culture, politics, commentary, criticism

Friday, December 20, 2002
Skimble is on break. See you in January. Meanwhile, go visit
One of the themes of this blog just came to a head today (
DALLAS - The Securities and Exchange Commission has formalized its investigation of Halliburton Co.'s accounting practices, the company said.

The decision, announced late Thursday, expands a probe the SEC began in May.

The accounting issue concerns a 1998 policy change, when Dallas-based Halliburton began counting cost overruns as additional revenue on some construction and engineering jobs, before the customer agreed to pay for the extra costs.

The change was made when Vice President Dick Cheney served as the company's CEO and was approved by Arthur Andersen, the company's former auditor.
This is something we have consistently pointed out in many earlier posts: the disproportionate treatment of Arthur Andersen, relative to the still-unindicted Enron executives, was always ultimately meant to protect not just George W. Bush but also former Halliburton CEO Dick Cheney. They knew that the SEC would bear down upon Halliburton sooner or later, and what better way to destroy the accounting evidence than to shred not the documents but the auditor itself.

The entire administration reeks of cronyism and dirty tricks. What's the antonym of "meritocracy"? The Bush dynasty.
Thursday, December 19, 2002
Eric Alterman reviewing Bob Woodward's Bush at War book in
The American Prospect:
There is no such thing as context in Woodward's world, almost no history and absolutely no possibility that anyone would dare to try to mislead America's most famous reporter.

I am prepared to believe most of what's here; not that it actually happened, but that someone in a position of authority is willing to say it did.
From presidential investigator to empire stenographer in thirty years. Sad.
"Our first problem is not immigration but the American corporation. That is the force which has succeeded in taking America away from us."

The quote above doesn't do justice to this fascinating, 7,500-word interview with
Norman Mailer called "I Am Not for World Empire" in The American Conservative Magazine.

Via Cursor, who also directs our attention to the article that Mailer refers to, written by Jay Bookman.
Hans Blix Fan Page, courtesy of Bluejake. Did you know he is a rally racer?
Who is "US"?
What is America's responsibility at this moment of its dominance? I believe it is to build a world that moves beyond interdependence to an integrated global community of shared responsibilities, shared benefits and shared values.

America must support the institutions of global community, beginning with the United Nations. The United Nations is an organization still becoming, still imperfect. We Americans have not always done our part in it, but it is all we have, and now that we live in an interdependent world, it must have our full support in building an integrated global community. [...]

From the dawn of human society up to the present time, we have been bedeviled by a persistent curse: the compulsion people feel to define the meaning of their lives in positive terms with reference to those who are like them racially, tribally, culturally, religiously, politically, and by negative reference to those who are different. People then feel compelled to oppress those who are different when they are small and powerless enough not to prevent it.

Increasingly wider circles of interdependence, however, have taught people to accept the humanity of those they once degraded. Indeed, the whole course of human history can be seen as a constant struggle to expand the definition of who is "us" and shrink the definition of who is "them."
Bill Clinton, December 19, 2002.
I scratch your back, you give me $20 million. Deal? Compensation committees are groups of people on corporate boards of directors who decide how many bazillions to give the CEO. How do they decide how much? It helps if you bribe them (and their children) first...
...Frank E. Walsh Jr., a former member of the compensation committee at Tyco International, pleaded guilty to charges of failing to report that Tyco had paid him a $20 million fee for his role in a company deal. [...]

For example, at Clear Channel Communications, the nation's largest radio chain, only one of the five people on its compensation committee is free of potential conflicts. The committee has retained — indeed, sweetened — pay packages that guaranteed raises for the chairman, L. Lowry Mays, and his two sons, regardless of company performance. The sons have severance agreements that entitle them to 14 years of salary, bonuses, benefits and stock options if they quit because the board fails to choose one of them to succeed their father as chief executive. [...]

And three of the eight people who set the final pay package for John F. [Jack] Welch Jr. when he was chief executive of General Electric have done business, through their own companies, with G.E. Their decision, which at first looked like a pay cut for Mr. Welch, actually gave him a 50 percent raise for the year. [...]

John W. Snow, chosen by President Bush last week as Treasury secretary, was paid more than $50 million in his nearly 12 years as chairman of the railroad company CSX even as profits fell and its stock lagged the market. [...]

At Carnival [cruise ship operator], a compensation committee with three members — only one of whom has no ties to the company — approved a $40.5 million total pay package, including stock options, for the chief executive, Micky Arison, in 2001. The committee's proxy report notes that Mr. Arison himself actually recommends the size of his bonus and that there is "no specific relationship" between that bonus and company performance.
Our current political and economic environment, and the administration that fosters it, divorces cause from effect. Attacked by Al Qaeda? Attack Iraq. Your friends at Enron defrauded shareholders and employees? Ignore the CEOs and indict the auditor. Problems with Harken stock trades? Raise the terror alert.

It's all part of one big pattern of conflict of interest. Each one of these sideshows is designed to distract us from the real linkages between money, power and the people who are stealing from all of us in the form of eroded investments, insider trades, job loss, tax cuts for the rich, federal deficits, and outlays for "homeland security" that manage to reward
giant pharmaceutical companies.

