Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Not One Red Cent

Dave Marsh writes:

I read with growing dismay each successive paragraph of David Carr’s fawning New York Times business section piece on Bono, the Red Campaign and Vanity Fair yesterday morning. Later, I read the more interesting piece from Advertising Age that shows that all the sturm and drang from Red has generated $18 million for African relief—I wonder if that’ll even be enough to replace the condoms Bono’s “effective” friend the Shrub refuses to allow U.S. government-supported agencies to deliver. You can be dead certain that it is hardly a match for the combined profits that the corporations for which Red fronts expect to pull out of all those products.

What maddens me most is that articles like this are built upon a cascading series of false premises, so I thought I’d catalogue the ones in the Times column.

· Bono is a "rare" rock star. Almost every rock star has some kind of charitable endeavor.

· Only the opinions of celebrities (the Pope, Bill Gates) are of any consequence in getting the job done.

· Wealth and charity are somehow a "contradiction." Unless there is wealth, there can be no charity in the sense that Bono and Carr use the term (which is quite a bit different than, say, St. Paul's definition).

· Bono is not part of the "Sally Struthers" thing. But of course, his entire project depends on sustaining the image of Africans as unable to fight for themselves, which is one reason one encounters no Africans—certainly no poor ones--writing for these Bono guest edits. It also depends quite a good bit on their continuing to be humiliated by their poverty (presuming they are, other than in the minds Bono loves most).

· "The crucial role that commerce will play" as a new thing. That has been the barking sales pitch of imperialism and its missionaries from the first day that Europeans landed in Africa. (If Bono didn’t think that history began when Jeffrey Sachs conned his first Russian, he’d know this.) Bono doesn’t really contend that corporations have a “crucial role,” anyway. He premises this statement on his insistent, addled idea that they are the only vehicle by which the problems of African poverty and disease can be solved, despite the fact that everywhere on Earth that these corporations exist, there is a great deal of poverty and disease.

· The bizarre assertion that, in this case (but there is always something equivalent to this), China wants to invest in Africa as somehow a boon to the poor. It is either the opposite (the Chinese invest in Africa because they can exploit African workers even more than Chinese ones) or irrelevant (since the profits will go to China, not whatever part of Africa the Chinese are invested in.) By the way, Bono knows that there are a couple dozen nations that comprise Africa and that Chinese and other corporations invest in one or more of those, not the continent as a whole, right? I read the whole Independent issue and never heard a peep about this reality.

· "Africa is sexy." How many hundred years of racism does that tightly packed cliché contain?

· "People need to know it." If, after all these years of grandstanding, even the kind of person who reads Vanity Fair doesn't know it, what does that say about the Red approach?

· Changing the subject as soon as the topic of extreme wealth comes up—changing it to AIDS, the only time (it would appear) that AIDS comes up in the interview. Talking from both sides of his mouth as usual: If 5000 people a day are dying, as they are, for what, exactly, do Bush and Blair and Bono’s other powerful cronies earn their high marks?

· Refusing to discuss his ownership of Forbes, ostensibly because it's off the topic. It couldn't be more on topic given that Capitalist Tool Bono is about to edit a slick magazine, claims he lives in the world of media, claims that such commerce-friendly publications have a "crucial" role to play.

· Bono sees the world through rose-tinted glasses. The Red campaign is based on an entirely cynical view of what motivates humans

· Bono would have been a journalist. In fact, he did freelance a few pieces, universally undistinguished ones; his more obvious career choices would have been either a priest or a pimp

· "Striking fear in the hearts of writers." As if this piece weren't an example of how he carefully selects easily intimidated stenographers to do his bidding. (Would a real journalist have stopped at "I don't want to talk about" Forbes or let him get away with changing the subject to AIDS when the topic of his own arrogance comes up? Or that if he did quote Bono in those cases that he shouldn’t have written a little detail about the contradictions Bono is avoiding, as I have managed to do in about a sentence each here?)

How long before people will call a con a con? How many more people have to die in Africa before we acknowledge that this process is a fraud and a failure and that the evidentiary trail is not short but quite long (it's been 22 years since LiveAid)?

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76 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Only $18 million, huh?

Perhaps they should have just blogged about Africa and saved everybody the trouble.

Because blogging about something is more powerful than doing something, right Dave.

8:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Critics like yourself, of people who are out there trying to do something, are pathetic.

12:40 AM  
Anonymous Dave Marsh said...

I agree that blogging isn't enough. I also agree that one way to undo the preening of self-important rock stars and pimps for international capitalism is to give voice to the Anonymous.

Therefore I urge everyone who reads this to consider attending the United States Social Forum June 27- July 1 in Atlanta. (http://www.ussf2007.org/)

There will be a chance to meet many others who are also anonymous, albeit through no choice of their own in those cases. The people who put together the Forum--and the World Social Forums of which it is an offshoot--are working every day to wrest control of the world from the people Bono has chosen to represent as the only possible force for change.

I hope you will join me there.

Dave Marsh

7:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are absolutely correct. I loved your article. Bono is a complete fraud and a pathatic, attention hungry, media whore who is nothing but a mouth-piece for big corporations. That is his function. He is as shameless and vulger as can be. All artists and especially all music artists should spit on this scum-bag.

9:38 AM  
Anonymous mgv99 said...

I partially agree with you and partially disagree. The AdAge article is better than the Times article. The idea that only celebrities and corporations can help Africa is stupid. You're right on about the China thing, and about the Red camapign being based on a more cynical view of human nature. But I think Bono knows exactly what he is doing. He doesn't need to convince non-profits or other people already attuned to charity and social justice to donate directly to the Global Fund, pressure politicians on this issue, etc. We are not his target audience. His target audience is a) people who have more power than the average individual to make a difference here, such as politicians and corporations, and b) consumers who never think about charity or justice in their daily lives.

Re: the first group- do I think he's being used to make them look cool at pretty low expense if any to them, yes. But I think you're wrong to write off Bono as just another rock star, because he doesn't just show up at a photo op once or twice a year and leave. He is constantly, CONSTANTLY lobbying on the Hill as well as traveling all over the US and the world to draw attention to this issue and plead for debt relief and fair trade. Your being sick of him just proves my point that he is working extremely hard on this issue, and no matter what the fruits of his labor, he deserves credit for that. I don't know what goes on in those meetings, I don't know if Bush and Blair would've given what little $ they've given were it not for Bono, they might've, I don't know if Bono haggled with the corporations a lot to get them involved and to agree on a % they would donate from the products, maybe it was easy and he should've pushed them to up the donations. But you know what? Welcome to the world of begging rich and powerful people to think less about themselves and more about others. You don't get people who have been selfish and spoiled their entire lives to be charitable overnight. If you demand more than they want to give you walk away with nothing and sever any future connection. You have to coax them into seeing your side of the issue, a side they never think about. Didn't it take Bill Gates quite a while to get around to philanthropy? The Red campaign is a good start, and I think it was right to frontload the marketing in the hopes that it'll be sustainable, and I would hope Bono will pressure the partners to increase the % of donations from the products annually. Even if he fails, would you rather see $18million or $0 million donated to Africa from corporations? It's also worth mentioning that he and his wife, unlike China, ARE actually investing in Africa by setting up an eco-conscious clothing line (Edun) where Africans are paid a decent wage and see a share of the profits.

Re: consumers-- on one hand, it wouldn't kill Bono to mention that if you do really want to help Africa, the best thing is to donate directly to the Global Fund, Oxfam, etc. On the other, most people do not do this, they are aware they could be doing this, and clearly we're not getting at their money with pleas like this. The next best thing to getting people to donate directly (let's forget for this getting them to call up their senators) is to get them to buy stuff from companies who WILL donate some of their profits from your purchases. I don't think anyone is buying Red products INSTEAD of donating to charities. They buy them because they like the product, they're walking into the store to get a t-shirt/iPod/phone anyway, so why not buy one that does a TEENY TINY bit of good in the world? I'm sure plenty of people aren't even buying them for THAT, they just like the color red! But it's nice there's a mechanism for getting them to give money to a cause without them even thinking about it, unlike the rest of their purchases which contribute to injustice in the world without them even thinking about it. I for one am always relieved when I'm presented with a socially-conscious option when I try to make decisions about what to buy, particularly when that option is every bit as desirable as the non-socially-conscious option. I haven't bought a Red product yet, but my iPod is dying and I'm glad I won't be wasting a lot of time trying to pick a new one.

One question for you: I know who Jeffrey Sachs is, my understanding is he's been quite successful at turning around economies in corrupt and/or poor nations. You seem to think a little less of him, so I'd be interested in an explanation of his "conning Russia".

12:18 PM  
Anonymous Kobayashi Maru said...

Double word to mgv99. We have plenty of celebrities out there telling us to care about Africa and to donate money. At least Bono is spearheading creative ways to tap into people's self-interest and achieve the same ends. He makes a great target for music critics because his band is huge, he cavorts with George Bush, and his initiatives involve big corporations. It would thus seem inconceivable to some of the more judgmental among us that he's sincere. And yet I would argue that he's the hardest working celebrity activist in the world.

One more way Bono is different: most celebrities choose causes that only strengthen their popularity. Bono, however, lost a lot of credibility with people like, well, Dave Marsh appearing in photo ops with George Bush and signing deals with Gap and the like. He's essentially spending his celebrity on Africa. I guess that's uncool if you're a writer for Pitchfork, but I find it profoundly refreshing.

1:47 PM  
Anonymous jason said...

Honestly, with all due respect, Dave, you lose me immediately with your assertion that bono is *not a rare rock star*

There has never been nor will there ever be a "rock star" quite like Bono. Love him or hate him, that fact is indisputable.

1:52 PM  
Anonymous primitive wallflower said...

This is a pretty transparent proxy war over whether or not U2 are over-rated, sell-outs, etc. Dave Marsh would be better off just cutting the bullshit and saying what's really on his mind: he hates U2.

Instead, he thinks his readers are dull enough to believe that this is really all about yet another fringe lefty rally having the same effect as Bono's activism.

Get off your pompous ass, Dave. You are, ironically, playing your own caricature of Bono. It's perfectly legitimate to dislike U2, and Bono in particular. You, as a music critic, have every right to skewer their albums.

But don't insult us, we're your readers. Face it: conferences like the United States Social Forum happen every fucking day in college towns around the country. I've been to several: they're great for making friends and networking. I'm not minimizing the importance of that. World leaders, however, don't give a rat's ass what the USSF thinks, to say nothing of the people who are right of, say, Al Gore, or who don't read Mother Jones. These people do care, however, what Bono thinks. Even you, viewing the world through your distorted anti-U2 lenses, must see how much less polarizing a figure Bono is than any speaker the USSF would book.

But, maybe I'm being unfair. Tell you what, if the USSF raises $9 million dollars, which is half of what the RED campaign has done so far, I'll make a donation to the charity of your choice.

2:14 PM  
Blogger Danny Alexander said...

My understanding is that the RED campaign cost $100 million dollars. Doesn't that mean we are really talking about -82 million?

Danny

4:24 PM  
Blogger Danny Alexander said...

Why does everyone here only want to defend Bono instead of deal with the points Dave is raising?

Because I met Dave laying bricks, I know how much time he spends putting pieces together that Bono can't be bothered with. (And that means people and resources and ideas as well as making the abstract connections that need to be made.) It's not glamourous work, but it's the stuff that needs to happen while Bono distracts the public with his quick fix panaceas.

The real fights are fought "every fucking day," that's right, by real people on a small scale (and the idea that they're all Lefties is nuts). That's the only way real change is going to have half a chance. Some people try to shine their light on *that*. Dave's one of them.

I've spent about two decades trying to help out a little, and I can't keep up with him. So, though he'd probably wish I didn't say all this, I have to say at least this much, and it's not nearly what I could or should say.

Danny

4:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"My understanding is that the RED campaign cost $100 million dollars. Doesn't that mean we are really talking about -82 million?"

The fact that this blog post makes that seem like it IS the case says a lot about how twisted and slanted the viewpoint being delivered here is.

This explains the RED campaign finances more accurately.

5:53 PM  
Blogger Danny Alexander said...

Oh, anonymous, let me help you out with your anonymous objectivity--

Bono & Co. Spend up to $100 Million on Marketing, Incur Watchdogs' Wrath
By Mya Frazier

Advertising Age

Published: March 05, 2007

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- It's been a year since the first Red T-shirts hit Gap shelves in London, and a parade of celebrity-splashed events has

The collective marketing outlay by Gap, Apple and Motorola for the Red campaign has been enormous, with some estimates as high as $100 million.
followed: Steven Spielberg smiling down from billboards in San Francisco; Christy Turlington striking a yoga pose in a New Yorker ad; Bono cruising Chicago's Michigan Avenue with Oprah Winfrey, eagerly snapping up Red products; Chris Rock appearing in Motorola TV spots ("Use Red, nobody's dead"); and the Red room at the Grammy Awards. So you'd expect the money raised to be, well, big, right? Maybe $50 million, or even $100 million.

Just $18 million
Try again: The tally raised worldwide is $18 million.

The disproportionate ratio between the marketing outlay and the money raised is drawing concern among nonprofit watchdogs, cause-marketing experts and even executives in the ad business. It threatens to spur a backlash, not just against the Red campaign -- which ambitiously set out to change the cause-marketing model by allowing partners to profit from charity -- but also for the brands involved.

Enormous outlay
By any measure, the buzz has been extraordinary and the collective marketing outlay by Gap, Apple and Motorola has been enormous, with some estimates as high as $100 million. Gap alone spent $7.8 million of its $58 million outlay on Red during last year's fourth quarter, according to Nielsen Media Research's Nielsen Adviews.

But contributions don't seem to be living up to the hype. Richard Feachem, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the recipient of money raised by Red, told The Boston Globe in December, "We may be over the $100 million mark by the end of Christmas."

Rajesh Anandan, the Global Fund's head of private-sector partnerships, said Mr. Feachem was misquoted, and defended the efforts by Red to increase the Global Fund's private-sector donations, which totaled just $5 million from 2002 to 2005. (The U.S. Congress just approved a $724 million pledge to the Global Fund, on top of $1.9 billion already given and $650 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.)

'Hugely frontloaded'
"Red has done as much as we could have hoped for in the short time it has been up and running," he said, adding: "The launch cost of this kind of campaign is going to be hugely frontloaded. It's a very costly exercise."

Julie Cordua, VP-marketing at Red and a former Motorola marketing exec and director-buzz marketing at Helio, said the outlay by the program's partners must be understood within the context of the campaign's goal: sustainability. "It's not a charity program of them writing a one-time check. It has to make good business sense for the company so the money will continue to flow to the Global Fund over time." She added that since many of Red's partners haven't closed their books yet on 2006, more funds likely will be added to the $18 million.

But is the rise of philanthropic fashionistas decked out in Red T-shirts and iPods really the best way to save a child dying of AIDS in Africa?

Parody mocks Bono
The campaign's inherent appeal to conspicuous consumption has spurred a parody by a group of San Francisco designers and artists, who take issue with Bono's rallying cry. "Shopping is not a solution. Buy less. Give more," is the message at buylesscrap.org, which encourages people to give directly to the Global Fund.

"The Red campaign proposes consumption as the cure to the world's evils," said Ben Davis, creative director at Word Pictures Ideas, co-creator of the site. "Can't we just focus on the real solution -- giving money?"

Trent Stamp, president of Charity Navigator, which rates the spending practices of 5,000 nonprofits, said he's concerned about the campaign's impact on the next generation. "The Red campaign can be a good start or it can be a colossal waste of money, and it all depends on whether this edgy, innovative campaign inspires young people to be better citizens or just gives them an excuse to feel good about themselves while they buy an overpriced item they don't really need."

Fears of nonprofits
Mark Rosenman, a longtime activist in the nonprofit sector and a public-service professor at the Union Institute & University in Cincinnati, said the disparity between the marketing outlay and the money raised by Red is illustrative of some of the biggest fears of nonprofits in the U.S.

"There is a broadening concern that business is taking on the patina of philanthropy and crowding out philanthropic activity and even substituting for it," he said. "It benefits the for-profit partners much more than the charitable causes."

6:20 PM  
Anonymous Dave Marsh said...

Let me just clarify a couple of outright falsehoods here:

I don't contend anywhere that "Bono doesn't know what he's doing." And the fact that he takes the position that only elite actiion matters is exactly what I am objecting to, both in the piece and in my response that points people toward the US Social Forum.

The idea that change only comes from the top down is designed to obscure where problems come from, which is much more clearly from the top down.

You may take this notion that Red will get people to consume and then think. I think it's the New Coke myself. Harry Chapin, who originated Capitol Hill lobbying by pop stars, used to call this phenomenon "event psychosis." It's a form of magical thinking, really, action at a distance, where doing this irrelevant ritual (buying Red) winds up with this great indirect result (people stop dying of AIDS in Africa). I think a rational judgment of it is that it's somewhere between infantile and superstitious. It certainly doesn't conform to any way the world works that I have seen in 57 years on the planet. In any event, I am not advocating that Bono stop lobbying.

But it's his totalizing rhetoric, not reality in any way shape or form that makes him seem unique in this regard. I've been reporting on artists doing this for literally 30 years.

I have also done fundraising of various kinds for all sorts of things (political, cancer-related, for artist reform in the music world) and I can tellyou that you have that exactly backwards: You always ask for more than you need because you will only get a fraction of what you ask for, usually not a very large fraction.

I'm not really sick of Bono so much as I am of this rhetoric of how to change things, and that's why I wrote as I did. I am not particularly interested in Bill Gates's philanthropy. I am a Windows user; I know how generous he isn't and what he will do to protect his power. Unless and until power relations change, we aren't going to get the job done in relation to poverty, disease, and social justice.

The specific economics of Red are very complicated and I do not think that the Ad Age article addresses them, really. It addresses the ad budget only.

There is a LOT not known about Red, including who profits from it. I presume that each of the corporations does. I would not be surprised if Bono and whichever Kennedy he set this up with, I can't remember, also have a piece of the action.

I presume also that the $18 million is just a piece of the profit--that is, that Red generated more than $18 million in profit for someone or some corporation. A reasonable question is how much more which is why some transparency on the part of this adamantly-not-a-charity would be useful, and why journalists should be asking questions along this line, not of Bono so much as of Red. (The questioning, general skepticism, and the drawing of unshepherded conclusions is what I like about the Ad Age piece.)

Another reasonable question is whether this is the only way, the best way or even a good way to raise such money. One of the ways Bono (like Geldof before him and any random cold call charity hustler on the phone) tries to steamroller such reasonable questions, bluster his way out of having to address, let alone answer, them.

