October 23, 2008

NEW YORK—“Oligarchs brace for a downturn,” screams a New York business headline, a fact that sends me rushing to buy hankies, now selling at a premium at every corner store. Bloomberg News calculates that the richest 25 Russian crooks on the Forbes list have lost a collective $230 billion since last March. Which means that the 25 richest thieves have lost more than four times Warren Buffet’s total wealth. It’s very good news, unless you’re selling private jets, superyachts, are a hooker, a pimp, sell gaudy jewelry or own a nightclub. Actually it couldn’t happen to nicer guys, not that they’re exactly down and out. Apparently the worse hit is Oleg Deripaska, a cheeta look-alike without the chimp’s charm and good manners, whose two great buddies in the U.K. are none other than Jacob and Nat Rothschild, now nervously not answering their mobiles in case Oleg needs cash.

Deripaska muscled his way into Russneft, a giant private oil company, whose previous owner admitted in print that the sale was not voluntary. There is an American arrest warrant out for Deripaska, but the wily Rothschild friend sticks to countries where extradition is a dirty word. Like Israel, Montenegro and, of course, good old Britain. His look-alike fellow son-of-a-bitch, Roman “dead eyes” Abramovich, has declared that the downturn doesn’t affect him, but he’s whistling in the wind. He, too, is looking for “alternative sources of financing” because he did, after all, build his ill-gotten empire with debt. When Abramovich began to buy like an African potentate in the mid-‘90s, I wrote that he was laundering money. I was wrong. He was laundering debt. But he’s in with Putin, which for the moment makes him safe to play the art patron and sport fan, two things this bum knows absolutely nothing about. Mind you, these creeps have stashed enough moolah away to keep them in the pink for the next 300 years, but the latest sign of financial distress among the oligarch-crooks is that they’ve taken to using their control of boards of publicly traded companies to help bail out unrelated personal projects. (“Scolari’s gotta eat, for Chris sake…”)

And speaking of billionaires, the midget mayor of Noo Yawk, who made his billions on the up and up, is said to have bribed the City Council in order to bypass the law that says more than two times is a no-no. Running for mayor, that is. Those who know billionaires best know that they’d rather cheat than lose. Bloomberg has not been a bad mayor, but the point is that New Yorkers voted twice for term limits, and both times voted by large margins that important office holders—including the mayor and 51 Council members—should be limited to two consecutive terms. In steps another billionaire, Ronald Lauder, son of the queen of cream Estee, and brother of the very nice CEO, Leonard Lauder. Ronnie baby is known for his lack of smarts, but three billion dollars at least get one a hearing. Ronald Lauder calls himself a public advocate—aren’t we all?—and was the first one to start the campaign for term limits. For some strange reason, he has now changed his mind and wants his fellow billionaire to run for a third consecutive term. Bloomberg spent 100 million greenbacks to win his first two terms, and will probably spend another 100 for his third. But it came down to a 14-year old, Rachel Trachtenberg, to hit the nail on the head. During a council meeting attended by the mayor, she got up and said, “I hope you will choose honesty over bribery and keep term limits as they are.” Poor Rachel. She probably still believes in Santa Claus and no one has bothered to tell her that billionaires do not.

And now for some disturbing news that has nothing to do with billionaires. Last Sunday, October 19, I went early to the park for some speed walking and exercise. On my way back I stopped on the 72nd street and Fifth Avenue playground, where my grandchildren were supposed to be with their nanny and grandmother. They were nowhere in sight so I turned to leave when I noticed a young black man lurking behind a tree in the end of the playground exposing himself. One’s first reaction to such city sights is one of disgust, followed by that of anger. I looked around—there were at least fifty children and parents—and no one was paying any attention. So I screamed at him and told him I was going to call the fuzz. The perv was arrogant. “Go ahead and call them,” he challenged me. Of course there are never any cops around when needed, so I ran back towards the playground, opened the gate, and gave chase. I must admit I didn’t relish catching him. He’d been holding his willy for I don’t know how long, and his hands would probably be around my neck once I tackled him. But thankfully he was faster than me and quickly disappeared down the path. When I remonstrated with the adults who had gathered for doing nothing, I got the typical Noo Yawk excuse: “I don’t want no trouble…”

I’m not surprised. This is what our society has become. Had the perv been an old white man the story would have been different. Who said we have a race problem?


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