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How do you compensate victims of a monster fraud?

There is a bit of a debate going on over at The Corner, the National Review’s group blog, on whether the 150-year sentence meted out to Ponzi scheme fraudster Bernard Madoff is excessive. Well, given that the man is 71 years old, it is academic anyway since he will die in the slammer. But clearly, the length of the punishment is symbolic, though the judge could be accused of grandstanding – it might have been easier simply to sentence Mr Madoff to life imprisonment and have done with it.

From a philosophical point of view, I am not sure whether such a sentence has much of an effect in deterring future fraudsters; the trouble with the notion of restituting victims of crimes, however, is that what on earth can a convict like Madoff do to pay back his victims tens of billions of dollars? If he did some kind of work until he dropped dead, it would be unlikely that he could generate a fraction of the wealth that has been taken from people. In some cases, folks lost their entire life savings. Now the snarkier folk out there might say, well, his victims were all incredibly rich so they will not suffer, but that is nonsense. Theft is theft; if you have honestly built a fortune and some shyster takes the lot, that’s a crime, period.

But there is a problem with the idea of compensating victims when the size of a fraud is this huge. I’d be interested in what commenters think might be some practical solutions.

43 comments to How do you compensate victims of a monster fraud?

  • Kevin B

    If Madoff’s scam was a typical Ponzi scheme, then the first few layers of the pyramid made a lot of money out of it.

    Going after them could get some money back for the bottom layers, but if you can’t prove that the top lot knew it was a fraud – i.e. if Bernie doesn’t cough – then any restitution will be in the lap of the gods. (Or the US legal system and the SCOTUS, which could be equally capricious.)

    Perhaps Bernie’s associates and family could have all their property confiscated and they and their descendants placed in bondage in perpetuity, (or until they paid off the debt – whichever is the sooner).

  • tomwright

    There is no problem with compensating victims of a crime this large. So long as that compensation is from those the committed the crime, or benefited from it.

    The victims may not get everything back, but they would get something.

    This is occurring in the Madoff scam, to some degree. His entire wealth is being liquidated. His wife is losing almost everything. She should probably lose it all.

    Where possible, the wealth Madoff spread around should be tracked down, and, where it was not legitimately earned by those that received it, returned to the investors. So if Madoff gave a few thousand or even a million to someone, say as a gift or to set up a college fund, it should be returned. If he bought a car with it, however, it would be wrong to take the money back from the dealer. Though selling off the car would be correct.

    Some things can not be made whole by restitution. Loss of a limb, a child or other loved one. This is likely true of huge crimes like this. But something is better than nothing. Not being able to restore everything is not an excuse to restore nothing.

  • If the money is gone, it has gone. How can one thus discuss “compensation”? There is nothing with which to compensate anybody.

    The lesson is to not place all your eggs in one basket. There is no such thing as a guaranteed investment. Indeed, one could argue that many of the world’s economic problems are driven by the perpetuation of the myth that you can put some money somewhere and it will magically just keep reproducing itself.

    Anyway, I remember reading that at least one progressivist philanthropic foundation had been destroyed by Madoff, so there’s a silver lining in the cloud.

  • Paul Marks

    Please notice how the mainstream media have not really reported that Bernard Madoff was one of the leading contributors to the Democrats (over many years)

    If he had been a Republican supporter it would been stated endlessly.

    Who wants to bet me over my guess that the media will “forget to mention” where most of Sir Alan Stanford’s denotions went also?

    They will just keep calling him the “Texas billionaire” in the hopes of making people think he was a conservative.

    Nor is this just whineing (although I admit I am doing that) – there is a political/financial point here.

    The argument of the “moderate” left (the sort of leftist one sees on business shows – including Quentin Hardy on Fox News) is that clever-clever financial manipuation can make money regardless of the level of taxation and regulation.

    So “smart business people” need not fear “progressive policies”.

    Actually the only people who can make a lot of money regardless of the harm the government are doing are people getting subsidized by the governement – or old style fraudsters.

    Show me a businessman who says he does not care about higher taxes and more regulations – and I will show a crook.

  • Here is a list of groups I hope are not compensated. Its amusing to see how many left-wing groups got done over by Madoff.

  • Laird

    What Ian B said.

