Monsters Feed

Krugman on Madoff

There is a lovely column from Paul Krugman this morning: The Madoff Economy. Here's my favorite part:

So, how different is what Wall Street in general did from the Madoff affair? Well, Mr. Madoff allegedly skipped a few steps, simply stealing his clients’ money rather than collecting big fees while exposing investors to risks they didn’t understand. And while Mr. Madoff was apparently a self-conscious fraud, many people on Wall Street believed their own hype. Still, the end result was the same (except for the house arrest): the money managers got rich; the investors saw their money disappear.

We’re talking about a lot of money here. In recent years the finance sector accounted for 8 percent of America’s G.D.P., up from less than 5 percent a generation earlier. If that extra 3 percent was money for nothing — and it probably was — we’re talking about $400 billion a year in waste, fraud and abuse.

About ten years ago, I spent a while investing in the stock market. And while, in the end, I think I did make a profit before spending the money on my kids and on computer equipment and such, I noticed one very interesting thing. I had an eye for a certain kind of stock profitability chart. And while it yielded a number of nice jumps in share prices, it also yielded a whole lot of shareholder lawsuit mailings. While many of the companies I invested in were doing good work, a number of them (such as Enron) were cooking the books. Once I realized that the charts I had an eye for had a disproportionate chance of involving cases of fraud, I got much less interested in researching investments and spent my money on karate lessons and summer camp and computers instead.

Madoff isn't the only fraud around, but reading about his investors' misadventures makes me feel fortunate that I lost so little (in comparison to his victims) to the frauds I bought into.

Moninder Singh Pandher, Surendra Koli, & India's Grisly Child Murders

India's serial killer case seems to be emerging as a perfect storm of discrimination based on class and weath, police apathy and hostility toward the poor, the wrong two guys teaming up, and perhaps a few other factors. This resulted in a situation in which Moninder Singh Pandher and his servant Surendra Koli could systematically and methodically hunt and kill children and the occasional woman with complete impunity for several years, probably at least a rate of more than one a month. Koli went to work for Pandher in 2004. My esitmate is based only on remains actually found so far; a bunch of the many skulls don't seem to go with the bodies found so far. Pandher is emerging as India's own Gille de Rais.These guys were very well organized. From

In his confession before the police, Surendra allegedly said that Mohinder would often call prostitutes to his house. "I would also arrange domestic helps of the locality for my master. And when no one was available, Mohinder would ask me for small girls," he reportedly told the police.

Surendra allegedly said that many small children came to play in the open space near the water tank just behind the bungalow and he would lure them with chocolates and sweets. Surendra said Mohinder would rape these children. First the master, then he, Surendra allegedly told the police.

Then he would strangulate them, chop off the bodies into small pieces, and would dump the skulls and the belongings behind the house, and the rest of the body parts in the drain in front.

Police claimed that Surendra would often immerse the body in a drum of acid to prevent the stench from spreading. Noida SP Saimitra Yadav said: "Surendra had also killed two small boys who happened to be victims of mistaken identity. The two were very young and Surendra could not make out their gender by their appearance. But since they had been taken inside the house, they had to be killed. They were not sexually assaulted though."

This confession was elicited by "truth serum" (Sodium Pentathol). Apparently, the confession also involves claims of cannibalism. Surendra was Pandher's cook.

The Indian media is having a hard time coming to grips with the idea of psychopathy, attempting to reconcile Pandher's former classmates' claims that he seemed like a "wonderful chap" with the notion that he was a peophile and a serial child killer. Biographical details on Pandher are a bit sparse. But there are a few.

One of the most interesting to me is that Delhi's St. Stephen's College, from which Pandher has his college degree (Batch of 1974-77. History (Honours). Third Division) has some significant amnesia about the accused, an amnesia which seems to extend beyond what simple embarassment could explain.

While confirming that he studied at the college, officials at the principal’s office added: “He is a horrendous exception to college’s glorious tradition of grooming gentlemen out of students.”

Even students in the History batch of 1977 that had 45 students do not seem to know him. “I just cannot recall him. I’m sure there is some confusion. I know all my batchmates but cannot recollect this guy,” said Sandeep Dayal, who studied in the same batch and works in a travel agency.

