The big con.

Interesting story in the NYT yesterday with an irresistible headline: The Talented Mr. Madoff. With no new developments to add, the story took a look at the psychology of the man; it took a stab at the parts of the story that are interesting to me, and those are the parts that would be in the novel, not the Fortune magazine postmortem:

“Some of the characteristics you see in psychopaths are lying, manipulation, the ability to deceive, feelings of grandiosity and callousness toward their victims,” says Gregg O. McCrary, a former special agent with the F.B.I. who spent years constructing criminal behavioral profiles.

Mr. McCrary cautions that he has never met Mr. Madoff, so he can’t make a diagnosis, but he says Mr. Madoff appears to share many of the destructive traits typically seen in a psychopath. That is why, he says, so many who came into contact with Mr. Madoff have been left reeling and in confusion about his motives.

“People like him become sort of like chameleons. They are very good at impression management,” Mr. McCrary says. “They manage the impression you receive of them. They know what people want, and they give it to them.”

Con men are a staple of fiction, and having never met one myself (other than the usuals — bosses promoted beyond their abilities, etc.), I take a writer’s word about what’s involved in the game. And so reading about Madoff sent me to my paperback-pulp bookshelf, where I found “Bright Orange for the Shroud,” and yes, folks, it’s time to get acquainted with ol’ Travis McGee again. On the trail of the crew who fleeced an old friend of a family fortune in a perfectly legal real-estate scam, he comes across their offices in a bland Florida complex, and meets the head of the gang. Together they admire Debra, his lovely assistant and protege. Even though Travis’ friend was a fat pigeon, like all good professionals they’ve got another one in the pipeline. The boss explains:

By falsifying records, bribing minor officials, making some careful changes in old group pictures — school and church — and with the help of some brown contact lenses, some minor changes in hair and skin texture we have given Debra an iron-clad identity as a mulatto, as a pale-skinned girl who actually did disappear at fourteen. This curious revelation has come as a horrid shock to her young husband of four months, and an even worse shock to her wealthy father-in-law, the ex-governor of a southern state, a fevered segregationist, a man with political ambitions. The positive rabbit test — also faked — is bringing things to a climax. The fat settlement is for divorce, abortion and total silence.

I suppose the biggest con in this is how John D. MacDonald flatters his readers into sympathizing with the crooks. A neat trick in 1965.

But that wasn’t the revelation of the business section this week; rather, this Ben Stein column was. I confess: I’ve been a reader of Stein’s since the 1980s, and my newspaper’s editorial page had a subscription to the American Spectator, which has been running the creepy Ben Stein’s Diary for years. All Stein columns are a version of Ben Stein’s Diary, and all Diary entries are roughly the same: Stein describes his life as a C-list actor in enervating detail that somehow matches his famous voice, with regular stops to marvel at how lucky, how fortunate, how unbelievably blessed he is.

When his days weren’t concluding with dinner at Morton’s, they ended with a description of Tommy, his adopted son (“We’re so blessed to have Tommy. Every day we thank Tommy’s birth mother for choosing life…”). Even at the gamboling-puppy stage of childhood, Tommy sounded like the world’s biggest spoiled brat, begging his dad, always successfully, for one indulgence after another, about which Stein sometimes pauses to feel bad, but never very long. He’s happy to be a rich Republican and to buy things for his boy. If it made Tommy happy, that was good enough for Ben.

Well. Now it’s 2009, and some chickens are ringing the doorbell at Stein’s multiple fabulous homes, asking where they’ll be roosting:

…my handsome son, age 21, a student, has just married a lovely young woman, 20. You may have seen on television the pudgy, aging face of their sole means of support.

I have been pondering what advice to give them about money. What I keep coming up with is this: Do not act like typical Americans. Do not fail to save. Do not get yourself in debt up to your eyeballs. Work and take pride and honor from your work. Learn a useful skill that Americans really need, like law or plumbing or medicine or nursing. Do not expect your old Ma and Pa to always be there to take care of you. I absolutely guarantee that we will not be. Learn to be self-sufficient through your own contributions, as the saying goes.