Quotations above taken from The New York Times, via Altercation.
Wednesday, December 18, 2002
Atrios traces the line from the Christian ultra-right to companies that supply proprietary voting machines. Read his take and be sure to check out all the links he provides.
$10,000 Reward for information leading to the identity of the Eli Lilly Bandit — the person who slipped the midnight rider into the Homeland Security Bill, shielding the pharmaceutical giant from lawsuits by parents who claim the company's vaccines caused their children's autism. (Relevance to Homeland Security? None.)

Spotted over at Ruminate This.
The best little whorehouse is Texas. From today's
Houston Chronicle:
State Rep. Tom Craddick, who is expected to become the speaker of the Texas House in January, received tens of thousands of dollars in income from energy companies benefiting from a tax cut he sponsored in 1999, a government watchdog group reported Tuesday.

The tax measure, which provided a temporary severance tax exemption for marginal oil and gas wells in Texas, was championed by then-Gov. George W. Bush and was approved overwhelmingly by Texas lawmakers.

Craddick, R-Midland, who is in the oil and gas business, was the House sponsor. [...]

The watchdog group said Craddick's royalty payments included between $10,000 and $24,999 from Pioneer Natural Resources, which received a $1 million tax cut from the legislation.

Pioneer was created in 1997 in a merger orchestrated by former Bush business associate Richard Rainwater. Bush declared the tax break an emergency, which helped to speed up legislative passage of the measure. [...]

Craddick, who has announced that he has enough votes to be elected the first Republican speaker of the Texas House in modern times, had previously been criticized for his business ties.

Also in 1999, during a debate over electric deregulation, Craddick carried an amendment to give Cap Rock Energy an edge over other electric utilities in Texas. A year earlier, he had been paid $28,500 for brokering a separate business deal for the company.

Craddick's daughter, Christi Craddick, also received $30,000 in lobbying fees from Cap Rock in 1999, the Fort Worth Star Telegram reported earlier this fall. Subsequently, a spokesman for the Craddicks announced that Christi would no longer be a lobbyist while her father was speaker.
I normally don't give a damn about Texas politics, except we're beginning to see that it is an incubator for the diseased politics wafting out of the White House. If Texas is the rough draft, how far can we sink as a nation?

By the way, how's that Enron/Cheney criminal investigation going?
Tuesday, December 17, 2002
Leave no child behind except for the ones missing or dead in Florida (Associated Press via
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Law enforcement officials still cannot find more than 100 of 393 children reported missing from Department of Children & Families care, a report released Tuesday said.

Out the 103 youngsters listed on the report, 88 are being sought by law enforcement as missing children. Thirteen have turned 18 and are not being sought by law enforcement, the report said. Another turned 18 but is being sought as a missing adult and another, 17-year-old Marissa Karp, was found slain in August.

Gov. Jeb Bush started Operation Safe Kids in August, ordering DCF and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to find the children missing from state care, most of whom are believe to be runaways or taken by a noncustodial relative.

Bush called the operation a success in a statement released Tuesday, saying that in addition to locating most of the missing children it improved communication between DCF and law enforcement agencies.

Operation Safe Kids "has helped to establish a system that will better protect the children in our state," Bush said.

As part of the process, the state formed seven regional task forces to search for the children and make recommendations on how to better ensure children's safety.

Bush's order resulted from DCF scrutiny in the wake of the Rilya Wilson case. The 5-year-old Miami girl was missing for 15 months before department officials in April realized she was gone. She is still unaccounted-for.
Also unaccounted for is a shred of competence or moral fiber in any member of the Bush family.
We're #1! Skimble is the only site to come up when you Google
"faith-based hypocrite".

How proud are we? Ludicrously proud.
"You have been fantastic to the Bush family," the elder Bush said. "I don't think anybody did more than you did to support George."

Before we even heard the name Lewinsky, here's how Enron and the Bushes fellated each other with great gusto:
A videotape of a January 1997 going-away party for former Enron President Rich Kinder features nearly half an hour of absurd skits, songs and testimonials by company executives and prominent Houstonians, the Houston Chronicle reported in its Monday editions.

The collection is all meant in good fun, but some of the comments are ironic in the current climate of corporate scandal.

In one skit, former Administrative Executive Peggy Menchaca played the part of Kinder as he received a budget report from then-President Jeff Skilling, who played himself, and Financial Planning Executive Tod Lindholm.

When the pretend Kinder expressed doubt that Skilling could pull off 600 percent revenue growth for the coming year, Skilling revealed how it could be done.

"We're going to move from mark-to-market accounting to something I call HFV, or hypothetical future value accounting," Skilling joked as he read from a script. "If we do that, we can add a kazillion dollars to the bottom line."

Richard Causey, the former chief accounting officer who was embroiled in many of the business deals named in the indictments of other Enron executives, made an unfortunate joke later on the tape.

"I've been on the job for a week managing earnings, and it's easier than I thought it would be," Causey said, referring to a practice that is frowned upon by securities regulators. "I can't even count fast enough with the earnings rolling in."

