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May 2006

Curing The Midas Curse

Great book and an interesting article about it from the Christian Science Monitor.  Wealth can corrupt and wealth planners can make it worse. Surely, this is not news, but it is important to be reminded and to take the message to heart. What fascinated me, re-reading the Midas legend, is that it was Dionysus, not Apollo, who cured Midas by having him wash his hands in a flowing stream. Interpret that as you will.  Apollo with the bow and arrow is the clear-eyed image of the visionary planner. Why then Dionysus, he of the floating wild hair, of drunkenness, revelry, madness and war? Could be a screw-up, I suppose. The Greeks got it wrong? I think so. But for the heck of it I asked the Happy Tutor who said,

Wealth seeking is cold-eyed madness, shared from the top down and the bottom up. It is wealth bond*age on a world historical scale. We will not purge this moral disease until Dionysus returns to lead the dance of the goat.

Sounds like a severe over-statement to me.  Wealth seeking is essential to the GNP and all we have to do is balance it with a few bromides and all will be well.  Given how touchy people are, particularly the rich, the last thing we need is the goat dance of satire. It would be bad for business.


11thumb_wetback If you are a member of, you can read about Martin Rizzi, an American who has spent over 25 years working and living with villagers in Mexico, seeing the effects of NAFTA first hand. To help rural women artisans sell their jewelry, and make their voices heard, Martin started Artcamp with them, a family of free ezines on topics like New World Women, Wet Back World, Tatoo Art, Silver Investing, and many more.

Morals Tutor to the Ulra-Wealthy

Caning2 Traditionally, in the a nobleman's household a cleric would serve as Morals Tutor to the scion of wealth. That tradition is carried on even today at Oxford where each undergraduate is assigned a Morals Tutor as an academic advisor. My own was the distinguished moral and political philosopher, subsequently Master of Balliol, and Vice Chancellor of the University, Anthony J.P. Kenny.

Now in my role as the premiere Morals Tutor to America's Wealthiest families I help instill Family Values. Where they cannot be beaten into the rascal's head, I beat them into his or her posteriors, metaphorically speaking, and within agreed upon limits, according to the best traditions of a good English Boarding School. All in good taste to be sure.

In any case, milords and ladies, I am your humble servant. Your first thrashing is free.

Node 57

Wb_dumpster I appreciate the link from my friend and nemesis, The Happy Tutor, but I do wish he kept better company. Being seen in a Wealth Bondage Bordello with Peter Karoff, Albert Ruesga, and Tracy Gary making nice to the low-rent customers around back by the Dumpster is not going to do much for my professional reputation as Trusted Moral Advisor to America's Wealthiest Families. I am trying to promote rich-family values here, people. Bow your head like in Church. We are in the presence of great sums of money. And where you find money in large quantities you will find sanctimony, and hyprocisy, as well as vigilance and retribution, more so than a sense of humor. So do not giggle, or the laugh will ripple throughout the congregation calling into question the very greed on which our society depends for its essential functions. Read Adam Smith: giving is ok, but what would happen if everyone did it? The world as we know it would fall apart. We would have democracy, liberty, joy and spirituality running rampant. Best to leave such forces of extreme freedom deep where they belong, as if in the catacombs, under Rome.

Personally, I am not looking toCaning get crucified either. The rich are ok with me. Their values are noble. I love them all, regardless, as long as they tip me well as the Moral Advisor to them and their kids. So, Tutor, if you don't mind, Back Off! I am trying to run a reputable business here around philanthropy and I don't need you screwing it up, just when I begin to get a little credibility as a Morals Tutor to the Stars.

Money, Judges and Justice

Robert Rackleff in Carnegie Reporter,

Indicted for election law violations in 2005, then-Republican U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay charged that the presiding Texas judge, a Democrat, was biased against him and had him removed from the case. The prosecutor, in turn, had the next two proposed judges, both Republicans, removed for alleged partisan bias in favor of DeLay. q Competing for an open seat in the 2004 election for District 5 of the Illinois Supreme Court—representing the state’s 37 southernmost counties—the Republican and Democratic candidates spent a combined $9.3 million, over $16 per vote cast. The District includes Madison County, called by tort reform groups the nation’s “number one judicial hellhole” for its many court rulings that favor plaintiffs in nationwide class action suits. q With several cases involving his coal companies before the West Virginia Supreme Court, Don L. Blankenship contributed $2.45 million to defeat incumbent Justice Warren McGraw, a Democrat, in 2004 and elect Republican Brent Benjamin. Blankenship was before the court the next year to appeal the state’s order to shut down a polluting waste pond owned by one of his companies. Later, Blankenship vowed in a speech to target Justice Larry Starcher for defeat in 2008, accusing him of bias against him.

