American Cancer Society to Honor John Thiel of Merrill Lynch

We live in an era when many are quick to condemn and ridicule glamorous aspects of philanthropic events in this town to perpetuate the notion that societal elite are oblivious to the times that we live in and the challenges facing the every man. Despite a focus on financial industry miscues, among the greater minds at large in the business and financial services community, there is in fact a very real sense of the interconnectedness of our lives.

The Financial Services Cares Gala to Benefit the American Cancer Society

On the eve of the upcoming Financial Services Cares Gala, I head downtown to Lower Manhattan’s World Financial Center to the office of John W. Thiel, Head of U.S. Wealth Management and the Private Banking and Investment Group for Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management.  As an advocate for finding a cure for cancer, Mr. Thiel serves as chairman of the Manhattan Region Financial Services Cares Board of the American Cancer Society. He also serves as a Trustee on the Board of Florida State University’s Foundation. Thiel, along with Black Rock, the largest asset management firm in the world, will be honored  at The American Cancer Society’s 7th Annual Financial Services Cares Gala on Monday, June 18, 2012 at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City. He will receive the 2012 Eugene D. O’Kelly Award.  I wanted to speak to the man who rose from humble Midwestern roots to lead a distinguished career in public accounting and the insurance industry to come to lead Merrill Lynch, the very firm whose history is tied to the democratization of capitalism. History buffs will note that the founder, Charles Merrill helped bring Wall Street to Main Street allowing ordinary Americans to obtain equity stake in the industries that built this country. As goes Merrill Lynch so goes Main Street has been a truism most of my life.

When I finally met with Thiel, he played down the significance of the award personally, emphasizing instead the significance of the night, “the spotlight is on New York, and the financial services community is all here.” Expected to be in attendance are many of Thiel’s industry competitors. I wondered frankly what he thought of this, would there be tension? Despite the competition, Thiel emphasized that there is mutual respect among and for many in the industry, “it’s one night to put the gloves away and rally for the American Cancer Society.”

Thiel has arrived at his station in life through discipline, principled hard work, long term planning, centered on the fundamentals, which has given the man a strong long game not just in the investment game but in life. Thiel has lived and worked through professionally, the lessons of the economic downturns of the early 90’s, the tech bubble and the most recent financial crisis, only to emerge stronger and more well regarded in the industry and by his peers.  He arrived in a post 9/11 New York City, in 2005 during a period of tremendous upheaval and uncertainty at a time we were still licking our wounds and trying to move forward, before we were rocked once again by the financial collapse of 2008.  Where many others pursue pipe dreams and engage in wishful thinking in boom times, hoping only to be lucky, Thiel’s approach perhaps emanates from his years in public accounting and the memory of what it was like to be broke and to have to map pursuit of the American Dream from Ground Zero. He gets it and what the every man feels.

BULLISH ON: John Thiel’s Philanthropic Commitment

Sitting in the chief’s World Financial Center offices on a bright sunny day with the Statue of Liberty in the distance and the rising World Trade Center to his back, the revitalization of Lower Manhattan in full bloom, I found it hard not to be bullish on Mr. Thiel and Merrill Lynch. John Thiel is a centered and principled gentleman with a steady view of the world, a genuinely warm and engaging demeanor and a sincere humility that evidences the core of his character. Frankly, he is a man better than his resume or the simple summary of his life accomplishments, one who glossed over rather humbly his Horatio Alger like background to focus on what matters to him most:  the eradication of cancer and specifically the never ending work of the American Cancer Society. Thiel has motivated those in the orbit of his life to commit ‘to create a world with less cancer and more birthdays.’ A year since my mom  passed at the Hope Hospice in Cape Coral,  Florida, and there is nothing I would do to celebrate one more birthday with her. Thiel’s fight is not simply good business, the right thing to do or even noble; it is simply personal to him and that is what matters most.