I don't write for Pitchfork.

I don't mention U2 in the original piece, nor in the subsequent one, because U2 is not the problem. I like their early work, I don't like any of their middle work, and I like a few things here and there more recently. What difference does that make?

I also make no claim that I am as "effective" as Bono. I don't even know what it would be to be so "effective." I certainly know I'm not as famous, or as rich, or as popular. I also know that I asked reasonable questions and blustering about proxy attacks on U2 is a pretty dishonest way of responding to them.

I do think we are living in a time when the world situation asks us to take sides--with the voiceless and the poor or with the powerful. One group or the other is going to run the world.

I think that Bono's activities, including his purchase of Forbes because he likes its pro-capitalist ideology, says what side he is on. If Bono is a qualiltatively different rock star, this is probably the main place where you could prove it.

7:05 PM  
Anonymous Kobayashi Maru said...

Danny,

First, no one's questioning Dave Marsh's commitment to alleviating African poverty, so don't change the subject of this discussion out of loyalty to your friend. Dave Marsh can at once be profoundly wrong about Bono and still have good intentions.

Second, I suggest you reread all the posts carefully if you think "everyone's" defending Bono and that "no one's" responding to Dave's points. Plenty of people here are piling on Bono, and others have made several good points in refutation defending him that neither Dave (nor you, for that matter) have responded to.

And now to address a couple of substantive arguments...

On the Social Forum Dave linked to: I deeply respect grassroots organizing. I think it's a necessary part of the solution. But it is not, and it cannot be, the whole solution. It's a bit ironic that you snidely characterize Bono as peddling "panaceas" when what Dave suggested as an alternative -- a conference "opposing US Policies at home" -- would simultaneously broaden the scope of issues well beyond Africa and limit the audience: that is, attempt to be even more of a panacea for the left and, in the process, accomplish less. Bono -- who, I'll remind you, volunteered and worked in Africa with his wife, so he's laid his share of bricks, thank you very much -- focuses on one issue: Africa. Not global warming. Not anti-Bush boilerplate. Africa. Specifically, he focuses on involving as many people in the movement as possible. It's easy to walk the streets of Berkeley and Ann Arbor and rally support for Africa. It's much harder to do so from soccer moms and evangelicals, and yet Bono has been instrumental in doing just that. He's made Africa as a moral issue accessible to a wider range of political attitudes by unpacking it from other tangential issues. Supporting Africa should just mean supporting Africa. It shouldn't also mean wanting to impeach Bush, or divest from Israel, or anything else... yet someone attending the USSF would get that very impression.

In short, Bono's trying to broaden the movement. Far too many activists, meanwhile, are still parochial about the cause. Nothing makes me more angry than bullshit like Dave Marsh's that people who dare preach to people outside the choir are selling out, diluting the movement, etc. That sort of close-mindedness is what will sink efforts to help the continent, not Bono's work to expand support into the masses.

On the RED Campaign: it may ultimately fail to be sustainable. But, remember that the $100 million cost was borne by the corporations. So, from the Global Fund's perspective, they've gotten net donations of $18 million and $100 million of free advertising. Not a bad scam, that.

7:36 PM  
Anonymous Kobayashi Maru said...

Dave,

Please don't take offense to this, but yours is a bit too much of a rock critic perspective to be persuasive to me. You're convinced that Bono believes that his approach is the only way to help Africa, when not only has he never said such words, but I know for a fact that he's made arguments to the contrary. The ONE campaign et al. is not meant to replace grassroots organizations, it's meant to supplement them and expand Africa's constituency to groups who have never been courted before.

Plus, while you may be anti-corporate (which is understandable, given, again, that you're a rock critic), it definitely doesn't bother the average person on the street that Bono is trying to tap into consumerism that's already there to grab a slice for Africa. We're not talking about artistic integrity here, Dave. We're talking about strategies to redirect money to Africa. Well, guess what? Gap, Apple, Converse, etc. have a pretty penny in their bank accounts. Maybe we should, you know, encourage engaging them on the issue rather than criticize it.

If Bono deserves any criticism, I think it's because he's knee deep in aid strategies and hasn't been putting as much effort on bigger policy changes which would allow Africa to sustain itself. The big ones are agricultural subsidies and quotas. But that's another, far more boring, conversation I'm afraid.

7:55 PM  
Blogger Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen said...

Danny Alexander wrote:

"My understanding is that the RED campaign cost $100 million dollars. Doesn't that mean we are really talking about -82 million?"

Anonymous responded:

The fact that this blog post makes that seem like it IS the case says a lot about how twisted and slanted the viewpoint being delivered here is.

But that's the case, isn't it? The assumption that that $82 million had to be spent on marketing, administration, advertising, etc., says even more about the premises are that you're working from. The acceptance that "this is the way things work" is half--nay, most--of the problem.

8:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Except that's not the case, Eric, unless you're weighing the bottom lines of the Global Fund and private firms equally. Read the financial statements previously linked. The Global Fund hasn't lost $82 million. Think of it like Bono and the RED Campaign spending $100 million and sending the bill to Gap et al. It may not be cost-effective, but it's actually clever in a sort of ends-justifies-the-means way. Soaking corporations for the poor... me likey.

9:29 PM  
Blogger Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen said...

What (RED) CEO Bobby Shriver says (and what you implicitly endorse) in the link you posted--that "this marketing would have been spent anyway, on other product lines"--is true as a matter of description.

My point is that it doesn't have to be true as a matter of inevitability. There's no reason the Gap, Motorola, Apple, or any of the others had to invent and market new product lines at all; all the corporations involved are doing quite well, and could have simply decided to donate X% of the earnings or profits on their existing lines, without adding additional marketing and production dollars.

But even that, to me, assumes that the current system of global capitalism is the only one possible.

10:00 PM  
Anonymous Kobayashi Maru said...

My point is that it doesn't have to be true as a matter of inevitability. There's no reason the Gap, Motorola, Apple, or any of the others had to invent and market new product lines at all; all the corporations involved are doing quite well, and could have simply decided to donate X% of the earnings or profits on their existing lines, without adding additional marketing and production dollars.

But even that, to me, assumes that the current system of global capitalism is the only one possible.


Ah, but the problem with your argument is that now you're moving well beyond African poverty. Pie-in-the-sky systems of global economics are fun to debate and certainly valid to consider... but my point is that you can't fault someone for being detrimental to Africa if they choose to chuck all that idealistic baggage and instead focus on working within the economic system we have. Doing so certainly does make Bono tolerant of capitalism, but I think what he's proven is that capitalism and aid to Africa need not conflict.

Besides, I think you and Dave are being selectively anti-capitalist here: you bemoan Bono's relationship with these large corporations, and yet you also object to their investment in new product lines and marketing. So, essentially they're damned-if-they-do and damned-if-they-don't. Hmmmm... perhaps they shouldn't give any money at all to Africa?

10:20 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Dear Dave-

Funny enough, I just skimmed over your description of listening to ‘The Land of Hope and Dreams’ and almost missing the van ride etc… this afternoon- at Barnes and Nobles. A corporation.

I only bring this up because the same thinking applies to what you wrote.

Now, I am by no means implying that ‘corporations’ are the best idea man has ever come up with, but isn’t painting with bold strokes always a bit too simplistic? Are all ‘corporations’ Evil?

Do you really believe that the PC, software and broadband connection we are using would exist if it wasn’t for the fact that there was an overriding profit motive? Aren’t the 30- odd books you’ve written and gotten paid for, in print and in distribution today because there is a profit to be made?

The US is the world’s strongest and most innovative economy, for better or for worse, ONLY because most of us BUY stuff.

What drug company would exist if there wasn’t money to be made? Are life-saving drugs any less significant? If major record companies didn’t exist, would there be as many rock critics? John Hammond was a Vanderbilt- think Bob Dylan, Billie Holliday etc… really cared?

So Bono and Shriver think it makes sense to cut out piece of the action. So what? Is that really so bad? You seem to argue: Change the system first. Aren’t these guys saying- there’s no time to fix the system?

Do you really believe that if you were dying for the lack of a cup of grain, or from malaria today that you would really care what someone’s motives were behind what little help you were getting? In this case they may not seem pure to you, but are they so intrinsically rotten that they are more harmful than good?

In RE: Your catalogue-

“Changing the subject as soon as the topic of extreme wealth comes up—changing it to AIDS, the only time (it would appear) that AIDS comes up in the interview.”

Incorrect- he mentions commerce, not AIDS.

“The crucial role that commerce will play”-

Try reading that as “give a man a fish, he eats for the day, teach him how to fish- because he doesn’t want a handout”. Commerce-as in, promoting entrepreneurship, fair trade, MAKING something as opposed to extracting and just shipping out. Do you have an alternative (realistic) suggestion?

“Africa is sexy”- as opposed to “When you see people humiliated by extreme poverty and wasting away with flies buzzing around their eyes, it is easy not to believe that they are same as us”. Where’s the racism?

“Bono is not part of the "Sally Struthers" thing. But of course, his entire project depends on sustaining the image of Africans as unable to fight for themselves.” No it doesn’t. But can you deny that many Africans do not have a voice in the US? Where would some countries be without western debt cancellation? Would you even be discussing this subject otherwise?

The case about China in Africa is not so black and white- it is a subject that I have spent a lot of time objectively studying and arguments exist on both sides. Darfur, for example, wouldn’t be hell on earth if China- as a UN permanent Security Council member, which will veto anything unfavorable to the Sudanese government- wasn’t a major source of oil.

But it can’t be denied that in other countries, it really is laying down huge amounts of infrastructure 10 times as fast as the ‘West’ ever could.

IF you were an Ethiopian earning $120 a year, how would view new telecom equipment that may allow for you to someday own a phone? As a Kenyan, a new road that allowed for the transport of goods? Would you really care that the Chinese were putting it up? Just see if you can look at it from someone else's point of view, that's all.

“How long before people will call a con a con? How many more people have to die in Africa before we acknowledge that this process is a fraud and a failure and that the evidentiary trail is not short but quite long (it's been 22 years since LiveAid)?”

Dave- multifaceted and complex problems need to be attacked from as many angles as possible.

Surely, if the intentions are honorable, that alleviating the worst human suffering is a valid cause and a shared belief, shouldn’t people get over their own biases over tactics and work together, or at the very least not tear down other people’s efforts?

No one in their right minds would knock what you've done with the cancer work you have done. Would the world be better if the Gates Foundation didn't exist?

“And the fact that he takes the position that only elite actiion matters is exactly what I am objecting to”-

I would too, but he simply doesn’t. DATA.org? The ONE campaign? Amnesty International?

The Times article sucked.
Bono ain’t perfect.
George W. Bush is the worst president in my lifetime.

We probably agree on more than we disagree on. Let's pick on the real enemies?

11:40 PM  
Blogger Matt Orel said...

Some months ago, I hooked up some of my own web pages to amazon. I knew that at least some people would use my site to find things that they'd buy, and if I could get control of 6% of the net, that seemed to me better than getting 0% of the net. People could still go to cdconnection or deepdiscountcd if they preferred, but I could put up the amazon links and, if they followed, it's free use of money for me.

I decided further to use the amazon proceeds (plus a personal match) to support charities mentioned on one of the pages of my site. The net result is that, for many amazon purchases via my site, some worthy charity gets 12%, and it doesn't cost the purchaser a penny extra. Sure, it's not "charity" for the purchaser (it is, partially, for me), and shouldn't be seen as such, but it's still something that seemed worthwhile to me.

Cut ahead to this discussion. I'm thinking that one of these days I may finally break down and get one. So today, I saw all the stuff on RED, and bopped on over to the Apple site just to check it out. I figure, if I were to get an iPod, the nano is likely sized about right for my needs. So I looked at the offerings. The RED nano seems to me to be priced identically to the other nanos of the same storage capacity; the only differences I can see are a) the color, and b) that Apple is giving $10 of the purchase price to the Global Fund to fight AIDS in Africa.

So, to me, as consumer, I have a question: If I'm buying an iPod anyway (and, for the moment I'm not), why wouldn't I do the RED one? If it's all the same otherwise, why not? Is there a numeric limit on the number of RED iPods, thus making it a zero sum game? Or some other reason (assuming the Global Fund is a worthy recipient)? How is it conceptually any different than when I ask people to consider hooking through my site on the way to amazon?

I can understand what's wrong with the advertising angle, I can understand any number of problems with what Bono has done or said. But... if I'm in the market for an item that's in the RED line-up, and the only differences between the RED version and the non-RED version are the color and the earmarking of some funds by the corporation to the charity, then why not choose the RED one?

By the way, my site is at http://matt.orel.ws and I always invite anyone to just click on the amazon link before buying there (if you're buying from amazon anyway).

7:56 AM  
Anonymous Bill Glahn said...

I think the point that is being missed over and over again is that such grandiose "charity" schemes never really have an effect on the balance of economic power between worker and corporation. Since Bill Gates has been brought up several times already, I'll use Microsoft as an example. While the Gates Foundation is very high profile on the money they give to AIDS, Microsoft (and thus Gates) is far less forthcoming on where that money comes from. As with many large corps, Microsoft, in the name of competition, out-sources much of its labor to smaller companies that engage in cut-rate, unlivable wage practices. One example of this would be Microsoft's contract with Jarden Plastic Solutions, a company with close ties to Winchester, the arms manufacturer. Jarden's Springfield, MO plant makes those plastic display cases that the new MS operating systems come in. Although the jobs are hardly temporary, Jarden's employees are almost exclusively "temps," hired through a staffing agency at unlivable wages and no benefits. The workers work 12+ hour days (so much for the 8 hour standard), 4 days a week (so much for the 40 hour standard), with minimal breaks in a high-paced manufacturing process known as "lean manufacturing." Gates gets his money by driving wages down and depriving workers of such basic needs as even minimal health care. The balance of economic power and wealth, thus moves even further away from the working class and poor to the corporations. Charitable organizations such as the Gates Foundation and Red are not designed to change that system. No economist would deny that the gap between rich and poor is widening, not narrowing. Which is a net gain for the corps and a loss for the poor and working class. If Gates and Bono were truly interested in changing this, they might think more in terms of supporting a "temps day out campaign" (grinding production to a halt) or some other such project. I think that the problem with campaigns such as Red is that they offer the illusion of help when, in the big picture, they are designed to change nothing – just maintain the status quo. Change MUST come from the bottom. It's always been that way.

8:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bill Glahn-

The only reason the PC/MAC you used to write your comment is not made in the USA is because you are not prepared to pay $5,000+ for it.

I don't know much about the company you cite- but would you rather have Microsoft produce elsewhere- because as lousy as a choice it is, that is the only choice.

Is it Gates's fault that the same thing could be manufactured in China for 1/5 the cost??

Do you think it's wise to ignore these glaring macro-economic trends and their implications?
Making money is not a crime. Your everyday comforts exist because of that very notion.

I completely agree that it's far from a perfect and fair situation- the last 6 years have been detrimental.

But compare it with the lives of the majority of those on the planet, and I realize how much worse it could be. It's pretty myopic not to see it that way.

That said, if you think the Gates Foundation is useless or promoting the status quo- if you were living in Malawi today, and your kid just got a cheap anti-malaria shot- would you really care how the money got there?

"Change MUST come from the bottom."

You mean "Workers of the world unite and take over" blah blah blah?

"It's always been that way."

Wrong. Change must come from top to bottom and anywhere in between.

11:50 AM  
Anonymous mgv99 said...

Dave,
As someone else posted, multifaceted and complex problems need to be attacked from as many angles as possible. Bono's work with the elite is not equivalent to his saying grassroots doesn't matter, as evidenced by his One Campaign, which he spends probably a total of 10 minutes of every concert begging his audience to sign up for. And that is 10 minutes longer than you will hear any other rock star who can still pack an arena pleading his cause to his audience. Bono gets more press attention for his work with the elite rather than the masses, partly because he has chosen to devote more of his own time to that VALUABLE approach, partly because it is NOVEL, and mostly because it IS easy to criticize and costs him celebrity currency. Lots of people like you love to hate him for talking to Bush, Gates, etc. Meanwhile, you're busy at the USSF preaching to the choir. Is what you're doing important? Absolutely. But so is what Bono is doing. It is CRITICAL to engage non-liberals in this conversation. Bottom-up IN ADDITION TO top-down approaches to change are extremely important.

When I said that if you demand more than they want to give you walk away with nothing and sever any future connection, you interpreted that as me not understanding how negotiation works. Of course you aim high and work your way down to a compromise. What I am saying is you don't walk in the door refusing to compromise. The Red campaign doesn't yield as much money from the corporations as we would like, but we have to appreciate that it is a start, it gets corporations to the table. The fact that the money from Red is five times the amount given to the Global Fund by the private sector in four years is noteworthy. Is it perfect? Is this exactly what we want from corporations? Of course not. But you seem it think if we can't GET exactly what we want from them, we should just ignore them altogether. That's what LiveAid did, and as you pointed out 20 years later we still have extreme poverty. Let me clarify, LiveAid raised money and awareness so I think it was great. BUT, again, to focus on the bottom-up approach and forget top-down is I think a giant mistake and why mobility on this issue has been so lacking.
Someone posted: "I think that the problem with campaigns such as Red is that they offer the illusion of help when, in the big picture, they are designed to change nothing – just maintain the status quo." I completely agree, this is the sentiment expressed at the end of the AdAge article. The corporations are psyched to spend $18-25 million to improve their public image. This is like trying to teach a small child to share. They're gonna think you're crazy at first, but you provide them with lots of positive reinforcement, and eventually they protest less, then they break off a small piece of the brownie for their sibling, and before you know it they split it in half right away without you asking. Corporations unfortunately will never get to that point, but if we can just get them crawling, however slowly, in that DIRECTION, we could really help Africa. And meanwhile if we could get governments crawling towards trade law reform and regulation of corporations, we could really REALLY help Africa. And if groups like the USSF are every bit as important as groups like Red in inching towards these changes. And if we have a big revolt in an attempt to make bigger changes overnight and it succeeds, I'd be impressed but I'm not holding my breath.

