Madoff’s Legacy of Shame

by Diane Dimond on March 20, 2009

Inmate Number 61727054

Inmate Number 61727054

Bernard Madoff, a man surrounded by billions of dollars over his long career now has a new number in his life: 61727054 – his inmate number. And it’s very likely, at 70 years old, he will be an inmate until the day he dies.

Now that the dust has settled on the country’s largest ever financial scam it’s time to take a look at the man himself and how the heck he got away with it….

In 1990 Madoff became head of the NASDAQ stock exchange but he isn’t so much a financier as he is a greedy criminal who used his connections to get people at the Securities and Exchange Commission, the only regulatory body that could have stopped him, to look the other way. The warning flags went up over Madoff’s scheme years ago but no one took action.

Bernie & Ruth vacationing in Mexico

Bernie & Ruth vacationing in Mexico

Part of the reason Madoff succeeded was the glittering gossamer cocoon of success he and his family spun around themselves. Potential investors were clamoring at the castle gate to be allowed in. Some claim Madoff offered them 30 to 40% return on their money and the dollars signs in their eyes blinded them. Many gave Madoff their entire life savings to invest. Now we know he never invested a penny of it.

When Bernard Madoff walked into federal court in Manhattan last week a large crowd of his victims was outside, bundled up against the icy winds. In contrast, Madoff wore no overcoat, hat or gloves, only one of his many custom tailored suits. It bulged at the front button from the bullet proof vest he wore in case one of his angry investors tried to exact revenge. He knew his next stop would be jail so Madoff had left his expensive watch and wedding band back at his 7 million dollar Manhattan penthouse. He was, in effect, walking naked in the street for all to see his shame. His life’s gamble had not paid off.

Last Walk as a Free Man

Last Walk as a Free Man

His trademark smirk was more like a lip pursing, shoulder-shrugging childlike expression of, “Gee, I got caught.”

Madoff admitted he had methodically bilked 65 billion dollars from thousands of investors plunging them, as well as charitable foundations, hedge funds and union pension funds into financial Armageddon. He knew it was criminal and he was “deeply sorry and ashamed.” He said he’d always, “realized that my arrest and this day would inevitably come.”

No sympathy from me that he had to live his life looking over his shoulder from the deck of his 1.5 million dollar yacht!

Madoff set up his own sword of Damocles, a deadly instrument suspended over his head by a single horsehair. One quick movement could have brought the blade down. To suddenly stop stealing from others would have meant certain exposure. It wasn’t “impossible” to stop the Ponzi scheme, as he told the court, it was too lucrative for him to stop.

Madoff was a genius at the scheme he perpetrated. But he’s a stupid man who failed to calculate the end result. He wasn’t just risking his freedom. He hasn’t just destroyed himself and his gullible clients. He has also destroyed any future for his two 40-something sons and his elderly brother who worked with him. He told the court the rest of his family never knew of his massive deceit. I don’t believe that. And now, who in their right mind would ever want to conduct another financial transaction with anyone named Madoff? What will they do for a living?

Mark & Andrew Madoff

Mark & Andrew Madoff

And, a massive federal investigation has now targeted Madoff’s 67 year old wife, Ruth, a woman definitely used to the finer things in life. Investigators have begun proceedings to separate her from the more than 90 million dollars found to be held in her name. How will she support herself in the end?

I wonder if there were nights when Madoff laid his head down on his 800 thread count pillowcase and realized that his opulent life was really a dead weight around his family’s neck. Probably not. He likely figured, at the age of 70, he’d gotten away with it and his massive crimes would die with him. He might have slept at night with the special contentment that comes from knowing you’ve more than provided for the people you love.

But they are ill-gotten gains. What Bernard Madoff leaves his family is a legacy of shame. The money he brought in doesn’t belong to his family. That would be like the bank robber who, upon returning home from a heist, gives his bag of loot to his wife and then maintains it isn’t his money – it’s hers!

It doesn’t work that way. I say justice comes only after the Madoff family is stripped of its wealth and the money is divvied up amongst the victims.HOME

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{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

Lyn March 21, 2009 at 1:19 pm

Gosh….this man just makes my blood boil. I can feel the anger grow inside of me to just think of what he has done. I too have no sympathy for this pathetic person – nor for his family who were obviously well aware of his wrong-doings. They did not care as long as they got the dosh!! Thing is, this should have happened years ago. However, better late than never. He will no longer have his 800 thread sheets to lay on…however, alot of jails these days are just like hotels, so who knows?!! I hope he rots in hell. Great column Diane as always.