Thiel is a man who has progressed because he seems possessed of the same steely determination and optimism of folks like Larry Silverstein who forged beyond the hassles of rebuilding and those who questioned whether it could be done and done better, to convert many former and existing opponents of the rebuilding process, who saw a reinstallation of the former Twin Towers as the only conceivable alternative. I know because I was one of them. And though I deeply respect the work of the Twin Towers Alliance and hoped myself to see a version of the iconic Twin Towers rise again, I must acknowledge that in my heart,  as is being documented by Project Rebirth, I do believe Lower Manhattan is finally rising in a manner that we can be proud.

Perhaps in the end, the best leaders don’t simply pander to the average man’s sentiments but help us all to evolve by guiding us with their leadership. Thiel is a man with both the character and poise to lead the rise of the financial community from a troubling era where capitalists, community and political leaders and average citizens all point the finger of blame at one another, to a new dawn and a more prosperous tomorrow.  Sometimes the best New Yorker’s arrive here from….. some place else. With all due respect to Julie Menin, John Thiel, is also one of the reason’s Wall Street [is] Rising.

Thiel is one of many untold stories in this great metropolis that put better in context how, during a time of turmoil and flatter profit margins, an abiding humanity underlies the commitment of business leaders to sustain and fortify a modern society by keeping many philanthropic and cultural institutions in the black. From the illumination, education and cultural enlightenment of our children, to providing opportunity and upward mobility, critical health care and other transitional services to members of our community in need, the work of philanthropically inclined citizens in the financial sector, like John Thiel, forges onward in the occupy humanity movement.

NYC PRESS PASS: Is the NYPD the Appropriate Licensing Authority?

In terms of full disclosure, as a citizen of New York City, I voted for Mike Bloomberg three times. Until very recently,  much for the same reasons as Mike Lupica of the Daily News, I would have seriously considered supporting Ray Kelly to become the next Mayor of New York City. Recent events surrounding Occupy Wall Street, including some and a re-evaluation of deeply troubling circumstances in America and in my hometown of New York City have caused a re-evaluation of long held positions and are forcing me now  to reconsider my political allegiance and those who I would not only be inclined to support but for those who I might also be inclined to revoke my support.

Bloomberg’s Police State

Of special concern is the rationale or basis for the  the rising ‘Police State’ in New York City under the leadership of Mike Bloomberg.  In the video referenced above Cenk Uygur of the Young Turks breaks down rather  effectively the real reasons for raids on Zuccotti Park and why Bloomberg must by any means necessary do what is necessary to destroy the Occupy Wall Street protests. For all intents and purposes, it is becoming even more clear by the day that he is the Mayor of Wall Street and the guardian of the 1%. As further  stated by Robert Scheer on Truthdig:

What is so offensive is that someone who abetted Wall Street greed, and benefited as much as anyone from it, has no compunction about ruthlessly repressing those who dare exercise their constitutional “right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” that he helped to create.

Given the recent crackdown, the arrest and the assault of licensed journalists (including one I know ,at least superficially, Julie Walker),  and especially in light of the NYPD’s attempted media blackout  during raids on Zuccotti Park which included the Mayor restricting the airspace over Lower Manhattan, as part of the  ongoing efforts to contain and dismantle the Occupy Wall Street movement, it is time for citizens to consider whether the NYPD is in fact the appropriate licensing body for NYC Press Passes or to determine or set eligibility guidelines.  Of even greater concern is that media forces more friendly to the rising police state, if not working directly in concert with the police state are distorting the import and character of the citizen led movement.  As aptly stated by one citizen in a comment on the NY Observer:

“Giving control over the flow of information to a paramilitary group with demonstrably selective interpretation of the rule of law (do you honor Temporary Restraining Orders signed by a Judge or not?) is a recipe for a poorly informed populace and a weaker democracy.”

The Citizens Union, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Human Rights Watch and other similar organizations including the Committee to Protect Journalists themselves can now clearly make an effective case that the NYPD has in effect unlawful and unhealthy control over freedom of the press. Even if there are concerns over security and safety in crossing police lines, requests for NYC Press Passes as well as renewals should also be reviewed by an independent licensing body whose mission should be to safeguard liberty and freedom of the press as a counter balance to the NYPD’s heavy handed tactics. As one commentator on stated, ‘Maybe It’s Time to Occupy the Police State.’