…I wish I could teach that work ethic to those close to me. I wish I could teach them that money is a scarce good, worth fighting for and protecting. But I very much fear that my son, more up-to-date than I am in almost every way, is more of a modern-day American than I am. To hustle and scuffle for a deal is something he cannot even imagine. To not be able to eat at any restaurant he feels like eating at is just not on his wavelength. Of course, that’s my fault. (I have learned that everything bad that happens anywhere is my fault.) And I hope to be able to leave him well enough provided for to ease his eventual transition into some form of self-sufficiency.

The rest of the column’s even worse, if you can imagine. Actually, this has been a theme in the column for some weeks now, how “we” have gotten in over our heads through our profligate spending, etc. While I won’t argue with the broad outlines of this, I’d hope a writer who dares to call his column Everybody’s Business could spare a thought for those of us who have never set foot in Morton’s, who put large down payments on our houses and never once refi’d for vacation cash, who didn’t cave in (and, apparently, continue to cave) to our bratty children’s every whim, who saved and worked and who find ourselves equally screwed. What’s Tonto’s line? What do you mean “we,” white man?

I don’t generally wish ill on people I’ve never met and who’ve never done a thing to me, but I’m really hoping Tommy Stein meets reality one of these days, and that he skins his knee on it.

Now I’m off to study my Russian. Yes, that’s me — talented writer and editor, journalist with multimedia skills, working to add yet another skill to my repertoire, not that it will matter. No one’s hiring. Tommy Stein will always be better off than me.

Be good, all. it’s a new week, the sun is out, and although it’s very cold (6 degrees), I’ve had two cups of coffee and feel ready for anything. Onward to the new verbs, and the new year. Let’s talk about something other than Bill Ayers today, eh?

Posted at 8:37 am in Current events |
 

57 responses to “The big con.”

  1. ROgirl said on January 26, 2009 at 9:17 am

    RE: Mr. Madoff
    You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, etc. Funny how he managed to fool so many people for so long. He must have been really good.

    RE: Mr. Stein
    The word “chutzpah” comes to mind. Self-sufficiency won’t be something Tommy will ever have to give much thought to. Too bad Ben doesn’t extend his tender thoughts to those of us outside his immediate family.

    Wealthy people whining about their trials and tribulations is nauseating. When will their suffering end?

  2. brian stouder said on January 26, 2009 at 9:27 am

    Something other than Bill Ayers? Well, this past weekend, the young folks and Pam and I (and by the way, I include Pam under the rubric of “young folks”!) loaded into the minivan (which I spent $3 at the You-Wash-It Saturday, cleaning off the road salt. Why does that make a person feel so much better?), and rolled over to Indiana-Purdue University in Fort Wayne, to see the Remnant Trust collection of books and documents.

    http://www.theremnanttrust.com/remnant_trust_anthenaeum.php

    It is sort of an odd approach to basic, foundational, authentically old documents and books – a You-Touch-It deal. They had first editions of books by Adam Smith and Tom Paine and Alexis De Toqville (spelling?), and a New York Times from July 1862 with the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation (subhead – “Very Important”!)….and the NY Times was under glass and you couldn’t touch it, but all else was touchable!

    We snapped a photo of the girls touching Ben Franklin’s printed copy of the Declaration of Independence (complete with penciled in notes from ol’ Ben), and found the whole experience interesting.

    I’m still not entirely sure about the idea undergirding this approach to displaying rare books and documents (one of the 40-odd books in the collection on display was said to be valued at more that a quarter million dollars); afterall, facsimiles can and are easily produced.

    But then the thought occurs – what are we saving them for – if not to be touched and read. I suppose that if more than a few people then seek out more common copies of these things and actually read them, then THAT’S a very good thing. (and we’ll skip easy jokes at the expense of resurrected intellectual poseurs)

    edit: and NOTE to other residents of the Fort: another effect of The Remanant Trust’s stop here is the (free) performance of Hal Holbrook’s one-man Mark Twain show Thursday at 7pm at IPFW. The young folks and I will be there – hopefully early enought to get a seat!

  3. Randy said on January 26, 2009 at 9:44 am

    So Ben’s son gets married and lives off his dad’s money instead of earning his own? What kind of “man” would do that, pardon my chauvinism? But also, what kind of woman would marry a deadbeat?

  4. Jason T. said on January 26, 2009 at 9:48 am

    Randy, it’s the ultimate high-stakes version of “Win Ben Stein’s Money.”

