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Archive for August, 2011

E. L. Doctorow has written a novel based on the legend of the Collyer brothers of New York City.  It is not based on the known historical facts of Homer Lusk Collyer and Langley Collyer.  The legend has given Doctorow the freedom to go wherever his two main characters lead him in his forgiving, gentle account of the socially and emotionally troubled brothers.

The brothers were hoarders, recluses, and paranoid, and that is perhaps only scratching the surface.  They attracted reporters and writers during their lifetime and death has been no hinderance to that interest.  They proved brothers can not hide when they live in a large Fifth Avenue New York City mansion, and they cause people to speculate on their wealth.  A rundown house in rural Alabama is a better location for recluses looking for success.

Don’t burden your reading of Homer & Langley by first checking on the historical facts.  Read it for the pleasure it has to offer; after the book, look up the historical facts at WikipediA under Collyer brothers.   The facts after reading the novel are an interesting counterpoint.

No one will ever know the full story of the brothers as the details of their lives were smothered in the 136 tons of junk and waste taken out of their residence.  Nor can hoarders’ clutter speak to relationships.  Clutter is the absence of relationships.  Charles Marlin

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In the subprime lending, mortgage kiting, mortgage-backed securities fraud, political corruption, and banking criminal collusion, we have everyone to blame, including the undereducated and naive homeowner victims.  It is a shame those who made vast fortunes in this debacle are not all serving prison terms and forfeitures of their wealth.  It is a shame that every politician who accepted money from the subprime lending and banking industry was not forced to resign and forfeit their government pension.

You won’t find a better researched and more readable account than Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed, And Corruption Led To Economic Armageddon by Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner.

The scary part of all this is we have no control over the corrupting influence of corporate and special interest spending through campaign support and lobbying on all functions of government in Washington.  Senators, Representatives, Cabinet members, and three and four star members of the services don’t leave Washington when they retire, lose an election, or leave office, they stay to make money corrupting the government.  They become Washington guerrillas, guns for hire.  Charles Marlin

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“Noah’s ark was so full of words it sank, so they put the words in a big book; but now, they are allon the internet.  The end.”  This child’s short version of Noah Webster’s life and work gets some of the story correct, for the remaining details and possible corrections you will need The Forgotten Founding Father: Noah Webster’s Obsession and the Creation of an American Culture by Joshua Kendall.

Noah Webster was most fortunate to have lived in an era when the worst a doctor could do to you was bleed and leech you to death.  He lived and thrived in response to several personality and mental disorders.  Had he been chemically doused as doctors do today, they would have left him with a Rotary membership and nothing more.

Kendall lays out the good and bad on Webster and happily the good outweighs the bad.  Against strong resistance, Webster wrote the most influential speller in early American life, as well as many other educational, political, and cultural books.  The project that consumed most of his life was the compilation and publication of a comprehensive English dictionary in 1828, An American Dictionary of the English Language.  With this dictionary he became a renown world intellectual.

The details of his checkered publishing career are dull but important because in response to the lack of protection for an author’s work, he was a pioneer in promoting copyright protection for intellectual property in America.

In reading Kendall’s well written biography of Webster we can take a relaxed view of the man and his eventual triumphs; but for many of his contemporaries, he was a skunk on paper and in person.  These contemporaries disliked his Federalism, his anti-democracy views, his spelling reforms, his views on public health issues, his Americanization of English, his condescension, his always right attitude, his sometimes shaky scholarship, his constant self-promotion, and his vilifying of those he did not agree with.  After that list there is no need to go into how he treated his family.

With this book you will be happy to welcome Noah Webster into your circle of Founding Fathers.  Charles Marlin

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A community can die for the lack of a helping hand; however, it can survive hard times if resources are laid aside to maintain continuity.  You can help a community long into the future by supporting an endowed trust fund held by your local community foundation.  Through good times and bad, a community endowed trust fund ensures the community will not dry up and blow in the wind.

Asking The Big Question

An endowed trust fund asks every citizen, not just the obviously prosperous community leaders, “Will you consider adding a bequest in your will naming your community fund?”  The question is simple, polite, and appropriate when presented to everyone through community promotion.

Unifying The Community

Every community has several charitable needs such as the volunteer fire company, local ambulance service, community park, community center, public library, school athletics, and local food bank.  A community endowed trust fund asks you to give to support all of these without disrupting long-standing loyalties to individual charities.  It is a unique opportunity to add to the whole community.

Building A Reserve

Holding to a budget is a good thing but it does not protect from exceptionally long events such as a decline in population.  Like every individual, a community needs to build a reserve against rough times.  Timber, gas, coal, farming, and manufacturing will rise or fall eventually, but community needs remain.  A contingency fund can only be used once; it is not a long-term resource.

Ensuring Integrity

Placing an endowed trust fund with a community foundation means it will never leave the community with a bank merger, it will never become the private fund of one official or click, it will always be professionally managed, its records remain open to any citizen, and its safety is guarded by a community board, a local fund committee, and state supervision.

Avoiding Crisis Depletion

When faced with a desperate need for immediate funds, a local council or board will always turn to the easiest source, and the easiest source is  funds under their authority.  The problem is no trust account is protected from a raid during a crisis unless it has legally independent trustees protecting it as an endowment.  Nobody can ever raid a community foundation endowed trust fund–those endowments are held in perpetuity.

Expecting The Unexpected

New problems and charitable needs arise as some familiar needs receded.  No one can predict what future needs will be; but you can prepare your community by supporting a fund open to appeals based on contemporary needs.