De-humanization of Citzenry Enables  & Sustains Fascism

Contempt for the 99% is surely quite diverse and extends well beyond journalists. Among the many  subject to dehumanization for their participation in the Occupy movement are:  poor people, college students, the unemployed, the underemployed, professionals, lawyers, professors, journalists, liberals, hippies (do they really event still exist?), anarchists, heterosexuals and now presumably gays or ‘faggots’ (e.g, members of the LGBT community).  Ironic that this broad net of undesirables cast by forces in the mainstream media sympathetic to the Mayor and the NYPD’s tactics, would seem to include approximately the 72% of New Yorkers who support OWS.  I can only wonder what’s next. How soon before they pepper spray, baton or wrestle to the sidewalks someone they refer to as “a commie Jew?”

Fascist states always begin with de-humanization tactics. They always start looking for someone else, someone who is so unlike you, not a ‘responsible’ member of society. In the end, they always come around to look for folks of your ilk as well. Trust me it is inevitable. First it is people you do not care about, then it’s the ‘faggots’, the ‘niggers’ and then ultimately the ‘Jews’. It’s coming. Don’t say you were not warned.

The Illusion of Bloomberg’s ‘Independence’

Those who point to Mike Bloomberg’s independent status and who might be comforted that he “can’t be bought” need to re-examine the facts. While Bloomberg may not be Satan, he is an opportunist and a businessman, first and foremost.  Bloomberg has increased his personal wealth five fold since he became Mayor of New York City. This is especially convenient given the collapse of of the relative wealth of the 99% during that same time period.  It’s good to be the ‘King of New York’. Bloomberg is the sole stockholder of Bloomberg, LP, a veritable ‘money machine’ which has increased its operations as a media outlet in  recent years. In a series of maneuvers before the financial crisis he bought back the stock in his enterprise that was held by leading investment banks. According to,   Bloomberg is now the 8th Wealthiest man in America.

Furthermore, one might also consider the fact that Boss Tweed’sTammany Hall Machine was never so profitable or generous to its inhabitants as has been the reign of Bloomberg for his minions in City Hall, Bloomberg LP and those safely ensconced in the cities charitable apparatus or infrastructure via the Bloomberg Foundation. Going against the Mayor involves taking on a huge multi-headed beast with many voices who are deeply vested for life in the Bloomberg Machine.  Doing so may ultimately contribute to your own social demise.  Now the man even has his own mainstream media enterprise in Bloomberg TV

Critics of the Mayor condemn the Mayor with the indictment that Mike Bloomberg is the Mayor of Wall Street masquerading as the Mayor of New York City, a job he clearly prefers that his multiple overpaid deputy Mayors do for him while he is visiting his Bermuda Estate in Tuckers Town on weekends, unless there is a favorable media opportunity. Occupy Wall Street may or may not be cutting into his weekend time in Bermuda, perhaps that is the reason he purchased a $20 million Hamptons mansion.

The Commissioner of the New York Paramilitary Department (NYPD) is Ray Kelly, a nice enough man for sure. Solid as a rock and deeply loyal to his overlord is the charming and personable man who is affectionately referred to by many as Popeye. He stands stoically in crisp fitted suits and $200 Charvet Ties. Kelly makes a fashionable statement simply standing there, even while his NYPD is ’spinning out of control’.

New York City under the stewardship of Mike Bloomberg and Ray Kelly is however, quickly starting to resemble a police state. In a Police State, the ones doing the policing ought not to be the ones deciding who qualifies for a NYC Press Pass. Is that not sort of a conflict of interest? It is like asking Il Duce, Hosni Mubarak or Adolf Hitler what aspects of their brutality are permissible to document for public consumption.

The solution: New York City and perhaps other major cities should create independent licensing authorities to determine who should qualify for a Press Pass. Otherwise the integrity of the first amendment and the security of citizens will be irreparably jeopardized.

REVERSING PHILANTHROPIC DISHONESTY: In Whose Name Did You Come Bearing Gifts with My Money?

Jeffry Picower – The Largest Philanthropic Fraud in American History?

