Sunday, April 30, 2006

Find the Money!

Tired of that let-down feeling you get when the last Easter egg is found? Hungry for more hide-and-seek adventure? How about joining the first annual Atheist Spring Games? This is just the seed of an idea at present, organizers and contestants of all denominations and non-denominations are welcome. Write me with suggestions if there is any way that you would like to participate.

Since it’s my idea, I get to go first. I’m proposing a little game of “Find the Money.”
Rules: Figure out who winds up with money donated to some cause. Points are awarded for each recipient of revenue identified. Extra points are awarded for completeness of information in the following categories:
1. Identifying by name the Principal business owners that receive income.
2. Identifying actual dollar amounts received for goods or services rendered.
3. Identifying any Human Rights violations, alleged or proved that any of the businesses held by the above Principals have been accused of.

Playing field: The chosen target for this game is the FEBC (Far East Broadcasting Company). This group just sent me a flyer (and a donation envelope) announcing the launch of “Operation Good News” (zero points for originality).

“Through Operation Good News, FEBC is seeking to purchase and distribute (10,000) wind-up radios deep into Communist China. These radios can pick up the FEBC’s gospel broadcasts without the use of batteries or electricity.”

It seemed such a waste, sending those nice marketing materials to me (extra points available for identifying their printer and printing costs). This little game seemed the perfect way to give meaning to the experience. All you have to do to play is identify yourself as being “in”, and start digging. I will keep the game open for two weeks, with an extension of one more on request. Even if I am the only player, I will conclude the game with more information on the FBEC. Here’s a bit of a head-start for those interested in playing the game.

“News headlines for September 1st 2003 Mission Network News is brought to you in part by MTS TRAVEL and LUFTHANSA, leaders in providing special fare airline tickets for the missions community. To receive a free airfare quote for your short-term missions group or individual missions travel, please visit and click MISSION FARE SAMPLER or MTS TRAVEL Offices to contact one of our 11 nationwide Travel Service Centers.

(International)--A missionary radio ministry has a new leader today. Jim Bowman, President of Far East Broadcasting Company[3] and the FEBC Board of Directors, announce that Gregg Harris will become FEBC’s fourth President. Bowman says Harris, who has 10 years of international radio ministry, is a great person to succeed him. Bowman, meanwhile, will work full time with field leaders and assisting in developing FEBC’s international office in Asia.”

One more clue to level the playing field: The brand name on the radio pictured on the flyer is “Tecsun”. This information does not appear on their web site. I can't find the dollar amount spent on these radios in FEBC’s financial statements, either.

Remember, these guys probably don’t have to pay taxes, so even though they are trying to sell me a radio, which they will then allegedly give to someone else, it doesn’t count as a business transaction. This means they have ample opportunity to bury income and write off personal expenses (like food, travel, and hotels) as arising from church business. Players will have their work cut out for them in the quest for information.

Good Luck!


At 8:00 AM, Blogger Darius said...

There was a song about this whole thing I remember from when I was a kid:

"Here comes Peter Cottontail,
Hoppin' down the money trail...

I don't remember the rest.

At 12:48 PM, Blogger Francois Tremblay said...

You're just falling into the "financed = puppet" fallacy. Everyone is financed by someone. That doesn't mean that no one is to be trusted. I trust people based on what they say, not on who finances them.

At 1:41 PM, Blogger Bruce said...

I trust people based on what they say, not on who finances them.

Except that people lie all the time. Probably should base it on what they do instead of what they say. And of course, there are the effects of what they do. They could have purely good intentions (at least they think so) but the effects are bad on those they are helping (or others).

Since we often don't want to wait for the effects (since they could be negative), it helps to look at the source in order to predict the intent/effects. Granted, it is not always a perfect indicator, but when a particular source is notorious for funding certain behavior?

"There's an old saying in Tennessee — I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again."

At 7:53 AM, Blogger Kristine said...

I have a better idea. I’ll put on my smarmiest gingham dress, you wear a suit, and we’ll go around collecting cash for these Missionary Barbie radios. You and I split the proceeds (can they prove that we didn't send those radios?), I go to grad school and the Galapagos, you do with the $$ what you will (I don’t know what your plans are), and let these Missionary Kens and Barbies play the “follow the money” game.” Why not? If I'm going to play hide-and-seek, I don't want to be "it!"

I'm kidding, of course. That would be--ahem--stealing, as opposed to what these groups do, right?

At 11:41 AM, Blogger Darius said...

Francois: And you think what comes out of their mouths isn't influenced by who finances them?? I mean, for politicians, who couldn't even dream of running for office without corporate financing, and where financing disparities translate into ads/name recognition/victory at the polls? And you don't think the politicians are being massively financed for a reason?

Buckley v. Valeo (1976) essentially equated the right to fund political campaigns with "free speech."

Money has been talking louder and louder ever since, in case nobody's noticed...

At 5:20 PM, Blogger breakerslion said...

"You're just falling into the "financed = puppet" fallacy."

That is actually not a tack I meant to take with this, but it does make an interesting topic for discussion. Sometimes it's a fallacy, and sometimes it's not.

What I was getting at is similar to what I was saying about who ultimately benefits from Welfare and Food Stamps. An example in this case would be, Who owns the (possibly) slave-pit factory where these radios are produced and ultimately receives the lion's share of the gravy? Care to take a bet that it is privately held among a familiar-sounding group of "investors"?

At 1:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The whole game would change if they were going to give out MP3 players, wouldn't it? ;-)

At 2:34 PM, Blogger Darius said...

Breakerslion: That last comment to my blog was cryptic - I'd be interested in clarification.

"Live free or die."
(Not meaning to be cryptic myself, just like the license plate...)

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