Stimulating Good Deeds

When you see within your community the good work resulting from an endowed trust fund, you are often stimulated in other ways to reach out and help.  You see that good deeds are noticed and respected by your community.  You feel pride in being where you are.

Teaching By Example

Younger siblings, children, and grandchildren know your values by your actions.  They learn responsibilities and loyalties by modeling after you.  Your giving now can live on in memory and influence way beyond your lifetime.

Levelling The Giving

Giving to one fund means strength is gained through the number of participants rather than individual amounts.  Large and small donations help in the same way by working for a common cause.  Every gift improves the whole.

Memorializing Lives

Giving in memory of a loved one or family reminds the community to not forget how those lives were lived.  The memorial is not an unread plaque or a gravestone turned into a public marker, but a continually repeated list of honor kept alive through renewal and community appreciation.

Welcoming Home

You come home to visit and look after affairs needing your attention.  When your gift and your family name are tied to the community, the years don’t matter.  You have reason to return home.  A community endowed trust fund is a welcome home sign imprinted within each person who has given and each person whose family is memorialized.  Charles Marlin

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It makes for entertaining reality television and you can work up some great stories; but for the families, associates, landlords, and neighbors, it is hellish.  Hoarders defy understanding because understanding assumes they would be normal if not for the trash choking their life and their one bad habit.  No, hoarders are mentally ill, probably suffering from more than one illness.

Matt Paxton and co-author Phaedra Hise have written from Paxton’s experience as a hoarder specialist The Secret Lives Of Hoarders: True Stories Of Tackling Extreme Clutter.  Mixed in with pop psychology are lists of things that work as well as things not likely to work.

You can not force an ill person to become well by yelling at them or making threats and dire predictions.  What you see as junk and filth, the hoarder sees as part of who they are and vital to their existence.  Imagine your own outrage if all your vehicles and driver’s license were taken from you by angry relatives because of two traffic violations.  If those relatives are smart, they will take your guns first and vehicle second.

Whatever the eventual plan of action is, it is critical that open, trusted communication is established and that respect is repeatedly demonstrated.  The plan of action will fail if it is rushed with the hoarder given no say in how things are to be handled.

There must be an intense followup to any effort to get rid of the clutter or the mentally ill person will continue to engage life as they have in the past; they will hoard.  There must be therapy, frequent contact by those the hoarder trusts, and covenant agreed to by all parties and is something the hoarder can maintain with a little help.  Remedial help should be planned and waiting.  With everything and person in place that should be there, the chance of success is very slim.

Close family and associates should educate themselves, as with this book and other books, so they understand the anger and rage a hoarder stimulates in others.  No one likes to have their attention and understanding turned against them by an ill person.  Make no mistake, the mentally ill hoarder will abuse your good intentions unless you place controls on what they can do to you.  Charles Marlin

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The Trustees of Bridge Builders Community Foundations have selected Trenton E. Moulin as Executive Director and he is already on the job.  For many years Steve Kosak was our Executive Director, but he is now with PNC Bank in Oil City; and for the transition period, we had Bill Kaufman as Interim Executive Director.  Both Kosak and Kaufman pledge support and counsel to our new director.

Moulin is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, and most recently was Director of Development for the Allegheny Region Chapter of the American Red Cross.  His resume included two years as a pirate in the Caribbean, but the Trustees discounted the claim as a juvenile fantasy.

His BBCF office is 213 Seneca Street in Oil City PA 16301; and his email is trentonmoulin@gmail.com   He can be reached at the office at (814) 677-8687 or by cell at (412) 978-6841.  He will be working with the affiliate boards of the Clarion County Community Foundation, Forest County Community Foundation, and Venango Area Community Foundation.

Jeanne Best continues her work with BBCF, however under the new title of Operations Director.  With her new title, she is authorized to carry a handgun in church, campus, camp, club, and curbside.  She can be reached at (814) 677-8687 or jeanne_vacf@verizon.net

Pictured above are the officers of BBCF and the new Executive Director.  From left to right are President Susan Williams of Rouseville,  Executive Director Trent Moulin of Oil City,  Secretary Lynn McCaslin of Tionesta, Vice-President Charles Marlin of Knox, and Treasurer Jason Woolcock of Oil City.  Charles Marlin

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Imagine this, a banking and financier heavily involved in American and international derivatives during wartime and who constantly deceives friends, bankers, and foreign governments, a man active in illegal international arms sales, is now considered an American patriot and Founding Father.  It is both true and a joy to read about in Robert Morris: Financier of the American Revolution by Charles Rappleye.

He managed the financial and diplomatic affairs of America under the Articles of Confederation which happens to be the period of the Revolutionary War.  Without him and his clever shuffling of the financial cards, General Washington would have had to flee to Spanish territory and later send for Martha.  Samuel Adams would have fled to the Caribbean.  It is impossible to know where James Madison would have gone.

In the nationalist and capable hands of Morris, derivatives kept the Continental Army in the field; and his insightful understanding of public credit and free capital markets set up America to become an international economic behemoth in the decades to follow.  He jeopardized his personal finances to keep the army clothed, fed, and provisioned; and unfortunately with peace, he pushed into devastating western land speculation in an effort to recoup his financial clout.  He failed and was put in debtor prison.  He was eventually freed but what he deserved was a presidential pardon and pension.

If you are building a Founding Fathers library, this is a must buy.  Charles Marlin

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