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Polly Franks March 21, 2009 at 2:30 pm

Great column, Diane, as always! What makes my blood boil are the charitable organizations that Madoff has ruined; charitable organizations which were formed by hardworking folks, supported sacrificially by people with caring, generous hearts. These charitable organizations are needed now more than ever. As the Executive Director of a nonprofit organization for sexually abused children, I know how hard it is to keep nonprofits up and running and serving the needy in times like this. For this alone, that SOB deserves NO sympathy whatsoever. His countless victims are entitled to at least know he's going to be in jail until the day he dies.

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DianeDimond March 21, 2009 at 3:21 pm

Readers: If you are interested in helping sexually abused children please visit: http://www.franksfoundation.org It is a wonderful organization run by a wonderful woman! Thanks for writing, Polly! ~ DD

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sue schroeder March 21, 2009 at 2:52 pm

Great column Diane……I hope he lives a very long time!!!

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Lyn March 21, 2009 at 5:56 pm

Hey Sue, that's a good point…let's hope he lives well into his 90's.

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DianeDimond March 21, 2009 at 7:30 pm

Albuquerque Journal Reader Karen S. writes:

" Mr. Madoff did hand his bag of money to his wife. But his wife was a numbered Swiss account. Good luck to us to try to retrieve his money from a secret account.

I doubt if his sons and their families will care about their ill gotten gains. They have been used to living really nicely. They will enjoy living in some foreign country. A villa in France or Italy would work for me.

Just wanted to get you to see some reality."

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DianeDimond March 21, 2009 at 7:33 pm

Karen –
Oh, I see the reality. The feds have zeroed in on Mrs. Madoff's holdings now. The houses in New York, Florida and Europe. Along with her bank holdings, investments, etc. Also in the feds crosshairs are the multi-million dollar loans the senior Madoff's recently gave (or illicitly transferred) to their two sons.
I'm sure they are also looking at ALL the books of the Madoff Security Firm as well.
It will take awhile – but I predict in the end NONE of the Madoffs will be "living really nicely" in France or Italy.
And I'd put money on that. ~ DD

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Karen Shore March 21, 2009 at 8:58 pm

Please do not forget that wealthy people set up trusts for their grandchildren that cannot be invaded by government authorities. My husband, a CPA, gave me this information.
His grandchildren will be living in luxury and will never have to work. He set up trusts in millions of dollors when they were born 10 to 20 years ago. This money is now worth mulitiple times more. Save your money and do not place a bet on the Madoff family ending living in a 2 bedroom apartment out on Long Island. Maybe they can find a small house in Rio Rancho. Take your betting money to Sandia. I'll meet you there.

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DianeDimond March 22, 2009 at 12:18 pm

Karen – I don't know that the Madoff's have any grandchildren. Maybe they do.

And READERS: For those of you outside Karen's area (she reads the column in the Albuquerque Journal) when she refers to me taking my "betting money to Sandia" – that is a big casino on the outskirts of Albuquerque.

Sorry, Karen, while I've been known to play a little blackjack I'm not really a gambling type person. I still believe that in the end the Madoff's will NOT be living the type of opulent life they live now.

And, as the title of the piece describes, theirs is a "legacy of shame" to boot.

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Janet Turner March 22, 2009 at 2:26 pm

Hey Diane…I thought I heard on the news that he is trying to get out of jail and serve back in his apartment. What is the likelihood of that…in all seriousness. If they prove him not to be at risk to flee. Do you think this could turn into a vigilante type scenerio? I do not believe that anything like that would happen in jail..although anything is possible. I think what he has done is he has made this so this will tie up the FBI and whoever else for a long time to find all the money….and eventually it will fall on his children and any others who might come after.
Do you know what happen to the checks that were found in his desk drawer? Are they investigating these people? See it will go on forever and the people that had nothing to do with it……next generations if you will, will be the ones to suffer.

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Janet Turner March 22, 2009 at 2:27 pm

Personally I do not see Bernie suffering here. Gee….he goes to jail. He has to watch his back…but who doesn't these days.
Do you think that maybe he wanted to be caught…..thinking my life is almost done and it will not be my problem. He said that no one had anything to do with this… it was all him. We have a case like this in Indiana with Marcus Schrenker. He said the same thing…..hmmmmm maybe they will share a cell.

