Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Dog Days of Summer and a Few One Percenters

"Dog Days of Summer" is a familiar phrase and descriptor. I had to research its derivation, suspecting it had little to do with panting canines - a plausible though ignorant assumption given the season's heat. In fact the dog in the phrase refers to the constellation Canis Major, with its prominent star Sirius, known as the "dog star." The Greeks and Romans believed that about the time when Sirius appears to rise just before the sun (approximately late July) coincides with the hottest time of the year. Furthermore, as suggested for instance in Homer's The Iliad, there is the belief that the Dogs Days portend a time of war, calamity and disaster.

This ancient meaning of  Dog Days might even have a correlation with today's horrors of terrorism, violent bigoted behavior and the feckless leadership in Washington D.C. I won't pursue that line of thought further but as I am writing this not far from D.C. in mid August I can confirm without fear of contradiction that it has been very hot (heat indices over 100). We have just been witness to the tragedies of the riot in Charlottesville, the  Barcelona terrorist attacks and the unconscionable  reactions by Mr. Trump to these events. Add in the recent total eclipse of the sun and you have to wonder if the Ancients didn't have a point.

Luckily my wife Hope and I were able to escape the worst of the Late July-Mid August heat by trips to Western Colorado and an island off mid coast Maine. Along the way I garnered some news items about One Percenters, a class well represented in the Trump administration (see my post "Pluto Philanthropy" - April 2017). In Aspen Colorado, the high altitude playground of the mega rich, I came across a front page story in the Aspen Daily News of July 26: "Developer Fights for Ownership of Huge Aspen Home."  And huge it is.  Built in 2011, here are some of the amenities in the 19,000 square foot structure: seven bedrooms, 11 bathrooms, a lazy susan for vehicles in the subterranean five car garage, 40 feet ceilings and a 30 foot rock water fall. It was offered at $45 million, then later reduced to $39.7 million. What the developer called a "lifestyle compound" has never sold.

The Boston Globe of July 31 excitedly reported the sighting of the super yacht Vava II moored in Boston harbor.  It is approximately 315 feet long, sports a helicopter on its upper deck and reportedly cost $150 million to build in 2012.  The owner is a Swiss billionaire Ernest Bertarelli, known as a lover of yachts and an avid sailor. It was not clear if he was aboard with his wife, a former Miss United Kingdom or why it was in Boston. He is however  a graduate of the Harvard Business School. Attending a reunion, perhaps? To put the yacht's size in perspective, a football field is 340 feet long. I am guessing he at least has enjoyed his possession as opposed to the Aspen developer who apparently hasn't.

While I am on a mega bender, let's be positive and and report that on August 14 The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported that Bill and Melinda Gates gave $4.6 billion  of Microsoft stock to their Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The gift reportedly is designated for the foundation's global health initiative. That is mega philanthropy.

These tidbits found during the Dog Days come to you with best wishes for a happy end of summer and smooth re-entry to the workaday world after Labor Day. I will be returning in September as well  to continue with posts on nonprofit issues. Then should be cooler days, at least as far as the weather is concerned.

Comments on this post and others found in the archive to your left are always welcome at Past blog posts can also be viewed at www.geoffrey platt