  5. Julie Robinson said on January 26, 2009 at 9:55 am

    Brian, we went to the Remnant Trust exhibit on Friday, and were struck by how radical and subversive most of the documents were at the time they were published.

    The DH was able to attend the opening at the magnificent Allen County Courthouse where our son was part of a choir that gathered around the rotunda to sing the national anthem and America the Beautiful. After that actors portraying Jefferson, Franklin and John Adams led everyone in reading the Declaration of Independence. Spine tingling.

  6. brian stouder said on January 26, 2009 at 10:16 am

    Julie – excellent! I wish we could have made it for the unveiling at the Court House; going into that grand old girl is worth the effort by itself!

    I ventured to leaf through a book or two, but only tentatively. (what if you sneezed on one? What if….never mind!) The volunteers were wonderful, and immediately engaged the girls’ curiosity over by the Declaration. The women encouraged the children to touch it, so when it is discussed in school, they would be able to add an interesting detail to the discussion.

  7. LA Mary said on January 26, 2009 at 10:59 am

    When I worked on a college radio station, we had a psychopath make off with every hard come by dime we had. Ten grand. He was caught by the police and when he was released on his own recognizance, he called me to meet with him. He thought he had pulled off a pretty cool scam. No remorse, no guilt. It shut the station down, but he felt nothing but a sense of achievment. He had spent the money on clothes and a trip to Vegas.

  8. moe99 said on January 26, 2009 at 11:03 am

    Who, exactly, were the clients defrauded by Madoff? When I was at the SEC, we investigated what we called “affinity fraud,” which were, given my location in the west, Mormons fleecing other Mormons. Did Madoff bilk mostly Jewish clients or was it all over the board?

  9. Linda said on January 26, 2009 at 11:13 am

    Many average Americans have indeed gone into big debt over the past 15 or so years, but many of those were people who weren’t getting raises and went into debt and shunned saving money to stay even/afloat. My own savings have recently been wiped out helping relatives. And many others invested–the thing they tell people to do–and saw their investments wiped out. They weren’t people who got big checks being C-list actors and columnists, who then commenced to scolding and hectoring other people.

    Moe99:
    According to a story in the NYT early in the scandal, there was a lot of “insider fleecing” of Jewish clients in south Florida, but apparently it spread beyond that. People were made to feel like privileged insiders if they invested with Madoff, and were banished, or threatened with banishment, if they asked any questions.

  10. Jen said on January 26, 2009 at 11:14 am

    When I hear about (or know) people who live off their parents’ money like that, I always kind of chuckle at what a rude awakening they’re going to get when that money has dried up and they haven’t worked a day in their lives. Mean, I know, but their sense of entitlement is irritating.

    I have one friend who I saw throw a fit when her parents dared to suggest she should wait to have them buy the latest DVD set she wanted until she came home because her mom had a coupon. She wanted to pre-order it on Amazon with her parents’ credit card so she would get it the day it came out. She was at least 21 at the time, and she acted like a spoiled 8-year-old. I was appalled. I wish her parents would have slapped her across the face like she deserved, but instead they caved to her childish demands.

  11. jeff borden said on January 26, 2009 at 11:31 am

    Make a choice and death is not an option:

    Read Ben Stein’s columns.

    Read Mitch Albom’s columns.

  12. MarkH said on January 26, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    LA Mary, you worked at a college radio station that had $10k laying around?? At the OSU station I ran in ’73-’75 (not WOSU, the officlal college public station; we called ourselves WOSR, carrier-current AM to the dorms), we had some grant money and a few ad dollars, but nothing anyone could get their hands on. The “R”, of course, was for “rock”, and the AM meant, well, we could have used more listeners. It has since morphed into an internet-only broadcast called The Underground

  13. brian stouder said on January 26, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    Jeff – while both look unpalatable, either one would be preferable to seeing Governor Blago on The View, with the ladies imploring him to do his Nixon impression…!!

    Egads; the fellow is a living, breathing absurdity

  14. Bill said on January 26, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    A wealthy friend once told me he could give his kids anything they wanted except poverty. None of them has succeeded much at anything other than siring more kids.