Someone complained about the waste of corporations spending 100 million on advertising. Sure it's wasteful, but do you think you're going to get them not to do it? Isn't it better that it's spent on a product that simultaneously raises money and awareness for Africa? I think the more products like this they can waste marketing dollars on, the better. Dave thinks this is the New Coke. To a large extent he's probably right-- I don't think a lot of buyers are truly enlightened by their purchase and will run off and donate directly to the Global Fund in the future. Some may be, and lots of us already are and the Red campaign is an added bonus, and the rest wander into the store and think "Oooo, red! Pretty color!" and buy the product with no thought about the campaign whatsoever. But do you see what just happened? We got money out of people who are oblivious to social causes and would never spend a dime on them of their own volition. That is worth something, Dave Marsh. And how did we get that money? TOP-DOWN. And what's even more important than what's happening at the consumer end of the transaction is that the corporations are at the goddamn table finally. They are a LONG long way from playing nice, and granted the pennies they're parting with mean nothing to them other than a boost to their public image, but this is definitely better than nothing and if we have any optimism left at all it is the first step towards hopefully someday their being somewhat socially responsible. Am I counting on that? No, and that's why the Bottom-Up approach matters, but I'm not giving up on it either.

Complex problems, complex solutions...

BTW wow you are so bent out of shape about the Forbes thing. I think you really do just hate anyone who cavorts with the elite, a 'guilty by association' hangup. Capitalism has its pros and cons, that's a whole other discussion. Left unregulated, things like mega-corporations happen and people suffer, sure, but without the competition it spurs there'd be no innovation and no choices as consumers. If the government would just step in and regulate, you probably wouldn't hate capitalism so much. Bono's a rich man, that does not make him inherently evil. It does not make him incapable of genuinely wanting to make a positive difference in the lives of the poor. I would be very surprised if he stands to make any financial gain from Red or One or his speaking engagements even, if he gets anything I'm sure he tells them to make the checks payable to DATA, his grassroots lobby. Rich people invest money, he invested in Forbes, what's your problem? I'd rather see compassionate people like him make lots of money than your average shithead CEO or politician, who screw people over left and right to amass their riches and whom I certainly don't see doing anything to make the world a better place. And lest you think I think Bono can do no wrong, I'll give you something actually worth being pissed at him for: U2 recently moved a huge chunk of their assets to the Netherlands where tax laws are much more lenient than in Ireland. There was a huge New York Times article about this last month that you must've missed or I'm sure you would've brought that up 100 times by now. THAT move is shitty, and I can only hope Bono was simply vetoed by the other 3 and their manager in not wanting to make that move, and that overall his financial decisions reflect more charity and social responsibility than most of his peers.

1:07 PM  
Anonymous Kobayashi Maru said...

Well, I disagree that the fundamental economic system needs to be changed. I sincerely believe that Africa would thrive if it had the chance to fairly compete in the open market. The EU and the US screwed over Africa long ago, however, when they bowed to political pressure and placed tariffs and quotas on textiles, agriculture, etc. A classic laissez-faire liberal would oppose these measures.

I wish Bono spent more time raising awareness about that. In his defense, though, fair trade with Africa is one of DATA's fundamental goals (the "T" stands for "Trade").

1:25 PM  
Anonymous mgv99 said...

I agree, Kobayashi, I don't know if your comment was directed at me or not, but I mean government regulation that limits the wealth of corporations at the expense of individuals would be good, not the sort of government intereference (e.g. tariffs) that is LED by corporations and created Africa's mess to begin with. I think you and I are on exactly the same page. I associate the laissez-faire approach to capitalism with a more conservative than liberal perspective.

1:56 PM  
Anonymous Kobayashi Maru said...

mgv99:

Good post. And I, too, was initially pissed that U2 essentially moved their ownership to the Netherlands. But here's some food for thought...

The Irish government taxes income at a marginal rate of 42%. Remember that up until now, this hasn't applied to royalties. So with the stroke of a pen, U2 were looking at making almost half of what they did last year. A little extreme, no?

OK, but U2 aren't exactly starving, right? They're still undeniably rich, and tax revenue goes to a good cause, right?

Well, consider this:

The Irish government consistently gives 1.8% of its budget to foreign aid.

U2 brought in ~$356 million (E 271 million) last year. I think they each have a coequal share, so Bono's take is $89 million.

Now, let's say that Bono tithes to Africa (I'm guessing he gives more than 10%, but we'll be conservative). That means that in a tax-free scenario he dolls out about $9 million.

OK, so now slap on the 42% marginal rate. About $38 million goes to the Irish government now. Of that, 1.8%, or about $684 000, goes to foreign aid, which is almost certainly not all to Africa.

Of course, Bono is still tithing on his remaining $51 million, so he gives $5.1 million to Africa.

We're left with two choices: $9 million versus $5.8 million (when you add in the government's contribution). The government will never be as efficient at giving money away to Africa as Bono will. Not exactly a slam-dunk case against the man, that.

Oh, and no, that last post wasn't directed at you. And I meant "liberal" in the classic sense, not the modern American sense.

2:09 PM  
Anonymous mgv99 said...

Sorry that we're going off on a tangent here, but I can't resist.

Minor point: split the revenue 5 ways, b/c the manager gets 20%.

Bigger point: Ok, Africa gets less money if Bono pays his taxes. But a) Bono could donate more money to make up the difference, and b) whether or not he does, the tax revenue is also a worthy place for his money to go, even if he personally would rather see the money go right to Africa. Ireland has poor people too, they have roads to fix, health care and education to pay, etc. If he doesn't like how the Irish gov't spends his money, he can vote for new leaders, just like everyone else. I wish I could write down on my tax return exactly how I would like my tax revenue to be spent. I suppose if I were a millionaire and could locate my money in a tax haven I'd be tempted to do it, figure out how much money I owe in taxes, and find a way to get it to those beneficiaries I care about, but then again I'd be tempted to pay less, or even zero...
It was not smart I suppose for Ireland to make the increase so major given that an outcome like this was predictable. But maybe they thought U2 wouldn't be like your average millionaire.

3:15 PM  
Anonymous Dave Marsh said...

Let me make it clear that the original post here, written by me, considered the issues (Bono's activities, Red, the corporations, the two articles) from a socialist perspective. I do not have a double standard for corporations and the example used is ludicrous.

Kobayashi Maru seems, on the basis of his taxation post, to have a relatively extreme free market, perhaps libertarian perpsective. The idea that this is mostly undigested is suggested by his other comments. I am appalled at what he does not know about Bono's statements (which have often claimed that he must deal with corps. and high gov't officials in the G8 countries because there is no alternative), about the negative effects of tax flight (not only in Africa; Ireland and the U.S. also), and most especially about what the alternatives to corporatist interventions actually are.

I think I'm gonna drop out of this dialogue, at least for a while as I am uncomfortable legitimizing such twaddle by responding to it and anyway, it is full of so many
erroneous assumptions particularly about those who disagree with him that it'd be a full time job to set it straight.

3:53 PM  
Anonymous Kobayashi Maru said...

mgv99:

Oh right... Forgot about Mr. McGuiness' cut.

On your broader point: I reread my post, and I failed to make clear that I'm not being a 100% apologist for the tax avoidance move. Mainly, this is because all four members (+ Paul McGuiness) and their families still live in Ireland most of the year, and still enjoy police & fire protection, a public health care infrastructure, etc. That costs money. Now, if the families left Ireland, my one (albeit serious) qualm would be addressed.

Still, I think it's more than a bit dick of the Irish government to let U2 structure their business around relatively lax tax laws for 30 years, then to suddenly soak them for half their income overnight without grandfathering them in or otherwise lightning th blow. Whether the old arrangement was right, "socially optimal", or whatever, U2 obeyed the law and stayed in Ireland. What exactly did they expect U2 to do in response to such onerous changes?

I think a more fair compromise would have been to exempt royalties earned from works produced during the tax holiday.

4:02 PM  
Anonymous Kobayashi Maru said...

Dave,

Nice. Playing the "I'm-too-good-for-this-twaddle" card to get out of responding to people who dare disagree with you, your prejudices, and (shocking! SHOCKING!) your political ideology. Seriously, chill.

We don't share perspectives on the world. Big deal. At least I showed minimal civility by taking your arguments seriously and giving you the benefit of the doubt.

I think you should cancel your plane ticket to Atlanta for the USSF. You'd be much better off finding some moderates at a coffee house (or even, like, some left-of-centrists) and learning how to show them a modicum of respect even given your disagreements.

Either that, or stick to just blogging about music in the future.

4:20 PM  
Anonymous Dave Marsh said...

Dear Greg,
I break my silence almost immediately because you have a right to ask your questions answered. (I presume they are mainly rhetorical but as I have responses, it seems elementary to pass them on.)

I don't think it is simplistic at all to identify corporations and capitalism as the principle agents that perpetuate poverty and social inequality. There is a very good article by Frank Joyce at Alternet.com about teh recent World Social Forum in Nairobi. You might read it and have several of your more general questions along this line productively addressed.

I absolutely believe that we would live in a very great civilization without the profit motive. I do not think that greed for private riches has been the motivating desire behind the most important inventions. In fact, the basis of the Internet was specifically a government project to allow better communication among scientists, mainly. The profiteers are come-latelys. This is well-known.

Some of the books I've written and edited are in print. Some are not. To choose an example, there is no discernable way I will ever make money from the Louie Louie book because permissions are now greater than the royalty advances the book commands. The last edition was published at my economic loss. I was not thinking about it as a loss leader for the other books. I valued it for its own sake.

The U.S. is neither the strongest economy in the world (it is presently a major debtor to, most prominent among others, China, for instance), nor is its economy particularly innovative. In several crucial areas, including high tech and pharmaceuticals, it is outstriped by both European and Asian nations. This is obvious to anyone who knows a blessed thing about the automobile market, for instance, or is aware of where virtually all computers are produced.

Nor is high consumption (buying stuff) the hallmark of economic success. Such indices as infant mortality rate, percentage of homeless and jobless, ability to respond to a domestic crisis and provision of basic social services (40 million Americans, one in 7 citizens, do not have health care) are better indicators of natioanl prosperity.

It is unquestioanble that many of the richest entrepreneurs and investors live here and that there is a certain, ever-shrinking group of American working people who are quite prosperous by historic or world-comparative standards. This does not measure the society as a whole. Even among the best off, to respond to another part of an earlier question, our rate of broad band usage falls far behind such countries as South Korea.

Cuba, which does not have a profit motive, has one of the most innovative pharmaceutical industries in the world. I beleive this answers your question about drug companies.

I don't know if there are all that many rock critics, though there are a lot of people writing record reviews. The reviews wer better before the corporations had a stranglehold on the market as was the music.

John Hammond was a Vanderbilt whose trust fund was severely curtailed to punish him for his politics, much closer to mine than yours.

I see no evidence that Red / One is delivering a solution to the immediate AIDS crisis, nor is it likely to be in the near future, especially so if as Bono says they are satisfied with the Bush administration's religious-fanatic approach (no condoms, frequent sermons). Those areas suffering famine at the time of LiveAid are pretty much identical with the ones suffering famine or near-famine today.

I humbly submit that as I am not dying from lack of nourishment, I don't have any bloody idea what I'd be saying. I say humbly becaasue Bono continually invokes the "eight million Africans he carries on his back" when he goes to meetings with high government officials.

I presume that that person's perspective is so different from mine as to be unimaginable by me.

Red claims no pure motives. It is expressly a for-profit set of capitalist enterprises. I was not questioning its motives in that respect. I am questioning the role it plays in the maintenance of Western domination of Africa and other issues along that line.

You did not read the NYTimes article carefully. The only time AIDS is mentioned is when Bono is challenged about his own wealth. (It is the only time in the piece he is challenged.)

You assume that Red's profits are going to be directed to teaching job skills, unless I misunderstand "teach him to fish." Reds profits are to be used to fund purchase and distribution of AIDS relief measures.

The racism is implicit in 500 years of EuroAmerican interaction with Africans. We used to buy and sell them, fuck them at will. There's a lot of books and even some movies about it, you should treat yourself to at least one sometime.

I did not deny that Africans have a voice in the United States. Can you explain how allowing Bono, an Irishman with British credentials and multinational residencies, to speak gives Africans a voice? I mean, did they elect him Speaker for the continent or something?

Western debt cancellation came at the price of austerity programs that do everything they can not to teach a man to fish, because there are companies in the Western nations that could then not sell him the fish.

China laying down infrastructure in African countries--how does that teach (or permit) Africans to fish (or lay down infrastructure, for that matter)?

If I were an Ethiopian who made $120 a year, I would understand--and it beggars my imagination why you don't--that the new telecom service was for people who made a hell of a lot more than that and who had no fucking intention of sharing it with the likes of me. Ditto the Kenyan. (My Ethiopian likes to cuss.)

Multifaceted problems must be attacked by as many angles as possible? It is POSSIBLE to exterminate every person on Earth who carries the HIV virus (or writes ignorant responses to blog postings)--you think we ought to give it a go? I don't.

I wasn't tearing anything down. I was exercising critical thinking on a matter of public importance. If you look out the window, you will see that Bono continues to operate his moral-extortion scheme.

I don't know if the world would be better if the Gates Foundation did not exist. I suspect that some people are going to wish a lot of its programs didn't exist once they find out the conditions on which "assistance" is delivered. But it's only a suspicion. (I'm a smart guy but I don't know the future or anything about reality on other possible worlds.)

I respectfully decline admission to your team's roster. Sorry but you'll just have to find another rock critic stupid enough to write you back.

4:26 PM  
Anonymous George Lenker said...

Friends:

As a person who identifies as a progressive, let me say that this whole debate shows why the left has a hard time getting anything done.

Mr. Marsh's journalistic inquiries are valid, as are the rebuttals of many of his respondents. I realize all too well that a forum like this can cause debates to devolve into petty insults, but I call on each person here to elevate their rhetoric and realize (as one person said before) that most of us probably agree on more issues than we disagree.

My only other comment is that there is more than one way to fry an egg. I agree with Mr. Marsh that many great achievements have not been motivated by profit. But mnay others have. SOme folks are motivated by profit; some by ego. Still others are moved by spiritual of philanthropic ideals.

It is a dangerous thing to think we can peer into another's heart and see the fires that burn within and which better angels or lesser devils motivate him or her.

I like to use the benchmark set by Jesus: "By their fruits ye shall know them."

Peace.

8:34 AM  
Anonymous Kobayashi Maru said...

If anyone's interested in a counterpoint to the AdAge article, here's one from the Independent in the UK:

http://news.independent.co.uk/world/politics/article2341310.ece

Meanwhile: George, I appreciate your sober tone, but you say "this whole debate shows why the left has a hard time getting anything done." I would modify that slightly and say that this debate is about someone on the left who did get something done. It comes down to this question: should Bono, Bobby Shriver, et al. be lauded or criticized for using the private sector to raise $18 million -- soon to be $25 million -- for Africa, with more to come?

Personally, speaking as a new father, if I found out my son had AIDS, I wouldn't care where the drugs came from. I wouldn't exactly have the luxury to care.

5:13 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Dave-

Have you ever seen what a color photograph book printed in a country where making a profit is frowned upon looks like? I did recently. (Actually I should say, WAS frowned upon, since it was Bulgarian). You’ve obviously never lived in a Socialist country, Dave.

We could probably refute each others’ points forever, so I don’t think you’re stupid if you don’t reply.

The USA is still the world’s largest economy- $12.98 trillion in ’06. There aren’t many industrial countries that aren’t indebted. Is the wealth fairly distributed? No. The US has one, if not the, highest dissaving rate in the world! That is a problem, no doubt. We’re the richest, yet we’re one of the biggest polluters, and we have people who can’t afford basic healthcare, among other discrepancies.


I do think that you do not look at the full picture though- and you are very much a beneficiary of what you criticize.

It seems you live in a black and white world when there’s very little in life that is. You believe collective energy is better spent on taking on an entire system, as opposed to being pragmatic (i.e. practical) and teaming up with people who agree on one aspect of an overall problem, to try to make an immediate and tangible change- even if there’s nothing else to agree on. I’m not dissin’ your idea behind making a change, and yet you do others’.

To think that principle is more important above all else is the comfortable westerner’s luxury.

If you are a beneficiary of the Global Fund, you DON’T CARE where the money is coming from. Period.

(RED)’s proposition is: If you are going to buy something anyway, why not then buy something that is going to have some of the money go to something you believe in.

Choose your enemies better, or at least, categorize them better and go after the worst.

“I absolutely believe that we would live in a very great civilization without the profit motive.”

That’s fine, but unfortunately it has no basis in human nature and history. Throughout human civilization, the overwhelming motive for any endeavor has been to improve one’s position (based on the individuals’ own values). Any imposed system of regulation (socialism, communism, facism etc..)- because it does cut against the most basic of human natures- the subjective pursuit of happiness (knowledge, wealth etc…) - has either failed or has had to usurp basic human rights to exist.

Please give me an example where that has not been the case- I draw personal happiness from knowledge.

We humans are still limited beings, Dave. No one should be able to impose their will on others, and the struggle between our individual idealism and reality will always exist. So why not join something you have a chance of winning?

“I don't think it is simplistic at all to identify corporations and capitalism as the principle agents that perpetuate poverty and social inequality.”

It most certainly is. Capitalism is far from perfect, but it’s the least imperfect. Full blown, laissez faire is the worst kind of capitalism, but that is not the only form of capitalism. If you think things are awful now, honestly, how would they be if not for the billions donated/endowed/granted, generated through the capitalist system- where the hell else would the money come from? The Government alone???

“I do not think that greed for private riches has been the motivating desire behind the most important inventions. In fact, the basis of the Internet was specifically a government project to allow better communication among scientists, mainly. The profiteers are come-latelys. This is well-known.”

Yet, the internet was also a DoD (Air Force)/ National Science Foundation project for communication in case of nuclear war (among other things), with the basic concept of building a highly robust and survivable network. The Internet was created during the Cold War in the US- when the enemy was the one against capitalism.

But let’s be honest, neither you nor I would have this kind of access to the internet today, if there wasn’t an underlying profit motive for people to provide us with the service.
Your PC would be slow and unaffordable; you’d have to wait months to get a dial-up connection etc…Competition means choice and that’s what allows to us to have this chin-wag.

“You did not read the NYTimes article carefully. The only time AIDS is mentioned is when Bono is challenged about his own wealth. (It is the only time in the piece he is challenged.)”

It’s a crap article I agree. But the fact is, he mentions AIDS when he’s asked if what he does is ‘a hobby born of extreme wealth’. How would you answer that if you were a middle-class writer (wealthy in terms of global per capita income), and you were asked that question about your involvement in the US Social Forum by a Cuban magazine?