    I would also note that when you are getting unusually large returns at a time when everyone else is losing money or just breaking even, you should look very carefully at the fund. Still, to my knowledge there is no indication that any of Madoff’s reports gave any hint of wrongdoing, so aside from criticizing their decision to “put all their eggs in one basket” I don’t think any blame goes to the investors, even the early ones (who mostly just rolled over their profits anyway). Life just isn’t fair sometimes.

    What I don’t understand is why no heads have rolled at the SEC (which clearly had warning signs but chose to ignore them), and why anyone believes that Madoff’s sons and key lieutenants were ignorant of his scam and innocent of any wrongdoing. No one man could pull off a fraud this large (with multiple sets of books, faked trade tickets, etc.) all by himself. Why have we seen no other indictments? Forget the politicized and incompetent Justice Department; where is the NY Attorney General, who has been so aggressive in pursuing other financial crimes (and even “non-crimes”)?

  • andyinsdca

    I have a distinct lack of sympathy for the “victims” of Madoff. The people who invested all of their life savings in a guy because he was a member of their country club, was a Jew like them or trusted him because someone else they trusted trusted Madoff got exactly what they deserved. The “victims” didn’t do any of their own due diligence in figuring out how Madoff was doing what he was doing. The lack of transparency on Madoff’s part was a red flag to many people, and should have been one for the “victims.” Instead, their greed and lack of foresight got the better of them.

    They should be locked up for felony stupid.

  • TomC

    It seems to me that this is an example of the failure to protect contract agreements to a sufficient degree.

    In an anarcho-capitalist society, insurance companies would necessarily be among the most important sectors of the economy. Using ideas from this publication, parties wishing to enter into such contracts would probably take out contract protection insurance. Should an insurer be called upon to indemnify the victim, the matter would be submitted to an arbitration agency.

    If the arbitrators found in favour of the victims, the insurers would then indemnify the victims and have the right to collect any possible reparations from the fraudster, including claims on the fraudster’s future time and productivity.

    Since guilty parties would pay the major costs of such actions, insurance companies would not generally have to absorb large losses, as with fire or accident claims (clearly, they would in this case).

    With minimal losses, premiums would be low. Low cost and convenience would make such insurance standard for almost all important contracts.

    Since the duty of due diligence would pass to professionals in the insurance, financial and arbitration industries, it is highly likely that such a fraud would be uncovered before any such contracts were entered into.

  • Paul Marks

    His leftist friends invested with him and he cheated them – thanks for pointing that out Andrew.

    “One would have to have had a heart of stone not to have laughed” as a 19th century leftist put it.

    Accept that Madoff cheated a lot of other people as well.

  • How do you compensate victims of a monster fraud?

    And he’d have gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for those pesky kids!

  • Ian B

    How do you compensate victims of a monster fraud?

    And he’d have gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for those pesky kids!

  • Johnathan Pearce

    IanB, you say once the money is gone, it is gone, but that sounds a bit glib – forgive me if I am being unfair here. The fucker took billions of dollars from investors on the basis that he was running a legit business, with underlying investments, and he did not. When the markets hit a wall a lot of people lost money. Yes, I know that with even proper investments, we should diversify, and yes, always try to do the due diligence.

    By the way, it appears that a number of banks, both in the US, UK and elsewhere, failed to run due diligence, and as Laird said, the regulator did not act. It serves to remind us that when politicians bleat about the need for more regulations, they need to ensure that the existing regulations are fit for purpose. They plainly did not do the job.

    andyinsdca, your remarks leave a nasty taste in the mouth. What has the Jewish angle got to do with it?

  • K

    Enough with the worries about Bernie’s health and comfort and old age. He will get into a minimum security prison before long and we all know it.

    Whether his sentence is fifteen years or fifteen thousand years won’t matter for a decade. Review that after all is known about his fraud and the trials, if any, of associates are finished. It will be several years before we know the full story, assuming we ever do.

    From reports the authorities still don’t know where most of the money went. In fact we still don’t know very much about the dynamics of Bernie’s little empire.

    Investigators still haven’t examined hundreds of boxes of records and there may be more records still to be discovered.

    The known records of Madoff, his firms, and his accountant are proving inadequate or simply fabrications.

    There may be many millions in hidden assets. Hidden by transfers to trusted associates or overseas in other names or secret accounts.

    He lied. This accountant lied. He had a partner who knew nothing. His wife knew nothing. His sons knew nothing. For decades the government, federal or state, didn’t investigate when asked or audit his extraordinary financial records.

    His investors fall into those who took amazing profits and those who lost when the scheme collapsed.

