American Philanthropies Challenge Capitalism. Huh!

Talk about biting the hand that feeds, or fed, you!

There’s an ambitious, sprawling, and loosely coordinated effort by some of America’s biggest foundations to remake capitalism, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy. 

How bizarre. 

“Some of the country’s largest foundations…want to upend the very system that allowed them to build massive endowments and personal fortunes,” writes Alex Daniels with the Chronicle of Philanthropy

“Capitalism must be remade, these foundations argue, because unregulated markets are at the root of the most important social and environmental problems we face,” Marc Gunther wrote in the same journal. “What’s needed, according to an expanding chorus of philanthropy leaders, is a change in the economic system itself.”

The Ford Foundation, the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Omidyar Network and others have already committed nearly $500 million over the next five years to transform the economic system that, not incidentally, made possible the great fortunes that underpin their work, according to Gunther.

The controversy isn’t exactly new. The Ford Foundation has been attacked for years for funding initiatives that Henry Ford would surely have disagreed with. That kind of behavior often happens because Foundations end up controlled by professional do-gooders, usually with a liberal education and leftist leanings.

These types are calling for a new code of business ethics, expanded employee ownership of corporations, and rule changes that would put the environment and equitable distribution of wealth on the same footing as making a profit.

Their agenda bears a strong resemblance to the platform of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, wrote Gunther. “There is a lot of overlap,” says Felicia Wong, CEO of the Roosevelt Institute, an influential Washington think tank and a grantee of Ford, Hewlett, and Omidyar.

Scott Walter, president of Capital Research Center, a conservative think tank that focuses on philanthropy, noted that huge foundations like Ford wouldn’t exist without the wealth generated by free-market capitalism.

“If the Ford Foundation’s money is so badly tainted, perhaps they should start on a swift course of no longer possessing it,” Walter says. “Let’s redistribute it.”

The entire controversy has been exacerbated by the growing visibility of younger woke anti-capitalist activists. Often they are in philanthropies run by only slightly older, and experienced, people who think they’re already pretty damn woke, thank you, and don’t need to be lectured by their juniors.  

The environment has pushed expectations far beyond what workplaces previously offered to employees., columnist James Freeman wrote in the Wall Street Journal. “A lot of staff that work for me, they expect the organization to be all the things: a movement, OK, get out the vote, OK, healing, OK, take care of you when you’re sick, OK. It’s all the things,” said one executive director. “Can you get your love and healing at home, please? But I can’t say that, they would crucify me.”

Ryan Grim, writing in the progressive website The Intercept, said some left-leaning philanthropic leaders seem to have felt so much under attack by their own staff that they have adopted a mantra originating with Andy Grove, one of Intel’s founders, “Only the paranoid survive.”

It’s become so toxic that it’s getting more difficult to hire leaders. “Executive directors across the space said they… have tried to organize their hiring process to filter out the most disruptive potential staff. “I’m now at a point where the first thing I wonder about a job applicant is, ‘How likely is this person to blow up my organization from the inside?’” one, leader said to Grim. 

And the turmoil has affected the philanthropies’ ability to do their job. “So much energy has been devoted to the internal strife and internal bullshit that it’s had a real impact on the ability for groups to deliver,” an organization leader told Grim.

Maybe people like Bill Gates, a fierce believer in the fundamentals of capitalism, should worry about the direction future leaders of their foundations will take them. “Flirting with radical change, dramatic change, how we run these systems, I personally — my vote will be not to make a radical change,” he has said.

The temerity of some foundation critics of capitalism is particularly irritating because not only were their foundations created through the success of their founders, but their continuing work is only possible because of capitalism’s success. 

Large foundations like Hewlett are not only the product of free-market capitalism, but also remain tremendous beneficiaries of it., says Robert Stilson, a research specialist with the Capital Research Center, which examines how foundations, charities, and other nonprofits spend their money. 

Stilson points out that according to the foundation’s website, Hewlett’s $14.4 billion endowment is invested mostly in private and public equities, and its performance has consistently exceeded the benchmark. Its most recent tax filings disclosed almost $3.8 billion in corporate stockholdings. “Capitalism drives the creation of wealth at left-of-center philanthropies no less than it does everywhere else,” Stilson said.

Dear Secretary of the Treasury: OK, I Give Up

Dear Secretary Yellen (and Joe, too),

Invest in Series I Savings Bonds, your Treasury Department says. “Series I savings bonds are a low-risk savings product,” it says. “During their lifetime they earn interest and are protected from inflation.” With an initial interest rate on new Series I savings bonds now at 9.62 percent., they’re a good deal. 

So I tried to buy some.  Fuggedaboutit.

How hard can it be to set up a website to invest in I Bonds that’s consumer friendly and easily navigable? You’d think the Biden administration could at least do this one simple thing right, but no. 