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DianeDimond March 22, 2009 at 4:07 pm

Whew~ Lots of questions in your two posts, Janet!
First, his attorneys have asked for bail … its HIGHLY UNLIKELY he will get it but they tried. Yes, I agree if he got out there would be those of his victims who might want to try to exact revenge. I also think there's a likelihood that Madoff would commit suicide.
It will take the feds a long time to unravel Bernie Madoff's 20 years of fraud and deceit….but I think they will do it. They already report they've located and frozen more than one billion dollars of the money. They have indicated they will move it to grab Mrs. M's 95 million plus all the real property (house, yachts, cars) … But again, it will take some time. The saddest part, to me, is the really old people who are now destitute who don't have time to wait. They need their money back now just to survive! ~ DD

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Lyn March 22, 2009 at 11:34 pm

Yes, that;s true Diane…I feel bad for those who have had to suffer at that hands of this financial brute..particularly, as you say, the older people who are almost at deaths door – perhaps wanting to leaver their children some inheritance..he took it away from them. In the old days he would have had his hands chopped off! I see his wife is fighting for what is "hers"??!! MMM….interesting to see what will happen there. The whole thing just infuriates me as it does everyone. It;s a pity he was not a young man, then at least we may see him have to suffer…but now..I bet he does not give a you know what anyway.

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DianeDimond March 23, 2009 at 5:27 pm

Albuquerque Journal reader Don D. writes:

" I read your editorial and as usual, good writing. I don't think that there is punishment in this society sufficient for Madoff to attone for his massive misconduct/sins. He can never make right the wrong he committed. He'll never pay the victims a pittance of what he stole. Thousands of lives severely damaged.

I also agree that his wife and sons HAD to know what was going on. You don't live with the man for nearly 20 yrs while he is scamming on the scale he did w/o knowing. I think they need to take EVERYTHING from her, I don't care if she has to panhandle on the street, in fact, I think she's an accessory to the crime and ought to be in jail. Cells in adjoining wings and visitation in the common area?

I noted that there is some government fund that may pay Madoff victims some money. I really don't understand that either. While I feel sorry for the victims, most of them sent money to Madoff looking for unreasonable returns, speculation and pure greed. The old phrase "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is" applies here. If I speculated on real estate property and lost, I shouldn't expect the government or society to pay me what I lost.

Our society is obscenely out of whack right now."

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DianeDimond March 23, 2009 at 7:02 pm

Web site Reader Shelley writes:

"I wanted to say that it's fine for people to be mad at Madoff but everyone is missing one important fact:

From your article:

"In 1990 Madoff became head of the NASDAQ stock exchange but he isn’t so much a financier as he is a greedy criminal who used his connections to get people at the Securities and Exchange Commission, the only regulatory body that could have stopped him, to look the other way. The warning flags went up over Madoff’s scheme years ago but no one took action."

Hmmm… no one took action. The very people we trust to protect us from people like Madoff. Why aren't we mad at them?

We are more angry at the people who got very legal bonuses at AIG than we are at those in our government who made those bonuses possible. Why?

We are more angry at the banks who made sub-prime loans than we are at the people who forced them to make those loans. Why?

Think about it. How did our anger get so misplaced? Who sent it in that direction?"

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DianeDimond March 23, 2009 at 7:09 pm

Shelley:
There are so many to blame!
Tops on the list is Congress. For all its recent grand standing to "protect the people" is the very body that pushed lending institutions – FORCED them, really – to give mortgages to people who didn't qualify. Few in the main stream media ever bring that up.
Just like very few ever report about the Security and Exchange Commission. That's the very body established to monitor people like Madoff (made even stronger after the Michael Milken Days) to keep them from cheating the rest of us.
Bottom line: I blame the media for highlight the "easy" people instead of the "responsible" people.
thanks for writing! ~ DD

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DianeDimond March 23, 2009 at 9:07 pm

DD Web site Reader Ev K. writes:

"Before we strip the members of the Madoff family (his two sons and his brother) of all their "wealth" –don't you think we ought to at least wait until it has been proven they were involved in the Ponzi scheme?

Everyone "knows" Bernie didn't do it by himself–"he had to have others involved."