    The taxpayers don’t owe the losers a nickel but in the US of today the government will print some money and give it to them.

    The investors who profited will have to defend those gains based on existing law. Some will win, some will not. Nothing new there. Nothing to see. The courts will deal with it.

    The guilt lies with Bernie and his accomplices. The shame lies on the government regulatory agencies who neglected their duty for decades.

  • Jim A

    Well the quesion ISN’T “how do you compensate victems.” It’s WHO stole how much from whom. Keep in mind, this isn’t a case of investments that went bad. Rather early investors who took out earnings were paid from the deposits of later investors. If you buy a car and it turns out to be stolen, you don’t get to keep it even if you had no reason to believe that it was stolen. The car belongs to the person who it was stolen from, you’re stuck trying to get your money back from the dealer. Likewise those who pulled “earnings” out of the fund were unknowingly taking money that had been stolen from other investors.

  • Ian B

    I’m not being glib, Johnathan, I’m just stating facts. All investments are risky, and if the money is all gone there is no source for compensatory repayments. Nobody else is in any way responsible for these persons’ and businesses’ losses. From where is compensation to be extracted?

    It’s much like a murder. You can’t undo what has been done. You can punish the perpetrator, but you can’t bring the victim back from the dead, however distressing that may be for everybody else. The whole reason fraud is a serious crime is that it causes losses to people. A lot of people were defrauded by Madoff, and have lost. He has been punished. That is what the law does. It cannot do any more than that because, like the murder victim, the money is gone.

  • Bod

    I’ve pondered the whole Madoff fiasco since it first surfaced, and the scale of the fraud is immense. A significant number of the victims seem to have been in the fund since its early days, and you’d expect that the early investors (being friends and close associates) would have taken their (significant) profits and run by now, *or* they would have been skimming their gains until recently, and then run for cover.

    The thing is that with a Ponzi of this size, you’d normally expect to lift a few stones and see huge, stinking piles of cash – and we’ve heard very little about where the cash has gone; leading me to believe that the real scheme was very possibly money laundering as well as the Ponzi scheme. Which then naturally leads us to asking who would need to launder that many billions of dollars?

    Maybe I’m getting old and skeptical, but I would have expected Madoff to sing like a canary when busted. If I were him, even at 71, I’d feel powerfully motivated to cop a plea so I at least had some hope of getting out of the Big House before I die. I can only think that there’s an even greater compulsion upon him to stay mum; which would support my belief that the ‘beneficiaries’ of his scheme are not a handful of golfing buddies but large, organized entities who have effective means of coercion.

    Setting that aside (despite the magnitude), the bigger issue is one of regulation. Investors of all stripes have been led to believe for decades that the SEC’s remit is to ensure that all the participants in the game are acting in accordance with the law. It’s hardly surprising that individuals didn’t do the due diligence that andyinsdca claims they should have done (whether gentile, jew or wiccan) , but you have to be an industry insider to *really* grok that they’re a bunch of clueless and/or feckless mediocrities at best. The telling factor is the amount and number of institutions and so-called investment management firms that were taken to the cleaners. This is a lesson samizdatistas should take to heart if you ever make your bundle and decide to relinquish control of your assets to a ‘pro’.

    As reported, SEC personnel had been alerting senior staff to irregularities and non-compliant behavior at Madoff’s firm for years, and Ponzi schemes are one of the simpler frauds which financial firms can execute, so we have a regulatory culture of gross incompetence and ignorance. I have plenty of reasons to believe that the FSA in the UK is any better.

  • Subotai Bahadur

    In reference to the judge grandstanding, you have to understand US sentencing laws. In most jurisdictions, you are eligible for parole after serving a set fraction of the sentence, usually between 1/4 and 1/2. “Life” sentences, unless they are stated as being “without parole” [which usually requires an aggravated crime of violence] set an eligibility period of 20-30 years depending on jurisdiction. I am not sure in this case what the period is, but it would be conceivable that he could be paroled before he died with a “life” sentence. With the numerical sentence, he will not reach the parole board before reaching Charon’s Ferry. And yes, it will be more expensive if he dies in prison. But the other option is releasing him early and denigrating the seriousness of his crimes. Some things you just have to pay for as a cost of society.

    As to restitution, I admit that I do not think that it would be possible, especially since so many Leftist political causes were beneficiaries. There is no way that the “Justice” Department of Buraq Hussein Obama is going to officially and publicly look closely at their books.