I don’t call Bush ‘Shrub’, because that’s not serious enough. I could easily poke holes in the rest of the points, but I’d rather tell you that we should best spend our time on something positive…

12:32 AM  
Anonymous your momma said...

who would have guessed a marketing campaign promoting conspicuous consumption of overpriced crap no one needs would benefit the brands and celebrities involved more than africans? not me.

9:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

even if bono is wrong, and i don't believe he is, isn't he doing something positive here? $18-25 million SO FAR. in what, six months? isn't it possible that in a few years, the equation will be inverted and the amount donated to africa will dwarf the spending on advertising? and, the $100 million number is not accurate or even properly sourced. you're arguing without all of the facts.

this reminds me of the people who attack gore personally over his cause. even if he's wrong, and it looks like he is not, disagree with him on the facts, ok. but attack him personally and impugn his motives? why?

you do not like bono's rhetoric. but that's what makes him effective. that's what gets people to listen. that's what makes him compelling. the facts and figures and numbers are all out there for blair and bush and everyone else to see. but who can make that into a story? who can make corporations even attempt to divert some profits to a cause such as this?

only someone who makes it cool, who makes the story have some feeling and some depth.

1:59 PM  
Blogger Kevin Wolf said...

Dave, casting a little vote here in favor of your gteneral view of things. Bono's assumptions about what will and won't work, and why, and who can "get things done" may result in short term good but no one ever questions the larger global framework.

Well, you did. And just look at the confused responses.

Best.

2:48 PM  
Anonymous Kobayashi Maru said...

Kevin,

There's a difference between disagreeing and being "confused". Many defenders of Bono on this board have made clear that they still buy Dave's overall socio-political perspective. It's just that, with apologies to Voltaire, we don't think the long term should be the enemy of the short term, and so we shouldn't criticize a man who uses his celebrity and influence to implement a short term solution that works, especially when he's using his left hand to effect longer-term change (Bono's lobbying/the ONE Campaign).

7:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

MY momma said...

You better not let me catch you in an overpriced team jersey, or for that matter, off the waiting list for a Motorola "DynaTAC".

9:41 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Bono doesn't just work with major corporations. That's just one piece in the puzzle. The guy is constantly lobbying governments to give more (whether that is the best way to go or not is debatable, but virtually ever charity seems to lobby governments for cash). I'd argue that the guy has probably put more focus on some of the problems in Africa than any other person in the world. Was the average person aware of the issues, much less paying attention before, before he got on board?

Is gap making more off a red t-shirt than the charities? Obviously. Anyone who ever thought otherwise, is an idiot. I suspect that most of these items are giving less than 10% of the profits to charity.

But WTH. If you get a Red Amex, that's one or two percent ot charity. Costs AMEX nothing (other than marketing) and costs you and I the cash back that we could have gotten back from Discover.

I also take issue with the BS about buddying up with Bush. It's a means to an end. He's not going to get jack shit from Bush or what was the Republican congress if he trashes them. He ain't no Tory.

I could find plenty of things to criticize Bono/U2 about, but this isn't one of them. If you don't like the way Red works, give money to another charity or to Data or the One campaign...whatever you like.

But if you were going to buy an iPod anyway, and you don't hate the red ones, why not buy that one (FWIW, advertising for Apple is one of those things I could bitch about, though less so now that the iPod isn't a total POS like it was prior to last fall).

2:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dave Marsh speaks the truth! From his point of view of course. Just like Bono does, just like I do every single day.

I do not object to the challenges to "top-down" thinking nor to the reality that the red campaign is part cynical.

But Dave puts himself in that dangerous "War on terror" mentality when he confuses (in my opinion) Bono's use of corporate for the Red campaign as a belief that the elite are the only ones who get things done.

Bono has in the last 8 years persuaded governments around the world to give more money to the verifiable humanitarian crisis that has been taking place in Africa.

He has been able to do this because of U2 fans of all ages, music fans in general and because he has been credible in his past humanitarian efforts. These people are voters, who are not adverse to getting involved.

He continually uses whatever ways that he can to push the issue of Africa without pushing people into "charity fatigue."

By the way, 18 million isn't the actual real value of the Red Campaign. The real value is that people are mixing consumerism with charitable enterprise and even if this does very little for Africa it is slowly but surely changing the fabric of American belief which historically trends towards an isolationist mentality.

Lastly, I will become a socialist the day that socialism takes into account the fundamental greedy element of the human heart. I don't buy that it is a system that brings greed. It is greed that brings the system.

6:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Never once during any of the numerous methods/campaigns used to educate the world about this issue have I EVER, EVER heard anyone discuss it in a way that diminished the dignity of the African people. It is irresponsible and just plain idiotic to insinuate that it's predatory to raise these issues and it's a flat-out LIE to suggest that the 'picture' being promoted is one of Africans humiliated by their poverty. The people of that continent are not 'exploited' in some way. They are always portrayed as the most dignified and regal people Bono has ever met, when he talks about them. I have heard Bono talk many times about how uplifting and amazing it is to find the African people he meets so positive and upbeat when circumstances are oppressive. They are not humiliated - - but reality is reality. They are poor, it is what it is. Why pretend it's something else? And if poverty = shame, that is just in your twisted mind, Dave. And if you ask me, you're the one with a 'cynical world view.' Which leads me to my next point . . .

You claim that the Red Campaign is 'based on an entirely cynical view of what motivates humans' is so narrow minded, it's nearly laughable. Do you mean to assert, Dave, that money is not the most motivating factor for the majority of the world? And for those without it, if they had it, it would then be THEIR most motivating factor. Please, just because you don't like it doesn't mean that's not the way it is. Open your eyes and take a look at REALITY. It really helps when assessing situations. Yet again, the words seem more appropriate for YOU: it seems you're the one wearing the 'rose colored glasses.'

It is pure ignorance for you to compare one inch of this with "Live Aid."
I mean, would it be rude of me to take up as much space as I could, here, explaining the differences in detail?
I'll save that for another time, another place by saying this: the 2 goals are NOTHING alike. Live Aid was trying to raise money for food for Africa. This campaign is the surgery for the problem, not the "band-aid." This is to make the country self-sufficient, by first making it SAFE. (where one mosquito bite could kill you.)
You have to start with the basics, Dave. You know - - safety! Clean water! Stopping the spread of deadly disease! Basic needs of humanity. This isn't a food drop into a dying continent. It's helping a country to its feet so that it can be a fair player in the world; so that its people aren't dying at alarming rates, particularly from unnecessary things like malaria and HIV.
To compare this campaign with Band Aid is, again, an irresponsible act and just flat out silly.

Also relevant, you do realize that any marketing money (from Gap, Motorola/Sprint, etc.) would have been used to market that company's products, anyway, correct? And that $$$ isn't the ONLY goal, right? Education on the matter is also important . . . a fact that it becomes more and more evident you've completely missed the more you write about this topic . . .

I say: you should stop accosting Bono until you can (a) educate yourself properly on the matter(s) and (b) counter-act the things you disagree with about this campaign with something other than rhetoric and untrue assertions. That can be done more easily once you accomplish (a).

~Jennifer

7:35 PM  
Anonymous Kobayashi Maru said...

But Jennifer, why spend the energy being fair when being an iconoclast is so much more fun (and, in the case of Ad Age. more lucrative)?

11:54 PM  
Blogger Josef said...

Can I get ONE person to accurately verify the 100 million dollar advertising budget that was spent on this? Please let me know when you do. May Bono continue to be driven by what drives him, and may none of us ever have to go to Africa and look death directly in the eye. Like him or not, like U2 or not, Bono did it. He turned down the pleas of someone offering him his son for a better life somewhere else, and it's been haunting him ever since. That's his albatross, and as fans of his music if we have to "suffer" through a public service announcement at every concert to get off our collective asses and stick out a helping hand, then so be fucking it. Bono has changed his sights to the ones who control the world and the ones who spend the money. You can stand on the sidelines and spit and hiss as much as you want. You can offer alternatives to what Bono is doing. But his motivation comes from deeply personal experience. Not many of us can say that. And I personally get sick when I see Bono cavorting with Bush, Gates, et al. But he wants to be a force for change. And he is, first and foremost, a ROCK STAR. His recent epiphanies have blended with his forceful personality. Deal with it. Maybe if more people spent time coming up with different ways to help those less fortunate instead of criticizing those who already do, Africa would be closer to self-sustenance.

Oh and next time Dave, sign your column Anonymous, so no one can accuse YOU of being "preening and self-important" by affixing you name to something.

12:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kobayashi Maru, how true. It was silly of me to overlook the virtues of 'hot air' over truth.

;-)

Thanks for reminding me. *wink*

~Jennifer

2:50 PM  
Blogger The P$YCHO Bitch said...

Yes, it's so easy to throw stones while you're sitting at your computer, criticizing the efforts of others, no?

To set the record straight, the Advertising Age article writer came up with those figures out of nowhere. $100 million spent? $18 million raised? An official statement released determined that less than $40 million was spent & about $25 million was raised.

Even if $100 million was spent & a mere $18 million was raised, so what? Could you even do that by bitching about the efforts of some "self-important" rock star to help underprivileged Africans?

Sure, almost every rock star has "some kind of charitable endeavor" but how many rock stars actually bother to take the time to meet with world leaders & start campaigns in the name of helping people?

To slam Bono's initiative in the (RED) campaign as an "insistent, addled idea" that corporations are "the only vehicle by which the problems of African poverty & disease can be solved" is extremely presumptuous, especially for someone who seems to only be capable of one-sided criticism. Get real: most people wouldn't contribute the cost of an iPod Nano to charity just like that. People want value for their money. And if, every time a (RED) Motorola V3 or an iPod Nano is sold, some of that money goes to charities to prevent & reduce poverty & disease in Africa, it provides a constant stream of revenue, both for the companies that make & sell these products & for the charities. Pretentious? Sounds more like a win-win situation to me. And if you could, even with the aid of such companies, completely wipe out poverty & disease anywhere in the world, then you'd have the right to comment on how these issues are still prevalent, even though these corporations exist. However, something tells me that you don't have that ability.

And oh sure, the remark that "Africa is sexy" is horrendously racist, it is. Ooh, the Africans should totally kick Bono's ass for that.

The truth about the more privileged among us is that many of us are ignorant. That's why awareness has to be raised, so people who can afford to can help. And if people aren't stirred to do anything at all or still don't pay attention, whose fault is it? The people who initiated the (RED) campaign? Please. Get over yourself already.

And what has 5000 people dying everyday from AIDS have to do with Bono's "high marks"? AIDS is a big problem in Africa that Bono & other celebrities are trying to counter, through various campaigns. The way you put it, it's as if these people are absolutely capable of abolishing AIDS singlehandedly. You know, people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. At least, they're doing something to alleviate the situation. Are you?

And it is true that big publications like Vanity Fair have a role to play. Many people read them. Guest editing it & including stories related to Africa & its problems would definitely help to raise awareness. How much awareness would actually be raised if such articles are published in obscure magazines? Get that pole out of your ass - it's not wrong but smart even, to take advantage of the popularity of such a publication to raise awareness.

"The (RED) campaign is based on an entirely cynical view of what motivates humans." Sure, it's cynical to think that people would be more motivated to contribute to charity, if they got something in return for their money. As George Bernard Shaw once said, "The power of accurate observation is frequently called 'cynicism' by those who don't have it." Go figure.

Yes, Bono's "more obvious career choices would have been either a priest or a pimp." I don't know where this crap came from but it sure as hell doesn't look like it has anything to do with the issue at hand.

How much do you really know about journalism, anyway? I've been studying it for over a year & doing reporting of my own & one thing I've learned is that even if you want to get a scoop, you have to practice restraint. If the interviewee doesn't want to talk about something, there's no forcing him to. Oh but I guess an outsider who seems to know everything about celebrities & their fraudulent, self-important charitable causes would also know everything there is to know about being a journalist, right?

I don't usually nitpick but that's exactly what you've done here & you deserve a taste of your own medicine.

Pathetic.

4:14 AM  
Blogger The P$YCHO Bitch said...

Yes, it's so easy to throw stones while you're sitting at your computer, criticizing the efforts of others, no?

To set the record straight, the Advertising Age article writer came up with those figures out of nowhere. $100 million spent? $18 million raised? An official statement released determined that less than $40 million was spent & about $25 million was raised.

Even if $100 million was spent & a mere $18 million was raised, so what? Could you even do that by bitching about the efforts of some "self-important" rock star to help underprivileged Africans?

Sure, almost every rock star has "some kind of charitable endeavor" but how many rock stars actually bother to take the time to meet with world leaders & start campaigns in the name of helping people?

To slam Bono's initiative in the (RED) campaign as an "insistent, addled idea" that corporations are "the only vehicle by which the problems of African poverty & disease can be solved" is extremely presumptuous, especially for someone who seems to only be capable of one-sided criticism. Get real: most people wouldn't contribute the cost of an iPod Nano to charity just like that. People want value for their money. And if, every time a (RED) Motorola V3 or an iPod Nano is sold, some of that money goes to charities to prevent & reduce poverty & disease in Africa, it provides a constant stream of revenue, both for the companies that make & sell these products & for the charities. Pretentious? Sounds more like a win-win situation to me. And if you could, even with the aid of such companies, completely wipe out poverty & disease anywhere in the world, then you'd have the right to comment on how these issues are still prevalent, even though these corporations exist. However, something tells me that you don't have that ability.

And oh sure, the remark that "Africa is sexy" is horrendously racist, it is. Ooh, the Africans should totally kick Bono's ass for that.

The truth about the more privileged among us is that many of us are ignorant. That's why awareness has to be raised, so people who can afford to can help. And if people aren't stirred to do anything at all or still don't pay attention, whose fault is it? The people who initiated the (RED) campaign? Please. Get over yourself already.

And what has 5000 people dying everyday from AIDS have to do with Bono's "high marks"? AIDS is a big problem in Africa that Bono & other celebrities are trying to counter, through various campaigns. The way you put it, it's as if these people are absolutely capable of abolishing AIDS singlehandedly. You know, people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. At least, they're doing something to alleviate the situation. Are you?

And it is true that big publications like Vanity Fair have a role to play. Many people read them. Guest editing it & including stories related to Africa & its problems would definitely help to raise awareness. How much awareness would actually be raised if such articles are published in obscure magazines? Get that pole out of your ass - it's not wrong but smart even, to take advantage of the popularity of such a publication to raise awareness.

"The (RED) campaign is based on an entirely cynical view of what motivates humans." Sure, it's cynical to think that people would be more motivated to contribute to charity, if they got something in return for their money. As George Bernard Shaw once said, "The power of accurate observation is frequently called 'cynicism' by those who don't have it." Go figure.

Yes, Bono's "more obvious career choices would have been either a priest or a pimp." I don't know where this crap came from but it sure as hell doesn't look like it has anything to do with the issue at hand.

How much do you really know about journalism, anyway? I've been studying it for over a year & doing reporting of my own & one thing I've learned is that even if you want to get a scoop, you have to practice restraint. If the interviewee doesn't want to talk about something, there's no forcing him to. Oh but I guess an outsider who seems to know everything about celebrities & their fraudulent, self-important charitable causes would also know everything there is to know about being a journalist, right?

I don't usually nitpick but that's exactly what you've done here & you deserve a taste of your own medicine.

Pathetic.

4:16 AM  
Blogger Josef said...

Psycho Bitch? I have a message for you.

HEAR HEAR!!!!

Thank you.

Oh and to follow up on the "Africa is sexy" comment being racist, uhhm, Dave, would it be racist to call North America, Europe, or Asia "sexy"? I think not. Any continent that produced the cradle of civilaztion has GOTTA be sexy in my book. :)

11:48 AM  
Blogger Watts said...

Bono is a capitalist.
Dave is a communist.
Bono is encouraging companies to donate money to help the poor in Africa (and they're doing it, so are democratic governments' he's lobbied).
Dave thinks Africans are better off starving to death than taking help from capitalists.
What's yer plan, Dave? I'd love to see a plan.

4:59 PM  
Anonymous O said...

Bono, like the world, is what we make of him. I like where Dave is coming from in stressing the fact that there is divergence between a grassroots and an elite. This part of his concern is the most compelling to me, and I agree that if the world is to be run by one of these groups, I'd prefer it be the broader and more diverse. That having been said here is what I make of Bono. I believe he is sincere when he says he sees what's going on in Africa as an emergency, and that his primary focus is on "putting the fire out" (is there anyone here who hasn't heard his tedious "We're just standing around with watering cans as a continent bursts into flames" analogy). As a result what I make of Bono is different than what Dave makes of him. I really don't think Bono is focused on anything right now but the visceral personal experiences he's had witnessing the appaling conditions of death and suffering millions on the African continent are experiencing daily. I think he is simply trying to figure out who has the water and hoses *NOW*. I don't think he's trying to influence the debate on how the global power structure is defined so much as he's trying to make something happen at the moment given the reality as it is *CURRENTLY* defined.

Now a very fair critique of this point of view might be to say "Well instead of appealing to the elites who are already f@*ing up the planet to begin with wouldn't Bono get further by trying to work on more of a grass roots level?"

The answer to that, in my opinion, would be... who would say that he isn't doing both?

Yes, Bono is talking up a storm to moneyed elites. But he's also been doing church tours in the midwest, and he's also been discussing the issue of Africa in places such as the music press, which I'm sure Dave would agree, is a form of press which gets consumed at the grass roots.

I really don't think Bono has "taken a side" as Dave suggests above, or that he has made of the world what Dave appears to be making of it when he writes of a clear cut distinction between elites and the grassroots.

I'm not saying that I disagree with Dave. I just don't think that this happens to be Bono's departure point. Granted that might make him esspecially dangerous, and more likely to be co-opted as a "corporate puppet" if Dave's divide is acurate.

But my read on Bono is that at the same time he sees death and suffering on a massive scale in Africa, he also sees himself as having unprecedented access with people who ... *in theory* have sufficient wealth and influence to bring about change in Africa. Then to top it all off he also hears someone like Jeff Sachs telling him he can help use his voice to bring about that change.

So, he's being a bit naieve perhaps, or perhaps not. But either way, I don't think his take is that only the elite can make a difference. I think his take is that the elite are the ones who have the water and fire trucks to put out the fire. I don't think he's thinking in the way Dave is about how the world should be structured.

If the orphanage on my block catches fire... I'm sorry, I'm going to the fire department. I'm not going to try to form a bucket brigade with my vegan neighbors because I recognize the fire department has been maintained by the same corupt tax system and government that has financed wars and bloodshed I don't support.

My concern in that moment won't be for such abstractions as the global power stucture, or the elites vs. the grassroots. My visceral concern will be to help keep orphans from burning to death, and that will give me the moral authority to (damn well) seek help from anyone in a position to provide it.