  15. Hoosier said on January 26, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    Did you see Tim Goeglein’s latest gig? Lobbyist and Spokesman for Focus on the Family in Washington, DC. Another reason not to believe anything they say.

  16. Dave K. said on January 26, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    Stein, Albom, or Gov Blago? I just watched Vice-President Biden (recorded) on yesterday’s “Face The Nation”. Mr. Biden spoke thoughtfully and intelligently on a number of important issues, including his role as VP to President Obama and the situation in Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, as well as the possible problems with closing GITMO. He clearly and concisely answered the questions asked, or politely declined to answer.

    I closed my eyes and thought, “What would this interview be like if Sarah Palin were speaking?” I would rather read Stein, Albom, AND watch Blago than subject myself to the mental torture of imagining SP as VP!

  17. beb said on January 26, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    So apparently the prosecutors down at Gitmo have not been mantaining proper case files on all these prisoners. A lot of these people are simply un-prosecutable because their is evidence for their crimes, beyond the stuff tortured out of them, which, of course, is tained and inadmissible in any public or military court. The right is in a snit because “bad guys” may be released into the public. Apparentl;y the concept of “rule of law” continues to escape them.

  18. alex said on January 26, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    Stein or Albom? Hell, just read Goeglein and enjoy the works of both.

  19. brian stouder said on January 26, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    Hah!

    On the other hand, we have this

    http://content.usatoday.com/communities/theoval/post/2009/01/61847002/1

    a White House official confirms that during yesterday’s meeting with Congressional leaders from both parties, President Obama told the Republican lawmakers that “you can’t just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done.”

    Despite that Uncle Rush will take this as validation and that, tactically, any president is probably best advised to avoid jousting with specific journalists or pundits (or hate mongers), still I gotta say –

    Bravo!

  20. coozledad said on January 26, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    beb: My guess is that Campbell Law and Regents U. teach Kafka’s The Trial as a blueprint for criminal justice.
    The Constitution is an affront to these people’s sensibilities.

  21. LA Mary said on January 26, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    MarkH, we did have 10k as a start up grant. Briefly.

  22. Catherine said on January 26, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    The Madoff saga has me kind of obsessed, too. It seems less like he’s a psychopath and more like the whole thing is a Greek tragedy (but I love Greek tragedy, so maybe I’m seeing what I want). He built a powerful trading business out of nothing, and at the same time was instrumental in making stock trading more accessible to the general public. Yes, we can argue about whether that’s a good or bad thing. Still, things like the smorgasboard of mutual funds and no-fee/low-fee funds are in part the result of his work at opening up stock trading. The investment side of his business seems to be a later idea. Kind of an successful older person looking for his next act, finding that lightning doesn’t strike twice, and deluding himself into thinking that he’s going to get it all back. The kind of tragedy that takes everyone else down with you.

    And Moe, yes, there was a lot of affinity fraud there, but the affinities in question are fascinating. Besides the US Jewish community, his daughters married internationally and his sons-in-law were prime salespeople for his investment fund in S. America and Europe. Like I said, I’m boderline obsessed.

  23. jeff borden said on January 26, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    Brian Stouder,
    I got a chuckle out of that jape at El Rushbo by President Obama. I saw Limbaugh being interviewed by Sean Hannity –now there’s a pair– on “The Daily Show,” where El Rushbo went into this weird tirade about how everything was racial because Obama’s father is black and how everyone was being asked to bend over and grab their ankles. But he, Rush, wanted Obama to fail. Quite candidly, Rush looked terrible. He’s very, very overweight –prompting Jon Stewart to ask, “Is Rush Limbaugh molting?”– and he lacked even an iota of humor.
    I don’t think much of Limbaugh, but have always given him props for being clever and funny. Unlike the truly unhinged ranters like Hannity, he has generally leavened his rightwing crap with some entertainment. He was sure humorless in that segment.
    As for Obama’s remark, it may be a dog whistle to his more left-leaning supporters, who truly loathe Limbaugh.

  24. Dave said on January 26, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    I’ve known a couple of people like this, one, the son of a doctor, still more or less lives off his wife after his dreams of being a professional baseball player didn’t work out.

    The other, a son of privilege who was always going to be better off than me, regardless (liked that line, Nancy), did himself in when self-made problems became too much. A really sad story.