    As far as the failings of the SEC and other regulators, we have the classic case of “quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”. Throughout our financial collapse there has been one constant. The members of the various governing boards seem to have had an overwhelming pro-Democrat stance and have a documented history of contributing to Democratic members of Congress with duties of oversight over their actions. It is noteworthy that these contributions went, in order of amount, first to Senator Chris Dodd, second to Congressman Barney Frank, and third to Senator Buraq Obama. Dodd chairs the Senate Banking Committee, Frank the House equivalent, and Obama was the leading presidential candidate.

    It must be also noted that the person who is in charge of the attempts to recover from the financial collapse, Timothy Geithner- now Treasury Secretary, ran the New York Federal Reserve and as such had oversight over the very banking and brokerage companies that went Tango Uniform.

    The problem is not lack of regulation. The problem is corrupt regulators in both the Executive and Legislative branches. One of the things that Conservatives severely fault both of the Bushes for is a refusal to appoint their own people in place of Democrat appointees throughout government. If they had, there might have been at least the normal tension between different groups of crooks working at cross purposes instead of one group sharing the loot.

    Subotai Bahadur

  • Kristopher

    Part Madoff out.

    Sell all of his organs on the open market, disassemble him and ship him out in bits.

  • Samsam

    Kristopher:
    In the 1960s and 1970s Larry Niven wrote several science fiction novels that took place in a future where people were kept healthy via transplants from organ banks. The problem was keeping the organ banks filled; the solution was capital punishment for increasingly minor crimes.

    Modern science makes Niven’s future less likely, but let’s not start that ball rolling.

    Samsam

  • Sunfish

    The Federals abandoned parole for crimes committed after 1987. There’s a “good behavior” time reduction in place, but it won’t reduce 150 years to something that will let Madoff leave the loving arms of Eric Holder “or his duly-authorized representative,” ever. I think it’s something like five days’ extra credit for each month without a disciplinary, or some such.

  • lucklucky

    I disagree with penalty because crime violence is not comparably punished. This is the left ideology penalising more social crimes than violent crimes.

  • thefrollickingmole

    We haver “victims of crime” laws here in western Australia. A “nice” idea but deeply fawed at many levels.

    A lot of compensation goes to thugs who were on the losing end of a fight.

    Financial might be very different, but it basicly results in the taxpayer underwriting risk. Correct me if Im wrong but that was one of the major factors in Fannie Mae/Freddy Mac bloating beyond control.
    In effect it would be removing risk from investors (many of whom DO have the money to investigate who they invest with) and transferring it to the general public.

    Yup it bad those individuals and entities have lost vast sums of money, but its worse to transfer those losses to the general public.

  • Nuke Gray!

    What do they mean, excessive? The constant advances in stem cell technology mean we might be there when he is eventually released!

  • K

    Bod: your remark about why Bernie talked, didn’t talk, talked some, etc. leads to interesting guesses.

    When Bernie confessed and made virtually no defense the prosecutors had little to threaten him with. They couldn’t shoot him and he wasn’t going to outlive any reasonable sentence.

    So Bernie, himself, could not gain by providing details or help to prosecutors.

    But Bernie might have been willing to cooperate to prevent prosecution of his wife, children, et al. Yet apparently no such deal was made, maybe it wasn’t offered, maybe it wasn’t accepted.

    Thus it is reasonable to think Bernie knows something he does not want revealed. Perhaps he fears his wife or children may be “bumped off.” Or he may be rather sure a pardon can be obtained. I doubt that will be possible.

    All in all. I believe these scenarios are too imaginative. Fun, but unlikely. If Bernie ran the scheme for some powerful and sinister group he should already be dead. Why would they risk letting him live this long?

    You saw my views above. Just lock him up and keep hunting. Others will be found if the searchers intend to find them.

  • llamas

    Only a few of the commeters have touched on the bleedin’ obvious – the vast majority of the money is not ‘gone’ – it was paid to investors over the 20-something-year life of the scam. For all that time, Madoff’s scheme paid out to the majority of those who bought in. Sure, he creamed tens, maybe even hundreds of millions off the top for himself, but what he personally filched is a drop in the bucket compared to what he paid out. I’m sure that the records of what was paid out and to whom are complete and accurate, and if not, they will be easy to reconstruct from tax records. Everyone involved knows where most of the money went – they just realize that there’s no (political) chance in hell of getting a dime of that back.

