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Secular Priest, Adoptive Son, and Consigliere in a Great Family

You remember Fr. Francis (Frank) Brennan, the defrocked priest who disappeared from Wealth Bondage (proud sponsor of  Gifthub) along with a case of communion wine, and an altar boy, from the Wealth with Wisdom Scene Room? He called me on a stolen cellphone to catch up. Apparently, he has landed on his feet as Consigliere to a Great Family from South America. I asked Father Frank what his duties entail. He said as "the most trusted advisor," he is responsible for the family mission statement, and maintaining family values, wisdom, and hence wealth across generations. I knew all that; it is just the textbook stuff that all Consiglieres do. In The Godfather, Tom is an attorney but almost an adoptive son. Father Brennan said he is drawing up the adoption papers for signature once he "makes his bones." As with Tom, Fr. Brennan may have to, as he puts it, "execute against plan," by making certain recalcitrant types "an offer they can't refuse." (Remember the movie producer waking up next to the severed head of his prized thoroughbred horse?) I was confused about this, and how it reconciles with Family Values, Family Mission Statement, the Gospel of Wealth, and the Will of God on Earth, to which Great Families are devoted and from which they ultimately derive their legitimacy in the eyes of the Almighty and the General Public. Then I recalled in The Godfather series that not only the family but the Church, as well as the police and the judiciary, and Senators, are corrupt to the core. Family Values, religiosity, family capitals, come down in the end (in the film, not in real life) to patronage. Favors traded, rings kissed, large bodies of cash, rule outside the rule of law by oligarchs and their friends. For this to be credible we need a Secular Priest and in this role Fr. Brennan is second only to the very best in this field. I do not want to name any names because the list of those calling themselves Consigliere to a Great Family runs several pages long, and includes some of the most respected figures in the field, known for sagacity and virtue. I do not want to make invidious distinctions as to their relative merits. The Monk Rasputin was the best historically, and it took many bullets, a hatchet, and an unknown number of bayonets, to bring him down, before the Tsar his client fell, and his family too, into the pit under a hail of bullets, some bouncing off the children's vests sewn with diamonds, but many getting through. Brennan has enough sense to take the last helicopter out of the compound before it falls, if his escape from Wealth Bondage, one step ahead of the law, and several of his wives, is any indication. It was good to hear from Brennan. I am glad all is going well.


Of Satire and Laughter: A Grim Post on a Funny Subject (Curing Wealthy Families of Vice and Folly)

For Marty Carter, Healer of Families.

I was introduced to Marty by a mutual friend, Patricia Angus, a counselor to wealthy families, who said, "You are both crazy, so you should get along." I can think of no better recommendation for one who would cure moral insanity among the wealthiest and maybe sickest families in all of Christendom.

As an Adept, well-initiated into the sublime mysteries of our Noble Trade, I vouchsafe these truths, formerly guarded under a thousand seals of silence, since Wealth Counseling demands the greatest tact and secretiveness, given the many high crimes and misdemeanors routinely committed by our Ideal Clients, our country's leading families:

  1. The moral philosopher is a moral physician. The goal is not just to be an expert, but to find the cure in specific cases, in real time, before the patient worsens. (See Seneca, Cicero, and the miracles of Jesus for more on this. The moral philosopher makes the blind see, and can even raise the dead, which is what it will take, for America.)
  2. Most diseases, including moral diseases, are contagious. We get sick because others around us are sick, and we then spread the sickness to others in our family, in the workplace, and in public places.
  3. We know that healing and killing are near of kin. The pharmakeus (doctor/murderer/fraud) uses the pharmakon (potion, drug, dose) to cure, but because the disease is social often the only cure is the pharmakon (scapegoat).
  4. The moral healer is the pharmakon (Jesus, MLK, Oedipus) who takes upon himself the sins of the sick society and cures them by being cast out, burned, blinded, crucified or killed. (Purgation, Catharthis, the Pariah. See Aristotle on Tragedy, Happiness, A Just Society, the role of art as cure.)
  5. The satirist is the sickest of men, as Socrates was the wisest (since Socrates knew that he knew nothing.) The satirist must cure himself ("Physician, heal thyself!") if he is to heal others.
  6. Satire can be imaged as surgery without anesthetic, looking much from a distance like torture.
  7. Satire can be imagined as torture and hanging, "Our Noble Trade," as Dryden called it. Such is the cure for public disorder.
  8. Still, "Laughter is the best medicine."
  9. A good doctor, or cosmetic surgeon, doubles as an undertaker. Either way your family gets you back looking better than ever. (This is an old joke, from Junius Martial).
  10. Amputation of the diseased or corrupted part is sometimes necessary for individuals and for the body politic as well. C.f. Capital crimes. 
  11. The fish rots from the head down, in societies as in families.
  12. The Fool is the wisest of men because he knows he is a Fool. (For more on this see Diogenes, "The Mad Socrates," as he was called,  naked in his Dumpster, raving, like a rabid dog, whose bite makes you run mad yourself. Be careful, though, his dog, from whom we get the term, Cynic, the School to which Diogenes belongs, does bite.)
  13. The wise Fool Praises Folly to cure Folly.
  14. A hair of the mad dog cures folly, as art made of lies is the truest of discourse. (See Oscar Wilde, The Decay of Lying and The Importance of Being Earnest for more on this.)
  15. The Fool takes Folly upon himself as Jesus took our sins, and pays a similar price.(See Oscar Wilde's "Ballad of Reading Goal" for more on what happens to funny guys.)
  16. The Fool is the Pharmakeus/Pharmakos/Pharmakon who risks his life to tell the joke which may not be funny, to the King unprepared to hear it.
  17. The Fool is also a Clown. The clown is one drawn from the lower social orders. So humor is drawn from the underworld of society, and of the body.
  18. Satire deals in shit, blood, pus, orgiastic sexuality, cruelty, criminality, and debauch, the pleasures of Carnival, in Rome and the Middle Ages, the Festival of Saturnalia, the inversion of the social order, the Festival of the Ass, which became God help us, but this is funny! The Feast of the Circumcision, the Feast of Fools.
  19. God, our god, is already and always castrated, a Hermes whose cock has been knocked off. A dying and reborn god who was born among animals and died among thieves.
  20. Such is the drunken truth of Carnival, if not communion, in which the body politic is restored, inclusive of the lower social orders, society's gut, anus, and genitals.
  21. Nothing spreads as quickly as syphillis in a Baptist high school in a good community where abstinence is taught, or laughter in church. (See your home town for more on this. Ask the doctor, or the priest.Consult your own scars.)
  22. "There but for fortune go !" says the Prince of the Pauper.
  23. "Dust to dust and ashes to ashes," that is the wisdom of the jakes as well of the Church in Lent, which comes after Carnival.
  24. "Remember Caesar, that you art mortal," said the slave standing behind the general in the Triumphal procession. Not a joke, but you can see why an expendable slave was given this job. Not even a Fool, let alone a Dynastic Wealth Family Counselor, would volunteer for this duty.
  25. "Thank you God for not making me like other men," says the Pharisee in the Temple, farting as he prays.