  25. Dexter said on January 26, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    Blagojevich said he is the same as Ghandi…persecuted in the same manner. He name dropped a few more, too…and Daley calls him “cuckoo”…gee, wonder why?

  26. jeff borden said on January 26, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    Last week, Blago compared himself to Jimmy Stewart and Gary Cooper. This week its Nelson Mandela, Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. Who will he be next week? Boy George? He is a %$#$% cuckoo.

  27. julia said on January 26, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    What exactly did Ben Stein know that his kid didn’t? Rich well-connected father? Check. Didn’t have to pay for school? Check.

    Unless he applied for a job at a ridiculously young age in the Nixon administration his dad was a high official for under an assumed name, his kid didn’t fall too far from the tree.

  28. nancy said on January 26, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    Maybe that’s why he always calls Tommy “handsome.” He’s preparing the ground for a career in showbiz. Too bad they’re not genetically related — maybe Tommy could carry on the tradition of the famous voice.

  29. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 26, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    WCCR, 90point1 FM, Cary Quad — “the power from the towers” (cue audio effect from cart rack) We’ll be rocking with you tonight until 10, but for now let’s “Roll With the Changes” [hit post with voice over ending as vocal track of REO song begins].

    Mmmm, good times, good times.

    “Bright Orange For the Shroud” was in some ways the McGee book that bugged me the most, in a good sense, because it seemed absolutely true — like it had already happened, was happening as you read it, and there was really no way to stop it from happening again. Other McGee books you could keep telling yourself would never actually happen, or happen that way, or could be kept from happening (“Green Ripper” being exhibit A), but “Orange” has haunted me for years. I’m not even sure i want to write something that disturbingly real, kind of like Andrew Vachss.

  30. moe99 said on January 26, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    500+ dogs siezed in puppy mill raids and many are pregnant with probably 1500 puppies to come. Major heartache up here for us dog lovers.

    http://www.komonews.com/news/38281439.html

  31. Dexter said on January 26, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    Didn’t Paul Harvey Jr. take over for a while when the old man was ailing? Now I think they just use a studio actor , but whoever they use, they have to sound almost like Harvey.
    Years ago the late Don Drysdale, former Dodger great, worked with Vin Scully in the LA booth. When Drysdale had enough mic-time to go after big money , he landed in Chicago, doing color for Sox games. His act was a direct rip-off of Scully’s…he sounded just like Scully, intonation, timing, everything. Many have copied parts of Scully’s style, but Drysdale was just a thief at doing it.
    Only once can I recall his being genuinely funny:
    Hawk Harrelson: “These bats today are a joke, breaking all the time.”
    Don Drysdale: “Well, Hawk, you and I both know it’s hard to get a good piece of ash today.”

  32. coozledad said on January 26, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    You guys laugh now, but I’m waiting for Blago, along with his wife, to host his next presser from the bedroom of the governor’s mansion. He’ll have shoulder length hair, a beard, a guitar…
    “I’m going to fight this thing all the way. For peace.”

  33. caliban said on January 26, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    Ben Stein isn’t stupid, but he masquerades as some sort of libertarian free thinker. He’s so bound by perverse ideology, he’s like an impacting turd that refuses to emerge. His singular talent, such as it is, is a brilliant straight face while he makes excuses for Constitutional criminals. If the afterworld is just, he’ll have Buster Keaton kicking him in a grovelling ass, forever.

    We’re supposed to think that American citizens like Sean Penn, Brad Pitt, Anjelica Huston, Tim Robbins, Penny Marshall, Waerren Fucking Beatty, Holly Hunter, Jane Fonda–we’re supposed to think that they’re not intelligent, involved American citizens impelled to use a soap box to insist on American values because those values don’t coincide with some knee-jerk Rovian horsecrap. They’re Americans, asshole. They’re voices count.

    Walker, Texas Ranger was a Huckaee man. One huckster has to stand by another. Jean Claude van Damme votes for endorsed sunrise. Somewhat strange.

    What I think is the deal, Wolfowitz, Elliot Abrams, Armitage William “Snake-Eyes” Bennet, Bill Kristol. These people don’t give a shit about America, and they’ve proved it. None of these dickheads had anything directly to do with slandering Kerry, but every single one of them claimed anti-terrorism requires endless military deployment, which I guess qualifies them as functional short bus.