    Madoff is not keeping quiet for some secret conspiratorial reason. He’s keeping quiet because he has nothing to tell that will help him. The Feds know where most of the money went – see above. The only monies that they may be able to partly recover are those that Madoff personally took. If he gives that up, he ruins his wife and kids and what close associates he had – and it won’t take a day off the (effective) sentence. He knows he will die in jail no matter what he does – why ruin the lives of those who still have a chance to live and die free? It’s what I’d do, in his shoes.

    Second the comments of others. This scheme was too good to be true, and those who bought in and stayed with it were blind – maybe willfully, maybe not, but blind nonetheless. It’s said that you can’t cheat an honest man.

    llater,

    llamas

  • andyinsdca

    I’m getting heat for mentioning that Madoff is a Jew – a bunch of people trusted him simply because he is a Jew, and they (the “victims”) were, too. They didn’t do their due diligence because he was “one of them”

    I’d say the same thing if they were all Anglican, Catholic or Moonies.

  • Bod

    Only in part, andyinsdca.

    A lot of the losses were to institutional investors and participants in fund-of-funds – the identities of the end-investors being largely invisible to Madoff & Co. And it’s these victims that I have sympathy for.

    Every one of these companies who had any fiduciary responsibility to their clients, who participated in Madoff’s funds were negligent, and if they ever made any explicit claims that they undertook ‘painstaking diligence’, they deserve a class action lawsuit.

    To steal a quote from Animal House:

    You f*cked up – you trusted us.

    Such firms deserve to never be trusted again.

  • Kim du Toit

    Both Subotai and llamas have the truth of it, in each topic.

  • Its off the scale, Captain!

    We have heard that phrase so many times in Star Trek that it ceases to have any impact. To remind everyone, it means, the value being measured is so immense that it exceeds the wildest scenarios our engineers could come up with, and therefore we cannot quantify it.

    Madoff has stolen so much money and wreaked so much economic harm, we have no effective way to deal with him, any more than we have, say, of dealing with someone who directly causes 10 million deaths. Consider that 100 years ago in my country, one could be hanged publicly for stealing a horse. The difference between the amount of damage that a stolen horse represents, and what Madoff accomplished is incomprehensible from a legal point of view.

    Sure, you can try to follow the money and hound everyone who ever dropped coin in the fund, but, at what point is justice served? As for punishing the confessed perp himself, the only punishment I can imagine that would suffice is to keep him in semi-suspension, and selling off organs that he is forced to regrow, year after year, for perhaps 5 centuries.

    That isnt practical however, so, I am thinking, there is no practical punishment that will satisfy. Proof once again that Life is Unfair.

  • Nuke Gray!

    Darryl, as an esoteric Christian, I object! Life is fair, but we need more than one body to fully experience justice. A man who chooses to engage in fraud will be reborn as a fraud victim, in one of those destitute families. Those who helped him will also be reborn into poor families, with all their schemes for self-advancement karmically failing. The bottom-level victims will be born to a higher life-grade. A prophet who beheads his theological opponents will be reborn as a man doomed to be beheaded- Jesus said that John was Elijah returned, and john ended up beheaded.
    It’s because of my belief in Karma that I am a libertarian- I don’t feel the need for the state to ‘rectify’ supposed genetic injustices.
    Life is karmicly fair.

  • krm

    Is 150 years excessive?

    How long would it take for Bernie to pay back $50 to $65 Billion at prisoner wages, or even US minimum wage?

  • Kristopher

    I still want to part him out.

  • Pavel Kohout

    I was recently talking to a manager of a fund of hedge funds. He said he was once approached by Madoff, too. However, Madoff declined to answer even the most basic questions as to the investment strategy pursued. His stance was “look, I make extraordinary profits each years, don’t ask me how, take it or leave it.”

    The said manager was suspicious (with a good reason) and just didn’t take it. Madoff was not trustworthy even in the secretive world of hedge funds. Total lack of anything remotely similar to disclosure was a strong warning signal per se.

    That said, people who invested with Madoff must have known they were taking a big, big risk. No compensation.

  • Kevin B

    Nuke, this karma stuff. This friend of mine has led a boringly conventional life. Do I Does he get born again into yet another boringly conventional life? What can I… er he do to get reborn as an international playboy with fast cars, beautiful women at his beck and call and all the rest of it.

    (I keep looking on JobServe for international playboy vacancies but there’s never any there.)

  • Paul Marks

    Kevin B.

