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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Life as a knife / gun crime gangster or financier

A real life story of a financier who ended up as a criminal has caught my eye - Jordan Belfort. His life struck me as an accurate caricature of the current banking and economic greed that has dominated modern life in recent times.

Belfort also pursued riches and a luxury lifestyle that appeal to knife and gun gangsters (at least some of them).

With that in mind, interesting to cover his life story to serve as some kind of modern day parable for those thinking that crime and greed pays. It doesn't and you can see it clearly in Belfort's story. Sorry if it seems somewhat unfair on Jordan - I'm not sure how else to write it.

Belfort probably sums up a kind of insidious evil that can grip a selfish, self-centred human spirit - recklessness, greed, gambling, crime, power - a whole gamut of excess that is abhorrent to decent people.

When he started selling stocks, he once made 12.5m USD in a few minutes. He had mansions, luxury and sports cars. He flew in private jets and helicopters. Coco Chanel’s yacht was his. He married an attractive blonde model.

Sex, drugs and the love of money

Belfort had tens of brokers working for him, and then hundreds. He inspired his men who sold stock which often went up. Belfort encouraged his brokers to spend their own money wildly... to keep them champing at the bit for more. Prostitutes and drug dealers... you can just visualise it – cars, drugs, parties, short skirts (no skirts!), air-punching on the trading floor.

He had everything worth having, right?

Wrong. As money poured in from crime, Belfort started to lose perspective. He had 19 servants. He wore watches, shoes and clothes worth many thousands of pounds. But he started to break the law. He created a scam that made him multi millions. The FBI investigated him. He started on drugs – crack, cocaine, Ecstasy, cannabis, painkillers, sleeping tablets and anti-depressants. What's your poison...?

To quote Belfort: he was “stealing $100 million from thousands of investors and smuggling millions of dollars to Switzerland”.

He became paranoid. His life fell apart. His yacht sank. His jet crashed. He had a near-death experience in his helicopter.

It gets worse. Belfort started to crack up. He pushed his wife down the stairs at one of his mansions. Drugged out of his mind, he grabbed his three-year-old daughter, put her in his car and drove off. But he didn’t get far. He crashed through the garage door into a marble pillar. The girl was not wearing a seat-belt. She was unharmed. Jordan Belfort’s wife began divorce proceedings.

Investigated by law enforcement authorities

Belfort was told by the FBI he faced 30 years in jail. His option to escape jail was to grass on his 'pals' – in other words, talk to his co-conspirators about the frauds they had jointly committed, and secretly record the conversations.

He chose to be a grass. Yep - set up close chats with old 'friends' while wearing a wire to discuss crimes that were committed.

He served 22 months of a four year jail sentence. His whole life story is to become a Martin Scorsese film. Not sure if that doesn't glamourise crime - maybe not as it should show his life's spectacular failure and collapse.

He said: "I went off course. I had bankrupt values. Number one was money. Number two was power. Number three was sex, mostly with hookers. Number four was drugs.”

It is little wonder that young people and others who take up knife and gun crime - perhaps to escape poverty - have had little to aspire to when idiot, avaricious financiers (like Belfort) and businesses (that Belfort worked for) remain solely focused on their self-interest, their profits - and regulation and governments across the world are way too corrupt (perhaps also gullible) and let them get away with it.

Private hell as greed-ridden life starts to collapse

Here's a few of Belfort's reflections on his life being a pathetic criminal:

“The problem on Wall Street is you’re not creating anything. There’s no satisfaction. The only barometer you have is money. And money has no meaning. You try to attach meaning to money by buying possessions.”

If you want to make money, you have to train yourself to be obsessed with money. And then life starts to lose its meaning.

He started out as a criminal after a man who was bent taught him how to be bent too. (That'll be education, education, education). Interestingly Belfort had good intentions, thinking he'd only be bad occasionally and then go back to being nice.

But he lost his family, and then his freedom.

Before being locked up in prison, he said to his children: "I’ve made some serious mistakes and if you make mistakes there are consequences. I have to go away for a while… to jail."

And the upset among the family was huge. He mentions his wife and daughter in the interview I'm reporting on here. He has a son as well, the article said.

He says he's not spiritual and does not have integrity, unlike his new wife-to-be. Hopefully, things will change for the better for him now. Let's hope he's reformed - sounds like it.

Modern-day parable of gangster-ism. Learned anything?

Parable over. Suffice to say, if you're a knife and gun user - you can see what you can become in this post if you use criminal ways to try to get ahead. A complete tosser.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Politics stoops low (again) with 'knives out' commentary

Some election commentators, as well as some Press reporting, make me feel sick. Now that Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has made some progress in the first debate, knife stabbing metaphors are pouring out of the pores of political outlets.

And I'm sure it's not just me that feels sick about it - any victims, friends or relatives connected to stabbings will not feel at all comfortable that terms like 'knife sharpening' are being bandied about - whether in politics, the workplace or elsewhere. To suggest the violent career 'death' of a political opponent is not something to be savoured like some kind of favourite meal - in fact, it is immoral to will or wish the death of another by any violent means and should be abhorrent to those with a conscience.

The relish shown by the headline writers is truly appalling: "Knives out for Clegg"; "Knives out for LibDems". In fact, it's lazy journalism. Such 'knifing' talk needs to be questioned and challenged. Worse still are those (mainly older) commentators who are loving to talk about dark political manoeuvrings that might lead to achievement of some kind of Julius Caesar moment. Those that relish this language ought to stop, think, reflect and re-evaluate their style of language.

You can view the huge array of political knifing comments here. Once again, politics is managing to demonstrate an underlying flaw and failure of our society - that it must use knife analogies to achieve political and other 'ambitious' ends.

Well, it should stop. It is no example to set society at large, let alone any impressionable young people. If not, knife crime culture will remain embedded in the UK psyche. Take the knife metaphors out of the English language - now (please).

Saturday, April 10, 2010

UK Election: Where's the crime policy pledges etc?

This is not good. I've been watching the UK election news since the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called the general election for May 6... and not one word have I heard about crime, especially not knife or gun crime.

There's been Cameron and his twist on national service for young people (which can't really be criticised - unless young people don't want to participate, I thought). Then there's the economy being centre stage which all politicians have come to far too late. I just don't think they understand how to help the people they are supposed to serve. Labour seems to have helped a great deal avoid problems of the UB40 times from the 1980s - but it's not unlike trying to shut the stable door after the horse has bolted. Banking matters should have been tackled much sooner.

And why is this relevant to knife crime? Because young people need to have something to aspire to - and a corrupt, unmanageable financial / economic system is not something to aspire to. In fact, it's a man-made, moral disaster for the globe and encourages criminality, it seems (as well as causing famines, poverty etc).

Come on politicians, what are your ways to tackle the knife crime scourge affecting society - and other violent crime? Bring on the debate...

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Quotes to keep knife crime campaigners motivated

Just a couple of knife / violent crime-related quotes I came across to keep us pushing onwards:

John Lennon: "You either get tired fighting for peace, or you die."

And Gandhi helps a little too, as we enter Easter and many people think about God and who he is: "... in the midst of death, life persists; in the midst of untruth, truth persists; in the midst of darkness, light persists. Hence I gather that God is life, truth, light. He is love. He is the supreme Good. But he is no God who merely satisfies the intellect, if he ever does."