  26. In Carnival time, the King serves his servants and his wife copulates on the alter with the priest. (Don't take my word for this, for Chrissakes, read Bakhtin's study of Rabelais, a subversive work written in code under Stalin, in the spirit of Democrites and Hippocrates, to heal a body politic dying as is yours, from the head down.)
  27. The satirist is the goat, the scapegoat. The goat is the randy animal that stinks, whose skin holds the red wine, the wine of the chalice, raised in consecration, "Here is my blood!" 
  28. The satirist is mad, the Fool is mad. Drink! And you will be mad with the blood of the grape.
  29. For Hermes, Socrates, Terror, the Borders that must be Protected against Transgression, the US Constitution, read this
  30. Physician heal thyself!  For the Fool this dictum means do not talk about satire unless you can make it funny.
  31. Moral philosophy, my friends, is no laughing matter. Come let us drink, as Rabelais said. 
  32. The art of poetry, wrote Horace, perhaps the greatest of satirists, he who served Caesar Augustus and Maecenas, and was ultimately rewarded for his meritorious counsel to dynasts with a Sabine Farm, "is like a mirror held up to nature." He meant held up to human nature, as might perhaps a cosmetic surgeon. "On you, Midas," said his Barber, "those asses ears look good." Poetry is a moral art, said Horace, that wraps the pill of truth in a sweet coating so the child, or Emperor, will swallow the bitter dose and be cured despite himself, cured perhaps of the blindness he would not otherwise see.
  33. The Roman root word for dose, as in medicine or the clap, is also the word for gift. That is pretty funny.
  34. Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease. The satirist must be quarantined, lest his sick jokes go viral. So Stalin had Mandelstam jailed, tortured and killed for this phrase, which stayed with Stalin, and make him a public joke: "The crag dweller of the Kremlin."
  35. Art like Brands or Propaganda is a social disease, one cures the other, like homeopathic medicine.
  36. What else besides disease and fear and moral panic is contagious? Laughter. 
  37. "Bury me face down," said wise Diogenes, "that when the world turns right side up, I may be right side up again." So for what ails us no individual solution is possible. We must right the world to right ourselves.
  38. A just society is not sold in stores. And, stores, investments, capital, social capital, social investments, double bottom lines, metrics, are all we understand.
  39. Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations
  40. The first shall be last and the last shall be first
  41. The meek shall inherit the earth.
  42. Sic transit gloria
  43. Nothing gold can stay, as Robert Frost wrote of the VT foliage.
  44. The Trusted Man, the pillar of this community, says to the King,  to whom he owes the utmost duty of loyalty, Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves, Sire, your empire will be lost, unless you engage me to cure vice and folly, not that you are sick with these, Sire, far from it, but tyhe Princess, Sire, could use a mentor, leave the money in Trust, and let me, Sire, manage it and her. You, Sire, of course will manage yourself, as the wisest among us, Sire. 
  45. I too, as Morals Tutor to America's Leading Families, am available to cure your family, if you are very rich pro bono publico. (Marty, Patricia, Jay and the other Trusted Advisors and Counselors to our Finest Families do charge, but I do it for love. Call me crazy. Their work is consensual, mine not. That is indeed a sick joke. But I am serious about this. I mean to cure, or else at least return you to the family well stuffed and looking good. )
  46. Yes, I need the money. We are all in bondage to wealth, me too. I am as sick as you. Jesus had the cure, but look where it got him, and how. I may be able to cure you, but it may feel a bit uncomfortable. Bend over, if you would, and try to relax.
  47. Like surgery, satire takes practice. The surgery backs upon a graveyard. For that matter, though, so does the church.
  48. When one member of a family is cured, the symptoms often migrate to others in the family, as does the anxiety.
  49. Laughter heals anxiety because it brings us together in our common humanity, frail, fallible, physical, vicious, full of hate, glorying in each other's pain and subordination, wishing we were gods.
  50. Laughter reminds us that we are all pieces of shit. You, my dear client, no less than I. "If I had kept that from you, Sire, I would not be doing my job. You are a Fool, Sire, just as I am! Your Homme de Confience is conning you! He is a Flatterer among Knaves! Do not listen to him. Listen to me! I will cure your vices!" (Famous last words.)