    Kerry was ridiculed for pointing out that terrorists are criminals and that cops and prosecutors would bring them down. W supposedly kept the US safe. W’s approach landed Jose Padilla, the dirty bomber whose IQ is somewhat short of W’s. They caught the truck driver from Cleveland that was going to take down the Brooklyn Bridge in broad daylight with an acetylene torch. And those sorry wannabes in Miami that thought they’d get some Timbalands, Oh, and the cell that would have infiltrated the army base by claiming to be delivering pizza.

    On the subject of torture. Shrubco claims they got something from Sheik Khalid Mohammed by waterboarding him. What they got, and it was nothing to speak of, they got by telling him they’d kidnapped his wife and children. They did. And this wasn’t the classic hypothetecal. No bomb. No exigent circumstances. That’s torture, with the esspected lack of results, and the guy that ought to rot in hell is Cheney.

    Is their proof that would stand up in a court of law that SKM did anything illegal? Maybe. Has it been presented? Nope. Is seizing his family a heinous offense. No doubt Is using their detention against him in an interrogation a despicaple act and a breach of international law.

    Undoubtedly. Other international criminals believe some greater philosophy justifies the means. When Cheney said that Americans had no business knowing about Kenny-boys participation in his post-inaugural tea party, he said he was beyond the hoi polloi. He’s a despicable piece of traitorous shit that ought to be hunted down.

    So, Ben Stein in his movies apothosis. “Bueller, Bueller?” Maybe he once, time back, way back, had principles, but Ben Stein is a poster child for Neoconservatism and that (bowel) movement’s predilection for groupspeak.

    Is there anything in Nancy’s assessment of Madoff that doesn’t fit the appointed VP leaving the building because he threw his back out shredding documents? They sure as shit both got really rich, and the only thing preventing them from profiting on spectacular monetary and Karmic losses to everybody is permanent incarceration in something resembling Guantanamo.

    Neoconservative activism dates exactly to a letter from the Project for the New American Century in 1998 that was written to President Clinton, urging him to invade Iraq because the chimera country is sitting on an ocean of oil the US and GB didn’t rape and pillage back in the early part of the last Century. They couldn’t talk Clinton into this greedy land grab, even with self-styled strategic intellectual architects and impresarios like Wolfie and Rummy and Cheney and Screwtape Daniel Pipes and that deer in the 200o election headlights Jeb on board, so they found the coke-excavated W interlocutor and tried it again with a bunch of made-up threats. They stole an election and then they wreaked havoc. (They would have wrecked havoc, but despite their nihilistic leanings that would make their Lord and personal savior weep, that’s not linguistically possible.)

  34. caliban said on January 26, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    As far as Hollywood folks are concerned. I know, it’s their and not they’re. But seriously. I’ll take cool hand Luke over the wooden nonsense about filthy apes.

  35. Deborah said on January 26, 2009 at 8:17 pm

    Major layoffs expected tomorrow at my office. The rumor spread in a frenzy today. Wish me luck. I’m the highest paid, most experienced person in my group. I figure I’m a goner.

  36. nancy said on January 26, 2009 at 8:21 pm

    Luck and courage, Deborah. Goddamn this economy anyway.

  37. caliban said on January 26, 2009 at 8:29 pm

    Coozledad. Yeah, halfway funny. But, it’s kind of beyond question at this point that John was right and Blago is going to Club Fed.

    There’s something here I’m having a hard but increasingly easy getting a handle on. For one thing, the GOP assault on Clinton was led by experienced politicians. Died in the wool Republicans that held the moral high ground. Like Dan Burton. Now, we.ve got Vitter opposing the Attorney General. Is this asshole joking?

    Voulez vous couchez avec moi. Vitter????

    This business about pardons for anybody is fascinating. HW thought everybody that had to do with murdering Maryknoll sisters and Jesuit priests including yourself and anybody that

    No trial. No Constitutional rights. Is their some way Ricky Schroeder has a preferrable way of looking at things?