And everyone "knows" it was his family. I'll wait until they prove it!

Working class fathers can give their kids a few hundred or a few thousand dollars as a gift.
Billionaires give their kids millions. (i.e. Warren Buffet)

Just because he gave his sons millions of ill gotten gain doesn't mean they were involved in stealing it.

This is still America–we don't hang 'em and then try 'em. You would make one sorry ass juror.

Try them in court (not the court of public opinion) and prove they were involved–then do and say whatever pleases you."

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DianeDimond March 23, 2009 at 9:17 pm

Ev –

No where in my column did I say I thought the Madoff family (wife, sons, brother) was guilty.

I said I didn't beleive the family didn't know (or suspect) ol' Bernie was up to no good.

What I said was that the MONEY Bernard Madoff stole from others should not be allowed to stay with his family. I said it was like the bank robber bringing home his loot to his wife and then declaring it was HER MONEY. Not fair!

Who knows if others in the family will ever be charged with anything? Not my main focus. Main focus is getting back the money he stole for those who are now penniless.

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jeff liddell March 23, 2009 at 10:37 pm

Let's be honest, there have been many scam artists taking money from "innocent" people, Madoff and his top name client list made for headline coverage. All roads to hell are paved with lust and greed, and without them the Madoff's of this world would cease to exist. Madoff's clients could easily afford to lose the money they lost, does not make Madoff's actions right, but I am more concerned about those people who cannot afford to lose their money being scammed, I guess the John Does of the world are not as news worthy.

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Ev Kaye March 24, 2009 at 6:15 am

Diane:

I quote from your article:

"Part of the reason Madoff succeeded was the glittering gossamer cocoon of success he and his family spun around themselves."

"He told the court the rest of his family never knew of his massive deceit. I don’t believe that."

Do you really believe your readers wouldn't interpret these statements as implied "guilt" and/or complicity?

In your reply to me you ask the question, "Who knows if others in the family will ever be charged with anything? " The answer is, no one knows at this time.

Everyone wanted Bernie brought to court and "justice be served"–and it was done.
So I repeat , until his brother and two sons are charged and and found guilt in court, let justice take it's course–and not rush to judgement.

You can bet the government is in agreement with your "main focus", namely going after the money.

For the record, I have no sympathy for Bernie. He deserves whatever sentence he gets for both the financial ruin and more importantly the human wreckage he has left behind.

Ev Kaye

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DianeDimond March 24, 2009 at 4:15 pm

Web site Reader John L. writes:

" You kissed off the SEC's role in all this.
How about finding out more about it?
Some heads should fall at the SEC."

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DianeDimond March 24, 2009 at 4:17 pm

Yes, you are absolutely right that heads should roll at the SEC, John ! But each column has to maintain a certain focus and for this column it was Bernie Madoff and what he really did to his family. ~DD

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DianeDimond March 24, 2009 at 7:57 pm

Web site Reader Judy P in Los Angeles writes:

"Oooh.. that was a great article you wrote! Why don't you forward it to Madoff in jail?"

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Lyn March 24, 2009 at 11:03 pm

Hey Judy, I like that idea very much!!

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DianeDimond March 24, 2009 at 11:19 pm

Facebook Friend Mike B. writes:

" It is all very sad and sickening. They should seize all assets from him and his wife. There is no proof that she earned any of her assets from anything other than the ponzi scheme."

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Frank Praytor March 24, 2009 at 11:20 pm

P.T. Barnum's observation about the high birth rate of suckers is a well-worn cliché that's ignored when the promise of fat money returns blind-out logic. Madoff's big "suit" was his ability to blow smoke into the ears of suckers, some of whom don't deserve sympathy. You can't legislate against greed and stupidity. They're usually intertwined and inseparable.
Just read today about a stupid woman suing a pet store owner for talking her into taking some nostrum designed for animals instead of seeking medical help. Stupid is as stupid does, ole Forrest said. Pardon my reliance on old saws, but they are inarguable.
Oh. Just before reading the foregoing article, I had to delete, unread, two e-mails telling me of my great fortune in winning thousands of pounds, or krona, or whatever from the nation of Bulsheeta. I wonder how many suckers responded?
Good reading, dear lady, per your typical artistry in stringing words together.

