Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Do Not Open until 2159

A judge has sentenced the anal wart Bernie Madoff to 150 years in prison, which sounds about right to me. I'm sure Daily Mail readers would have preferred 300 years, but making sure he'll spend this life and two or three of his afterlives in prison seems to me to be consistent with the scale of his crimes.

To put the length of time into perspective, 150 years ago Charles Darwin published "Origin of the Species", Lord Palmerston became Prime Minister and Isambard Kingdom Brunel died.

I've seen comments to the effect that the victims of Madoff's deceit were rich and stupid, and so somehow less deserving of our pity and the protection of the Law. These are likely to be the same people who think that a rape is less of a rape if the victim was beautiful and friendly.

And anyway, it's not true that the victims were rich and stupid. Many of them were middle-class people whose advisers got suckered. Some of them were exceptional people like Bill Foxton whose response to being wiped out by Madoff was to go to a public park near his home in Southampton, lie on a bench, and shoot himself in the head.

Some of the biggest banks in the world were victims too. Even Yeshiva University was taken for several million dollars. Bernie Madoff was a former chairman of the NASDAQ stock exchange - not some shiny-suited high-pressure salesman.

It really could have happened to any of us. Read the account of the sentencing hearing, which includes the testimony of some of these victims. And then tell me that fraud is a "white collar" crime where the victims had it coming.

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