#2. Harry Markopolos
Harry Markopolos is a financial investigator who pretty much, by his own admission, combines the worst of a math nerd with the worst of a frat boy.
Like "The Situation" with glasses.
He liked to tell off-color jokes, and one day started ranting about some fund manager who he claimed was running the biggest scam in history. He said he was having to check his car for bombs every morning because the guy was tied to the Russian mob. He slept with a loaded gun every night, and seemed hugely overdue for some kind of mental health intervention.
Or he could do what we do and get a bed that can make a getaway.
He screamed his accusations to anyone who would listen, for nine straight years. He was soundly ignored.
How He Was Right:
Not to be confused with Anson Williams's Potsie scheme.
Markopolos has since written a book, and titled it No One Would Listen. And he's right. No one DID listen. It all started a decade ago when Markopolos was asked by his bosses to figure out how Madoff was making such great returns. He did the math and figured out it was absolutely impossible.
Unsurprisingly, his bosses didn't want to hear that. He ratted Madoff out to the SEC multiple times and apparently managed to insult half the commission in the process by telling them they sucked at their jobs. While he was busy offending people, Madoff's scheme swelled to a $65 billion fraud.
To put that amount in its raddest terms: That's worth as much as 65 B2 bombers.
Forget financial regulation: let's create classes giving accountants people skills. If we had, the country might have saved about $43 billion, and Markopolos wouldn't have had to rub our faces in it.
#1. Werner Erhard
Kind of a Deepak Chopra for the 70s, Werner Erhard is most notable for inventing "EST," or "Erhard Seminars Training," a type of new-agey "The Secret" for disco-era liberals who had yet to discover power crystals or hybrid cars.
Feeling self-actualized yet?
EST was all about tearing down your soul and rebuilding it: i.e. giving somebody money to humiliate you. Erhard came up with it while driving one day when he had an "epiphany" wherein he "realized" that he "knew everything and knew nothing and didn't know what he didn't know." And if that doesn't make any sense to you, then you're just not enlightened enough and should probably write a few more checks to the EST foundation. If this sounds like a cult, well...
Erhard basically ripped people off by promising them an ability to see the world "as it really was," not mentioning the fact that his patented and expensive self-actualization seminar could just as easily be achieved with a plate of pot brownies and a late-night Halo campaign with some philosophy majors.
And now you know. And knowing is half the battle.
How He Was Right:
Among his other asshole behaviors, Werner Erhard kept insisting that another cult, pretty much just like his, was out to kill him. But that was ridiculous. After all, it's not like a cult would have some kind of secret intelligence unit or anything! Especially not one called--let's look it up here--"Scientology."
Nobody believed Erhard. But, as you can probably guess, indeed Scientology had listed Erhard as a "suppressive person" and then basically declared a "Scientologic fatwah" on him.
That's like a regular fatwah, but with Tom Cruise.
The full extent of operations wouldn't be revealed until six years after Erhard was prattling about Scientology trying to kill him, when the world learned of Operation Snow White, which was L. Ron's little attempt to improve his reputation by stealing and destroying nasty files the government had on him.
If you really want to get the thetans out of your head, you'll deal with this Erhard guy for me.
Yep, the Scientologists were after Erhard, not because they hated his beliefs or anything, but because he was making money off of brainwashing people using some of their techniques, and they hated having the competition.
Scientology spammed the poor bastard with so many private detectives that they had five file cabinets full of documents about him. So, even crazy cult leaders can be right sometimes. Wait... does this mean when Scientologists complain that other people are conspiring against them, we should take their word for it?
No. No it doesn't.
Do you have something funny to say about a random topic? You could be on the front page of Cracked.com tomorrow. Go here and find out how to create a Topic Page.
For people who were just straight assholes, check out 5 Famous Inventors (Who Stole Their Big Idea). And find out what science has to say about all these people in 5 Douchebag Behaviors Explained by Science.
And stop by our Top Picks (Updated Today! Shit!) to find out why we were about Obama and McCain being the same person all along.