Wednesday, February 16, 2011

America, Madoff, The New York Times

I will put you in a car in front of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and drive for an hour at the direction of your choice. Not particularly fast; about 60 or 65 miles per hour.

I will then stop in a small community and ask you to walk out and look around and talk to people.

You will not believe you are in “America” in the second decade of the 21st century. Not so much because of poverty, mind you, which reduced Bobby Kennedy to tears, but because of impossible, almost surreal ignorance; it will jolt you. “Folks” who think that the age of the earth is 3,000 years, who think New York is a foreign land, who have never – EVER – heard of California and who believe in a physical devil who would come and take you to hell, which they think is a few thousand feet below, above BP's Deepwater Horizon. Couples – men and women – who make the two hillbillies in Deliverance look like a pair of French intellectuals in a Left Bank cafe.

And it goes on and on, getting worse as you head to the West and away from the metropolitan areas. People who will not accept silver dollars because they have never seen one and do not believe it is for real.

Then, just when you are about to write off the country as a nighmarish post-Apocalyptic community of savage dim wits, it happens. You run into this “fella”, smack in the midst of hillbillies with rifles in the back of their trucks, who would tell you that right is right even if no one does it and wrong is wrong even if everyone does it. And his notion of wrong and right would be so right on the mark, as if formulated by Kant himself. And he would defend that belief with a zeal and conviction of a suicide bomber.

And then you run into the second such person. And then the third, and fourth. And hundredth. They are everywhere. They are not the majority by a long shot. But they are a strong enough minority to have its presence noticed.

The point? You belittle the Americans at your own peril.

All this by way of circling back to today's Madoff story in the New York Times. The single quote, Madoff saying that the banks “had to know” of his fraud was splashed on the front pages of all papers and news sites in the country and beyond.

The idle statement, coming from a criminal serving a life sentence, has no value. It means nothing. It will have no effect on the outcome of the lawsuit that the Madoff trustee has filed against the banks. Everyone knows that, the Times editors included.

But they are playing a game. They know that banks are under attack for greed, wrecking the economy, etc. So they have decided this is a good time to soften them for a settlement. Wouldn't a few billion dollars to pay Madoff “victims” be a politically/public rationally nice thing to do, Mr. CEO?

That's what they are after. And they think no one realizes that.

Banks had to know? What about others, say, the “victims”? From the Wall Street Journal, Nov. 19, 2010, p. C1, under Former Madoff Employees Indicted. I report, you decide!
Ms. Bongiorno, 62 years old, who joined Mr. Madoff’s firm in 1968, allegedly used a computer program to create blank account statements and revise existing account statements, according to the criminal indictment.

She sometimes asked certain investors to return previously issued account statements so that she could alter them, reflecting trades that purportedly occurred before their accounts had been opened, the indictment said. She allegedly received specific instructions from clients about the amount of appreciations and gains they wanted to have in their accounts.
Read that last part again: She received specific instructions from clients about the amount of appreciations and gains they wanted to have in their accounts.

If I didn’t have more pressing matters! If I cared about, if I gave a damn about these crooks and criminals!