ABBA -The Winner Takes it All (1980)

The history books are written by the winners. In the words of Swedish pop band, ABBA, ‘the Winner takes it all, the loser standing small, beside the victory, that’s [our] destiny.’  The relative triviality of the loser’s pain and suffering is often long forgotten. But it truly need not be that way.  With the Madoff Crime Family again in the headlines these days, what may be a worthwhile endeavor is to gather a petition of Madoff’s Victims worldwide to petition the institutions that benefited from donations made by one of the largest philanthropic frauds in American history —Jeffry Picower, the largest Madoff beneficiary. The petition should request that they strip his name as their donor of record and that  whatever that they have named in his honor should be appropriately renamed for the interests of those defrauded as well as for the integrity of said institution’s brand going forward and their ability to raise funds in the future . For example:

MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory

should be renamed to:

The Madoff/Picower Fraud Survivors Institute for Learning and Memory

Picower’s name should be removed from any institution that carries his name honoring his philanthropy. Too much of American philanthropy often comes in one name at the expense of those who have had their legacy taken from them. The Madoff Survivors have had their legacy taken from them while Mr. Picower has not.

Critical to the American Restoration movement is that  we discredit the legacy of those who have been honored for their philanthropic deeds with funds fraudulently obtained. In those cases it can be presumed that their generosity was not purely or honorably motivated but instead part of a fraudulent overall branding mechanism, the extension of their  philanthropic brand masking their covert criminal wealth redistribution schemes. America must cleanse itself and conduct an internal accounting or philanthropic colonic to liberate and detoxify ourselves from the stench of a legacy built on a cesspool of corruption or a mountain of crappola.

It matters not now that Mr. Picower was found dead and seemed to have curiously drowned in his own pool at his estate in Palm Beach, that his lawyer William Zabel of Schulte, Roth & Zabel, “who has has spent his career striking complex deals for wealthy families in sticky situations” according to the NY Times, negotiated a $7.2 Billion extraction from Mr. Picower’s widow in the form of a civil forfeiture to the U.S. Department of Justice.  Likewise that Mrs. Barbara Picower was rather graciously left with $200 million and her Palm Beach home so she could continue her ‘philanthropic works’ at this point is troubling but I will also concede it is no long relevant to the legacy of the Picower name.

This is a movement which may and ought to have legs.  Let us discredit those previously honored. The legacy of Jeffry Picower is an objective fraud so let us begin with him.  Despite the best public relations efforts of William Zabel and Picower’s widow, the   Department of Justice settlement has not cleared the Picower name as intended in the eyes of most American citizens.

RUTH MADOFF – ‘American Psycho’ Moment on 60 MINUTES

Provides Anecdotal Evidence of Her Complicity in the Fraud

Full interview at 60 Minutes website

The wife and son of Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff gave their first interview to Morley Safer of 60 Minutes on Sunday evening, October 30th.  Also joining the duo was their  ‘Black Umbrella’Catherine Hooper, the founder of the aptly named disaster preparedness enterprise, who is engaged to and been living with Andrew Madoff in luxury condominium in one of the toniest zip codes on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.  The irony that these monsters came out on Halloween eve should not be lost on anyone. They were there to promote their con job and the book ‘Truth & Consequences: Life Inside the Madoff Family’Hooper was reportedly the driving force behind publication of the book written by hand picked author Laurie Sandell.  It is based on interviews with Ruth, Andrew and the visually delectable and publicity orientedMs. Hooper.

The Media Whores who were ‘laying it on thick’ (with claims of a suicide pact and depression) in an effort to pull another  fast one on the American public, may have just have provided anecdotal evidence of their complicity in the fraud. After this interview, many Americans, including rightfully angry and vigilant Madoff fraud victims like Ilene Kent, will have the right to continue to believe that the Madoff Sons and their mother had full knowledge of and were participants in the monstrous fraudulent scheme along with other members of The MCFMadoff Crime Family including Peter and Shana Madoff and key beneficiary, Philanthropic Fraud, Jeffrey Picower.  And then they continued on their circuit to Matt Lauer live on Halloween:

According to Andrew, Ruth’s first question was  ‘What’s a “Ponzi scheme?’ Come again? If you did not hesitate for even a moment when you heard that, let’s back up for a second here. Ruth was a math wiz who graduated from Queens College where she majored in Business Administration & Finance. She was working on Wall Street before Bernie Madoff.  In fact, biographers have detailed how Bernie was studying law at Brooklyn Law School before he dropped out to join his ambitious young wife on the street.  Ruthie went to Wall Street for similar reasons as Willie Sutton who was once asked why he robbed banks, famously answered, “Because That’s Where The Money Is.”  Let’s just say Ruthie knew where the money was.  According to reports, she was her husband’s bookkeeper, which it turns out required one to be a Chef as well.  Queens College may not be Harvard but it is a fine institution, hence I find it very hard to believe that the little mathematical wiz managing/cooking her husband’s books had no idea what was a Ponzi Scheme.

THE MADOFF CLAN: Still Peddling Fiction

The Mainstream Media Offers More ‘Sympathy for the Devil’

Mainstream media continues to proffer stories seemingly designed to evoke sympathy for the lives of  Bernie Madoff and members of the Madoff criminal family enterprise (’Madoff Crime Family’ or ‘MCF’), many of whom are still at large, leading lives far better than the average man or any of his defrauded investors in what Paul Krugman has referred to as ‘the Madoff Economy’. Do you ever stop and wonder why in these tumultuous times, where the financial fortunes, if not basic economic security of so many in the middle class and the aspiring upper middle class has been undermined, destabilized if not destroyed by Ponzi schemes and  Crony Capitalism so severely that ‘the pitchforks’ now Occupy Wall Street, why the media continues to offer up these stories?  If Barbara Walters’ interview with Bernie Madoff behind bars and discussed on ABC News did not disgust you enough then maybe the one by Morley Safer on 60 Minutes with Ruth Madoff and Andrew Madoff and his Black Umbrella might literally make you throw up.  They were there promoting their con job and the book ‘Truth & Consequences: Life Inside the Madoff Family’ written by author Laurie Sandell, at the direction of Catherine Hooper and Andrew Madoff based upon interviews with each of them as well as Ruth.

Then there is Mark Madoff’s widow, Stephanie Madoff Mack’s memoir on the effects of her father-in-law’s conviction in her new book “The End of Normal. A Wife’s Anguish, A Widow’s New Life” and her interview with Chris Cuomo on ABC.  These selfish book worms seem to have rather ironic if not coincidental timing doing their TV and book tours the same week.

Is the media being pitched by the  public relations representative and their personal lawyers operating in the shadows  in an effort to rehabilitate socially members of the MCF who thus far have evaded prosecution, avoided being suicided just like Deborah Jeane Palfrey or ‘found hanged with a dog’s leash from a living room pipe’ ? Or is there something more sinister at play?  How do you think this plays with Madoff Victims and the general public?  I am sure many of them wonder Why is the Elite Class [being] protected [still] under America’s Justice system?

What I find most troubling is the mainstream media’s continuing need to sell public empathy for a despicable man and a criminal family enterprise with leadership of that enterprise still at large, largely evading prosecution. Andrew Madoff, a Wharton MBA and his ’suicided’ brother Mark Madoff, a highly educated duo who ran the firm’s trading operation never noticed their father’s lack of a foot print in trades on the street? Despite the ignorance claimed by the Madoff sons,  more significant commentators than me have raised issues about the surreal bonuses and overall compensation packages that these two received and raised very real issues about their responsibility and complicity in the Madoff family fraud. And yet that they never stopped to consider what was funding their lavish lifestyles? It certainly was not the profits that they generated.  In the not so distant recent past, the Wall Street Journal offered up a puff piece on Andrew Madoff’s challenges in his new life ‘after the fall’. The ‘poor guy’ is  holed up in a luxury apartment in a fancy doorman building in one of the most exclusive zip codes on the Upper East Side working under the Black Umbrella with the hot young girlfriend, Catherine Hooper, he dumped his wife for. Further he has to weekends cycling around Greenwich, CT. I feel for the poor chap.