  38. Dexter said on January 26, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    The news today was just staggering…and we were warned tonight on the Nightly News that 2009 will be nothing but bad…thousands and thousands more layoffs…just take a gander at this 3 minute clip:
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3032619/#28863478

  39. Gasman said on January 26, 2009 at 8:45 pm

    Ben Stein seems to have an abundance of derision and dripping condescension for poor souls who find themselves unfortunate enough to need governmental aid of any kind. He views them all charitably as leeches and lay-abouts that need to get up off their asses (do leeches have asses?) and get off the public dole.

    Why not the same harsh economic Darwinist slap at his own progeny? He has conditioned his son to be a lazy sponge and even still, he continues to indulge this seemingly inert, indolent tapeworm any want or desire. I hope his son bleeds him dry. But of course, his son is different. It really isn’t his fault.

  40. moe99 said on January 26, 2009 at 8:48 pm

    Fingers crossed for you Deborah. And toes too.

  41. Dexter said on January 26, 2009 at 9:03 pm

    Ben Stein made my shitlist years ago. Limbaugh, Hannity, Stein…peas in a pod, by god!
    Really, Ben Stein is the world’s biggest bore.

  42. caliban said on January 26, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    The Bush bastards broke the law. That’s kinda hard to deny.
    the guys that weren’t the soldiers, fine. Cheney was a torturer. Rove broke the law concerning politicixation of the Justice Department. How in the world are ther people so pitiful they still want to claim these people aren’t assholes?

    $50 mil corporate jet. What is wrong with these Eames Chair assholes? You could beat them over the head. These people believe they’re somehow better. Pardon me, I,m stupid. I thought if they got money from the Feds they were supposed to lend it. If I’m AIG, I figure it’s my cash. And I want more.

    John Boehner thinks he deserves it.
    He’s an asshole.

  43. Catherine said on January 26, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    Deborah (and everyone else staring at layoffs or seeking work) — Strength.

  44. alex said on January 26, 2009 at 9:17 pm

    Married at 20 or 21 sounds a bit unusual for a child of someone so privileged as Ben Stein. Sounds like another abstinence-only pro-life shotgun wedding to me. They should double date with the Palins and have an orgy of self-righteousness.

  45. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 26, 2009 at 9:57 pm

    Holy crud, 24 just targeted my former hometown, Hebron, OH!

    (Which, btw, is more like 2K, not 30K) Better fictional targeting than actual employment targeting — grace & peace to you, Deborah.

  46. brian stouder said on January 26, 2009 at 10:34 pm

    The fact that Ben Stein ayers his dirty laundry – or, more specifically, uses his his son as a stalking horse for his favorite right wing memes (who didn’t ask to be a subject of his critical essay, one assumes) justifies every nickel he gets from dad, imo.

  47. Rana said on January 26, 2009 at 10:43 pm

    Deborah – good luck. *fingers crossed*

  48. joodyb said on January 26, 2009 at 11:25 pm

    stein. bore. rhymes with who– oh, you know.
    jeff tmmo, were they on Buckeye Ocean?
    someone may acknowledge acumen, Deborah. thoughts are with you tomorrow.

  49. whitebeard said on January 26, 2009 at 11:45 pm

    My thoughts are with you, Deborah; this global economic mess sucks big time when the rich get richer, hear me mr. Thain, and the middle gets mangled

  50. coozledad said on January 26, 2009 at 11:51 pm

    Deborah: When me and my wife get our school of rural life off the ground you’ll be welcome to come out here and suffer alongside us. I am deeply sorry our taxes are not directed towards culture.

  51. caliban said on January 27, 2009 at 12:36 am

    Clearing brush in Crawford? Where? Not in a million years. If Ben Stein has a kid and the kid doesn’t want to blow the old man to smithereens for geing such an insufferable dick, well hasta la vista. If somebody thinks W is ever leaving Houston or Dallas, Barney’s going to piss in your ear. It’s illuminating. The bastard has no clue about the damage done..

    W might have an alibi. He was relatively dumb as grunt.

    Cheney started plotting this shit when Tricky was President. He’s been aiming for a coup since he dodged the draft six times in the 60s. He’s never worked for anybody but Halliburton profits and he’s f*cked over the Constitution to enrich his fat ass.

    These things are obvious, and he ought to be tracked down and made to stand up to a firing squad of blind lawyers with vintage Mosburg over/unders. Benecict Arnold wasn’t dick compared with Dickless for betraying everything his country stood for, and he He scurried down a hawser when the Iran-Contra ship pf state required mass pardons of traitors.