I think this is where Bono is at as well. I think he's trying to do something about the suffering he's seen first hand, and I don't think he's thinking much beyond that.

This may or may not be helpful on a world historical scale, but I see it as admirable on a personal human scale. So far as how the divide between elite and grass roots action will play out, I guess I'd like to cling to the romantic hope that if each of us pursues the most admirable path available to us on a personal level... it will tend to bring about positive change on the world historical scale.

I here think it becomes relavent to note that the options available to Bono in terms of the personal scale of his actions are different than the options available to Dave, (which in turn, are different than the options available to me).

I really don't think Bono and Dave are that far apart in terms of their intent, or even their approach. I think the differences involve opportunity.

If you are Dave and you want to make a difference you go to Georgia.

If you're Bono and you want to make a difference, you call the pope.

I don't think either should be faulted if they fail to bring about change. I don't think we should diss Dave's meeting in Atlanta -OR- Bono's calls to the pope. I think both should be commended for *trying*.

Dave... if the Pope, and President Bush, and Bill Gates would take your calls... what would you do?

Seriously... let's suppose for a hypothetical moment that Bono shares YOUR belief system. In other words let's say you're Bono. Now... you wake up with Bono's level of star power, and reach into the global community. You are a citizen of the world, and world leaders will take your calls.

You've also had your fair share of run ins with (ahem) music critic disasters like "Rattle & Hum" / "Popmart" which have nearly demolished your popular standing, and you know that if you take your case soley to the streets you are likely to be devoured and stripped of any special influence until you may as well be John Oates of Hall and Oates.

Do you trade in the influence, so that all you have left available to you is the grassroots meeting in Georgia, where you will meet yourself anyway, and where people as fine as you are are already gathering, or do you use your celebrity as a spring board in to gatherings and communities where they might otherwise not hear a viewpoint like yours?

Do you see what I'm trying to get at? You know from your advocacy here of grassroots action that the grassroots *ARE* alive and well. That's *WHY* you deride the notion that help can only come from the elite. So... does the world *need* another grass roots activist?

Does the United States Social Forum in Atlanta *NEED* another John Oates, or Dave Marsh or me there?

I mean, there are plenty of us there already. Love him or hate him "Bono's" are in short supply. People who have access to literally any office, or any individual on earth are, to paraphrase Larry David... Pretty... Pretty... Pretty Rare.

If you had that level of access, would you really just jeteson it because your position is the grassroots must triumph over the elite?

To be fair, some have. Dave is a rock critic, and we're talking about a musician, so let me mention that my band is Pearl Jam and I'm a big fan of Eddie Vedder.

I don't know if I trust Bono, but to the extent that one can vicariously trust any celebrity from a distance I trust Vedder and it is interesting to note that after some harsh early critiques of Bono ("Paul is dead" t-shirt worn by Vedder when Pearl Jam opened for U2 in Rome in '92) he is lending his support to the One campaign.

I don't think of Pearl Jam concerts as gatherings of the elite, but I've seen One campaign tables there. So, again, I don't get the sense that Bono has divided the world between Elite, and Grassroots and that he's focusing on one to the exclusion of the other.

I think he spends a tremendous amount of time maintaining his viability within the complex social networking rituals of the elite, and I think that given the byzantine and Kafaesque complexity of that particular social network this necessarily consumes a tremendous amount of his time.

But again there are not many people with my value system who even have the option to maintain their vaibility in that system, and network with those individuals. Dave, if you had that option, would you really jeteson it?

What would you do?

Would you make a pure idealistic appeal to the grassroots, and go down in flames with "Rattle & Hum" pt2. ... Or try to con the elite into believing you actually mattered, when ... the grassroots reality is ... how much does Bono matter to the grass roots to begin with?

So what I'm saying Dave is if you could go to Davos and talk about Africa, would you really say "F@#k this... I'm going to Atlanta!!!" When you know full well there will be hundreds of other guys just like you who are there already? (thank goodness too btw)

Wouldn't it make more sense to "stay in the game" and be one of only a handfull of guys in Davos talking about the disaster in Africa that everyone needs to hear about?

If you would honestly decide not to go to Davos then, ok... I guess it makes sense to throw stones at Bono... Only you in your heart know what you would do. I know it's tempting here in the context of this blog to say "No WAY would I go to Davos!!! Vox populi!!!!" But COME ON man... if I told you I'm really George Soros, and I can get you in... would you *Really* turn me down?

Wouldn't you want to go there and give those people a piece of your mind if they invited you? IF the answere is even a little bit "yes" then how do you know you wouldn't wind up looking like Bono to the rest of us... and how can you be sure that Bono's ideals aren't already very much like your own?

I could be wrong, but I think Dave and Bono are cut from the same cloth. Fate has just stitched them into different places within the social fabric.

Anyway, again, I could be wrong... but I hope I'm right. Dave, after all, like Bono, is what we make of him... and on the whole I think he's a pretty terrific individual.

5:59 PM  
Anonymous Dave Marsh said...

O asks: if the Pope, and President Bush, and Bill Gates would take your calls... what would you do?

At last, a question to answer!

First I'd have a long private session, where I'd scrutinize what I'd gone wrong that a primitive superstitious bigot, a pinhead bigot and a guy who cheated his way to billions (while eliminating or marginalizing superior technologies solely for personal gain) wanted anything to do with me.

Then I'd buy a few dozen of those canned airhorns, like people use at sporting events. And maybe smoe of the leftover fireworks from Michael Jackson's last tour.

And then, I'd dial.

6:22 PM  
Anonymous O said...

Well as a Rock critic I assume you are familiar with compressors and limiters, since they are used in every recording situation to prevent loud sounds from being recorded past a certain volume level. Since there are compressors built into all standard phones, your air horns and explosives would never sound louder to the person you are calling than the sound of someone yelling. So, if what you are saying is you would use the chance to try and talk to (accepting your own carricaturizations of the people involved) three of the greatest villans in the world to try and deafen them please be advised you'd be making like an inept Jerky Boy and most likely only wind up handicaping yourself, and blowing out your own ear drums with all the noise you would make.

I'll grant this is a rhetorical point since I don't think that's what you would really do if you were put in the position of being able to speak to these people, but it's a shame you don't have more to offer by way of contrasting your approach with the one you are so forcefully criticizing.

Then again you probably do have more to offer. So, since you responded favorably ("Finally a question") to being asked for more on your own outlook and point of view, I'll ask again. What would you do in Bono's position?

Reading between the lines of your comment what I'm getting is a sense of moral absolutism. Some people are just irredemably bad... (here they would be the pope, Bill Gates and George Bush) and it would be better to have absolutely no contact with them whatsoever than to engage with them in anyway.

Is that what you are saying? I ask only to understand your position.

When I was in college I once asked a friend of mine to describe a philosophy professor he knew that I was considering taking a class with. He said "She has a clearly defined position, and she defends it well."

I asked him what her position was. He thought about it for a second and laughed, and then said. "I take it back, she's positionless and on the attack."

I've always loved that line "positionless and on the attack". It sums up so many people and so much criticism. I've been reading you for years and I don't *think* that's where you are comming from.

But of course the only way to be sure is to sound you out further about your position.

I took your position to be that there is a divide established between the elite and the grassroots. I'm now gathering that your take is that no one should at any point have anything to do with the elite.

Let me shift gears here and write that I'm very much on the fence about Bono. I do see that there might be a case to be made here for non engagement with negative forces, and I just want to understand more clearly if that's what you arguing for.

The place where I tend to come back to being positive about Bono is that whenever I think an approach of non engagement through it seems to me that it leads to further negative outcome.

That is, let us suppose you are completely correct about gates, bush and the pope (I happen to think you are simplifying a bit with regard to Gates... I tend to agree with you about the other two, but that's just me) and let us suppose everyone in a position to perceive their negative traits simply chooses not to engage them.

Does that yield a positive result? Won't their negative traits continue to manifest themselves in seeking to exploit and manipulate people, and won't their engaged efforts to manipulate people overcome the disengaged efforts of those people not to engage them.

We all agree we don't like McDonalds for example.... so they go out and Start Chipotle, and most people don't realize they are giving McDonalds their business by going there....

Again when I think it through... to me, disengagement seems like something worse than a dead end, it seems like rolling over and capitulating only without giving up a sense of moral rectitude.

Again that's how such an apporach looks to me. I am curious to know what you think.

Bono's approach, by contrast, does seem fraught with risky contradictions, and it certainly defies a lot of pre defined neat and tidy ethical categories, but I see *a* logic to it. I see *an* approach... I see a "position" and not just an attack.

Again, to return to an analogy used above in an earlier post, I think his approach is to focus on the positive goal of trying to save people in a burning building, and that focus gives him the moral authority to (damn well) deal with anyone who can help put the fire out.

People are dying in Africa. $18 million may not be a whole heck of a lot, but it's more money than either of us will ever contribute to Africa... and it wasn't going there without him... oh and btw you do know that the big flaw in the AdAge piece was they calculated the FULL cost of the one hour show Oprah did on Project Red according to what the market rates might have been if the FULL hour had been used for advertising.

This is a nonsensical approach on several levels. First of all by that logic, none of the books featured on the Oprah book club has ever turned a profit. Because no book makes as much in sales as an hour's worth of ads on Oprah. Secondly if the hour of television in question no longer featured any content... that is if it were all ads, and no Oprah, then it wouldn't be worth as much as an ad on Oprah... In other words, I don't think the going rate for "The advertising hour" would be the same as the rate for the "Oprah" show, so it was insane to calculate the cost of a one minute commercial on Oprah, and then multiply it by 60.

At any event, no one paid any money for Oprah to profile the Red campaign. The choice to profile the topic may have involved nepotism, but it's specious for AdAge to claim they can put a precise dollar value on nepotism.

So the $100 mil figure is wrong. The $18 mil figure really represents profits generated for Africa in less than half a year, because although the campaign has been live in *England* for a year, it only got launched in the US more recently.

So the numbers we're using to tear down Bono are the real red herring here, not as some people suggested, an axe you might have to grind with U2.

AdAge published a hatchet job against a figure who is trying to introduce something *other* than a profit motive into advertising. (Surely it can make sense that AdAge might have some motivation in this regard) Now we are using statistics from that hatchet job to tear down someone, who as far as I can see, is championning values which are really fairly close to (what I know of) your own.

So, again, since you seemed to appreciate questions, let me finish with some clear questions...

1. Would it influence your outlook on Bono's efforts if the cost figures in AdAge turned out to be specious? What if the ratio between corporate profit, marketing budgets and money for africa were more balanced? Would that affect your assessment?

2. Is it fair to characterise your position as one cautioning against
*any* involvement with elites?

3. If that is your position can you write a little bit more on where you see that leading? I ask because when I think it through I see it being a dead end, but... I'm genuinely open to seeing a way around this dead end if there is one you can help articulate.

10:02 PM  
Anonymous Kobayashi Maru said...

if the Pope, and President Bush, and Bill Gates would take your calls... what would you do?


At last, a question to answer!

First I'd have a long private session, where I'd scrutinize what I'd gone wrong that a primitive superstitious bigot, a pinhead bigot and a guy who cheated his way to billions (while eliminating or marginalizing superior technologies solely for personal gain) wanted anything to do with me.

Then I'd buy a few dozen of those canned airhorns, like people use at sporting events. And maybe smoe of the leftover fireworks from Michael Jackson's last tour.

And then, I'd dial.




So... in one breath, you're relieved that you have a "question to answer" and then you treat that question with all the seriousness of a 9-year-old. You were much more profound when you weren't posting, Dave.

In response to O, a couple of points:

1. This isn't directed at you per se, your post just brought home how funny it is that we're much better at seeing puff pieces for what they are than we are hatchet jobs. Chalk it up to cynicism, I suppose.

2. RED very well may fail. In fact, although Ad Age's numbers at this point have about the credibility of a White House intelligence memo on Iraq, I'd still put my money on RED not being around in 10 years. That isn't a commentary on its efficiency or the good it will do raising millions of dollars for Africa, it's more just about how ideas like this that rely on their very grandness to stay relevant eventually just fizzle out.

3. No one who has the number for the Pope, Clinton, and Bill Gates is going to get them to agree on much of anything. To make those phone calls with expectations any higher than that is to truly have a messiah complex.

If it were me making those calls, I'd probably try to reach some compromise with the Pope, Catholic-to-Catholic, on sex ed and get Clinton and Gates behind lobbying for fair trade with Africa. But I'd have no delusions that any of those goals would be more than a crapshoot.

11:42 PM  
Anonymous Dave Marsh said...

oh, O, language is *metaphor* like the airhorns. I am trying to say that people like that aren't worth trying to bullshit, because, while they certainly didn't invent bullshit, they do have the current franchise. Benedict and Bush and Bill ain't gonna listen, it's your fantasy, I was just trying to help you out with a little wit.

And in any event, they are already deaf to the likes of me. I'm a Red thus in the "dustbin of history."

I honestly don't care what those guys do, in the sense that, they are going to do what it takes to advance Catholicism and capitalism, both of which have already fucked up my life plenty too much to allow them any latter day additional power over it with their hallucinatory greed.

It's you, not I, who believes that grassroots are in great shape and all those good gentlemen (or diabolical exemplars, in my particular worldview, granted that I think Satan as farcical a superstition as God)want to do is trim the lawn a bit. I think they intend to hit it with all the defoliants at their command, myself, and it seems (ach! we're back to those goddamn World Social Forums again) that a rising group down their among the roots agrees. As Frank Joyce reported on Alternet from Nairobi, there's not really much discussion of the US (or Gates or Benedict) b/c those people don't think that that is where help is comingfrom and the harm they do hourly is all too obvious to slow down for recitation for what is obvious if you don't live in the Land of a Thousand Propaganda Dances.

You also attempt to hector me with:
"Does that yield a positive result? Won't their negative traits continue to manifest themselves in seeking to exploit and manipulate people, and won't their engaged efforts to manipulate people overcome the disengaged efforts of those people not to engage them."

Dear O, so appropriately named for the masochist, you seem imbued with the very Western superstition that such men represent eternal forces that will never be toppled.

You think this is all about this guy and that guy and the other guy and I think it's about this forcde, and that one and their coalition to do the third one's will or perhaps merely make sure he can afford the utilities bills in his all-computer household where even the robots are slaves.

(Maybe I could have a useful exchange with the current Bishop of Rome, point out that Kobayashi's commenting again, that means his hand's back in his lap and it's movin', might want to head him off, Benedict (I'd say) before the adds to the overcrwoding in Purgatory, I know that's gotta be on your mind a lot now that you've got the celibacy ruse back into action.)

You also think, for some profoundly undecipherable (by me) reason, that I advocate "disengagement." I keep talking about kinds of engagement that don't involve snorkeling the Vatican or the White House or Microsoft World HQ, and you're so busy patronizing me b/c you literally cannot (I won't say refuse to) imagine another view of the world in which the U.S. gov't, the Vatican and Microsoft or its ilk are NOT eternal that you don't even hear me. Disengagement? Bah! I'm engaged, right now, in talking to people vastly more important than Benedict, Bush and Bill: You and others who are Anonymous, which is exactly with whom this all began.

But to you, McDonald's under another name (Chipotle? Ain't got that in Connecticut, yet, I don't think, possibly an insufficient number of Chicanos there?) is much more important than all those African anonymous that bogus Bono claims to "represent" whatever that may mean. (Looks to me like who he really represents is international finance capital, but try getting THAT one onto the table without someone like kobayashi jumping in to explain why those are the true contemporary Saints, engaged as they are in rising all boats, while brother Maru ignores the small but significant holes the Saints have poked in the bottom in all but a select few)

You seem to think your approach is reasonable. I don't. I think the fact that Bono has raised $18 million for Africa presumes all sorts of things that aren't true (starting with the idea that Bono raised it) and in any evenet can't be used to silence ME, any more than the (entirely factual) claim that my family and I have raised $6 million for cancer research and treatment means you don't get to talk about why you thnk we wasted it on studying rare tumors rather than common ones. (I have to think you'd be wrong but they are scientific reasons and thus have damned little to do with THIS discusison, it's another of those troubling metaphor thingies though and I didn't want to distract yuo for too long)

Also, you fail logic big time on this one: "oh and btw you do know that the big flaw in the AdAge piece was they calculated the FULL cost of the one hour show Oprah did on Project Red according to what the market rates might have been if the FULL hour had been used for advertising."
But the full hour WAS an ad. For Red. REcalculate O, oh please do.
Or if you wish to recalibrate entirely, consider it an ad for Red, and for the Righteousness of Bono and Oprah.

No one argues that the Red campaign hasn't turned a profit. What the Ad Age article argues (with some real flaws that I pointed out and probably some I didn't) is whether this campaign is as cost effective as it claims to be. I argue in fact to the contrary. That in generating profits for, e.g., Apple, it is quite effective.
Far from being insane, this method of treating the Oprah show as an infomercial is refreshing and reality-based.

I don't think that generating profit is effective. I think it's wasteful. It is in some cases the only method we have in the near term. I said very little in 1985 about the ways in which the fundraising was done in LiveAid etc b/c at that time, it was not being done as a matter of "increase corporate profits, you will decrease poverty." This is a very old lie and needs to be chalelnged (as it is an article of faith not reason among the capitalists, it cannot be "refuted" in a way capitalist dupes will accept so I certainly don't claim THAT).

I mean, you wnat to talk about illogical (I won't say insane) try this: "The $18 mil figure really represents profits generated for Africa in less than half a year, because although the campaign has been live in *England* for a year, it only got launched in the US more recently."

So you wouldsay that even though Microsoft hasbeen in business more or less two decades or maybe it's three, they're really one showing profits for half a year because they just started doing business in Mali last autumn? This is ludicrous. Red has been in business for one year, not six months. America is not the sole center of the world, and it is certainly the place where the clock starts ticking. (by international convention, that IS England.)

Another muddle: "AdAge published a hatchet job against a figure who is trying to introduce something *other* than a profit motive into advertising."
AdAge actually takes this position because it is well aware of two things: Advertising in this society is all about profit motive, and Red is a profit-driven enterprise. (Ask 'em. Shriver and Bono boast of it, when it suits them to do so.) Red is NOT a charity and it is not a non-profit. So how the fuck do you figure that they are introducing something that does not have a profit motive?

I'll tell you how. Because it's what you want to think. And I'll tell you what I think about that: You're the answer to their prayers when you do that.