Since the day Dayal read about Singh in the paper, he has been frantically calling up friends from his batch to check if they can recall him. “It was so shocking to read about him so I just called up my batchmates but like me, they too are clueless,” he added.

Singh is also missing from the college’s annual directories that list its alumni for years 1980, 1984, 2004 and 2006.

Professor Mohd Amim, who taught History at the college between 1949 and 1993, said: “It’s up to the students whether they want to list themselves with the college. As of now, there is no trace of him.”

His daddy was rich. Could he somehow have a degree from the college without having attended? Interesting. A guy who has problems in his fifties may have had some issues that interfered with his studies in college. But apparently, he's on record as having a degree.

Pandher inherited the family "transport business, which spreads across Delhi, Noida, Chandigarh, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh."

Yesterday, the police for the first time took the media inside the Noida house where the children were raped and murdered. Journalists who visited the place say that Moninder Singh had a luxurious lifestyle and loved hunting and fine spirits.

Walls of Moninder's living room are decorated with huge photographs showing him with hunting gear and the prey. The house sports a mini-bar stocked with Indian and imported spirits.

Moninder Singh is said to be fond of Goldschlager, a spirit with flakes of gold floating in it. He also had Drambuie, Bardinet Curacao Blue and Gold Napoleon in his collection.

Also, there is an interesting history of deaths in the family:
His mother died when Moninder was eight. His uncle, who he was close to, was murdered in the 80s apparently over a business rivalry.
Hard to know what to make of this.

Both men are married. Pandher has been estranged from his wife Devinder Kaur for some time; they have a son who is a college student in Canada, Karandeep Singh, who is currently staying in India with his mother. Surendra is also married and has a three-year-old daughter.

One does not start up a meticulously orgazined system for child molestation and murder at this rate of "production" from scratch. Apparently, they had special techniques for decomposing bodies involving the use of an insecticide. This is something one works up to over a long period time. What exactly was Pandher doing when he was supposed to be going to collge those many years ago? Did the college make some deal that he would be allowed to attend as long as he didn't actually attend?

The Indian media needs to find out a good bit more about how Mr. Pandher has spent his time. And worse, if he can live like this, other people of his class can, too.

Wikipedia lists a few other Indian serial killers. The entry on Auto Shankar contains the telling passage:

During his trial Auto Shankar blamed cinema for "making a devil of him", but a month before his execution, he revealed to reporters a more sinister force. According to his account, he had kidnapped the girls for powerful state politicians, subsequently disposing of them after his patrons had raped them.
My belief is that Pandher and Koli have lived their lives as violent psychopaths, and that there is much investigation than needs to be done of their earlier lives. The Indian press has serveral stories about events in Pandher's life that might have lead him to this, but life as a psycho killer does not start at 50. Nonetheless, the deterioration of Pandher's marriage and other events may have countoured the course of his disease.

From Punjab News & Information:

Moninder Singh Pandher, the accused in Noida human remains case, had strained relations not only with his wife Davinder Kaur but also with his brother iqbal Singh. Pandher’s wife had reportedly separated from him two year ago, while his brother had severed all ties with him over a six-year-old property dispute dating back six years. According to information, Davinder Kaur severed ties with Pandher several years ago because of his relationship with another woman, but they patched up - only to separate again, two years back. . . . Expressing shock at the Noida revelations, iqbal said, “Moninder was always a trouble-maker but i never thought he would stoop so low.” iqbal said he didn’t know much about his brother because they had been living separately for the last six years. “i had even got a case registered against him because i feared for the safety of my family,” he said.
From The Psychiatric Times, a discussion of the progression of violence in several American psychopaths:
Social isolation, loneliness and associated emotional pain in psychopaths may precede violent criminal acts . . . . They believe that the whole world is against them, eventually becoming convinced that they deserve special privileges or rights to satisfy their desires. As psychopathic serial killers Jeffrey Dahmer and Dennis Nilson expressed, violent psychopaths ultimately reach a point of no return, where they feel they have cut through the last thin connection with the normal world. Subsequently their sadness and suffering increase, and their crimes become more and more bizarre . . . . Dahmer and Nilsen have stated that they killed simply for company . . . Dahmer tried to make zombies of his victims by injecting acid into their brains after he had numbed them with sleeping pills. He wanted complete control over his victims, but when that failed, he killed them.
But unlike Dahmer, Pandher seems to have had significant social connections which he almost certainly made use of while pursuing his bad habits. This bit, from The Telegraph in Calcutta, suggests where this story might be going:
Moninder Singh Pandher, the alleged mastermind of the horror at Nithari, has scalped an unexpected victim — the Congress party. At a time when Congressmen were busy chalking out strategies to corner CM Mulayam Singh Yadav over police inaction in the disappearance of children, skeletons came tumbling out of the Congress’s own cupboard. The killer has been widely reported to be a relative of a Congress MP from Punjab. The recent discovery of four more bodies of small children from a warehouse owned by Congressman, Jagmeet Singh Brar, in Punjab’s Muktsar has undoubtedly made matters worse. Brar’s supporters, however, claim that this was a dirty trick pulled on him by his long-term opponent, Amarinder Singh . . . .
So is the idea that the political parties have the bodies of young children stacked up somewhere like cordwood to be planted on their opponents when need be? That's quite a strange claim to make about the nature of Indian politics. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds.