Now bear with me.

Treasury’s website, www.TreasuryDirect.gov, is a jumbled mess, a relic of old timey confusion from when Biden was a senator. When I finally got into the section for creating an investment account, diligently filled everything out and clicked on “submit”, I was advised that there was an error. And my application was on hold.

What was the error? No clue. How could I fix it? By filling out a paper, yes, paper,TreasuryDirect Account Authorization form, getting it certified by my credit union, and snail-mailed , yes, snail-mailed, to Treasury Retail Security Services, Minneapolis, MN.

The length of time Treasury Retail Security Services might take to respond? Up to 13 weeks, I was advised. That’s right, three months.

Several weeks later, not 13 thank God, I got an email saying the hold had been removed from my account and that I could now access it. Now I’m on a roll, I figured. 

But no. When I tried to get into my account to make an investment, I made a spelling mistake in a security question response and I was locked out again.  

“If you encounter any problems during the initial log in process, you may contact us at 844-284-2676, between 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.,” I was advised. “Follow the menu prompts for Individual and TreasuryDirect. A customer service representative will assist you.”

OK, that sounded simple. It was a nightmare. 

On my first call I was on hold for 3 hours and finally told that there were too many people ahead of me for my call to be answered before the office closed. For my second call, I got up at 5AM and sat on hold for 2.5 hours before connecting with an agent. It took just a couple minutes to clear up the security question issue and I was again cleared for access to my account.

I filled out an online form to make an investment . On June 21, an email came back. “Dear William:
A purchase has been scheduled in your TreasuryDirect account on 6/21/2022. For more details, go to the History tab and click Security History. If you have a question about this activity, please call (844) 284-2676. Thank you for using TreasuryDirect.”

I sat back in celebration.

Too soon.

On June 27, I received an email canceling my investment: “Dear William, We’re sorry, but your purchase request or reinvestment IAAAA was canceled. While trying to collect payment from your bank, they returned our debit. Please check the Investor InBox section of your TreasuryDirect account for more detailed information. Thank you for using TreasuryDirect.”

Now what?  I went to the Investor InBox section of my TreasuryDirect account and discovered that Treasury had sent the debit request to an incorrect bank account, not the one submitted with my purchase request. Of course the debit attempt bounced. Argggh!!!

I went back into the TreasuryDirect website and found that to get Treasury’s mistake corrected I would have to print out another paper form, get it certified at my bank, send it in, by snail mail again, and wait some more. When I tried to access the form by clicking on a link, I got a grey screen. Good grief!

You win, Janet and Joe. I give up. I’m done.

Is It Time To Bring Back “Bum”?

On June 17, Portland’s alternative weekly, Willamette Week, posted a story titled, “Tires Slashed, Mirrors Shattered Along Laurelhurst Street Where Tensions Between Neighbors and Houseless Residents Continue to Escalate.” 

“Houseless residents”? 

How did the media and much of liberal Portland get to the point where people who slash tires, shatter car mirrors, rip out landscape lights, overturn trash and recycling bins, destroy landscaping and damage parking strip trees are simply described as “houseless,” as though that’s their defining characteristic? 

How did we get to the point where people doing this:

or this:

or this:

are excused because they are “homeless” or “houseless” or some other insipid term? That’s just plain criminal.

Some would say calling some people bums is offensive, callous and unfeeling, that it’s not “fair” to lump people together for any reason.

Being homeless or houseless should not be a free pass to a different set of behavioral expectations. Being homeless doesn’t give somebody license to break into a small business, deface property with graffiti, shoot at each other and unsuspecting pedestrians, bury sidewalks and parkland under trash and garbage, pollute waterways , steal and chop up bicycles and cars, openly sell and buy drugs, assault  random passers-by and litter private properties with discarded syringes.

On June 20, KGW8 television reported on incidents at a tent site on the corner of Southeast 33rd Avenue and Powell Blvd. in Portland next to Grover Cleveland High School’s track and sports field. 

“We live in a war zone basically and there’s nothing I can do,” said Elias Giangos, who said he’s lived in the neighborhood for the past seven years. He and his wife plan to move out at the end of the month. Giangos said he was assaulted multiple times by those living at the campsite. Scars from the time he was stabbed by someone living at the campsite disfigure his left arm.

“Even when I was getting assaulted, we called the police, there’s no response,” he said.

Things recently got so bad with the so-called homeless around Multnomah County’s Gladys McCoy Building in Portland across from Union Station that the county hired a firm to assess the risks to county employees and recommend responses. 

According to the Physical Security Vulnerability Assessment of the area in and around Multnomah County’s Gladys McCoy Building prepared by Eric Tonsfeldt / Operations Manager – Foresight Security Consulting, “The density of unsanctioned homeless camping immediately around the McCoy Building represents the most immediate, consistent, and palpable threat to the safety and security of the employees and contractors in the McCoy Building.”