Nor is this about tearing Bono down. It's about criticizing an approach which he has chosen to personify. Frankly, I wish Bono wern't in it at all, not because the problem would then go away -- his value is to crystallize the issues--but because then we could talk about the issues not Bono.

You do NOT undersand my values, which are based in the idea that everybody deserves a voice and that no one can come in from anywhere and proclaim that they have the right to speak on anybody else's behalf without permission from that other person. Period, end of story. You show me where Bono got his "right" to speak for africans, this dialogue will change. I don't say it will end. I think he hasn't the slightest right to claim that (and he does claim it: "When I enter the offices of these government officials, I carry fifty million Africans on my back"). My value is, I say what I think and can see; I don't claim that this is what "an AFrican" let alone "50 million Africans" see although if you followed the local African coverage of live8 you will seethat there is considerable sentimetn running in the directin I am espousing. (It is curious that in this, roughly the 40th reponse to what I initially wrote, there is STILL no perception that there is a way of allowing AFRiCANS to chose their own way of going about solving African problems. The "help' must come from the capitalists and the West or maybe China, in fantasy, the next member of the capitalist West.)


As to your three questions at the end, 1 seems to have been answered here, at least to my satisfaction, since I do not in the first place believe that AdAge was wrong and in the second, I think that my perspective on Bono and Red comes from a great many more, much older in most cases, sources than AdAge.

Nor does the profit ratio have anything to do with it; I think that setting up for-profit companies to do "charity" is bad business and does way more to legitimize capital than to save lives. I'm not a social democrat; I odn't htink "little" capital is good and "big" capital is bad. Capitalism is something that gunks up the works of human society. The how and why is not something I can reduce to a blog-response comment, any more than I could reduce to such a comment why cancer is caused by genetic mutation, not harboring sad or angry thoughts.

Do I caution against "any" involvement with elites? Of course not. I have many friends who are rock stars; in some way, Bono and I have never quite been able to disengage ever since I first panned an album of U2's music. (The only such pan I can remember writing, oddly enough.) I have many wealthy and famous friends (relative to most individuals), and I work with elite institutions ranging from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame to Sloan-Kettering. And hell, I know that PRince Korpotkin was an anarchist of great importance, but still a Prince.

What I do NOT do is presume that the way to solve endemic social problems is to rely on the beneficience of elites. I do not believe that insisting that this is the way to world peace and a more balanced prosperity is an honest assessement. (I do not beleive that the prominent people who commonly make this claim in large public forums are innocent of knowing that it is dishonest.) I do not bleive that Angelina Jolie or Madonna or the Pope speak for the poor, because I think that the poor get to appoint their own spokespeople or to speak for themselves individually. (Just like I don't believe that just elites listening to the poor lends you or me our ears, our agency.)

Is this a dead end? It is if you agree with Mr. Maru and such as Dinesh D'Sousza and we are at the so-called 'end of history,' that capitalism's 'triumph' is final and that all that is left is working out a few kinks and details so the flies can crawl out of the African children's eyes and join me and Fidel and Karl in the dustbin.

But I don't believe that and I see reason to believe that another way is possible all around me--in the renascent socialism in South America, in the continued presence of a Cuban government defined by its anti-capitalism and its desire for justice on socialist terms (however far it may fall, as with any other human enterprise, from its goals), in the continual interest in the great anarchist thinker Noam Chomsky, in the refusal of the Chinese workers to entirely succumb to the denial of their rights by renascent capitalism there, in the battles of the Nepali people for something that smells awfully strongly of socialism to me, in the existencceof the World Social Forums, in the music of dozens if not hundreds of rock bands who reject the idea that this sytem is eternal.

Time is short in many ways, particuarly ecologically, and including the imminent threat of nuclear war, but if the species has time, there is no dead end.

But if the world leaders who do not wish the peoples of the world to have no loud voice in their own affairs are abetted simply because they ARE powerful, then I'm wrong. And our species, at least, is finished.

Those are the stakes I see. Red is not heading in the right direction and the smoke and mirrors of what Bono pedals in a more general sense, isn't either. I am tired of having you speak for me or of me speaking for you.

That's why I spend this much time on something that will now be, as is appropriate to the culture of the Internet, chopped up, pried out of context and its incidental details used to avoid the largest questions it raises.

Maybe not everyobdy will do that though. Maybe not you. Maybe not anyone. I write in the hope that I'm wrong at least about the last part.

12:41 PM  
Anonymous O said...

Dave are you familiar with the psychological term "projection"? You are making a number of broad sweeping comments and personalizing them by affixing them to a "You." Since the "you" in question is supposedly me I think it's fair to point out you are wildly off base in trying to characterise my belief system. To the extent that it's worthwhile for us to engage each other let's stick to what each of us has written and not make daft efforts to reduce one another to carricatures.

With that in mind, please note that I can be as careful with words as you are, (you pointedly noted I was "unable" to grasp something that you were *not* saying I "refused" to. I applaud the rhetorical flourish quite appart from finding myself in the unfortuante position of being it's object). With that in mind please take into account the following:

1. I was asking you about your position with regard to engagement with "elites". I did not suggest you favored disengagement. If I had done so, I would be able to understand your level of frustration better. So allow me to be very clear... I did NOT mean to trivialize you, or your beliefs by suggesting you favored disengagement.

What I was asking you... in a heart felt way I thought, was if you were advocating disengagement from "elites" in favor of a pure grassroots form of activism. Again, I never meant to suggest that *You* favored disengagment.

What I tried to explain from there was my concern that if those in a position to perceive the venality any hypocracy of the figures we are *both* deploying rhetorically (the pope et al.) completely disengage them, then I believe they are further empowered to engage the world.

As I write about this more, I realize it is a somewhat narrow distinction I'm drawing, and I can better understand how you misread me.

But I think it's important to be clear I did not mean to say that you favored disengagement. What I was trying to sound you out about was engagement with negativity, or for the sake of simplicity and bevity "evil".

Again I took it for granted your position was one of engagement. What I was interested in was your perspective on whether the best way to engage was by refusing to even take "elites" into account, or whether it made sense to engage them as well *in the process* of trying to engage the problems one seeks to solve.


To be fair you have answered this question, and I appreciate that you did so. I personally would have appreciated it if you'd done so without misreading me and assumming I was "hectoring" you, which in turn seems to have given you the sense it was appropriate to lash out at me.

2. I appreciated the intended humor of your response, and noted in what I wrote that I recognized you were only being rhetorical. In fact the whole point of my post is that I went on to write I believed you had more to say on the topic. It was for *this* reason... to read more of what *you* had to offer, and to learn more about *your* views that I pressed on.

By the way... with the benefit of hindsight, do you not find my engaging your metaphor in such punctilious a way, and making observations about compression circuits in telephones not the least bit funny? I personally thought I was returning your serve, but never with the intent to "hector", rather to keep the ball in play.

Were I interested purely in hectoring you I assure you that I could, and can do a much more effective job of it, and that my capacity for bloated turgid popously grandillioquent attempts to belittle an 'opponent' is equal to or able to surpass the skill you've deployed against me. The point is I never meant to "oppose" you, and still would prefer not to.

On the other hand, if you would like to "throw down" feel free to say so in the next post and I will be happy to unleash the dogs of war and treat you to a far more effective display of hostile rhetoric and personal critique than you appear to believe me capable of.

In the end I will take it as a sort of inadvertent compliment that you were so riled up by what I wrote... but I'd ask that you read my last post again, in a few days, after this thread has cooled down. Since it was not my intention to "hector" you, I have to believe that in a calmer moment it will be possible for you to read my last post and associate the words with inflections closer to those I heard and had in mind when writing.

I wanted to hear more about your point of you. I appreciate your taking the time to provide it. I think it's unfortunate you perceived my intentions with such hostility.

Where you have written more about your point of view I have found this illuminating, where you have written more about "my" point of view you have done nothing more than construct an efigy you can burn in public.

It's a useful rhetorical device if the purpose is to simply rout and demolish anyone who attempts to engage you on ideas... but it's hard to imagine what the point of posting on this blog can be if that's your intent.

So, perhaps there I'm the one who's projecting. So let me encourage you again to read my last post when tempers have cooled, and allow me to remind you that to make broad generalizations about my belief system beyond the specifics of what I've written reflects much more poorly on your intelectual skill and discipline than my own.

I believe if you confine yourself to the substance of what I wrote, and don't attempt to connect my post with some phantom boogy man upon which you can project an entire belief system, you will find a sincere effort to sound you out about your point of view.

To the extent that it helped bring about an impassioned and (as always) well written response on your part I'm glad I took the time to engage you. To the extent that your response stooped to projection and personal critique... well, I will leave it to you and your readers to draw their own conclusions as to how this reflects on your approach and outlook when you are writing about other figures to whom you are ascribing a perspective and point of view without personal knowledge.

Who knows? The approach you've taken with me may even inadvertently reveal something about your assessment of Bono? Again, that will be for your readers to decide.

2:18 PM  
Anonymous O said...

Now that *my* temper has cooled, allow me to write again that I genuinely enjoyed your last post, and appreciate that you took the time to write it. I really do. Again I wish I had not been the "You" you were focusing so much venality on, but since I happen to be in the fortunate position of not resembling that "you" I guess I can let it slide.

Great post Dave. Well written. I'm glad it's here. I'm glad you wrote it. I'm glad I had a hand in bringing it about. Cheers!

2:30 PM  
Anonymous O said...

Hi again... still with temper cool. One place I would continue to engage you is on the back and forth concerning costs in the AdAge piece.

Was the Oprah program an ad for Red? Well, the Oprah program is *always* an ad.

I suspect we are in agreement there, and that is the point you were trying to make to me.

My point was how can AdAge arbitrarily decide to assign cost to the so called "content" portion of Oprah the day it focuses on the Red campaign, and not assign cost on the days Oprah is profiling bottom feeders like James Van Praagh or whomever.

The thing here is that as must happen in any lively debate we need to wade through things a bit to define our terms.

I'm not challenging the corporate swillery of Oprah. I'm pointing out that the people at AdAge who shed light on the failings of the Red Campaign used standards that could be applied to point out the hopelessly arbitrary nepotism at work across the entire marketting system.

Again, as in my post, I'd point out that if the same standards AdAge applied to Red were applied to any author Oprah has spotlighted on her show, it would fast turn out that *none* of those authors has turned a profit relative to the "ad costs" of being featured on Oprah.

Again, as I *hope* I've made clear by taking some umbrage (what more sincere a way of displaying I'm interested in your position and outlook than by taking it to heart?) to what you've written earlier, I'm *not* trying to hector you.

My reason for returning this is not to refute, or "catch" you or anything of the sort.

I'm saying... look I agree that all the so called "content" on commercial televsion is commercial in nature.

If it weren't... THE PEOPLE AT ADAGE WOULD NOT HAVE JOBS!!!

My point is why is a magazine like AdAge suddenly calling out Red for not being profitable when the standards they are using to apply that judgement could be applied just as effectively to any of the products the people at AdAge are employed to hawk?

To me, the AdAge piece seems like a hatchet job, and to me that point is critical.

Why are they "outing" the Red campaing which you *quite correctly* point out is VERY much a capitalist enterprise.

I mean, sure, by their own standards Red hasn't made had a good marketing cost to profit ratio. But then by those same standards *nothing* achieves a good marketing cost to profit ratio.

People at companies like AdAge *SUBSIST* on this fact.

We don't see them publishing exposes on how the costs political candidates have to pay to compete in the political system don't really pan out as being cost effective relative to the votes earned for example.

So I'm puzzled as to why Red was "outed" in this way.

To me it suggests there is some other agenda at work... that there is something about the Red campaign which makes the people at ADAge feel uncomfortable.

From my political persepctive, making the people at AdAge uncomfortable is far from being a black mark against Red.

3:04 PM  
Anonymous O said...

Correction on the above. When I wrote: I'm not challenging the corporate swillery of Oprah.

I meant I'm not challenging Dave when he points out the corporate swillery of Oprah. I agree that this shouw, like all programs on commercial TV is essentially just a commercial. As ad man Rosser Reeves once observed "Television puts a selling machine into every home."

4:20 PM  
Anonymous O said...

Jusdging from your last response to what I wrote, I'm guessing I need to be *VERY* clear in order for you to follow the point I'm trying to make. So I will quote you:

Also, you fail logic big time on this one: "oh and btw you do know that the big flaw in the AdAge piece was they calculated the FULL cost of the one hour show Oprah did on Project Red according to what the market rates might have been if the FULL hour had been used for advertising."
But the full hour WAS an ad. For Red. REcalculate O, oh please do.
Or if you wish to recalibrate entirely, consider it an ad for Red, and for the Righteousness of Bono and Oprah.

No one argues that the Red campaign hasn't turned a profit. What the Ad Age article argues (with some real flaws that I pointed out and probably some I didn't) is whether this campaign is as cost effective as it claims to be. I argue in fact to the contrary. That in generating profits for, e.g., Apple, it is quite effective.
Far from being insane, this method of treating the Oprah show as an infomercial is refreshing and reality-based.


Was the Oprah show for Red an Ad? It depends on who is defining it. When you define it as an ad I am willing to agree completely. I think *every* show of Oprah that profiles a commodity or service can be considered an ad, and it just so happens that nearly every episode of Oprah does.

So ... we are in agreement.

But the point I'm really trying to stress here which you have so far failed to engage (I won't say failed to grasp, if I may borrow one of your rhetorical flourishes and deploy it in a way that extends to you a greater benefit of doubt than you extended me) is that while you and I may be in agreement that an episode of Oprah is an ad... AdAge is *NOT* in the habit of making that distinction.

You yourself demonstrate the capacity to grasp this point when you write:

Far from being insane, this method of treating the Oprah show as an infomercial is refreshing and reality-based.

How could this approach be refreshing if it was the standard approach AdAge used?

The tone of what you are writing seems to me to suggest you are patiently trying tolerating me when in point of fact I'm trying to make an observation which I think you might find interesting.


1. Was the hour of Oprah an ad?

By your standards and mine yes. WE agree.

By AdAge's standards? ONLY in the case of Red. THAT is why this approach strikes you as refreshing.

I really believe there is a point to be made here which you would find interesting if you stay focused on the text of what I'm writing and don't associate it with some pre-judgement of my over arching world view or perspective.

Do we agree that the Oprah show for Red was an ad?

WE AGREE!!!

Is it out of character for AdAge to calculate an hour of Oprah's time as though it were all *just* an ad.

Well it wouldn't be so refreshing that they did it in this instance if they did it all the time now would it?

So... since it was "refreshing" here... does AdAge commonly apply this standard to an hour of "content"?

NO.


It seems to me like we (should be able to) agree on this too.

So:

1. Was the hour of Oprah about Red a commercial?

Dave and O >>> AGREE!!!

2. Did AdAge apply their normal standards to Red when describing an hour of Oprah a a commercial?

NO. Dave and O >>> AGREE!!!!

Why did AdAge change it's standards when reviewing the cost effectiveness of Red?

Let's go further... What if AdAge used that same standard for all the Ad campaigns it regularly reports on?



What I'm saying is... The people at AdAge know full well that running that piece on Red undercut the very business they are in even if you don't seem to have realized it yet.

The people at AdAge can no more afford to continue applying this "Refreshing" standard to all other marketing campaigns than the folks at Rolling Stone can take up the position that writing about Rock music is a waste of time.

For them to write the article about Red >Undercut the very foundations of the industry they are involved with<.

Do I still sound like a naieve marketers dream? ;-)

When you write that this approach is "refreshing" you are acknowledging they have judged Red by a different standard than they use for all the other marketing programs they are in business to profile.


This is the point I'm trying to stress for you.

Not only is AdAge using a "refreshing" standard here... they are using one which can potentially undercut the premise of all the advertising they are in business to profile.

Do you really think the Ad agency for Cadilac or whatever car company gave away cars on the Oprah show wants AdAge factoring in the costs of time spent on Oprah as though it were advertising when profiling the cost effectiveness of their ad campaign?

Do you really think AdAge would do it?

AdAge needs ad agencies in order to stay in business, just as Rolling Stone needs record reviews and artists to write about.

Now, let me be clear, I don't pretend to know your views on Rolling Stone.

But, I'm sure you'd agree that Jan Wiener would have a heart attack if Rolling Stone ran an article along the lines of "Record reviews of latest U2 album pointless. Record reviews in general ineffective and a waste of time."

That's more or less what AdAge did here... and I don't think you are seeing it.

The folks at AdAge ARE capitalists. They ARE concerned with profit... And project Red DOES declare itself to be a capitalist concern interested in making a profit.

All these things you wanted to enlighten me about are things I'm already familiar with.

So then, if Red is one big happy corporate capitalist machine, and AdAge is one big happy corporate capitalist machine... why aren't they playing nicely?

Why the AdAge double standard?

That's the question I think it should be as interesting to ask as any other you have raised.

One answer could be that AdAge is concerned with keeping a culture of advertising agencies, and marketing agencies afloat.

AdAge is no more going to start referring to Oprah as hour of advertising the next time they profile a book or car campaign that gets product placement on Oprah than Rolling Stone is going to publish an expose on how terrible loud volume is for the ears of teen agers.

AdAge took a swipe at Red... They adopted a double standard in the case of Red.

I don't think I'm a marketers dream to see that, because I'm not seeing it based on infatuation with Bono, but because of a hard nosed assessment of the insular hogs at a trough world of marketing and advertising.

Now... it may well be that they took a swipe at Red just because the people at these agenices don't know these new kids, Shiver and Bono horning in on their business.

And it may be that Shriver and Bono are the most callous hypocrites and opportunists, and as you wrote, "con men" in the world.

That *may* be. It may be they are in a turf war with Madison Avenue in order to set up camp their and make a buck.

That could explain AdAge's double standard.

But AdAge's double standard could also stem from the fact that they don't want Red to succeed for other reasons. A lot of those reasons could stem from the way the corporate system currently profits from people *not* being aware of where products are made, or keeping people ignorant of trade barriers between Africa and the rest of the world.

Let me make this super plain... I CAN NOT POSSIBLY KNOW what AdAge's reason is for applying a double standard to Red. Please don't respond with "O You think this means ... " etc. etc... I don't know.

I don't think you know either, not with certainty.

Since much of your original post was based on the Ad Age piece, I think it's intellectually fair and honest to make the double standard Ad Age used in writing it a part of this posting and this exchange.

I can't really say more than that. I'm not trying to say more than that. But I think it's a fair and relevant point to observe that Project Red is NOT being embraced by the Madison Avenue corporate marketing establishment you lambaste it for really representing.