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DianeDimond March 24, 2009 at 11:20 pm

Facebook Friend Donna ZS. writes:

"At one time Stephen Hoffenberg was considered the biggest Ponzi schemer. I guess Madoff makes Hoffenberg look small time. Madoff should not have been allowed to 'rest it out' in his multi million dollar penthouse. He should have been thrown in jail just like the authorities treated Hoffenberg. with no dignity. This Madoff character is a great 'grandfather' lookalike – with quite a sordid and evil past. He will pay."

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DianeDimond March 24, 2009 at 11:21 pm

Facebook Friend Bree S. writes:

"The wife is just as guilty. I say take it all just like they took it all from their victims. I guess Bernie was hoping to croak before sentencing like the Enron guy — I don't think he realized he would be going straight to jail. I think everyone involved will go down eventually."

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DianeDimond March 24, 2009 at 11:22 pm

Facebook Friend writes:

"He wasn't stupid, he knew what he was doing. That just takes guts. Greed makes people do desperate things. The fact is he deceived people for so long and conned people based on his reputation. He didn't care about other Jews, friends, either. Did you hear what holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel had to say? Lost his fortune. Why would he care … Read Moreabout his family, it was all about Bernie for him. He was just a high-grade crook, nothing else. I guess it'll be weekend at bernie's every week now (in his cell).
Finally, it would have continued to this day if he didn't run out of new money."

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DianeDimond March 24, 2009 at 11:23 pm

Facebook Friend Mary McG. writes:

" Typical con man….just took longer to catch."

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DianeDimond March 24, 2009 at 11:24 pm

Facebook Friend Susan S.S. writes:

" Well I'll put my two cents worth in…Oops, looks like thats all I got left…..Damn you Madoff!!!!"

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DianeDimond March 24, 2009 at 11:24 pm

Facebook Friend Jeff K. writes:

" Diane – don't count on it. His sons – and he – will have a great life the DR or Panama. You don't think he lost all that money – or that "they" will find it all – do you?"

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DianeDimond March 24, 2009 at 11:25 pm

Facebook Friend Janet C. writes:

" He should go to a max prison, and in solitary I'm sure if he's not in solitary one prisoner there would love to get famous for taking care of him not that anyone would cry. This guy and his family just do not know what they have done."

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DianeDimond March 24, 2009 at 11:26 pm

Facebook Friend Jeff Collins writes:

" I think when we look at Madoff we're, quite frankly, looking at ourselves. He is the face of greed and excess and self entitlement, and those who invested with him bear some responsibility for their own looses. A junior investor could have figured out his numbers didn't add up. My old southern dad always said " If a deal seems too good to be true it's probably not an honest deal."

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DianeDimond March 24, 2009 at 11:27 pm

Facebook Friend Adele M. writes:

"Got to agree with Jeff. Great comment!!! It appears that the Greedy got took by the Greedy!!!!!!"

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DianeDimond March 24, 2009 at 11:28 pm

Facebook Friend Laurie S. writes:

"Let him be forced to work at a minimum wage job for the rest of his life – to struggle would be a good thing for him. Oh – and take away any retirement funding he may have…"

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DianeDimond March 24, 2009 at 11:28 pm

Facebook Friend Randi R. writes:

" He robbed from so many, including Jewish organizations. This man makes me sick to my stomach.
And one more thing. If there are other people behind him (real bad people), the prison won't be able to protect him, ultimately people like this meet a brutal demise."

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DianeDimond March 24, 2009 at 11:29 pm

Facebook Friend Mary Clare H. writes:

"The financial criminal of the century has to be Bernie Madoff!"

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DianeDimond March 24, 2009 at 11:30 pm

Facebook Friend Earl G. writes:

" Christopher Dodd and Barney Frank must be included!"

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DianeDimond March 24, 2009 at 11:31 pm

Facebook Friend Robert L. M. writes:

" While Madoff whacked a few thousand, or so folks, for a few billion dollars….Obama and his minions have whacked an entire nation for TRILLIONS!!! My vote goes to the Commander-in-Thief…. "

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DianeDimond March 24, 2009 at 11:32 pm

Facebook Friend Chris F. writes:

" My choice for financial Criminal of the Century would be Ben Bernanke amongst a tough slate of candidates. "

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Frank Praytor March 24, 2009 at 11:52 pm

AmenBrother Robert! We're being fast-talked into become a two-class society: Suckers and whores.

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