Schambra and Tracy Gary. That is the kind of thing I would like to stage, script, foment, or participate in. I think we could devastate the right on the topic of giving. We amateurs, from the Dumpster. They won't take us on because they can see daily, in threads like this, that they will be taken apart, not just as thinkers but as persons. But if we "go easy" maybe we can entice them into the public square, for a nice civic conversation that just might get out of hand, blogger style.

T.V .: Ouch. I went back and checked. I had in fact read 3,759 Lenore Ealy words, including one post plugging Project K.I.D. to help children affected by Hurricane Katrina and one skewering me for organizing a philanthropic blog group hug.
What I see in Ealy’s posts are mostly Friedmanesque arguments about the virtues of small government, and stuff Isaiah Berlin would have written if he hadn’t been such a good writer. Old School, nothing new. I hear this stuff all the time from my dyed-in-the-wool Republican family in Miami. I also see how these same family members use their networks to care for the elderly and sick (including non-family members); how my ultra-conservative uncle writes huge checks for hurricane relief efforts; etc. For all my liberalism, I feel ashamed that I’m not as generous as they are with my own money and time. There are clearly values we share, and just as I feel they have something to learn from me, I also have something to learn from them.
I think the argument I need to engage with my family (and, I assume, with people like Lenore), has to do with something like “faith,” when this is interpreted as “a strong sense of the way the world should be, in the absence of conclusive proof.” Isn’t it an article of faith—or at least a wild hypothesis—that the poor would fare far better if government fucked off and stopped taxing us so we’d have more money to give to people in need? I remember doing some research on how tax rates affect charitable giving: the data were very slim. I’d be interested in seeing more research so I'd have a stronger basis for telling (at least some) conservatives to think again.

"I think we can be civil if only to insure a rematch, blog on blog, again and again, until we draw into this conversation, or onto this killing field, the hired guns like Bill Schambra. Wouldn't it be an honor to go up against the biggest bullies they have in those think tanks?""I very much wish she would come here and add to this specific thread, among others. Imagine what an experience that would be for her, and the courage it would take.imo, they would have to be crazy -- crazy human -- to do that. and i don't think they -- or we, really -- are.it's the difference between soft and hard core. emmanuelle versus deep throat. ain't nobody goin' down on nobody, for reals.

I have met Lenore, though briefly. Phil A's last post actually helps understanding her a little. And the fish is right, if they really were to come and engage here, the lid would be off, and WB would be changed, "hard core".

In her first trial with "beneficense", you could tell she wasn't really ready for open comments. In my work, politics is orthagonal to the work, so I can say what I want without offending my boss or the company. They just don't care, but in Lenore's world, they would care. She has to worry about what her funders might think as well as the visible commenters.

It would be interesting to get her or her friends to take on the fiction of a mask to engage this battle. Understanding that the mask slips occasionally, but the veil of fiction still lends some cover to get beyond the masks we must wear in public.

And Tutor, what would it take to make WB into a road and/or radio show? Don't you think it's time to take the next step?

Gerry, it would take a crew, staff, budget, etc. All I am in a guy with a blog who finds it therapeutic to act up and out online. The next step, I think, is the one I am trying to make happen with Lenore and that Phil A is trying to make happen with the philanthropic press and established philanthropic networks. We have to be the "unwelcome guest" within the firewall of a safe place for wealth and power. I am in and out of the firewall, but inside with one mask, that of deferential stooge, and outside as myself, the Happy Tutor. To take the next step is particularly dangerous because the stooge makes his living as a servant. Carnival is safer in a mob scene where all are masked, and the crowd swirls by, in the drunkeness and excitement of an after hours debauch. Showing up for work at the office in a hula skirt might not be a good move. Even among progressive funders, WB is most often passed over in silence as a lapse in decorum or good taste. Those who do read it do not discuss it. All of which shows me that in some way we are on the right but dangerous track.

Even among progressive funders, WB is most often passed over in silence as a lapse in decorum or good taste. Those who do read it do not discuss it.
I can vouch for that. Although they're fairly old news everywhere else, blogs have yet to penetrate the general funder consciousness. Combine a blog with exotic content, with characters who crack whips and suggest that Black babies be aborted, and you have a recipe for anathema. Philanthropoids have cells that were damaged by staring at too many flipcharts. They lack the irony gene.

Phil A. It is more than that, I think. WB is Carnival. By nature Carnival inverts the natural order of things. Those on top are always threatened by it, until a certain critical mass is reached and then they too will dance naked but masked in the streets, and look forward to it all year. First Carnival, then Lent.

The pariah is the Trickster, the holy fool. And what was Christ by the scapegoat, the sacrificial lamb?

What blogging can add to the solmenity of philanthropy is the Cake Walk at the Big House.

The good thing about being unspeakable is that you don't have to answer objections. As an invisible man I stil lseem to pass as factotum inside wealth bondage, serving the canapes and the drinks, and showing deference to every dunce with money.

Helping families pass on their values, as they might a wen, or hunched back, or a pattern of madness. Surely, we do our donors an injustice when we let leave our offices as flawed as when they arrive and as complacent? Would you do that with a student? Why then truckle to the same person, years later, who, while learning nothing of wisdom has amassed a fortune? Don't we owe donors one last chance to rethink their values, before passing them on intact and unquestioned to their children and inflicting them generation after generation upon the "less fortunate"?

Of course we do, but only a Fool would provide such a service to the King or Queen. Hence WB. The courtiers will always whisper against the Fool, but not one will seize his cap and bells.

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