Again, it may be that Red Aspires to be part of that system. It may be AdAge represents the "sharks" and Bono and shriver are with the "jets" and this is just West Side story on Madison avenues east side. If THAT is Bono and Shriver's goal, I would abhor it as an abomination and fraud and con of the most despicable sort.

Truly.

But... for the moment, all I *know* is that Project Red is clearly being taken out to the woodshed by the very system you are trying to castigate it for being in bed with.

That suggests that there is more to the discussion that you have so far acknowledged. Again, that additional componenet may be an ever *greater* share of crassness on the part of Bono than you have suggested.


But to me at any rate, so long as there are people at AdAge who are trying to undercut Project Red, so long as the very Elites we both agree are causing havoc and hardship for much of the world are actively f@#king with Project Red... well to me that suggests this is hardly the path of least resistance for Bono to take.

It seems to me that Bono is taking this difficult path for one of two reasons.

1. He and Shriver are trying to develop a viable presence in the marketing industry, purely for profit, and they are getting batted down by the "Old guard" while they try to set up shop.

*IF* this is the case, then everything you have written about Bono and Project Red is much too mild in my assessment, and these people are the most morally bankrupt manipulators imaginable.

The other possibility is...

2. They are making a sincere attempt to bring about change at a great expenditure of personal energy and effort and without any real need to do so (last I checked they are both fairly well off.)

I don't know which is the correct answer. I suppose even the second option would be unnerving for someone opposed to the capitalist system, as it would set Bono and Shriver up as apologists, or tinkerers with a corupt system designed to help keep in perpetuating itself for longer than it might otherwise survive.

I come to acknowledge that after having read your post, and much as I'd like to make a summation that has a strong rhetorical floursih favoring some position I'm taking, I would say instead that I have found your commentrary to be genuinely thought provoking and interesting.

I'm not trying to follow it here with an refutation, or grand statement. Rather I just wanted to refine the point I was making earlier which your commentary suggested you might have missed, which is that the AdAge piece suggests greater friction between the establishment and Project Red than you had yet acknowledged in what your wrote.

As to what that friction ammounts to, or whether or ammounts to anything only time will tell.

Thanks again for your challenging, thought provoking commentary and for taking the time to engage.

7:24 PM  
Anonymous Dave Marsh said...

O,

I didn't mean it was refreshing for AdAge in particular to write as they did of the Oprah;Bono;Red infomercial. I don't know just what motivated them because I rarely read AdAge, now that I am no longer in the magazine business.

As to the idea that Bono/Shriver's motives could not be mixed except under the exclusive conditions x cited in xr reply, forgive me for reminding x(i am using x and xr instead of second person pronouns that cause such gorge to rise in x) that the phenomenon of cognitive dissonance accounts for it quite nicely. If Bono (Shriver) can insist that the Bush approach to African AIDS relief is successful, while all the nonBush AIDs relief workers on the ground insist that it is catastrophic, he can CERTAINLY justify his own behavior even though it does far more to advance the interests of intenrational capital than to empower Africans to escape the poverty in which their AIDS epidemic is bred. Wouldn't x think, O?

This is, for me, the problem with judging the whole thing on "sincerity." Among the things that rub people the wrong way about my Bono commentary is that I do NOT presume that sincerity helps at all in reaching good results.

I also don't presume that Bono is "sincere" in wanting to "help" Africans (and Africans probably ought to be in quote marks too as there are no more "Africans" than there are "West Indians," there are very specific groups there that get steamrollered in this nomenclature).

But let us assume that Bono is utterly sincere--what does this make him except wrong and as resistant to criticism as his pal from Crawford? The irreducible fact is, he and others have been trying this approach for 20 years (since LiveAid) of 200 (since the first colonists from Europe arrived on that continent) and things have not gotten better. They've gotten worse. Why doesn't anyone want to discuss this?

Well, dammit, I'm done being cruel so I'm certainly not going to imply that the reason for that is MORE cognitive dissonce, on someone else's part, because that might be interpreted as a projection from a positionless philospher on the attack. Heaven forfend! (I love ad hominem arguments that use convolutions to avoid stating the ad hominem in images that can be quite nailed down. Terribly skillful.)

Is AdAge is in contradiction when it posits all of a particular Oprah show as an infomercial? Hard for me to tell, as I don't watch the program except to sometimes monitor her current libels of hip-hoppers. I WILL say that I think--no, I know--that writing off all commercial televsion as advertising is silly for two reasons: a) there is sometimes content that over-reaches the ads (e.g, let's say, Joan of Arcadia, Buffy the Vampire Slyer) b) this lets off the hook whole channels worth of propaganda (e.g, the loathsome sanctimony of PBS right down to the bunkum emitting from the last hair on Ken Burns's faux historical chinny chinny chin).

In any event, I did appreciate observing over those several posts xr process in arriving at a distilled question. Probably, not unlike me, x would do these as drafts if writing in a different kind of forum and we would see only the final result. But that is perhaps mere projecting, not even conjecture but further evidence of my shallow Isince there is no depth to a positionless wretch's aggressive commentary) seated tendency to projection.

I didn't really intend to give the kind of offense I guess I gave, and if x wants and needs to read it that way, I cna only say, and certainly not in my defense since it isn't necessarily defensible (or allthat much in need of defense) that it is pretty clear to me, rereading myself, that my process lead me from snottiness to something more seriously considered--O's process in one post instead of four or five. But that is probably me projecting again, and as I am, apparently, positionless, I don't want to appear on the attack when merely trying to explain what I see as some similarity between O's position and mine that O didn't mention (although not to give further offense, I won't say O didn't perceive).

I would apologize if it were conceivable to do so without invoking one of those irritating pronouns. Probably is, but hey, why take the risk of making a nasty situation worse? I am quite sure that what I say here about Bono/Shriver/Red and cognitive dissonance and all that will lead to more psychological invective.

Ending nasty this time is, I am fairly certain, a way of giving up.

7:54 AM  
Anonymous O said...

The deploymenet of the annecdote about a philosophy professor being positionless and on the attack was juxtaposed with the observation that I did not believe this to be true of you. It was included in a post which tried to sound you out further about your point of view. It was used, quite admitedly, to goad you into providing more about your position.

This you have done to the extent it is possible within this forum and exchange.

I have not carefully planned out or edited my posts, rather I have responded largely in the moment and off the cuff. I believe the essence of what makes blogging interesting is that it is still in it's nascence and any ettiquette which may some day apply to blogging has yet to ossify.

At the end of the day I think the merrits of argument trump ettiquette. While I am myself circumspect about the quality of my posts, I am mindful of the reults they have produced, insofar as you have passionately fleshed out your original posting in ways that, to my mind, lend it greater depth and color.

So I would say, despite your determination to quibble with me about who is projecting what upon whom, that you have proven yourself to be the better side of the coin I described above. You clearly have a position, and you have articulated it well.

1:52 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Dave-

It appears that you are now only trading arguments with someone on subjects far removed from the original blog.

For all the evolved thinking you profess to have, I would simply point out that your underlying confrontationist approach is what has perpetuated most human conflict throughout the ages, and it has mostly hindered the pursuit of the enlightenment that WE (you and I) seek.

Taking the mirror image position of what you proscribe to be the root cause, while absolutelty critical in balancing out cases of extremism and fundamentalism, has rarely resulted in signifincant change.

The job is to convince the moderate view, which is (thankfully) the majority opinion, to adopt change.

You do not achieve that by clobbering people on the head with an idea.

(RED) is far from a panacea, but it's an idea that doesn't simply seek to preach to the choir-

ex. The Civil Rights movement was not a case of defeating racists and biggots- it was only 'successful' because proponents appealed to the masses, even those with an iota of open- mindedness, to move away from the idea that all humans were not created equally.

An oversimplified example, but that's the language being spoken here.

12:36 PM  
Anonymous Dave Marsh said...

Greg:
If you really want to argue, let's take a look at a third perspective.

Then, last week, someone from the Tax Justice Network emailed me with a link to this (http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2007/03/16/bono-promoting-tax-havens-using-our-data/)

Bono’s rag - promoting tax havens, using our data

As is well known, Bono bought part of Forbes magazine through his interest in Elevation Partners, a private equity firm.

Bono is, as is now well known, a fan of tax avoidance. The New York Times, amongst others, have noticed that fact.

So it’s no surprise to find Bono’s rag promoting tax havens as a panacea in an article published today. Take this as an example of the attitude:

Monaco and Gibraltar are among our most miniscule tax havens, but there’s no need to feel confined. If you tire of the gambling, sunbathing and nightclubbing to be had in Monaco itself — which may take a while — the French Riviera is just a short convertible drive away.


And how is this life of excess paid for? Easy! As Bono’s rag says:

[There] may be luxury prices, but it’s a small price to pay for the tax breaks. Non-profit group Tax Justice Network estimates that offshore tax havens shielded over $255 billion in global tax revenue in 2006, a number roughly equal to a third of India’s overall GDP.

So there we have it. Bono’s rag takes our work on the links between tax havens and poverty so seriously that it uses it to promote the tax havens. That’s a definition of moral bankruptcy if ever I saw one.

That's not ME making the distinctly un-moderate assessment of "moral bankruptcy." That's a group of which Bono thinks enough to cite its data, albeit (and not untypically) in a dishonest fashion.

Now, let's take a look at what your post has to say:

"The job is to convince the moderate view, which is (thankfully) the majority opinion, to adopt change.

You do not achieve that by clobbering people on the head with an idea."

How does that description NOT describe Red and Bono as its exemplar?

As it happens, I have spent the last several years studying the music of the civil rights movement, thus necessarily those who fought in it and those who fought against. What you claim ("The Civil Rights movement was not a case of defeating racists and biggots- it was only 'successful' because proponents appealed to the masses, even those with an iota of open- mindedness, to move away from the idea that all humans were not created equally.") is delusional.

There is no evidence that I can see as I live my life in our segregated cities, watching rich public figures make continual demeaning statements about poor people of color that your last sentence isn't particularly offensive to reason.

And what you don't know about the strategy and tactics of the movement is mind-boggling. Do you think marching without permits in Birmingham, forcing continual straight-up confrontations with white supremacy and its police and terrorists was the middle road? Do you even think that LBJ signed the Voting Rights Act out of a sense that public attitude had changed? (His comment after the signing was to the effect that he had just signed away the South to the Republican Party for the next generation.)

The successes of the Southern civil rights movement (however incomplete) were won the way all wars are won: By taking strong positions and confronting the enemy. LBJ did what he had to do, and it wasn't the NAACP winning a court battle in 1954 that made it necessary, it was people doing exactly what the moderates counseled against.

Go ahead and argue with that but I'd suggest you bone up first b/c further such piffle is likely to truly annoy me into an intemperance even grosser than what's on display here, as always when liberals lie about the history of change.

8:36 AM  
Anonymous Kobayashi Maru said...

So there we have it. Bono’s rag takes our work on the links between tax havens and poverty so seriously that it uses it to promote the tax havens. That’s a definition of moral bankruptcy if ever I saw one.

You're fiating the argument that tax havens are equivalent to moral bankruptcy without offering any sort of justification. This is nonsense. I grant that we have a moral obligation to pay taxes insofar as we have congruent legal obligations to pay taxes, but that's a moot point, because U2 no longer have a legal obligation to pay taxes on their royalties in Ireland. I don't think that paying taxes is a moral act above and beyond the implicit compliance with the legal and civil contracts governing society. Put another way, U2 are not on the face of it less moral because they choose to pay taxes on their royalties (as opposed to their salaried income or their property) in the Netherlands rather than Ireland. A more scenario-specific response would be that their music, which is bought and listened to by a global audience, is not tied to a specific country, so there's no principled reason why said royalties should be located in Ireland rather than somewhere else.

Non-profit group Tax Justice Network estimates that offshore tax havens shielded over $255 billion in global tax revenue in 2006, a number roughly equal to a third of India’s overall GDP.

That's the equivalent of arguing that it's a moral travesty that Ruth Chris's loses money to the Sizzler down the street because Sizzler undercuts their prices. Tax competition is decidedly amoral. It's easy to see why Monaco, a country that could fit inside Central Park, might be a bit strained in attracting investment through, say, a robust technological sector, and so would turn to being tax competitive in order to attract capital.

The blog you linked to was mostly plutophobic rubbish, but to be fair they did attempt to make more than a one-line contention regarding U2:

I’d like U2 to answer these questions. Do you want to:

1. stop capital flight from Africa?


Me: Capital flight from Africa due to tax havens is but a tiny fraction of the number Dave cited above. Think about it: Africa has its share of wealthy people with sophisticated portfolios, no doubt, but it pales next to the number of those from North America, Europe, and Asia. Proportionally and in absolute forgone-revenue terms, tax havens hurt rich countries more than they do poor, by the rule of... well, simple arithmetic, really. Besides, even if this weren't the case , I could make a strong argument that paying taxes to your run-of-the-mill African thug dictator actually would be immoral.

2. prevent achievement of the Millennium Development Goals?

Me: A valid point... IF it were true that the Irish government gives a higher proportion of its annual budget in foreign aid (and, specifically, Millennium Development projects) than Bono does his royalty income... or, to be more accurate, half his royalty income, because that's what would be confiscated in taxes were Bono to keep his songs registered in Ireland. Except... oops, it doesn't. Ireland pretty consistently donates .41% of its Gross National Income (1.5% of its budget) in foreign aid. That's high relative to other public finance policies (the U.S. fraction is less than that, I'm fairly sure), but pitifully low by general philanthropic and Bono-specific standards.

Bottom line: Africa gets more money if Bono keeps more of his.

3. undermine democracy?

Me: Hyperbolic claptrap. I suppose Bono is fomenting nuclear war as well?

4. deny healthcare, education and opportunity to people around the world?

Me: Again, a gross exaggeration. The only people who may suffer would be the people of Ireland, since they reap the benefits of tax revenue. Even then, there is no marginal impact to the Irish, because, and here's the kicker, U2 haven't been taxed on their royalties up to this point. Ireland is no worse off.

5. encourage lawlessness by promoting the abuse of regulation?

Me: A fallacious argument. Akin to saying "Minimum wage laws are morally flawed because they encourage employers to circumvent the law and hire people under the table." Consequences are important, yes, but I would hardly equate the threat of fraud with "lawlessness." It's called "enforce the damn law and prosecute the people who break it."

6. be seen to be pariahs from a country that is already itself a tax haven?

Me: So wait, are U2 overly image conscious, or not image conscious enough?

This whole conversation is a salient argument for a economics requirement in college curriculum. Seriously, too many otherwise-smart people just willingly drink the Kool Aid when it comes to actual fiscal and policy substance. Don't believe everything you read, and don't accept "gotcha" journalism, especially on the Internet, and especially on blogs.

7:10 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Dave-

I realize I am no way near as eloquent a writer as you or Kobayashi, so my apologies if it looks labored.

I read Forbes occasionally, I don’t rate it highly for content, and its supposed audience is the world’s richest individuals and those who strive to join the club. But I know that Forbes.com was the target investment, and I believe there will be an influence on its editorial slant- 2 Elevation partners are on the company (though not editorial) board.

If you want the attention of the so-called ‘corporate masters’, you can protest in the streets outside the building, or you get the pass that lets you in.

Ever been on a team with people who don’t share your philosophies or beliefs? I think you have, but you hated it.

And from now on, don’t ever Google anything again, because it’s people like McNamee who’ve taken calculated risks and funded these ideas. (Still though… what about those ultra-violent game titles?)

I agree, the NL tax deal is a bit hard to swallow. For the record, U2 pays its U.S. tax; it has decided to continue not paying Irish tax on its revenues. It’s a 5 person group, with equal votes. Could have been a unanimous decision- don’t know. I also don’t know what Bono does with his gross euros, do you? It’s just ammunition for you; it’s not black and white to me.

There are tons of corporate tax loopholes. There is no benchmark in US history where tax avoidance was ever eradicated, as you know tax evasion was part of the foundation of the country’s creation, and I’ll bet easy money it never will- although it should, within reason- $1 trillion in offshore assets is abusive.

Realistically, avoiding tax will always exist and the system will always allow it- that’s Econ. 101. So, what if there was a draconian law that stated that all for-profit enterprises had to donate a portion of their revenue to programs, such as the Global Fund? Equally unrealistic. Any other suggestions?

“There is no evidence that I can see as I live my life in our segregated cities…”

In one of your books, it’s written that you live in CT- (hahahaha- bite your tongue if you live in a suburb). Seriously- there is an imbalance, but isn’t ‘segregated’ a bit Dickensian? What cities do you live your life in? I’ll boycott them…

But Dave- have you ever set foot in any of the sub-Saharan countries Bono has been and returns to? Might it be possible that a trip to some of those places might change your outlook and sense of emergency? Where immediate action trumps an ideal?

“Do you think marching without permits in Birmingham, forcing continual straight-up confrontations with white supremacy and its police and terrorists was the middle road? Do you even think that LBJ signed the Voting Rights Act out of a sense that public attitude had changed?”

And just who participated in, and supported those acts of civil disobedience? A homogeneous group of people, with a homogeneous political and economic philosopy, or a diverse representation of the U. S. population united in their belief?

Was it just black people and ‘socialists’ like yourself who made a change? Or was it blacks, whites, jews, christians, catholics, buddhists, communists, socialists, ‘capitalists’, democrats, republicans etc.. who shared different values, and approaches to accomplishing the same goal?

Those marches and the strict adherence to non-violence were made with one overriding goal: to create national and international awareness. That is, let people who otherwise wouldn’t care or profess an opinion, know what was going on and involve them, even if it was just a topic of conversation. It was all about: get on the evening news, the newspapers, the radio. The job was to convince the moderate view.

Hey, the music was a great part of it, but you’ve arrived to another slanted conclusion of the chronology and events.

“(His (LBJ’s) comment after the signing was to the effect that he had just signed away the South to the Republican Party for the next generation.)

Well, he still signed it, didn’t he?! Do yourself a favor and read how the Civil Rights Act was passed through congress. And notice both the Democrat and Republican Yea/Nay split.

http://www.cnn.com/US/9610/16/lbj.tapes/index.html

“By taking strong positions and confronting the enemy.”

Exactly! I disagree with your broad definition of the enemy, I disagree with your approach- but I agree that your way of doing things does matter. The problem is, you criticize other people’s efforts. I’ve written before that we probably have more in common than not, so- do you want to be taken seriously?

