One of the uglier effects of the economic meltdown; attack of the Envy People, gloating over the falling fortunes of others.

Bernie Madoff made off with the money of the super-rich, and legions of howler monkeys danced with joy! The schadenfreude appeared in the comments threads of many articles about Madoff.

You’re all idiots, greedy idiots and you almost deserve what you got.

And deserving of their fate for being Jewish and associating with a Jew.

Yeah, I know there are a lot of crazies on the internet, but even without the gratuitous antisemitism, I was disappointed to hear so many people – including people I know – gloating over the victims of the Madoff scheme.

Bernie Madoff did not just rob rich people, he robbed charities, and the pensions of middle class Americans. He robbed teacher’s unions, and fireman’s unions.

At this link, you will find a list of the 147 charities and organizations Bernie Madoff robbed.

Apparently, putting your money into the hands of investment advisers (which, by the way, is exactly what you are supposed to do with money,) is the mark of stupid. Leaving your money in an investment account where other people can get it is asking to be robbed!

That’s like saying you deserve to have your house robbed because you left it out in public.

We sign contracts with banks, and credit unions and investment firms every day to handle our money. They get a fat percentage of it, to reward them for their efforts on our behalf. If they are not honest with our money, then they are crooks, and we deserve the protection of the law. We deserve the protection of the law if we lose $50 or $5 million.

Smart people are as likely to get burned by crooked investment advisers as anyone else. And there’s no better article for discussion than this one at The Skeptic. Author Stephen Greenspan is one of Madoff’s victims. He is also a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Colorado where he teaches about scams, scammers and the scammed. File under REQUIRED READING.

The four factors are situation, cognition, personality and emotion. Obviously, individuals differ in the weights affecting any given gullible act. While I believe that all four factors contributed to most decisions to invest in the Madoff scheme, in some cases personality should be given more weight while in other cases emotion should be given more weight, and so on. As mentioned, I was a participant — and victim — of the Madoff scam, and have a pretty good understanding of the factors that caused me to behave foolishly. So I shall use myself as a case study to illustrate how even a well-educated (I’m a college professor) and relatively intelligent person, and an expert on gullibility and financial scams to boot, could fall prey to a hustler such as Madoff.

Scammers are epidemic in the art and entertainment field. The latest victim: Patricia Cornwell. Arlene Harris alerted me to this link: Cornwell and her wife Doctor Staci Gruber are out $40 million.

The complaint notes that Cornwell is bi-polar, has her own helicopter and makes more than $10 million per year. It also questions a $5,000 check to adviser’s daughter for her Bat Mitzvah, and says the adviser told Cornwell and her partner, Dr. Staci Gruber, to pose as Middle Easterners to lease a New York apartment.

At Daily Finance, stomach-turning gloating and homophobia. Is it really necessary to leave comments like that on a blog?


Actor Nicolas Cage is suing his business manager Samuel Levin for financial misdeeds after Cage was slapped with millions of dollars in bills for back taxes.

Legal papers state Levin “over-extended Cage’s line of credit with banks and financial institutions” and hid his “true financial condition prior to investments and assets being acquired by Cage”.

Salsa singer Marc Anthony trusted his brother to handle his finances, and found himself in huge debt to the IRS.

Anthony’s brother, Bigram Zayas, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a class E tax law felony. Zayas was general manager of Bolero, Ari, and Marc Anthony Productions from 2000 to early 2003. He also failed to file his federal and state personal income tax returns from 2000 through 2004 and did not pay taxes on approximately $2.4 million of taxable income.

I’ve also been ripped off by people I thought I knew very well. People I counted among my closest friends. My losses weren’t huge, but it happened. You wouldn’t allow these people access to your money if you didn’t trust them. And trust makes you vulnerable. To some, any act of trust means you are stupid.

I’d rather put my money in a bank, than stuff it in a mattress. I’d rather invest it in a project than bury it under a rock.

If it turns out the bank is run by a crook, will others gloat if I am robbed? Or will they gloat if my house burns down and burns all the money in my mattress?

A few weeks ago, novelist Danielle Steele’s aide pled guilty to embezzling $400,000 from Steel’s accounts.

Steel is not shown much mercy in comments at the SF Gate blog.

Why am I wasting my time on this sh!t when there are so many GOOD books out there? When I worked at the library, I inwardly cringed every time I had to help someone find her books, they are an affront to literature!