Pandher also had some kind of US connections, apparently in Los Angeles, From the Indian Express:

The police now suspect Moninder Singh Pandher, accused in the Noida serial killings case, may be part of an international child pornography racket. They have seized photographs of nude children from his D-5, Noida residence apart from pornographic literature, a laptop computer and a webcam.

The Indian Express has learnt that several photographs showing Moninder in the company of nude children were recovered from his house. SSP R K Singh Rathore, when contacted, said that the Noida police were in possession of these photographs and Moninder would be questioned about these.

Moninder visited Los Angeles, Switzerland, Dubai, Canada and China last October. While some photographs show Moninder watching a dance being performed by nude children, others show him in the company of some foreigners. Police say two of his family members accompanied him on the tour.

The children in the photographs are Indian. “These photographs, if true, could expose Moninder as till now the Noida police are banking on circumstantial evidence to get him convicted,” said Rathore.

One of the many questions that Noida police have requested forensic experts to ask Moninder is why he went abroad four times. Police suspect that Moninder provided pornographic videos made of children to clients abroad. Among the material recovered are photos that link Moninder to paedophilia.

So who were his US contacts? Where did he go and who did he visit in the US?

Charles Taylor Caught! Then, Nigeria deports Charles Taylor to Liberia!

From Reuters:

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (Reuters) - Nigeria captured fugitive former Liberian President Charles Taylor on the border with Cameroon on Wednesday and deported him to Liberia, easing its embarrassment at his escape earlier in the week.

The dramatic arrest and deportation came hours before President Olusegun Obasanjo was due to meet U.S. President George W. Bush, who has been pushing for Taylor to face war crimes charges in a special U.N.-backed court for years.

"President Obasanjo has ordered the immediate repatriation of Charles Taylor to Liberia ... to help the government of Liberia which had requested custody of the former president," Nigerian Information Minister Frank Nweke said in a statement.

Journalists saw Taylor, dressed in a white safari suit and surrounded by about 20 soldiers, walk onto the tarmac at Maiduguri airport, in Nigeria's far northeast, and board a Nigerian presidential jet.

On the subject of Taylor's arrest, Global Witness has issued this eloquent statement:


The ending of impunity for heads of state responsible for conflict, and crimes against humanity could be a step closer today with the dramatic arrest of Charles Taylor as he sought to flee Nigeria to Cameroon.

The speed with which Charles Taylor has been captured by vigilant Nigerian customs officials is to be congratulated. Not withstanding any further security breaches or accidents, Charles Taylor will finally have his day in court – be it in Freetown or The Hague – to face trial for the 17 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes that he has been indicted for by the United Nations appointed Special Court for Sierra Leone.   

As a result of his arrest the chance for regional security and the prospects for peace have increased. The trial of Taylor will bring to an end many years of violent conflict that have blighted the region and caused untold suffering to millions of people. 