Well, I should take a taste of my own bitter medicine, as did Socrates, writhing in his death throes. Let me at least try to be funny, and perhaps that cup will pass from me, or maybe I can pretend to be drunk or mad. For a sacrificial goat you need someone less blemished than I. Besides none of you is sick, and certainly our society is flourishing. Here in Wealth Bondage, the Bower of all Bliss, I am employed at a modest wage, as Dungeon Master to the Stars to give pleasure to our Distinguished Guests, in pantomime. "Give me a penny and I will sing you a song, but give me the penny first," as Jonathan Swift said. In any case, here is my joke:

I train Trusted Advisors to Families of Wealth. I know literally thousands of Trusted Advisors, and not one is a Fool. You could ask them if you don't trust me.

Seriously, I am just joking. Curing Dynastic Wealth in a Democracy is a sore subject. These families are really, really screwed up. I don't mean to make light of it. For someone like Marty or Patricia or Jay to go into these families to cure them is heroic. I mean the moral infirmities of the powerful may be contagious. We could end up as crazy as these families are, but not in a good way. We could end up sicker than our patients. We could carry the plague of materialism ourselves from Great House to Great House. Maybe we should all wear funny hats. At least when Carnival comes again we can dance in masquerade. Shhh, that fat old bitch in the cat suit, no, not the Nun, she is just a hooker like us, the once dancing with The Happy Tutor, is she your client or mine

I apologize for this post. I am off my meds.


Ministering to A Fenced Flock

From a Prison Chaplain:

A chaplain carries many of the same duties as a congregational pastor, but the nature of his or her fenced flock requires training and relational talent.

To walk the condemned lamb to execution is one of the duties, I gather. As bad as some of my own Morals Tutorial clients are, I don't know if would have the relational talent to accompany them to the gurney, unless it paid well.


Father Ambrose and Your Esteemed Editor Sort The Values Deck

Father Ambrose, a defrocked Episocopalian minister (he was caught nipping at a hip flask of communion wine during a funeral of drug lord turned philanthropist prior to being gunned down by a cross town rival) and I met for old times sake last night with The Happy Tutor in his famous Dumpster at the corner of Wealth and Wall where I find some of my best clients in Wealth Bondage: America's Great Freedom Machine. Tutor was drunk as a Lord and had us all sorting "Values Cards," to as he said, paint our moral self portrait. This is a self serving exercise that I have often used myself to break the ice when brought in to do a family meeting for Persons of Signficance and their dynastic progeny. I get them to all agree on their Family Values. Then I build a gift plan to flatter whatever virtues they may share. They feel affirmed; I pocket a goodly fee. It is a value added kind of situation all around. It is easy money and I get tons of referrals to other wealthy nincompoops.

So, I sorted the cards, thinking nothing more of it than if I were in a focus group defining my moral identity for purposes of brand development. I recall putting "courageous" at the top of my deck, with "paragon," second, and "refined" third. Then, what do I to see but a Joker in my deck, "Hypocrisy Incarnate." Well, I took some offense to that as you might imagine. The mere inclusion of such a phony values card, in what is supposed to be a serious exercise, I found offensive and likely to subvert the fellow feeling and amore propre that such an exercise is meant to promote. I flipped the offending card to the bottom of my deck and turned a "hairy eyeball" on Tutor. But the worst was yet to come.

Tutor had me and Father Ambrose exchange decks, and sort the decks to reflect our view of each other. I always try in my dealings with others to be open and honest. It is one of my virtues, if not the second most important no less than fourth out of a deck of 52. So, in good conscience, to be true to myself and to be fair to Father Ambrose who should be made to know the truth of himself, I had to put the Joker at #1 in my view of Father Ambrose's operative value system. The man is a sanctimonious hypocrite if ever there was one, always on about my drinking, raising his voice to lecture me with his own breath reeking of alcohol! Well, can you believe that he in his turn put the Joker topmost for me? As if the pot were calling the kettle black. Needless to say, Father and  I, both being a bit tipsy, soon came to blows, as Tutor raised his glass to toast what he called our "fine show of animal spirits."

As for the Drug Lord, may he rest in peace, his last will and testament left all to the Church. The Sacristy has been named in his honor, with his marble bust erected beside the Confessional. Gold God works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform. The Drug Lord was a good client of mine and I am pleased that I was able to facilitate his Lasting Legacy. I also had my client buy off the litigants in the lawsuit for preaching sobriety while intoxicated against Father Ambrose, for all the thanks I ever got for that. But Virtue, I have found, is its own Reward. If it be Thy Will, Most Merciful God, may Father Ambrose burn in hell for his hypocrisy.


