Gift-wrapped horses

Mother Jones confirmed that "Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), who made his substantial fortune by suing military contractors and later lambasted them as a lawmmaker, was indeed evacuated from Niger by personnel working for Xe Services (the private security empire formally known as Blackwater), his spokesman confirms." David Schulman of Mother Jones "asked Jurkowski whether the experience had changed Grayson's thinking on the use of private military firms. Jurkowski replied:

"The Congressman does not deny that there is admirable work being done by some employees of private contractors. However, he stands by his criticism of companies who have been found to cheat the American people, defraud our government, and unnecessarily risk the lives of members of our military, all in the name of making a profit."

This recalls the experience of pacifist Norman Kember who traveled to Iraq in 2006 in order to protest the war. Kember was kidnapped by terrorists and later rescued by the British SAS. After being publicly criticized for refusing to thank his rescuers, Kember said “I do not believe that a lasting peace is achieved by armed force, but I pay tribute to their courage and thank those who played a part in my rescue.” His rescue was achieved despite the fact that CPT, the pacifist organization to whom Kember belonged, refused to supply any information which could help the SAS find him.

The morality of accepting help from a morally rejected source has been widely discussed as part of the ethics of accepting "tainted money". Some universities, for exampled wanted to refuse money which may have been earned from corporate investments in South Africa. The problem was that some of these companies were "progressive" in all except their unfortunate investments in SA. Was it possible to discriminate between the monies donors earned from approved activities versus those earned from rejected methods of doing business?

The contagion of filthy lucre is difficult to contain. Slate says that because Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim now owns a large part of the NYT, the Gray Lady now finds itself unable to criticize his actions in Mexico. Describing a controversy involving Slim in Mexico, James Ledbetter writes:

Under any other circumstances, the business section of the Times would be expected to cover it, as the Journal and Bloomberg have. Yet as of Saturday midday, I cannot find a single mention of any aspect of this case, anywhere in the physical New York Times, or on its Web site--not even a blog post or a wire story. Perhaps as the lawsuit moves on, the Times will be compelled to cover it. But for the moment, it certainly appears that Carlos Slim's investment has bought the silence of one of the world's most important newspapers.

So do Carlos Slim's investments in the NYT make the paper itself unacceptable?  Should you refuse to accept news from it because it is owned by someone you don't approve of? What about love? Is it poisoned by being fed from overly commercial springs?  Dr. Helen advised a woman whose date paid for their dinner with coupons not to be so judgmental. "I went out for dinner with this guy, and it was great — we got along well, and there was a definite spark. But when it came time to pay, he pulled out a coupon. I'm hardly a princess, but that totally killed it for me. Am I being too hard on him?" The cuisine was acceptable, but it was the way the check was paid that seemed just wrong. Is Grayson being too hard on the men who saved his hide? And doubtless Kember would have preferred to have been rescued by the intervention of some anti-American jihadi guru. But should it completely ruin his life that it was the SAS who kept him from being beheaded?

We live in a world where we want to be saved, donated to and treated out but only in a manner that is "just so". Maybe it's a tribute to the way things work that it sometimes happens that way. Is it a case of never looking a gift horse in the mouth or to beware of Greeks bearing gifts?

Would you refuse to be saved by information obtained through waterboarding?


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