Indiana Jones and the Lost Billions, starring Bernie Madoff as the Grinch


We’ve always known that New York is the city of big liars. But if last week’s blockbuster criminal complaint is true, then Bernie Madoff is the biggest liar in town.

And now that adds to the burden of Barack Obama. At least he’s from the city of big shoulders. And he’ll need them.

It is satisfying that Madoff is one of those annoying high-society mogul twits and that he has enveloped other rich goniffs in places like the Palm Beach Country Club.

It’s like a bad Spielberg movie — and it is to Steven Spielberg himself, who also got taken.

But Madoff’s assault on other rich people is only an amusing sideshow in light of the charities and other institutions that got suckered and are now shuttered because of his alleged Ponzi scheme. (Brilliant New York Post lede graf this morning: “He’s the Grinch who stole … everything.”)

Wall Street’s potholes are widening into one big chasm, thanks in part to such stupidity as pension funds letting Wall Streeters manipulate the money reserved for hard-working middle-class retirees. Yes, it’s not only banks, hedge funds, and other rich people who lost millions. Fairfield, Connecticut, for just one of many examples, reports losses of $42 million in pension funds.

Maybe potholes is the wrong word. Wall Street’s looking like tar pits that are hardening so suddenly that we can’t even grab our shoes to throw them at crooks and pols.

On the other hand, now we hear that Dick Cheney calls the Guantanamo Bay prison “very valuable” and wants it to stay open. That’s a great idea. Send Bernie Madoff and other Wall Street crooks there.

But at least environmentalists are getting good news about other valuable real estate. They just might have won a major victory with Obama’s selection of Colorado senator Ken Salazar as Secretary of the Interior.

He’s definitely no Stewart Udall — not even close — but for these times he’ll do. Salazar has been engaged with the Bush regime’s Bureau of Land Management in a bitter fight to keep the government from tearing up the Roan Plateau in western Colorado, a beautiful, massive area west of Aspen that sits over gas and oil shale.

For newsy, recent background, see Alan Prendergast‘s fine reporting (as always) in the Denver alt paper Westword. Last June, in “A Hot Summer on the Roan Plateau,” Prendergast wrote:

It’s official. The Bureau of Land Management announced Monday that it will auction gas leases on 55,000 acres on top of the Roan Plateau on August 14. And Governor Bill Ritter and Senator Ken Salazar, who’ve been battling the BLM plan for years, are more than a little exercised over the move.

Although it doesn’t enjoy the protection of a national park or even a designated wilderness area, the Roan is one of the most biologically diverse areas in the state — a haven for black bears, mountain lions, peregrine falcons, rare plants and the world’s purest strain of Colorado River cutthroat trout. But the plateau also sits on an estimated $22 billion worth of natural gas.

For a human’s look at the Roan, a place you’ve never heard of, see Prendergast’s “Raiding the Roan: Rich in wildlife and natural resources, the Roan Plateau survived the last energy boom. Will this one destroy it?”

Stewart Udall, by the way, is still alive. And as recently as last June, the still-sharp 88-year-old former Secretary of the Interior under JFK and LBJ told the New York Times‘s Timothy Egan that he was hopeful that the country was about to enter “a new era” of conservation.

Tragically, his brother, charismatic former congressman, presidential candidate, and shoulda-been-president Mo Udall, died a decade ago after a bitter battle against Parkinson’s during which he clung to his congressman post for 12 years after he was diagnosed. However, Stewart’s son Tom Udall is a senator-elect in New Mexico, and Mo’s son Mark Udall is a senator-elect in Colorado.

As Egan wrote:

[F]rom Udall’s long tenure as secretary of the interior for both Kennedy and President Lyndon Johnson came a legacy of public land protection responsible in large part for so many wilderness areas just outside Western cities.

Now, the son also rises. And so does the nephew.

That is a family that helps relieve the bitter taste left in our mouths by Bernie Madoff and his clan.


Times (U.K.): ‘Head of IMF fears unrest without action on economy’

Violent unrest may be sparked around the world by a prolonged global slump unless governments act with greater urgency to jump-start stalled economies, the head of the International Monetary Fund said on Monday.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn sounded a stark warning over the consequences of what he argued was weak and uncertain government reaction to the economic crisis. He used a hard-hitting speech in Madrid to single out eurozone nations over what he attacked as an inadequate response.

The broadside from the IMF’s managing director came as fears over a protracted global recession, and political fallout, mounted after China said that its factories’ output registered the weakest growth in almost a decade last month.