Taylor used revenues derived from diamonds and timber to fuel two bloody conflicts in which hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians died. Justice must be done, the ending of impunity for sitting and ex heads of state that have been responsible for some of the worst human rights abuses in the last twenty years must be tackled by the international community.

“The international community and Nigeria must now ensure that Taylor is speedily and successfully handed over to the Special Court for Sierra Leone and stands trial for the crimes against humanity with which he has been indicted,” said Alex Yearsley of Global Witness.

See also The Yorkshire Ranter post Who Are You Going to Massacre Next?, mirrored here:

Charles Taylor has been re-nailed, after a day or so of freedom on the lam from the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone. I was amused by this description of his arrest on the Nigerian-Cameroonian border:

The former Liberian leader had arrived at the frontier in a Range Rover jeep with diplomatic corps number plates, a trader working at the Gamboru-Ngala border post told AFP news agency.

"He was wearing a white flowing robe," said Babagana Alhaji Kata.

"He passed through immigration but when he reached customs they were suspicious and they insisted on searching the jeep, where they found a large amount of US dollars.

"After a further search they discovered he was Charles Taylor."

Flowing white robes, a Range Rover and a pile of cash, eh? His innate style didn't desert him. Like 50 Cent, but with more violence. Wasn't his last album called The Massacre, too?

Taylor's "spiritual adviser" - now there's a busy man - had been saying that he was seeking political asylum in Syria, Ethiopia, Venezuela, Equatorial Guinea or Gabon. These states will now be spared the embarrassment of having to answer. The spiritual adviser, by the way, is an American evangelical Protestant of Indian extraction, one  Dr. Kilari Anand Paul - the very notion of caring for Charles Taylor's immortal soul, though, reminds me of the John Donne poem about "who shall give me grace to begin" seeking God's grace.

"Dr" Paul (the doctorate isn't real), it seems, specialises in bizarre, rocambolesque interventions in war zones and offering the consolations of religion to murderous bastards. There is an interesting article here including the skinny on his "Dr", and he has a website here. He also has a Boeing 747, which could have come in handy, and a bad reference from the Southern Baptist Missions Board, who doubt his financial probity...

And here's Doug Farah on the subject of Taylor's arrest:

What has complicated the issue for Obasanjo, if one wants to give him the benefit of the doubt, which I am not sure he deserves, is that Taylor’s financial power allowed him to ally himself with many of the most powerful and corrupt in Nigeria, including senior members of the government and perhaps even members of Obasanjo’s own family.

Taylor’s arrest may open the way for Obasanjo to begin cleaning house and take down some of the structures Taylor is participating in, including the widespread “bunkering” or theft of oil before it enters the official state system. But the ongoing, warm U.S. relationship with Obasanjo should be contingent on Obasanjo’s willingness to tackle the entire corrupt structure that has choked the life from one of Africa’s potentially most vibrant economies.

It is a good day for West Africa and those seeking to end the impunity that has ravaged the region for generations. It is a good day particularly for the thousands of victims of Taylor’s wars in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast and Guinea. The amputee victims, the rape victims and the child soldiers may now have at least a small measure of closure when the architect of their misery finally faces justice.

And here is Laura Rosen's post:

Liberia's Charles Taylor arrested. A friend knowledgeable about US policy to West Africa writes, "[Nigerian president] Obasanjo can’t afford to play any more games, and Taylor will be sent to the tribunal, it looks like via Liberia.  Reuters reports that Obasanjo has ordered his immediate repatriation.  (UNMIL has a chapter VII mandate to make the arrest and transfer, and nobody wants him in Liberia, so this will go very quickly once he’s there.)   Obasanjo overplayed his hand, and got burned by the overwhelming response from Washington yesterday.  Never have I seen a better example of the White House, State Department, House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans, working together to send such a strong, clear signal.  US leadership yesterday may have saved West Africa from years of additional mayhem and suffering." More on what Taylor's arrest could mean for the region here.

Happy Valentine's Day

Last year, Peter made these amazing monster valentines. Here is my favorite:


The whole set is up on his Monster Gallery ( along with more of his monster drawings.

For this year's Valentines, he scanned in interesting fabrics and printed out the patters on paper and then used them to make Valentines. Herre's a shot of the one's he's organizing now: