Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Pithy Thought Of The Day

Can Arlen Specter and Phil Spector not show up on the front page of my news feed on the same day? One decided he's not going to vote for the Employee Free Choice Act again, the other had genetic evidence presented on his behalf in a murder trial. I can see how some people might confuse those (har har har) but seriously. A few more column inches between them, at least.

Johnson, Obama, And Political Plagiarism

I was listening to one of the few things in the world that can still well me up with tears today—Lyndon B. Johnson's “We Shall Overcome” speech to the houses of Congress, where he appealed to them to pass the Voting Rights' Act.

Johnson's famous address reads, at one point:

What happened in Selma is part of a far larger movement which reaches into every section and state of America. It is the effort of American Negroes to secure for themselves the full blessings of American life. Their cause must be our cause too. Because it's not just Negroes, but really it's all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice.

And we shall overcome.

It got me thinking about the foundation of the concept of Intellectual Property. You see, Johnson deliberately steals the phrase “We Shall Overcome.” Now, I don't know where that phrase originates, but it is a very old one that goes into Southern spiritual music, and it clearly doesn't originate with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But in the context of the Civil Rights Movement, that phrase will forever be tied to King's famous speeches-- “I Have A Dream” and “I Have Seen The Mountaintop” and many others. It was as linked to him as “My name is Harvey Milk and I am here to recruit you!”

Lyndon Johnson steals the phrase—deliberately. There's a very deliberate flourish. He is showing, beyond a doubt, that he has been listening to King. In a way, the struggle of a huge zeitgeist shift like the Civil Rights Movement is also a struggle over the language. For the period that the struggle was called “States' Rights versus Federal Rights,” the South won. But when it became the “Civil Rights Movement,” how long could the South be termed against the Civil Rights Movement?

Johnson, when he says to the two houses of Congress “We Shall Overcome,” is demonstrating that he has ceded control of language, for a moment, to King. That's why it is important that he steal that phrase—specifically that phrase. Hearing that phrase come from a Southern, white man—from a drawl that, from others, was still at the time spewing hate—is precisely what wells me up about that speech.

Imagine if King had some sort of ownership power over it? Imagine if he refused Johnson the right to borrow that right? The same speech, lacking the language stolen from King and his movement, would be painfully hobbled. The great speeches in America, if you read them, are all tied to each other. How many phrases in the Johnson Speech, are drawn from the other great speeches?

For, with a country as with a person, "what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"


The great phrases of that purpose still sound in every American heart, North and South: "All men are created equal." "Government by consent of the governed." "Give me liberty or give me death."

And Johnson's speech, in turn, becomes a source to future speeches. Here's Johnson, saying the most important sentence of the speech:

There is no Negro problem. There is no Southern problem. There is no Northern problem. There is only an American problem.

Here's Obama at the 2004 DNC Convention Speech:

There is not a liberal America and a conservative America -- there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America -- there’s the United States of America.

Obama is barely borrowing any of the words, but the underlying rhetorical structure is the same: rejecting the linguistic and conceptual divisions of this country. The concept of “A house divided against itself cannot long stand” is incorporated into the grammar of Johnson's statement; Obama steals that grammar, and it becomes the bedrock of his speech. And his speeches, too, are littered with the references of history.

That's why his speeches are effective the way they are: they tap into a long history of America's greatest moments, not just in the content but in the form, in the taken phrases.

Now, obviously, the concept of plagiarism doesn't extend to this kind of speech-stealing, does it? Right? From CNN:

On a conference call with reporters, Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson said it was clear Obama had "lifted rhetoric" from Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.

Late Monday, Clinton followed up with a swipe of her own.

"If your whole candidacy is about words, then they should be your own words," Clinton said in Madison, Wisconsin. "That's what I think."

As we see, if the person you're taking the language from is unrecognized, it suddenly crosses into uncouth. Granted, it may have been one of the highlights of Devall Patrick's national recognition to have the national news calling him the origin of Obama's speeches (even if he only contributed that one phrase), but it was called plagiarism. And there are politicians who have lost their careers to plagiarizing speeches—there was a huge furor over the fact that the Australian and Canadian Prime Ministers gave identical speeches in support of the Iraq War in 2006. (That, by the way, was for good cause: the implication is that someone outside of your country is writing your politicians' speeches in order to convince the people of those countries to go to war...)

It's just a reflection on the deviation of norms. Suppose we say that the use of Devall Patrick's phrase is unacceptable, but the use of King's phrase is acceptable. What would the difference be? Perhaps you could say that Obama's use of Deval Patrick is less acceptable because the phrase does not automatically connect to Deval Patrick, and Obama doesn't directly acknowledge Deval Patrick. Johnson is tapping into a phrase which millions of Americans know instantly its storied roots—even if they can't instantly connect it to King, they know what is being referenced.

This standard does not apply to music. As a matter of fact, in music, it works exactly the other way around. If you take a musical phrase (a “sample”), you can only use it if it is not recongizable, and its legally best if you don't acknowledge it.

Why? We can see here that there's two different standards of plagiarism here: intellectual plagiarism, and commercial plagiarism. In intellectual plagiarism, the punchline is you didn't acknowledge your source. In commercial plagiarism, the punchline is you didn't pay your source.

Different norms.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Psychology as Religion?

Vaughn says of psychology:

As identified by cognitive anthropologist Pascal Boyer, the single common feature of all religious is a preoccupation with unseen sentient beings, of which psychiatry says nothing.

In fact, mainstream psychiatry remains firmly materialist - usually re-explaining experiences that many people attribute to spirits, forces or unseen influences as biological dysfunction. So, in the most fundamental sense, the practice of psychiatry is typically contra-religious.

You could argue that this is 'replacing' religion through colonising the spiritual sphere of explanation, but this makes it no more a religion than physics or evolutionary biology.

Andrew Sullivan responds with two words:

Sigmund Freud.

A better example from the psychiatric model might be Jacques Lacan, with his "Big Other." At any rate, I think that Pascal Boyer's definition of religion is deeply flawed, as is evinced by Vaughn's and Sullivan's differing interpretations as to how it applies. Because "preoccupation with an unseen being" is a statement of content; religion, on the other hand, is a definition of 'form.'

I don't think religion is necessarily preoccupied with an unseen being. I happen to think that a religion is whenever you take a philosophical standpoint (it could be Boyer's "unseen person" but doesn't have to be), entrench it in a hierarchy with a codified dogma. That is what separates "spirituality" from "religion"; spirituality being a branch of philosophy (beliefs about the structure of the universe--content).

Psychiatry clearly doesn't qualify as a religion under that structure; there are (arguably) no universal "dogmas" and there certainly isn't a heirarchy, per se (the American Association of Psychiatrists or what have you don't really qualify). It is, like science, an empirical branch of philosophy (beliefs about the structure of the universe).

Lots of Domains of Experience

A friend of mine was posting onto Facebook about food policy over the last few days--the White House Garden (or Orchard), the shift in food policy that Tom Vilsack has hinted at in the Department of Agriculture, the possibilities that healthy-food lobbies are looking forward to. It was a very specific realm of knowledge, and she was trying to keep her friends up to date in what she saw as a deeply important part of public policy.

Another friend of mine uses Facebook to let me know what's going on in Africa/Middle-East news (actually, it's specifically Failed-State news; confined to states in Africa/Middle East that are undergoing genocide or wide-spread plague... disasters man-made or natural).

And another friend of mine is in the intellectual property realm, and used his status to wonder aloud whether Twitter has lost its trademark since we use its name so commonly (see also: Xerox).

I've been using my Facebook status to keep a count-down of days since the Senate concluded that President Bush had personally opened the door to torture (104 days, if you're interested--and still no legal action, despite the fact that that in itself is a war crime).

Each of us has carved a little domain of news that we personally are interested in, and we round up that news for our friends. Most of our friends are not interested in the things we're interested in, but, you know what? We probably make our friends have to find out anyways. Several times, people who aren't interested in politics have asked me what the countdown on my page is. I think they're usually disappointed when they find out.

To a certain degree, this is how we're responding to the insane amount of problems we see in the world around us. We know there's a financial crisis and two wars right now. But we also know there are other, deeply important issues that are going to be overlooked because of those big problems: the deep flaws in our intellectual "property" policy, the deep flaws in our Congressional elections, our food policy, etc. etc. etc.

So each of us just grabs the one we think is important, and keep an eye out for a moment to take action. If my friend who's watching Africa were to suddenly send me a message that said, "Here's the day we can take action on Darfur," I'd be up in arms--it'd be time for me to set aside my concern (intellectual "property" and Constitutional governance) to work towards hers.

I think that's the future of citizen activism. Everyone keeps their eye on their own issue and waits for the moment to strike.

