May 17, 2009

Not that I had any doubts about how pig-headed, stubborn and ungrateful George W. Bush is, but confirmation of it never hurts. A friend of long standing revealed to me how Brian Mulroney, the ex-prime minister of Canada, and Tony Blair both went to see Dubya in order to plead Conrad Black’s case during the closing days of the Bush presidency. The two men went separately, and neither asked for a Black pardon. They were after a commutation of Lord Black’s outrageous and unfair sentence of six years in a tough prison. ‘I don’t pardon well-connected folk,’ was the answer, which sounds good, just like weapons of mass destruction did, except for the fact that the moron did pardon a black guy caught with 21 pounds of liquid cocaine because his well-connected friend Carly Simon asked him to.

Conrad Black instructed his newspapers to back Bush all the way in 2000, and throughout his disastrous presidency—one that has just about obliterated the Republican Party for the duration—he remained solidly behind him. Once the U.S. government froze his assets, Lord Black could not come up with the funds required by shark-like lawyers inside the loop to represent him. I went with Mark Steyn to see Conrad in Palm Beach just before his incarceration, and Mark, who followed the case daily, told me that he had never encountered such a weak defence team in a major case. This is because Black had to rely on friendly Canadian lawyers to take up his case. They were unfamiliar with the American system and ‘were all over the place’. What Lord Black should have got was the sentence which the rat Radler got—something like 18 months in a country club.

Barry Humphries recently visited Conrad and reported that, although he was putting on a very brave face, never complaining and pretending everything was fine, things ain’t good. How could they be? A prisoner’s mood starts to improve once the countdown begins—i.e., past the halfway mark, never on the way to it. And I know what I’m talking about. It may have been a quarter of a century ago, and I only did three months, but prison is prison. Conrad Black’s being in a tough jail is a disgrace. He’s as likely to abscond as George W. is to take a right decision. I know the ex-prime minister of Canada and he’s a nice guy who remembered past favours by Conrad and tried to help. Ditto for our own Tony Blair, who followed Bush blindly in the disaster in Iraq, but then had Bush dump all over him when he was no longer useful. The reason Conrad is in that particular prison is bureaucratic. He is not an American citizen, hence he cannot be sent to a soft one. Go figure.

And speaking of prison, Ruth Madoff, the grotesque wife of the biggest swindler ever, is not only walking around free, she is claiming 60 million big ones as her own, plus such assets as a penthouse, municipal bonds and other cash assets. What I’d like to know is what ever happened to RICO, the law the Feds use to strip criminals from passing on their ill-gotten gains. Is it really likely that Ruth Madoff and other members of the family knew nothing about the gigantic con? Anyone who thinks so is invited to my annual lunch for Elvis Presley, the one where the King gets up and sings for my guests.

Mind you, the government moves slowly, but it seems to me it moves awfully fast when it suits it, as in finding WMDs in Iraq. Ezra Merkin, a burly financier, ran the second largest feeder fund to the Ponzi scheme, and pocketed hundreds of millions of dollars in the process in the fees he charged clients, such as New York University and other suckers who trusted a man with a name like Merkin. What is even stranger is Merkin’s sister, one Daphne Merkin, who writes for the New York Times. Merkin soeur wrote that we are all responsible for Madoff because of the climate of greed that prevails in Wall Street. So far so good. There is more greed in Wall Street than there are Holocaust deniers in Riyadh, but Daphne sort of forgot to mention her burly slob of a brother. Almost, that is. In one sentence which I shall always treasure she wrote, “A sibling of mine had business dealings with Madoff.” Which, a reader replied, was the equivalent of Milton Eisenhower saying he had a brother who participated in the Second World War.

Merkin, Madoff, Piedrahita, Picciotto, Noel, they should all go down and have their assets stripped, but they will not because they are all well connected, and there are far too many Madoff clients who have made billions and who were, and are now, in powerful positions. Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and other institutions have, and had, people such as Robert Rubin, Lawrence Summers (now advising Obama) and Alan Greenspan on their payroll. These convinced amoralists are not about to open a Pandora’s Box. Only Bernie will go down, along with my friend Conrad Black, who actually believed in the neocons and George W. Bush.


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