    As for as I can make out what is supposed to happen (according to people who believe in this sort of thing) is that if one is good, even in very difficult and humble circumstances, one is rewarded by being born into better circumstances (for example a richer family) in one’s next life. How one chooses to use this wealth (good health and so on) is then up to the individual person (but, careful – remember this will effect your next life).

    I do not believe in this myself – but it is realistic (in that it accept that “equality of opportunity” is a myth under any social system) and it must be a comfort to some people.

  • Paul Marks

    Certainly the Hindus I have meant as visiters to the park where I work have always struck me as decent and kind people. In fact I have been deeply impressed by them.

  • Don't tread

    Madoff was a piker compared to the Medicare and Social Security fraud perpetrated over generations by statist politicians. Sadly, unlike Madoff it is likely they will face no penalty for their crimes.

  • Alisa

    Exactly Don’t tread. And who will compensate the victims of that fraud?

  • Rich Rostrom

    Laird:

    where is the NY Attorney General, who has been so aggressive in pursuing other financial crimes (and even “non-crimes”)?

    That was Elliot Spitzer, who parlayed his “fatcat-buster” image into election as governor of NY in 2006.

    Then last year, a Federal investigation into IIRC money-laundering found that Spitzer was “Client #9″ of an interstate prostitution ring – paying up to $5,000 a session to get his “special needs” taken care. He resigned in March.

    As to the question of Madoff’s sentence: size matters, or it ought to in some way. If defrauding someone of $1,000 deserves a prison sentence of even one minute, $50 billion in fraud would incur 50 million minutes – 95 years.

    There is also the fact that money losses can ultimately translate into loss of life and health.

    I think it is fairly certain that some of Madoff’s victims would have donated some of the money they lost to charitable causes, including medical charities. If even 0.1% of the loss comes out of medical charity, that’s $50M of medical services not provided, and the probable loss of several lives. And 0.1% is a very conservative estimate: such charities are fairly attractive to wealthy philanthropists, especially the Jews who were the bulk of his clients. I know that in Chicago, many hospitals have a
    “Kaplan Memorial Cardiology Clinic” or “Abraham and Sarah Pincus Children’s Wing”.

    Thus it seems overwhelmingly probable that Madoff’s crimes killed people, indirectly.

  • joel

    When this first came out, the WSJ had a brief description of Bernie’s spiel. Essentially, he claimed he had a brilliant way to do circular trades, and make 1% on the round trip. Do that 10 x per year = 10% easy income.

    It was available only to the friends of Bernie, that is, fellow Jews.

    So, Bernie hit the Jews at two of their weakest points:
    1. The idea they are smarter than everybody else.
    2. The desire for a special deal for Jews.

    This sounds anti-Semitic, but, it’s true.

    Elliot Spitzer was one of Madoff’s victims.

    So, no pity for these people. The gentiles don’t owe these guys a cent. Imagine the Jews feeling sorry for a bunch of Christians who were this gullible. They’d be making jokes about it, and telling each other how glad they are that they are smart Jews and not dumb Christians.

    Oh, and about the SEC. They nailed Martha Stewart, didn’t they?

  • Alisa

    Can’t wait for Passover.

  • Paul Marks

    Well my name is Paul Marks (rather than Saul Marks) and my father used to say how I looked like a “typical Irish peasant” (and he was right – I have outsized hands and feet and a neck that means I could never wear any of my father’s shirts). But I would like to point out that Bernie Maddoff had a lot of gentile victims also.

    And “even” the Jewish victims deserve sympathy. The “most Jews are bad guys” position is just plain wrong.

    Even the old line that “only one in a hundred Jews is a Communist, but for every ten Communists five are Jews” does draw attention away from the rather important point that “only one in a hundred Jews is a Communist”.

  • Nuke Gray!

    Kevin B., regards your friend.
    He/she should try to become very good at one thing, so he/she has an advantage next time around. I read, a few years back, about a boy, whose father was not in the antiques business, who had a talent for picking valuable antiques. When I read of odd-talent cases, I think- ‘ah, a specialist has returned, and is pursuing the previous-life profession!’
    Or you, .. sorry ‘your friend’ could start to engage in charitable deeds, since your face this time around is a reflection of what you were like last time. But do try to keep your thoughts lofty, and learn to resist temptation, or you might look like Paris Hilton, AND lead a Hilton lifestyle!
    Good luck.. to your friend!