Seems to me all you are saying is that only one point of view matters in remedying global poverty- so in a sense; you are to global poverty what Malcolm X was to Civil Rights.

It’s not naïve at all, Dave, to suggest that instead of only boycotting (not a panacea), you spend your money on something you were going to buy anyway with a company that’s going to make a contribution to what you believe in (not a panacea). Would it be that bad if more companies did the same? After all it, if it is tax write-off to them- why wouldn’t they!

12:38 AM  
Anonymous Dave Marsh said...

Well, greg, if you think Kobayashi's a swell writer ("plutophobic rubbish," as if hating the plutocratic rich is something to apologize for! Kobayashi probably just hates it isn't him that's rich. But I digress)

Evaluate Forbes and its website how you will but there is ZERO evidence that Bono & Co. Inc intend to have either rag or site change their editorial perspective--indeed, Bono specifically praised the Forbes outlook in interviews when the purchase was made.

This is what I mean by cognitive dissonance. They've owned the bloody thing for six fucking months, there's not a HINT that they're going to do other than what they've been doing, they've never uttered a syllable to suggest such a thing, and yet you've convinced yourself that it's really A-OK for Bono to wield a Capitalist Tool because he doesn't really mean to wield like a Bad Capitalist.

And this twaddle: "If you want the attention of the so-called ‘corporate masters’, you can protest in the streets outside the building, or you get the pass that lets you in."

The janitorial staff each has a pass like that. Does it do much good, do you think?

I'm sick of saying it but there are other things to do: You could (but I don't advocate) blow up the building; you could ignore the building and work with the people that the building's owners and tenants dislocated, robbed, poisoned, unemployed, et cetra to try to get justice; you could stand outside the building and read aloud from Jose Saramago's The Cave, which would address the issue very directly if you were allowed to continue long enough; you could picket the building. And so forth. You mention the latter. You don't mention the likelihood of gettign arrested for doing so. (This is a country where war protesters attending political events are sometimes literally put in CAGES.)

You posit two alternatives as if they are the only two. Have you no imagination, at the very least?

As to teams I've been on, i have never been on one where the people don't share my philosophies or beliefs on the topic at hand. I can work with people who believe in God, but not to foster belief in God or any other superstition, for instance. You seem to think i am obliged to help (or at least not attack) people who are doing things I perceive to be harmful, in the name of comity and practicality. Piffle.

Bigger piffle: The idea that because the most popular search engines were developed by capitalist entrepreneurs my position insists they be boycotted. I've stated here more than once that I work with elites, and this is an example of how we all do.

What I do NOT do is what Sir Bono does, which is advocate FOR the elites. I advocate for something else. And I point out things that elite advocates like to ignore. For instance, rather than worrying about the phony social crisis of violent video game titles, I worry about the genuine social crisis of the violence directed at the people who try to organize workers at various corporations in the Red family. I really do. You could too, if you just went and looked at some of the anti-sweatshop web sites.

Let me reverse your advice: You SHOULD use search engines and get yourself better informed on such topics. Get rid of this fake concept of benign capitalism.

Another example of cognitive dissonance is reading the stuff I posted on taxes and seeing only an argument about what constitutes just taxation or some damnfool thing. Whereas, the point is, these people are so unscrupulous that they will lie and twist all evidence, having stood this batch on its head without apparent protest from the new ownership (which figures since it fits new ownership's policies and practices to a T).

Segregated isn't a bit Dickensian, it's a very accurate description of Norwalk CT and the other places I've maintained residences. It's segregated economically, and the economics reflect the system of white supremacy that has reigned in this country almost as long as capitalism. (Longer than industrial capitalism.)

If you don't know that, walk around a bit where you DO NOT live. See who you see; see who you don't see. (If you're terrified of walking around, drive around.)

It is no more more indispensable to write about social justice in Africa w/o touring those nations than it is for Stephen Crane to have written The Red Badge of Courage without fighting in a war, or for that matter, my writing a book about Bruce Springsteen without playing a guitar or writing a song. This is desperate, back against the wall nonsense.

What I probably have done is talk to a fuck of a lot more Africans about Africa than Bono and you would like me to do. I don't hear uniform reports; I also do not attempt to conceal those people so only I am heard. E.g. in my book on the Sun City record, and on my radio show.

I'llget to the rest of this later. Late for a social engagmeent. Imagine THAT.

9:21 PM  
Anonymous Kobayashi Maru said...

Another example of cognitive dissonance is reading the stuff I posted on taxes and seeing only an argument about what constitutes just taxation or some damnfool thing. Whereas, the point is, these people are so unscrupulous that they will lie and twist all evidence, having stood this batch on its head without apparent protest from the new ownership (which figures since it fits new ownership's policies and practices to a T).

No Dave, the problem is that you read (I'm assuming) the articles you posted without taking a deep breath and just asking why, exactly, paying taxes in the Netherlands rather than Ireland is some sort of moral travesty (and pace your last comment, how they "lie[d] and twist[ed] all evidence"). I have to disagree with greg and protest that I'm not eloquent, but I will say that I raised several objections to this line of reasoning that, thus far, remain unanswered.

But by all means, if paying taxes is such a moral act, why don't you just tithe to the U.S. Government instead of the Global Fund?

And yes, Dave, hating the rich just for being rich pretty much is something to apologize for. What other groups do you hate based solely on who they are?

What I do NOT do is what Sir Bono does, which is advocate FOR the elites.

Well, first off, this is probably the most transparently ridiculous statement you've made to date. Bono advocates to the elites. If Bono were advocating for the elites, he'd be just another MBA pitching projects whose sole purpose was profit. Now, RED may make a profit, but that's just a carrot to get these firms to sign on and stay involved. Profit is tertiary to the main purpose of augmenting the Global Fund and the secondary purpose of giving these firms a halo effect.

But secondly, since you've snuck in more than your fair share of ideology in this discussion, let me take a page from your playbook and say that by peddling immoderate socialism, you are advocating for the elites... just a different elite than those that arise through capitalism. No country based primarily on a socialist model has ever helped "the people" more than it did some narrow political clique. Pure socialism, whether wielded by Castro, Lenin, Chavez, whomever, is just a tool of control. Witness what Chavez is doing right now: changing the Constitution to eliminate term limits, cracking down on press freedoms, etc... my God, he's not just a thug, he's such an obvious thug. And who do you think suffers from broken democracy? Propagandized media? Seized property? Not Chavez. Not his inner circle. Not the socialist elites, Dave. The people suffer.

The countries of the world where "the people" are doing best -- be it measured by GDP-per-capita, human development, income inequality, etc. -- are not coincidentally the ones built on foundations of democracy and a market economy. Most have social insurance programs layered on top, but make no mistake about it: even the celebrated Scandinavian nations have overwhelmingly private and capitalist economies (Nokia? IKEA?).

The same is true of developing countries. Again, no coincidence that the sub-Saharan African countries that have developed the most are those with stable governments, free-market economies, and property rights: Botswana & South Africa to name two. They have problems to be sure, but "the people" are by any measure happier, healthier, and wealthier in those countries than in the rest of Africa. The only way to reverse that progress would be to censor the media, cancel elections, and seize property: a.k.a. the extreme-socialist/Mugabe approach to "development".

Before you pop a vein, Dave, let me just conclude by stating that I am neither foolish nor heartless enough to advocate unbridled capitalism, nor to forgive the sins of those who do. Pinochet was just as much as a gangster as Castro is, free market policies be damned. I do wonder though how you rhyme your rhetoric about "the people" with the beyond-human failings of the Castro regime, i.e. the lack of democracy, the thousands of gays, Jehovah's Witnesses, and political opponents imprisoned and executed in the UMAPs, the perennial shortages of food and basic necessities. Isn't this a bit of a steep price to pay for health care that, while good, is still subpar to what Western Europe and Canada have achieved?

The bottom line, Dave, is that you can believe whatever you want to believe... just don't justify it by saying it's what "the people" want. That's a crock of shit. You speak for "the people" about as much as Bono does, or the angsty white suburban teenagers who listen to the music you review: that is, not at all. Honest disagreements are one thing, but cheap-iconoclasm-as-blogging is something else entirely.

11:45 PM  
Anonymous Dave Marsh said...

Greg,
Just to finish up: The image you present of the homogenous group marching in the streets of Birmingham Ala. for civil rights for Negroes in 1963 is a fine one.

You assert by pretending to ask: "And just who participated in, and supported those acts of civil disobedience? A homogeneous group of people, with a homogeneous political and economic philosopy, or a diverse representation of the U. S. population united in their belief?

"Was it just black people and ‘socialists’ like yourself who made a change? Or was it blacks, whites, jews, christians, catholics, buddhists, communists, socialists, ‘capitalists’, democrats, republicans etc.. who shared different values, and approaches to accomplishing the same goal?"

You've obviously never seen (or bothered to look at more than superficially) a single photograph from the Birmingham movement. The answer to your question is the opposite of what you think it is: It was as close to 100% Negroes as you could imagine. Indeed, if we had a competition where we looked at, say, the Eyes on the Prize PBS series and gave me a penny for every black face, and you a dollar for every non-black face, at the end I would be as much richer than you as Bono is than a random baby band with its first album out and traveling in a van with three bald tires.

Yes, all the types you mention DID get involved in the civil rights marches covered by the press. It is possible that at the Great March on Washington white middle-class reactionary types like Charlton Heston were outnumbered no more than 20 to 1 by black poor progressives. If you look at the front rows of the march in Selma across the Edmund Pettis Bridge -- the third, successful march, not the first two that the cops terrorized and battered--you will see virtually every social type you mention. If you look at the back rows, nearly all black.

In the day to day, it was about 90%-100% black in most places. And I mean, all you have to do is look at the pictures. For that matter ,what you could do--much more productively than wasting your time flapping your jaws like this--is go to Birmingham, take a look at the documentary evidence in the civil rights museum there, and then walk across the street, through the park where the cops turned the dogs and the water cannons on the marchers and see the statue of that "confrontation" (police riot, more accurately). All the people beating and torturing the protesters are white as represented here; all the protesters are black. No one has ever claimed that this representation is inaccurate, for the very simple reason that it is accurate.

We subscribe to some insane myths in this country--we believe it is integrated because black people wait on white people in all sorts of establishments, and black people who are wealthy can run for high offfice and sometimes even achieve it, and a dozen other reasons while ignoring every contradictory piece of evidence, from the indices of infant mortality to statistics on income, education, and what color baby dolls 3 to 6 year olds prefer.

I thank you for the great compliment in comparing me to Malcolm X but you are so ignorant about that that you think it an insult. You are deeply ignorant on this stuff, and it has everything to do with why Bono and the rest get away wit htheir stunts in Africa (uniquely, Africa) and why our nation has for a very long time lived in a suicidal fantasy--suicidal on the part of white folks, not black folks.

You could learn a great deal from looking at the photographs Ernest Withers took of the movement, from the Emmett Till case to the Selma March, or from reading James Baldwin, the poet of the idea in the previous paragraph. You won't, though. You will continue to look at, for instnace, what LBJ had to say and read nothing but rumor about what Malcolm had to say (and did) and know nothing about who wrote and sang and did what in the day to day of the civil rights movement, among many other social movements.

And because of that, Bono is the false prophet you very much deserve. He's counting on you not waking up. Just in case you doubt it, I believe this discourse has very clearly established that there is not a kiss, a caress or blow to the snout that could awaken you. Certainly, you shall receive no more from me on these matters. May we allsurvive the depth of such willful ignorance.

4:59 AM  
Anonymous Dave Marsh said...

kobayashi,

Since you claim to be a Catholic, you should consider that beating off like this--especially in public--is probably a mortal sin.

And to do it during Lent!

Fidel himself might weep at the consequences.

5:02 AM  
Anonymous Kobayashi Maru said...

Oh SNAP Dave! You are so droll. You do realize, though, that I was just following your lead, right? So I guess we're just two grown men splooging in a hot tub. Hey, I'm game if you're game... it's not like I'm that Catholic.

Besides, it's not as if Catholicism is, like, legal or anything in Cuba right now, so it's a moot point anyway.

11:48 AM  
Anonymous Dave Marsh said...

Kobayashi,

Out of the tub, off to Google, to find out that Catholicism in Cuba has been legal for more than a decade. Interesting that you are willing to ignore and defend any perfidy of a capitalist state but as Cuba makes reform, you remain determinedly invested in lying about what's happened there.

Yes you will find a lot of people who say that Catholicism is under pressure from the atheist Cuban state. Try being an atheist in Ameica for a spell before you feel all smug and superior again.

9:44 AM  
Anonymous Kobayashi Maru said...

Way to miss the forest for the trees, Dave. But for what it's worth, you're right. I misspoke. Technically, Catholicism is "legal" in Cuba. That paragon of accuracy, Wikipedia, even reports that 45% of the population subscribe to it. Funny, then, that the proportion of Catholics in the government and the Communist Party is a tiny fraction of that. I guess 45% doesn't qualify as "the people", eh Dave?

I actually like listening to Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, etc. The public atheists making the rounds these days are smart people, even if I still do disagree with their fundamental conclusions and do think that they get more than a little smug sometimes. But the whole atheists-as-victims schtick is overstated. Yes, I expect... nay, know that in some areas of this country, people see religion as their best available proxy for evaluating a candidate's integrity (I also expect that you and I would both agree to reject this outright. At least we agree on something!). But in most areas of the country, atheism doesn't pose much of social problem, and in many regions wouldn't pose an insurmountable political problem, either... at the very least, I don't get why atheism should be our focus when blacks still aren't represented in fair proportions, let alone women, gays, etc. Only recently did the percentage of Americans who said they wouldn't vote for a white male Catholic (just to bring this conversation full circle) dip under 10%. So we've got a long way to go on all fronts.

Interesting that you are willing to ignore and defend any perfidy of a capitalist state

Way ahead of you Dave. I already refuted that in my second-to-last post. Which, ostensibly, is what you were responding to. Hmmm... Speaking of "lying"...

2:40 PM  
Anonymous Dave Marsh said...

From Howard Zinn's column in this week's issue of The Progressive (available online for those not willingly to be terrorized by the ragtag remnants of anticommunism)

I am reminded of the situation at the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, when the black delegation from Mississippi asked to be seated, to represent the 40 percent black population of that state. They were offered a “compromise”—two nonvoting seats. “This is the best we can get,” some black leaders said. The Mississippians, led by Fannie Lou Hamer and Bob Moses, turned it down, and thus held on to their fighting spirit, which later brought them what they had asked for. That mantra—“the best we can get”—is a recipe for corruption.

1:38 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Dave-

Again,

You’ve obviously never lived in a Socialist country, Dave. THAT would be indispensable for someone promoting the end of capitalism.

“I absolutely believe that we would live in a very great civilization without the profit motive.”

That’s fine, but unfortunately it has no basis in human nature and history. Throughout civilization, the overwhelming motive for any endeavor has been to improve one’s position (based on the individuals’ own values). Any imposed system of regulation (socialism, communism, facism etc..)- because it does cut against the most basic of human natures- the subjective pursuit of happiness (knowledge, wealth etc…) - has either failed or has had to usurp basic human rights to exist.

Please give me an example where that has not been the case-

“I've stated here more than once that I work with elites, and this is an example of how we all do.”

Yea- that’s called having to compromise, or trying to make things happen given the system (ie RED). Or selective convenience. Or a double standard. What’s your definition?

“Segregated isn't a bit Dickensian, it's a very accurate description of Norwalk CT and the other places I've maintained residences. It's segregated economically, and the economics reflect the system of white supremacy that has reigned in this country almost as long as capitalism. (Longer than industrial capitalism.)”

Which part of Norwalk do you live in?

(It would be nice if things like search engines didn’t cost anything to create, or if people made things just for other people to share, or if back in the day the people of Norwalk harvested oysters for free.)

“If you don't know that, walk around a bit where you DO NOT live. See who you see; see who you don't see. (If you're terrified of walking around, drive around.)”

You have no idea. Your myopic view confirms that you simply don’t understand people who don’t think like you. It’s clear why you are frustrated.

“I also do not attempt to conceal those people so only I am heard. E.g. in my book on the Sun City record-“

What is your evidence of ‘concealment’?
What happened to the book proceeds? Did the book company cover its costs first- did the stores that sold it take a cut? What cultural impact did the Sun City record have, in terms of your view on Live Aid? (I believe both were great.)

You’ve clearly gone deep down one path and closed yourself to the big picture.

On the one hand, you have a very exact description of what black people went through in the beginning, and the resulting Civil Rights Act (though we agree, hardly a panacea) on the other- but what’s in the middle of the equation? How do you fill that part in?

I understand your point about the pictures taken of the marches, I never thought otherwise- but what happened between that time and LBJ signing the bill?

Passage in the House of Representatives:
‘On the return from the winter recess, however, matters took a significant turn. The President's public advocacy of the Act had made a difference of opinion in congressmen's home districts, and soon it became apparent that the petition would acquire the necessary signatures. To prevent the humiliation of the success of the petition, Chairman Smith allowed the bill to pass through the Rules Committee.’
The Senate version, voted on by the House:
• Democratic Party: 153-91 (63%-37%)
• Republican Party: 136-35 (80%-20%)
Don’t try to intellectualize- Malcolm X had a more extreme, non-unifying approach to MLK’s position, and sticking to my belief, as I’ve stated previously in terms of yours, they all have their place when it comes to fighting the shared enemy. So comparing you to Malcolm X was not intended as insult because it couldn’t be, but I can understand that your psychology would lead you to think that I was.

As for Bono, he’s hardly a prophet and he doesn’t need me to defend him. Clearly you’re too clever to be fooled, unlike Bishop Tutu, Mandela, Chuck D., Quincy, Coretta Scott King “We are fortunate this year to honor Bono for exemplifying many of the qualities that my husband, Martin, indicated were imperative to moving our society into the beloved community of which he so often spoke…” etc… etc…etc…

11:37 PM  
Anonymous nbcfu2 said...

Marsh (Snippet):

I think that Bono's activities, including his purchase of Forbes because he likes its pro-capitalist ideology, says what side he is on. If Bono is a qualiltatively different rock star, this is probably the main place where you could prove it. (end Snippet).

You do live in a Capitalist society, yes, DM?

If it's that offensive - and I agree in general, it can be offensive - then, why not live in either Cuba or China, where you could better practice your preferred political doctrine?

Because, the news has long been that, outside of academia and liberal publications, no one else in this country (or the West) really gives a hoot about Limousine-Liberals and Saks 5th Ave. Socialism.

As Arcade Fire put it, WAKE UP!

:)

12:19 AM  

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