“The building is currently surrounded by ongoing, frequent drug abuse and distribution, violence, and aggression within dense areas of unsanctioned houseless camping.,” the report said. 

The report said the following crime occurred just within the 1/8-mile area centered on the McCoy Building between 7/19/2020 and 7/18/2021: 33 assaults, 79 instances of larceny, 7 instances of vandalism and 35 drug/narcotics offenses.

Those aren’t the to-be-ignored actions of “the homeless.” They’re the actions of vagrants, malcontents, addicts, crooks, criminals….bums.

.

Coming Soon: The Museum of Me

In another bow to ethnic division, on June 13, 2022, President Biden signed into law a bill (H.R.3525) authorizing a commission to build a possible National Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) museum in Washington, D.C.

Introduced by Rep. Grace Meng (D-New York) in May 2021, the bipartisan bill cleared the House on April 26 and the Senate on May 18, both by unanimous consent.

The signing was couched as a way to counter Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders remaining on the margins of American education, with little mention in classes beyond the topics of Pearl Harbor, immigration and the U.S.’s territorial interests in the Pacific. A museum would be key to combating the stereotypes and misconceptions that drive anti-AAPI discrimination, supporters say.

If built, an AAPI Museum would follow on the National Museum of African American History & Culture, which opened on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. in 2016.

It would also supplement the National Museum of the American Latino. Legislation calling for the Smithsonian to establish that museum passed in Dec. 2020.  “The new museum will be the cornerstone for visitors to learn how Latinos have contributed and continue to contribute to U.S. art, history, culture, and science.,” according to the Smithsonian. “Additionally, it will serve as a gateway to exhibitions, collections, and programming at other Smithsonian museums, research centers, and traveling exhibition services.”

At the rate things are going, today’s pandering politicians, who, as Blake Smith, says, eagerly “offer cultural victories instead of substantive ones,” will eventually advocate the creation of museums for every single ethnic group in America. Where they will be put in an already crowded mall is unknown. 

Some might argue that recognition of America’s diversity through such museums is a good thing. I’d offer a “Yes, but”… There’s no question that education about our multifaceted country can combat stereotypes and misconceptions, but excessive focus on identity is not such a good thing when it exacerbates divisiveness and encourage a splintering of the populace.

Oregon’s new K-12 Ethnic Studies standards, for example, were well-intentioned, but are a prime example of identity politics run amok. 

Kindergarten Standards, for example, include the following: *Describe how individual and group characteristics are used to divide, unite and categorize racial, ethnic, and social groups” and *Develop an understanding of one’s own identity groups including, but not limited to, race, gender, family, ethnicity, culture, religion, and ability.” Good grief!

Colt Gill, the Director of the Oregon Department of Education, clearly sees the K-12 education universe as nothing more than an assemblage of distinct and maligned minorities. This is the kind of identity politics that foments perilous division of our state and our country. Rather than emphasizing common values and interest, Gill’s identity politics stresses differences and creates a feeling of ‘zero-sum’ competition between groups. 

One problem with this kind of identify politics is that it leads to even more minority designations. “Once identity politics gains momentum, it inevitably subdivides, giving rise to ever-proliferating group identities demanding recognition,” says Amy Chua in Political Tribes.

And that leads to an AAPI Museum.

As for highlighting Asian Americans with a new museum, one problem is they are far from a monolith. Instead, they have a complex history and cultures.  Even the term “Asian American” encompasses dozens of ethnic groups of Asian descent. Just Southeast Asians, for example, includes Filipino, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Thai, Hmong, Laotian, Burmese, Indonesian and Malaysian. 

And what are craven politicians going to endorse next? A German Museum and an Irish Museum? The high immigration numbers in the 1800s were largely fueled by Irish and German immigrants.  A Hungarian Museum? The Hungarian revolution in 1956 led to a burst of Hungarian refugees coming to the United States, including some families who settled in my hometown in Connecticut. Maybe an Eastern European Museum?

The 1959 Cuban revolution drove hundreds of thousands of Cubans to the United States. Given their concentration in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis and other politicians seeking the Cuban vote could probably be counted on to endorse a Cuban Museum on the National Mall.

The way things are going, we’ll end up with a Museum of Me. Or a Museum of You.

Space for Humanity: Behind The Scenes of Space Flight PR

Want to promote your business with tax-deductible dollars? Look to the privately owned space industry for inspiration.

Recent media have been full of stories celebrating Katya Echazarreta traveling into space on Saturday, June 4, soaring up 66.5 miles (107 km) aboard Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin spaceship, New Shepard.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that 26-year-old electrical engineer and five other passengers launched their sub-orbital flight in West Texas at 6:26 a.m. PDT, reached the edge of space about five minutes later, were briefly treated to zero gravity and then softly parachuted to the ground, kicking up a large cloud of orange dust.