The Story Line and the Bottom Line

"Tell me about the trajectory of your life so far?" - the profound and searching question Peter Karoff asks, as he stoppeth one in ten.  More than fact-finders or values-based questionnaires, Peter's question, asked of donors, "successful people," or community activists, or just plain citizens, elicits a narrative, an unfinished tale. I have often thought of our lives as plays or novels, or even films. The story has a prequel and a sequel.  The saga started before we came on the scene and continues after we are gone. We are maybe the protagonists of our own stories, or maybe really we are the baffled minor players in a play not of our making.  Financial planning, estate planning, philanthropic planning, community organizing, movement building all come together for me around that question - "Tell me about the trajectory of your life so far?" For some the story will be about them, them, them, for others it will be like Middlemarch, the inter-connected stories of a community evolving over time from the benighted and semi-enlightened actions of individuals rapt in time, struggling forward, drawn by some goal, perhaps delusory, driven by motives always mixed.  To help others chart their trajectory in a community of other moral agents is a lifework too,  Peter's as poet, financial  advisor, entrepreneur, philanthropic planner, board leader, and now  convener of communities.

Reporters Can Be Prosecuted

I was talking with my colleague, Smoky Joe, Chief Counsel over at Wealth Bondage. He has been upset about bloggers discussing the business that goes on in secret in the Wealth Bondage political scene rooms. Surveillance is one thing, but talking about it is another. Anyway, he had this to say, 

In the name of Candidia Cruikshanks and the whole Wealth Bondage Team, we can classify what we want; we can prosecute anyone who leaks our secrets; we can prosecute any reporter or blogger who publishes our secrets; and we can tap your phone and email. If you read the Constitution closely that is  what it says (when you take into account the secret codicils that are in my sole possession). A consistent narrative is what Americans in Wealth Bondage want, with no inconvenience or disturbing facts. Now what should we classify today? Torture? Industrial espionage? Spying on our political rivals? Bribery? No! We have only your best interest at heart and fiercely defend your freedom. We are good people. Right? Right?

I don't know, I thought that a free press meant they had an obligation to keep an eye on the operations of our elected representatives since otherwise those in power might run amok, but I wouldn't want to press the point. There are times when you have to know which end is up and go along to get along. Joe is a good man; as is Candidia. No, wait, that is not what I meant. She is a good woman.  Let's keep the conversation upbeat. Authentic happiness and ordered liberty work for me. It would be hard to be a legacy leader from behind bars. Give prudently, folks.

Gramm-Leach-Bliley and the NSA: On the Confidentiality of Client Financial Data

We in financial services firms are constantly reminded by our compliance people that, under Gramm-Leach-Bliley, client information must be held confidential. Great care is taken to make sure any information transmitted by electronic means is encrypted. I wonder under the warrantless snooping of the NSA if financial firms have made secret side deals to enable the government to monitor the client's confidential financial information. If so, do the firms need the permission of the client, or is this conducted strictly hush hush so the Terrorists and other Enemies of the Surveillance State won't find out? How will we know? What privacy laws apply when the NSA operates in secret, and is accountable to no one? If an NSA employee engages in securities fraud based on inside information, or shares information with the IRS, or follows the funding of progressive causes to build dossiers, who is going to know or object? We had all better keep our heads down and mouths shut. The nail that stands up gets hammered flat, as the Chinese proverb has it. For myself. I trust Special Agent Cecil Morans to do what is right with my confidential information and those of my firm's clients. We have nothing to fear since we have nothing to hide. And Cecil is a man of great tact, honor, and discretion whose conscience and the NSA manual, whatever it says, will be his quide, for the most part.

The Silence of the Charities

Mark Rosenman in SSIR Blog,

Do you find it astounding that charities remained silent when Congress added $70 billion to the deficit last week by extending tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, further starving government programs? Even if that doesn't get to you, you've still got to wonder why all but a few nonprofit organizations and foundations (in spite of the activism of groups such as OMB Watch and United for a Fair Economy ) say nothing as the Senate approaches a vote that will decrease charitable donations by up to $25 billion a year. That's equivalent to stopping all annual grantmaking by the 110 largest US foundations...

Professors like Mark have tenure. Those of us who live on money raised have to be more concerned about our donors than about the poor or society at large. Candidia, my generous patron here at gifthub, has made her views clear to me through proper channels. For me to alienate her would be a career limiting move, to say the least. Better to keep our mouths shut. These matters are settled at a level far over my head or yours. Best to make ourselves useful in ways pleasing to those who pay our bills.