Peter Madoff, brother of Bernie Madoff, who served as the chief compliance officer for its investment advisor and broker dealer businesses is reportedly the target of a criminal probe. Peter has been selling off assets in recent months, including his estates in Old Westbury, Long Island and Palm Beach. Meanwhile Shana Madoff, Peter’s daughter and Bernard’s niece, the formerly fantabulous socialite shopaholic was a rules-compliance attorney for its market-making arm on the broker-dealer side, is now living a less ostentatious life some where in Lower Manhattan in another exclusive enclave in Soho/Tribeca with her husband a ‘Veteran SEC Attorney’. The media informs us that the former rules-compliance attorney who is reportedly represented by attorney Mark Smith, lost a substantial portion of her assets. Gee, that really sucks. That makes her just like those defrauded by their family right? She is just another victim. Oy vey!  And then there is Bernies wife poor Ruth Madoff getting buy on the good will of friends/family in Palm Beach with only $2.5 million left to her name.  Shall I go on?

Madoff complicitor or ‘Frenemy’, “Philanthropist” Jeffrey Picower who was in the Forbes 400 Mad[e]-off with over $7-8 Billion dollars and was found just a couple of years ago in what a appears to have been a mysterious drowning in the pool at his Palm Beach mansion. His poor wife, in a complex deal struck by Jeffery Picower’s long time personal attorney, William Zabel of Schulte Roth & Zabel, agreed to forfeit $7.2 billion to the Department of Justice.  Picower’s ‘poor wife’ was forced to return all but $200 million that was earned in her husband’s involvement in the Madoff Fraud, to the Department of Justice so that Barbara Picower could continue on in her “Philanthropic” works.  Really, many individuals and family members lost their retirement savings and were bankrupted, despite the media created appearance that most Madoff victims will receive restitution (not  true), but the widow of a suspected criminal is left in tact so she can host luncheons with her gals in Palm Beach? How charming. Any institution with the name Picower on it ought to change the name of that entity to the ‘Victims of Bernie Madoff and Jeffrey Picower Center for Medical Research’ because that’s whose funds he used to extend his own false philanthropic brand.  Bernie Madoff and his criminal family enterprise make  OJ Simpson, an un-convicted murderer seem like a relatively sympathetic figure.

Anecdotal Evidence of Ruth’s Complicity in the Fraud

Andrew Madoff’s choice upon the exposure of the Madoff criminal family enterprise and what many still believe is his complicity in the crimes of his father was to ‘Take a long hot bath like Frankie ‘Five Angels’ Pentangeli’. Ruth may want to join him if they intend to go to the grave with the family secrets. For if they do, in my estimation they cannot get there fast enough.

Ruth Madoff and Andrew Madoff tipped their hand in their 60 Minutes interview.  Ruth allegedly asked her son Andrew Madoff  ‘What’s a “Ponzi scheme?’ Ruth was a math wiz who graduated from Queens College where she majored in Business Administration & Finance. She was working on Wall Street before Bernie Madoff. Bernie was studying law at Brooklyn Law School before he dropped out to join his ambitious young wife on the street.  Ruthie went to Wall Street because like Willie Sutton who was once asked why he robbed banks, famously answered, “Because That’s Where The Money Is.”  Let’s just say Ruthie knew where the money was.  According to reports, she was her husband’s bookkeeper, which it turns out required one to be a Chef as well.  Queens College may not be Harvard but it is a fine institution, hence I find it very hard to believe that the little mathematical wiz managing/cooking her husband’s books had no idea what was a Ponzi Scheme.

Full interview at 60 Minutes website

The attempt to socially rehabilitate rather despicable figures makes you wonder, especially in these times, do Insiders in the MCF have knowledge of or information about individuals more powerful than themselves pertaining to the economic crisis?  If not, then why else are elements of our corporate owned media expending so much energy trying to smooth over rough spots in how the criminal clan is perceived by the public at large?  If you are at all cynical, you may consider or perhaps recognize that  the Madoff Family Fraud did not end with the sons ‘turning in’ their father who confessed to be solely responsible for the fraud, but that only commenced the second chapter of that fraud in earnest, a fraud that continues to this day and which the mainstream media is complicit in fostering. Why?

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