What made it so newsworthy?  

NBC News ran an Associated Press story before the flight highlighting that Echazarreta would be the first Mexican-born woman and one of the youngest women to fly to space, Echazarreta was born in Guadalajara, Mexico and later moved to San Diego, CA. After the flight, ABC News Chicago blared, “Blue Origin launches first Mexican born woman into space.”

But the Mexican angle alone probably wasn’t enough. The story also likely gained traction because it was pushed by Space For Humanity, a Denver, CO-based 501(c)(3) non-profit that sponsored Echazarreta’s trip. Not mentioned in the breathless stories about the flight was that Space for Humanity paid Blue Origin to take Echazarreta on the flight.  

And none of the stories noted how much Space for Humanity paid from donations to send Echazarreta on a spaceship owned by the second-wealthiest person in the world. An inquiry to Space For Humanity didn’t generate a response and Blue Origin has not divulged ticket prices.

Space For Humanity presents itself as an organization created to sponsor and send community leaders and change-makers to space. The non-profit anticipates crews will fly with Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, World View, and Space Perspective. “We train, educate and empower emerging leaders to ensure an inclusive future in space,” the organization says. 

“When I started Space For Humanity, it was under the deep belief that the Overview Effect and giving people the opportunity to experience Space for themselves, would provide a powerful conduit for creating global change,” said the non-profit’founder, Dylan Taylor.

Space For Humanity’s Board of Directors include Ryan Kriser, founder & CEO at Helios Capital, Sarah Cruddas, the host of Contact on Discovery Channel & Science Channel, Sangeet Kaur Sood, a space enthusiast and Andrew Aldrin, Director of the Aldrin Space Institute at Florida Institute of Technology.

The non-profit’s Board of Advisors is a large collection of space-related individuals, including current and former NASA astronauts, professors, entrepreneurs, the founder & Emeritus Chair at the SETI Institute and the Chairman of the Space Advisory Board for Virgin Galactic.

It’s not clear why all these people are overseeing the solicitation of public contributions for flights on the space ships of wealthy companies.  

How much has been donated to Space for Humanity so it can send people up into space?

In its online Annual Report, it says 2021 revenue totaled $3.76 million, including tax deductible contributions of $1 million from Blue Origin, $1.24 million from Virgin Galactic X Omaze and $1.5 million from individuals.

But you’ll have to take Space For Humanity’s word. All non-profits are required by law to submit to the IRS an annual financial report called a Form 990. Space for Humanity doesn’t appear to have submitted one since 2019. 

 

Crypto Corruption: A Campaign Finance Cover-Up in Oregon

Like the notorious Anna Delvey, who came out of nowhere to seduce gullible New Yorkers, Carrick Flynn emerged from the ether in February 2022 to announce he was running in the Democratic primary for Oregon’s new Congressional District 6 seat. 

In the following months it came out that his biggest financial backer was a political action committee, Protect Our Future PAC, funded largely by a crypto billionaire, Sam Bankman-Fried, a 30-year-old American “Master of the Universe” who lives in the Bahamas. 

Then, late in the race, the Justice Unites Us PAC, which said it was all about mobilizing Asian voters, pumped $846,000 in independent expenditures Flynn’s campaign, a white guy if there ever was one. Justice Unites Us identified itself online as “A project of the Family Friendly Action Fund, a section 50©4) social welfare organization.”

“AAPI people are literally under attack,” says the PAC’s website. “We need to build political power and ensure our voices are heard in the political process.”

Who was behind the Justice Unites Us PAC? Oregon voters didn’t know. 

Like pop-up stores that show up during the Christmas holidays, the PAC only popped up on March 22, 2022 (FEC Committee ID #: C00810606). In its report to the FEC for the first quarter of 2022, the PAC reported raising and spending zero dollars. After the end of the quarter, it disclosed it had disbursed $846,581.14 on April 5, 2022 for “canvassing” in support of Flynn.

On April 15, 2022, the PAC filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission so it could delay filing its next report and identifying its donors, until after the May 17 primary:

Flynn lost the race, but only now do we learn that every single penny of  the money Justice United donated to Flynn’s campaign came from a donation Sam Bankman-Fried’s Protect Our Future PAC  made to Justice United.

Why Bankman-Fried felt this subterfuge was necessary is unclear, since he was already publicly identified as the man behind Protect Our Future. Whatever his reasons, it allowed his money to hide behind campaign finance reporting rules and prevented Oregonians from full knowledge of Flynn’s backers.

Supposedly, Flynn’s campaign was unaware of the subterfuge, just as supposedly, Protect Our Future didn’t coordinate with Flynn’s campaign in producing a barrage of radio, television and digital ads, lawn signs, direct mail, and get-out-the-vote phone calls.

Voters deserve better.