Blended Value: Bad Plus Good = Good Enough for You

Britain to impose a one time tax on banker bonuses. This strikes me as a cosmetic fix. Why not escrow the tax money and provide ongoing consensual or nonconsensual moral counseling? We have a problem with corporate ethics. Why not measure and manage our way  to a specific, year by year reduction in total corruption in high places? Surely, some foundation in the US could fund such a public spirited effort? I wonder if Wealth Bondage Private Client Services Group could qualify as a Mission Aligned Investment for Gates Foundation or Hewlett? Maybe Jed Emerson can help us develop a balanced scorecard or blended value grid to guide our efforts in reducing total corporate corruption? Otherwise, we in philanthropy are really just toadying to the powers that be, and their delusions of wisdom and virtue. How can our complicity in this moral morass produce a blended value proposition that is worth a tinker's curse? Don't we honestly have to start with an agreement on the total acceptable level of corporate corruption, an annual goal for reducing it, and best practices, like the pillory, tarring and feathering, or the cropping of noses and ears, or branding of the forehead, that we can effectively and efficiently promulgate at low cost, through social networks? How about zero tolerance for corporate malefactors and those who aid and abet them?

A Philanthropy Budget for Countess Marie Douglas-David?

A Countess divorcing a tycoon breaks down  her need for $53,000 week:

Mortgage and maintenance fees and rent for the Park Avenue penthouse, the Hamptons retreat and properties in Sweden account for $27,300 a week, according to a financial affidavit she filed with the court. And then there's travel ($8,000), clothing ($4,500), a personal assistant ($2,209), horse care ($1,570), domestic help ($1,480), entertainment and restaurants ($1,500), health and skin care ($1,000), dry cleaning ($650), flowers ($600) and a trainer ($250).

The personal assistant at $2,209 made me cringe. I had applied for that job, emphasizing my Morals Tutoring experience, and holding myself out as a specialist in helping families flourish, but I never got past the screening interview.  I was willing to do the trainer job, plus chauffeur and would have thrown in the Morals Tutorials, and mucking out the stables,  for nothing, but I was assured that her moral well being was well managed, by herself personally. It did not take a moment's thought, I was told, it just came naturally, unlike diet, exercise, personal grooming,  fashion, food preparation, flower arranging, and horse care.

In philanthropic planning, we work with clients to figure out "how much is enough for the donor," or for the donor, spouse and heirs, and then we talk about philanthropy for wealth beyond that point. Nice to see that $53,000 a week does not reach that threshold. Zero here for giving, not even a dime for some religious organization, or a passing beggar. Maybe if she got $100,000 a week she might have enough to fund a small charitable gift now and again? A Botox Foundation or something for the poor? I may approach her to propose free morals tutorials for the angry mob outside her door. The riffraff who read the tabloids  should know better than to judge their betters. Envy is a sin. 


Can Nurse Philanthropy save Dame Capitalism?

Can philanthropy save capitalism? The private nurse, Philanthropy, comes and goes in the ICU. We who love our dear mother, Capitalism, wait in the anteroom. The prognosis is not good.  The nurse comes out to say, "Your mother has asked for a Priest. She wants to make her last Confession."  We all burst into tears. What could our dear mother ever have been guilty of?


Richard Fuld Rudely Punched without Benefit of Pillory

Pillory_stocks Philanthropist, and former CEO of Lehman, Richard Fuld, was apparently sucker punched in the employee gym after the fall of the firm was announced. 

On a scholarly note, who was punished in the pillory, in the good old days?

Although all sharpers, beggars, impostors and vagabonds were liable to be placed in the pillory, it was mostly used for gentlemen and aristocrats as a way of humiliating them.

Fuld himself is outraged that his firm was not bailed out, so that he might have continued his  Journey from Success to Significance. Vanity, saith the preacher, all is vanity!