Food policy, for instance, is rousted this week because Mrs. Obama announced she was going to create a vegetable garden. This is their moment. Michelle Obama opened the door to starting another conversation about healthy food, sustainable resources, and everything else that the healthy-food buffs want to talk about. And I'm interested to see how that works out for them.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Time For Your Job

It's interesting to note that in the economic downturn, in general, Governors will be doing worse off (unpopular budgets) and Attorney Generals will be doing well (bringing justice to white-collar criminals). The Tech Bubble bursting in 2000 created Eliot Spitzer's career, eclipsing the now-derided George Pataki (disclaimer: I arrived in NY after Spitzer was already Governor; I don't know if the economic crisis claimed him or if it was just his own self). Now, it looks like Cuomo will be eclipsing Paterson (disclaimer: I also favor Cuomo over Paterson, but not because of the budget).

Does this trend hold nationally? Does it hold in general? Is there a state-wide cycle that can be pointed to?

I ask this question because not only did NYAG Cuomo take advantage of the AIG bust to put his name into the public sphere, but CTAG Richard Blumenthal is also grabbing a national headlines, saying that AIG's bonuses may have been larger than thought. Cuomo, at least, has a legitimate interest--after all, as Spitzer established, the NYAG has jurisdiction over the big financial companies that call Wall Street home. But does CTAG Blumenthal have jurisdiction over AIG in this case? I know that plenty of AIG officials live in Connecticut (where the mobs are already gathering), but is this case really any of his business?

Or is Connecticut such a quiet, law-abiding state that the Attorney General has time to help out his neighbors?

The Bulwark of Democracy

In my head, I seem to remember the phrase "Bureaucracy is the bulwark of Democracy" appearing in one of the Federalist Papers. I can't find the damn quotation, so now I'm not sure that Hamilton said anything of the sort. But I do remember him expanding on the point that the advantage of a two-house government is that it acts as a brake on the executive branch--because government swept up by passion loses its head and acts ineffectively.

At any rate, despite that setback, my point remains. And thus, I am nervous about the AIG Bonus Clawback bill. We learned the lesson when the PATRIOT Act went through: not enough time to stop and reflect. And how did this AIG bonus thing come to pass? Because we didn't read TARP closely enough. No public reflection, no examination of the consequences, and you have a bad bill. TARP was a badly written act. So was PATRIOT Act.

How is this bill actually going to take effect? I don't know. We haven't had time to really look at the bill. And it's Senate Republicans, of all people, who are going to be upholding that view in the Senate. Hopefully that means it won't pass. Maybe it's the right policy; my gut says it's not. But I won't get the chance to find out until the bill is passed. And that's not the way it should go.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Over the last week, news arrived to me that there would be a new Arts Czar!

Well, not exactly. From the New York Times:

President Barack Obama has established a staff position in the White House to oversee arts and culture in the Office of Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs under Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser, a White House official confirmed.


“It’s a big step forward in terms of connecting cultural and government with mainstream administration policy,” Mr. Ivey said in an interview on Friday. The White House declined to describe the position in detail, since Mr. Dale’s appointment has yet to be formally announced. Mr. Ivey, a former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, said he expected that the job would mainly involve coordinating the activities of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services “in relation to White House objectives.” Although there have been staff members assigned to culture under past presidents, they usually served in the first lady’s office, Mr. Ivey said.

Isaac Butler at Parabasis has some personal connection to the story, so he writes:

Dale and I served together on the Arts Policy Committee, but I do not actually know him. In creating this position and putting it in the specific department of the Executive Branch he has, Obama is following the suggestion of Bill Ivey, who headed up the arts component of Obama's transition team. So I think this is all a good thing. I don't really care about the Cabinet Level aspect of the position, frankly (although the symbolism is good!). I'm happy about it.

I'm cautiously optimistic. The White House is giving itself a lot of wiggle room as to whether this will be a policy position or a bureaucratic position. Kareem Dale has a bit of demonstrated interest in the arts, but he's certainly not a widely recognized artistic player. What will he be doing? Time will tell.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Orchestration the Play

The play I wrote and directed last spring is now available for purchase online. Click the button below, or the one on the left!

Support independent publishing: buy this book on Lulu.

Look for the premiere of the film version soon!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Nationalization Holiday?

An idea floated across my mind today. I've been reading a lot about how one of the barriers to nationalization may be an investor run on all the banks--shareholders know that they're going to be wiped out, so they will dump stock in their bank, assuming that their bank is next.