    Cheney invented the
    stovepipe. He felt it made him invisible while Kommisar Karl was inventing the myth of Kerry being something other than the reluctant war hero he actually is.

    And you know, somehow drawing attention away from the absolute fact that W dodged the draft he supported. Anybody that claims these aren’t facts is a gutdom liar, and that wienie John O’Neill, well he was Nixon’s catspaw, and nothing he ever claimed about service is true. Nothing whatsoever.

    So they slandered Kerry, and yeah, it’s slander by law. Kerry’s problem with these died in the wool Raygunites is that he burned down the house of cards around the Freedom Fighters and R. Raygun’s mafioso like Ollie North. This stretches all the way back to Kissinger and Letelier and Allende, and it proves Kerry’s point that if you want to interdict terriss, you do it by police work. That’s how you catch Bush associates at nefarious activities.

  52. caliban said on January 27, 2009 at 12:44 am

    Stovepipe. Does anybody think this was intended to protect Americans? Does anybody think they wouldn’t have screwed with some rampam=nt GOP ahole that said he’d do abything he could to elect W and he owned the company that was supposed to be counting the votes. And Cuyahoga County came up 40thou short.

  53. Catherine said on January 27, 2009 at 12:49 am

    Back to Madoff for a sec, a small article in today’s WSJ says that Zsa Zsa Gabor is believed to be among the Madoff victims, to the tune of $10 million.

  54. Dexter said on January 27, 2009 at 1:23 am

    Nancy Giles trumps old Ben Stein any day…a sample:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UEPgGBd-9hs

  55. caliban said on January 27, 2009 at 1:30 am

    So. They couldn’t rob this presidential election (They robbed the last two, and the one that pisses me off most is the last one. The election was won, and this scumbag made it dissappear in Ohio. This was a case of just stealing and disappearing votes. Whaat’s really disgusting is that this came down to draft dodgers impugning a war hero.

    Fact’s are clear. One guy could have avoided service and chose to serve. Served true to his buddies, and thought his country was taking a wrong turn.

    Back in the states, there ws a party animal. He woofed coke an Jack Daniel’s and ssspouted some country right or wrong. He had no intention of making food on his idea.

    First guy got sent up te MeKong and got into firefights.

    Other guy got loaded and missed his qualifying exams.

    Ywars later, one of those guys has his patriotism questioned. Was it the guy stumbling around trying to keep from getting shot while saving a crewman’s life, or was it the guy on his hands and knees protecting the Birminhgham O-Club from incoming?

    In 2004, Americans voted for the shitheel defending the booze cache. Or they really weren’t so dogass, because without cheating in Ohio counties, W was revealed as a wastrel little pisant.

    One way or another, the little shit is history. Isn’t it amazing that no matter how elsde you think of him, steaming mound of ordure, no matter what, he’s so small.

    I take this somewhat personally. People that take part in the cottage industry of belittling Kerry should take a big step back. I guess you morons are so progressive you don’t remember Iran’-Contra and th investigation of BCCI. You probably think of Raygun as the last good guy, and not the ghoulish face of American imperialism that Kerry exposed. This is why Republicans hate John Kerry.

  56. alex said on January 27, 2009 at 7:57 am

    Haven’t checked back up the thread very thoroughly so my apologies if this link has already appeared:

    http://coloradoindependent.com/20117/disgraced-rove-aide-named-top-lobbyist-for-focus-on-the-family

    They give nice kudos to the Proprietress. And I particularly liked the line about Goeglein from Ted Haggard, the fat cat evangelical known for his appetite for gay sex and crystal meth:

    “He’s the one evangelical leaders across America have a relationship with.”

    Do tell, pastor Ted.

  57. brian stouder said on January 27, 2009 at 9:30 am

    Alex – thanks for the interesting link.

    I was mildly puzzled as to what TG (in particular) brings to the table, especially considering Nance’s earlier link about how Republican ‘consultants’ are now on the markdown rack in DC…and in your link the sentence that really stood out was this one, referring to the fat days when Tim was in power as a Rover

    “When we call Tim, his office responds.”

    The Focus on the Family folks remembered that. It’s sales-101, and so obvious that lots of folks heedlessly run past it: return all your calls.