Register (U.K.): ‘Nine in ten emails now spam’

Nine in ten emails are now spam with an estimated 200bn junk mail messages a day clogging up the internet, according to a new report by networking and security giant Cisco.

The US is the single biggest source of spam, accounting for 17.2 per cent of junk mail. Other big offenders include Turkey (9.2 per cent), Russia (8 per cent), Canada (4.7 per cent), Brazil (4.1 per cent), India (3.5 per cent), South Korea (3.3 per cent), Germany and the UK (2.9 per cent each). …

The latest 2008 edition of Cisco’s annual security report notes a 90 percent growth in threats stemming from legitimate domains, nearly double that recorded in 2007. Numerous mainstream websites were loaded with iFrames, malicious scripts that redirect visitors to malware-downloading sites.

The compromise of legitimate domains is all part of the bigger picture of increasingly sophisticated attacks which these days are usually tied to cybercrooks looking to turn a fast buck, rather than teenagers looking to make a name for themselves.

McClatchy: ‘Even with gasoline prices down, Americans cut back on driving’

New Yorker: ‘News You Can Lose’

The perfect storm is real enough, and it is threatening to destroy newspapers as we know them. …

Times (U.K.): ‘British banks losing billions to “one big lie” in biggest ever fraud’

The eye-popping scale of what is being billed as the world’s largest swindle became apparent yesterday as wealthy investors and banks around the world emerged as the victims of Bernard L. Madoff. …

Banks and investors around the globe announced probable losses of $19.5 billion in aggregate, although Mr Madoff has said that the figure could go as high as $50 billion.

Wall Street was still trying to digest the unprecedented scale of the fraud, news of which broke last week when the FBI announced that Mr Madoff, a pillar of New York society and a former chairman of the Nasdaq share market, had been arrested and charged. What had taken Mr Madoff years to set up had collapsed in less than three months.

Washington Post: ‘Obama Picks Chicago’s Schools Chief For Cabinet’

[It is a little unnerving that George W. Bush’s Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings (great name!) has praised the guy, Arne Duncan, as a “kindred spirit.” — Harkavy]

N.Y. Times: ‘Kennedy Seeks to Prove Qualifications for Senate Bid’

McClatchy: ‘Bush shoe incident caught Secret Service flatfooted’

N.Y. Post: ‘The Most Hated Man in New York: Bernie Madoff Skulks From His Manhattan Penthouse’

Register (U.K.): ‘China “bans” BBC’s Chinese website’

McClatchy: ‘Probe finds politics drove endangered species decisions’

Politics corroded Bush administration decisions on protecting endangered species nationwide, federal investigators have concluded in a sweeping new report.

Former Interior Department official Julie MacDonald frequently bullied career scientists to reduce species protections, the Interior Department investigators found.

N.Y. Times: ‘Legal Hurdle in Blagojevich Case: A Crime, or Just Talk?’

L.A. Times: ‘Madoff debacle hits region’s Jewish community’

Wall Street financier Bernard L. Madoff’s alleged $50-billion Ponzi scheme appears to have extended deeply into Southern California’s Jewish community, with millions of dollars in losses tallied Monday by charitable organizations, Hollywood executive Jeffrey Katzenberg and a foundation bankrolled by director Steven Spielberg. …

The more than 30 organizations and individuals around the world identified so far as victims of the alleged deception are a diverse lot. But the disclosures by Southland Jewish organizations suggest a so-called affinity scam, in which members of a perpetrator’s ethnic or religious group are targeted.

N.Y. Times: ‘Giant Wall St. Fraud Leaves Charities Reeling’

Aspen Daily News (Colorado): ‘Conservation groups ask Obama for oil shale reversal’

Conservation organizations are asking President-elect Barack Obama to reverse the Bush administration’s efforts to speed oil shale development in western Colorado, eastern Utah and southern Wyoming.

Twenty-one local, regional and national organizations are asking the incoming administration to withdraw the Bush administration’s last-minute rules governing oil shale development and wait until after the results of a research and development program are known.

They accuse the Bush administration of “rushing development of a commercial oil shale leasing program in a manner that solely benefits industry — at the expense of taxpayers and sound policy.” …

Environmentalists are looking to the Obama administration to be a closer ally on their issues than the Bush administration, which they criticized for rolling back protections for public lands and easing energy exploration.

They have been asking Obama’s transition team to reexamine a range of public lands issues, from drilling on the Roan Plateau to protections for roadless areas.

McClatchy: ‘For Congress, auto executives are “lemons,” too’