But what if the SEC closed trading during the nationalization period? Obama announces on Monday, "Today we're going to begin a process of restructuring the financial industry, and in the interest of stability, there will be a five-day stock market holiday. Only the Federal Government would be empowered to act, they nationalize the ones they want to nationalize and assure the public that any banks un-nationalized by the end of the holiday will remain un-nationalized.

I wonder how that would play out, though. I really am not sure how investors would respond at the end of the week. I personally think they'd wind up with more confidence at the end of the week, because they'd have more of an assurance that their bank is actually solvent. But I don't know.

A Defense Of Snark

In the vein of Alphacat, Andrew Sullivan has posted Roger Ebert:

Snarking is cultural vandalism. I have arrived at this conclusion belatedly. I have been guilty of snarking, and of enjoying snarks. In the matter of snarking, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. But it has grown entirely out of hand. It is time to put away childish things. I must restore my balance, view the world in a fair way, hope to inspire more appreciation than ridicule. No doubt there will always be a role for snarking, given the proper target and an appropriate venue, and I reserve the right to snark when it is deserved, as in certain movie reviews. But in general I must become more well-behaved.

I responded:

Roger Ebert is against snark. You've quoted him saying that snark is "vandalism." Well, he's close. Snark is street art. It's graffiti. It's something anyone can do, with little more than a release of pent-up air, and it transforms whatever you put it on. If you take any boring, functional building, and introduce some snark, it will look different. If you're bad at it--you're just doing it to ruin a bit of property and put your own name, to claim a mark on your target, to prove your own superiority--then it's petty vandalism. It lowers the value of the property and makes the community uglier.

But Ebert is overlooking the wonderful world of good snark. A carefully crafted bit of snark, used in just the right way, can change the world. Think of Banksy's better works; some snark beautifies the community, some carries a strong political message. This is valuable snark, and I hope Mr. Ebert recognizes its role in our society. What would Oscar Wilde have been without his snark? When Winston Churchill heard his opponent saying, "If I were your wife, I'd poison your tea," he had the good sense to snark back, "If you were my wife, I'd drink it." He didn't say, "Well that's an upsetting statement" or some boring, unsnarky rejoinder. And thank God for that! Jon Stewart out there may be snarking, but his Pulitzers attest to the fact that you can snark the day away and still be providing a valuable service.

But there is a trade-off. How does one become witty and snarky, if one doesn't practice? Jon Stewart is the first to admit, he was a terrible stand-up comedian. As a matter of fact, if you go back in the archives and look at Jon Stewart's Daily Show in 2000, there's a lot more of the bad kind of snark--the petty vandalism of cheap jokes. But he learned on the job, and nowadays he can snark with the best of them. He snarked "Crossfire" off the air, and that's a public service to us all.

As a resident of New York City, I sympathize with your desire not to see that petty vandalism. But I put forward to you that some snark artists are quite worth waiting for. To be sure, there's much more bad snark than good snark. But there's much more bad painting than good painting, much more bad television than good television, and many more bad blogs than good blogs.

Vice President of Satire

I elect Alphacat.

Friday, March 6, 2009


That is the greatest commentary on Twitter you're ever going to see.

Proposition 8's Court Battle

One of Andrew Sullivan's readers wrote:

At the Calif. Supreme Court hearings today, I saw the lowest of the lows: A pro-Prop 8 protester proudly wielding a hand-written poster which read, "Dan White: Hero For Killing A Queer."

Not much commentary or reaction I can provide you. I was rendered mute.

This is another reason I disagree with Sullivan on the subject of whether the court should decide against Prop 8. How will the man who is holding that poster feel when the Court agrees with him that there's no constitutional reason why gays should be allowed to marry? He's going to believe that his movement has chalked up another victory, that the government is on his side--perhaps he'll feel that God has blessed him with that victory, or that his presence as a threatening force has helped persuade to government in their decision.

Of course, that's aside from my main reason why I disagree--because I think proposition 8 is a travesty before the face of the Constitution, and that no court should have the temerity to believe that such a law is constitutional.

Monday, March 2, 2009

A Cogent Criticism Of New Athiesm

Via BoingBoing:

In politics, I think there are two competing motivations for voters to support a cause publicly. One is to influence the majority to agree, to make changes that you believe in, and the other is to distinguish your opinions as superior to most other peoples'. These two motivations generally cause people to act in similar ways, but I've found some "tells" that reveal the underlying elitist motivation:

* Leaving up losing campaign stickers and signs long after the election is over. (I passed a Ron Paul window sign today...)
* Dressing and behaving at political demonstrations in a non-respectful way (partying, trying to "shock people out of their complacency," etc.).
* Saying that it requires superior knowledge or compassion to arrive at the views you hold.
* Saying that it makes you "uncomfortable" or "scared" that a group you don't identify with actually agrees with your view.

