Swindles & Scams Mar 13 2009
A MADOFF RUSH TO JUDGMENT
Bernie Madoff is in jail but who has the missing money?

You know by now that yesterday in the U.S., crooked fund manager Bernie Madoff was handcuffed and led away to jail after pleading guilty to all counts against him. By declining to take the normal route of a plea deal with prosecutors, he sidestepped the requirement to divulge information about his accomplices and the disposition of the stolen money. Financial observers agree that Madoff could not have run his Ponzi scheme without help, and they certainly agree that the money didn’t just disappear.

The New York cover pictured here labels elderly Madoff a monster, as if he’s some atrocity never before seen by human eyes. While he may be the biggest swindler of all time, and he certainly isn't Kevin Bacon's favorite person, he’s not new. No, he’s just the latest in a long line of elegant grifters, though a particularly efficient one. What makes Madoff truly pulp is that he took the hit for his financial clan like a good mafia footsoldier, and though he’ll never get out of jail, neither will he—let’s face it—do time in Attica’s supermax wing with the child rapers and guys who ate their grandmothers’ kidneys. It’s easy to imagine Madoff is smiling inside just a little. Does that sound strange, and perhaps cynical? Yeah, it does until you think about it.

Consider for a moment how, in this post-millennial reality, we’ve become so jaded regarding the term “billions”. Not too many years ago you rarely heard that word uttered aloud by anyone other than an astronomer. So to put this Madoff thing in perspective, let’s just pretend the word doesn’t exist. Thus restrained, we now have to refer to him as a guy who stole—not one million, not fifty million—but 999 million dollars 60 times, and walked into jail without divulging where any of it went. Still think he isn’t smiling just a little? 

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
February 22
1987—Andy Warhol Dies
American pop artist Andy Warhol, whose creations have sold for as much as 100 million dollars, dies of cardiac arrhythmia following gallbladder surgery in New York City. Warhol, who already suffered lingering physical problems from a 1968 shooting, requested in his will for all but a tiny fraction of his considerable estate to go toward the creation of a foundation dedicated to the advancement of the visual arts.
February 21
1947—Edwin Land Unveils His New Camera
In New York City, scientist and inventor Edwin Land demonstrates the first instant camera, the Polaroid Land Camera, at a meeting of the Optical Society of America. The camera, which contains a special film that self-develops prints in a minute, goes on sale the next year to the public and is an immediate sensation.
1965—Malcolm X Is Assassinated
American minister and human rights activist Malcolm X is assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City by members of the Nation of Islam, who shotgun him in the chest and then shoot him sixteen additional times with handguns. Though three men are eventually convicted of the killing, two have always maintained their innocence, and all have since been paroled.
February 20
1935—Caroline Mikkelsen Reaches Antarctica
Norwegian explorer Caroline Mikkelsen, accompanying her husband Captain Klarius Mikkelsen on a maritime expedition, makes landfall at Vestfold Hills and becomes the first woman to set foot in Antarctica. Today, a mountain overlooking the southern extremity of Prydz Bay is named for her.
1972—Walter Winchell Dies
American newspaper and radio commentator Walter Winchell, who invented the gossip column while working at the New York Evening Graphic, dies of cancer. In his heyday from 1930 to the 1950s, his newspaper column was syndicated in over 2,000 newspapers worldwide, he was read by 50 million people a day, and his Sunday night radio broadcast was heard by another 20 million people.
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