Um…what does her writing have to do with her being robbed? I pity the library that employed this dope.

The trusted aide/crook worked in Steel’s home and was employed for more than 15 years.

It takes a special kind of nasty to be that close to someone for that long and to pick their pocket. To rob while smiling in their face, exchanging Christmas cards. To rob the person who gave you money when you needed it.

Both the criminal case documents and the civil lawsuit say that Watts worked for TPA from 1993 until she was fired in December 2008.

Watts, who is also known as Kristy Siegrist, said in the federal plea agreement that she embezzled from her employer in three ways.

Those were: depositing checks made out by her employer for “cash” to her personal account; using the employer’s credit card reward points to buy airline tickets and gift cards for Watts and her family; and arranging for a payroll processing company to pay her more than she was due, according to the plea agreement.

I’ve never been robbed by anyone like Madoff or for nearly as much money as Steel: I’ve been nickle and dimed. But nickles and dimes add up. Over the years, it adds up to a lot.

If people think you have money, they don’t care if you lose it, and they don’t care why. The matter of whether or not you are rich – or if you do worthy things with your money when you have it – doesn’t really seem to make much difference to the Envy People.

I’m one of the few creators I know who is careful with money. Learning about money takes time and effort, and most people aren’t willing to put in the effort. I do, because I like what money does for me.

Money is the difference between being a full-time working artist who gets to have a few luxuries once in awhile, and being one of those artists who has to engage in serial blegging to keep a roof over their head because their day job and their art combined won’t support the most basic needs.

Without money, I don’t get to write and draw. It’s that simple. Money buys freedom. (I’ve written all this 100 times before. I hope it’s sinking in.)

When I get angry about getting robbed, I don’t just get angry about the loss of the money. I get angry about the loss of the freedom that money buys.

Every $5000 is an issue of A Distant Soil. That’s a low end figure for how much money I need to create one issue. When some sleazoid rips me off for $5000, there goes the funds for one issue.

I’ll write more on this later, but I want to leave you with this article on F. Scott Fitzgerald. The jazz baby icon seems like the kind of guy whose life was lived in the bubbles of champagne. But he was careful with a buck. And careful wasn’t enough.

He kept meticulous journals, and his tax records were saved. This article at The American Scholar makes for fascinating reading. And doesn’t this sound familiar?

The ordinary person saves to protect against some distant rainy day. Fitzgerald had no interest in that. To him saving meant freedom to work on his novels without interruptions caused by the economic necessity of writing short stories. The short stories were his main source of revenue.

It was Zelda Fitzgerald’s schizophrenia that ate F. Scott’s resources. Her care was extremely expensive. In the end, Fitzgerald was nearly broke. This paragraph breaks my heart:

In 1936, he inherited $22,975 from his mother, but by that time his finances were lost past recall. When he died in December 1940, his estate was solvent but modest—around $35,000, mostly from an insurance policy. The tax appraisers considered the copyrights worthless.

Creators who strike it rich and enjoy the great privilege of having enough money to do their work don’t incite my envy. People aren’t trying to get rich just because they want to sit on their asses and eat bon bons. They want to have money to pursue their art and they want to have money so that they do not become a burden on others. If you don’t want to end up on the dole in your old age, or you don’t want to end up blegging if you get cancer, or you don’t want to end up in a job you hate never able to do the job you love, all that takes money.

If you don’t want Patricia Cornwell to have your money, don’t buy her books. Just because she has money, she doesn’t deserve scorn for being the victim of a crime.

What sick mixed messages this ambivalence about material success sends to creators. They are constantly told they are fools for being artists, doing work for the love. Then they are told they are fools for doing art for money. They are fools for not managing money well. Then they are told that artists are constitutionally incapable of handling money because they are foolish artists.

They are scorned for seeking out people they can trust to help them with that money, especially if they get robbed later. Robbed of money they should never have had in the first place, for if they were real artists, they wouldn’t have money.

Only hacks get rich.

A genius like Fitzgerald died making pennies squeak, his copyrights deemed worthless.

Creators are deified for dying broke and demonized for being successful.

Their worth as people and as artists has absolutely nothing to do with their money.

It’s ridiculous to hate those who have it and ridiculous to romanticize those who don’t.