Under a democracy, the elitist motivation is self-defeating: If your true aim is to distinguish yourself from the masses, you really don't want your side to win-- your aim is better served when more people vote the other way, and then you can be disgusted with most peoples' stupidity and wash your hands of responsibility.

Very, very, very true. This goes for Atheism (which is the focus of this article), but also for artistic aesthetics, and for politics. This article is spot on. But later on he says:

I think closeted atheists who participate in other religious activities are the future of atheism. They know that prayer feels good without a needing brain scientist to tell them, and they know you don't need God to want to feed the hungry, heal the sick, and provide homes for the orphaned. What if they simply stopped reciting the words that they didn't agree with during religious services, without calling attention to it? In many places I don't think they would be kicked out or turned upon and beaten just for that.

Really? Excuse me? That seems like the most backwards... I can't even put words to it. But imagine if that's what he was saying about closeted gays. Oh, you don't have to make a big deal about being Gay, just don't mouth the words that you disagree with.

As many of the commenters pointed out, the real answer is simply to steer clear of religion and of noisy atheism as well. You don't need to pretend that you're religious, but you don't need to get on a bucket and scream. The difference is that Atheism is not a political party in a Democracy--it's not a political movement. It's only the elitist Atheist who sees their goal as the conversion of all the heathens.

I love to talk to my friends about religion--especially, oddly enough, my Catholic friends, who seem to have the most complex relationship with their religion. (The people whose religion is simply "I've let Jesus into my heart" doesn't give me a lot of complex ideas to grapple with in my atheism, but the complexities of the saints, angel/demonology, witchcraft, church history etc. does).

The false opposition that this article puts forward is that there are only two choices:

1) Elitist, evangelical atheism.
2) "Big tent," populist atheism.

Now, the problem with the "big tent" is that in creating a big tent, you dilute the ideals involved. If you're having a political movement, that's a good thing, because moderation is best for governance of crowds. But if you're talking about personal beliefs, that's a bad thing. Your own beliefs need to have integrity in your personal life, and it's in public life that you need to navigate your way into the crowds.

The GOP Civil War 2: Rush Is Still Winning

Terrifying. Can nobody criticize the man and survive?

The GOP Civil War

David Frum, Via Andrew Sullivan:

A man who is aggressive and bombastic, cutting and sarcastic, who dismisses the concerned citizens in network news focus groups as “losers.” With his private plane and his cigars, his history of drug dependency and his personal bulk, not to mention his tangled marital history, Rush is a walking stereotype of self-indulgence – exactly the image that Barack Obama most wants to affix to our philosophy and our party. And we’re cooperating! Those images of crowds of CPACers cheering Rush’s every rancorous word – we’ll be seeing them rebroadcast for a long time.

I've been hearing allegations of a coming GOP civil war, but I had a feeling that it wouldn't go that way. I didn't think there were any high-profile Republicans left who would take on the way that the behemoth of the GOP was currently headed.

During the primary season, there were four voices who I thought would give an opportunity.

The first was Ron Paul. He was a revival of good ol'fashion Fiscal Conservatism. Granted, he goes way overboard with all of his policies--his noninterventionism is a welcome change from Bush's empire building, but strays far too far into the Hoover Era, as does his fiscal policy. But he gave a cohesive platform, one which excited young conservatives for the first time--and then was promptly quashed by a vengeful GOP.

The second was John McCain, who promised to return balance and accountability to the conservative party. But Bill Kristol brought Sarah Palin to his attention, and quickly his campaign fell under her power, and the Limbaugh-effect set in.

The third was Mike Huckabee. He returned to the good ol' fashion Evangelical Republicanism that proved to be the difference between George W. Bush and Al Gore (who, by the way, is a deeply religious man, or so I've heard). And throughout the campaign, he spoke with a civility and grace that, while hiding a hopelessly backwards outlook on gay rights, climate change, and everything else. Then he decided that Obama was equal to Lenin or Stalin at CPAC, demonstrating that apparently Rush Limbaugh has him by the testicles too.

And the fourth was Bobby Jindal, who was being touted as a smart, bipartisan, Republican answer to Barack Obama. And if you saw his response to the non-SOTU address, it turned out that it was reasonable, conservative, and shallow as a kiddy pool.

But up until now, the "civil war" that was touted didn't seem to come. McCain staffers took out their irritation on Sarah Palin, but other than that, she returned to her position as Governor, and continues to be a presence in the party. At CPAC, it was clear that there wasn't a politician with a backbone who was willing to go against Rush Limbaugh--a few in Congress who voiced doubts were kicked in the ass mightily, one assumes by the Minority Whip or others like him.

Well, at least David Frum is putting his voice into the ring. But the problem is that he's not a politician. This isn't going to be a true GOP civil war until the GOP gets a serious candidate to take others to the mat. The high-profile Republicans in politics who've dissented have largely dissented because of their lack of aspiration to continue--Schwarzenegger, who likely will not win a seat in the Senate, and Crist, who seems happy where he is right now--or have done so at the cost of their political future--Specter, whose current polling indicates that he, like Senator Lincoln Chaffee, is on his way out the door due to excessive moderation (the right feels betrayed and the left has their own candidate).

Let's see if this gathers any steam from the actual power-brokers in the GOP. Otherwise, this is just noise in the echo chamber.

Non-Profit Recession News 2: Foreman Auctions Props

Richard Foreman, the aged avant-garde theater idol, has hit upon a new scheme: selling off his props. He's lucky, because he is in a unique position to actually ask nice prices for those props, for two reasons.

One is that he's Richard Foreman. Although I'm still of the opinion that his best work is behind him, there's no denying that he's a very smart theatermaker, and his future projects always have the potential to impress and create. And he's a big, connected name. So there's a big group of wealthy folks who might buy the objects out of support of Richard Foreman.

The other is that Foreman's prop designers (I know one is named Meghan Buchanan, I don't know if there are any others) are fantastic. Foreman has always been a visually stunning director, and places a large emphasis on artistly baffling and interesting objects in his theater.

Of course, because Richard Foreman is unique in this position, you might not see a lot of that going on. Broadway shows might be able to get away with it, but of course, they're for-profit, so it's somewhat a different beast. On the other hand, if a show puts enough effort into its design, and a theater company sticks around for a while, they might be able to pull off the same feat. For instance, if Elevator Repair Service had some well-crafted props, I'm sure they could find a decent price.

This, by the way, reminds me of the far more interesting Democracy in America auction: the content of the show itself was sold off to interested bidders. It goes up March 30, so I'll check back to say how that show was.

Non-Profit Recession News 1: Donations

Via Andrew Sullivan:

I work for a small, 5-year old non-profit arts organization in Illinois. A couple of our usual big donors have indicated we should be prepared for smaller donations this year, and possibly none in the next couple of years. The are mentioning Obama's tax plans and their need to save money now in anticipation of that. A lot of my colleagues in the not-for-profit world are really scared right now, and we are not happy with Obama. We hear the rhetoric that the government is going to have a reserve to give to non-profits that will make up for some of the lost donations, but the fact is, we have never received federal aid, and likely never would (assuming the organization could even make it that far). Organizations are going to be killed under Obama's plan. I may have voted myself out of a job, and voted a whole community of kids out of art-making opportunities. Frankly, this sucks.

My response (directed to Andrew Sullivan):

I sympathize with your reader who feels that non-profits are going to suffer under Obama's tax plan. One would assume that higher taxes might make people more inclined to find a non-profit to donate to (wasn't that the whole model that non-profit tax deduction is based around?). I myself am just starting a non-profit theater, and the atmosphere here in New York City is one of fear. Foundations will be awarding less, donors will be giving less, large corporate sponsors may be backing out of the charitable world(Washington Mutual in Seattle, other big fish in New York City). But on the other hand, this is only a part of Obama's potential to effect us. After all, if his universal health care plan goes over, then the cost of doing business for non-profits will shift, to a large degree, to the Government. And that money will be coming from the rich--our potential donors, and those who potentially wouldn't donate. The artists who work for us won't have to worry about health care--that does a lot for their long term security working the field.

Obama also gives us the opportunity to change our fundraising models. Rather than plying wealthy donors to give large chunks of money, perhaps we can raise a lot more small donations. In New York City, the Lung Cancer Foundation launched a campaign called "You Are One In A Million." They want 1 million people to give $20, rather than the old fundraising model that looks more like twenty people giving $1 million. Like Obama's, getting smaller donations from more people ensures that we're relying on community outreach rather than wealthy connection to be moving forward; and that's both closer to our missions as non-profits, and more sustainable for the future.

I still think we're going to come out on top from Obama's intervention.