Joe Sutton and Rebecca Mark, the two executives credited with leading Enron on an international buying spree, did a painfully awkward rap for Kinder, while former Enron Broadband Services President Ken Rice recounted a basketball game where employees from Enron Capital & Trade beat Kinder's Enron Corp. team, 98-50.

"I know you never forget a number, Rich," Rice said.

President George W. Bush, who then was governor of Texas, also took part in the skit, as did his father.

At the party, the younger Bush pleaded with Kinder: "Don't leave Texas. You're too good a man."

The governor's father also offered a send-off to Kinder, thanking him for helping his son reach the governor's mansion.

"You have been fantastic to the Bush family," the elder Bush said. "I don't think anybody did more than you did to support George."
Where's the story?
Junior's pro-poverty movement. It's hard to imagine a bolder political statement than
"the poor don't pay enough taxes" in a USA where indicted and disgraced corporate officers who have destroyed billions in shareholder investments oversee the construction of their $15 million 24,000 square foot megamansions.

Combine that with Junior's propensity to kiss the feet of faith-based hogwash peddlers who feel entitled to determine the birth control methods of everyone else. Meanwhile, in a more intelligent non-American universe, the United Nations has announced that birth control is a remedy for poverty.

Then add the winter removal of heat from the poor's shabby homes, and you've got a villain in the George W. Bush administration that would rival anything in Dickens.

What a difference a few decades make. The American war on poverty has devolved into Junior's war on the impoverished. It's not enough that they're down — we've got to pummel them with the full weight of the Republican party, its formidable assets, its clandestine agenda, its theocratic leanings, its dubious leadership, and its fundamental racism.

Merry Christmas, poor people, from the GOP. Here's a swift kick in the teeth. Try not to bleed on our money too profusely.
Monday, December 16, 2002
Lifestyles of the Rich and Fatuous. Somehow I just can't let go of the corporate malfeasance story (
New York Times):
Meanwhile, Scott D. Sullivan, WorldCom's former chief financial officer, continues construction on his 24,000-square-foot megamansion in Boca Raton, Fla. Mr. Sullivan was indicted on charges that he conspired to hide billions of dollars in losses at the company.

[...] Mr. Sullivan is regularly seen zipping around town in his silver Range Rover on his way to inspect that $15 million construction project, which includes an 18-seat movie theater, a private art gallery and a lagoon.

While Mr. Sullivan may not be safe from jail and civil lawsuits, his new home is secure; even if he is forced to file for bankruptcy, Florida's Homestead Act could protect the home and the land from creditors.
Of course his 24,000 square foot home is protected, with Florida's high-quality crony-protecting legislation. To endanger Sullivan's house, wouldn't the governor of Florida have to want to come after him really bad? But Jeb's distracted, busy feathering the nests of his brothers, the educational software genius and Silverado savings-and-loan leech* (Neil) and that other one, what's-his-name.

*Bailed out by Daddy at taxpayer expense.
Friday, December 13, 2002
More thoughts on lying and loyalty by David Wessel in, of all places,
The Wall Street Journal (subscription required):
Bill Clinton lied about Monica Lewinsky. But this administration seems particularly proud of its skill in misleading the press, the public and Congress, when convenient. It has even hired Elliot Abrams and John Poindexter, both of whom were convicted of lying to Congress about Reagan-era aid to Nicaraguan rebels. (Mr. Abrams was pardoned. Mr. Poindexter's conviction was overturned because prosecutors relied on testimony provided under immunity granted by Congress.)

A White House aide who had told me one thing on the record a few weeks ago tried to persuade me over the weekend, not for attribution, that the opposite was true. I protested. His reply: "Why would I lie? Because that's what I'm supposed to do. Lying to the press doesn't prick anyone's conscience."

Now that's candor.

Political loyalty and message discipline aren't ends in themselves. Politics is not just a sport. It matters. Differences over economic policy aren't just about whether the Republican team wins or loses to the Democratic team. They are about the best way to use the power of government to see that our children and grandchildren live better than we do.
It's bad enough when your opponents exercise power they're earned. But when they abuse power they haven't earned except through nepotism and chicanery, the result is the destruction of American ideals and a basic disrespect for the people and institutions — including the press — that make this country great.

In keeping with the all-politics, all-the-time characterization, the rush to distance itself from the fundamental racism of its own party reveals Junior's administration for what it is: a hollow lie from the bratty son of another one-term liar elected by playing the racism card way back in 1988.

Link via Altercation.
Thursday, December 12, 2002
You ain't see cold yet according to an AP story on
Charities, utilities and government agencies across the country are reporting a surge in the number of people asking for help paying their heating bills, even as the Bush administration proposes a $300 million cut in the nation's biggest source of home heating aid.

The White House has requested $1.4 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, compared with $1.7 billion last year. Congress hasn't decided whether to adopt the cut, but critics said the proposal comes at the worst possible time.

Cutting the money could affect more than 500,000 people who rely on aid to pay utility bills, according to the National Energy Assistance Director's Association, which represents state officials who administer LIHEAP grants.

"They will either shut their program early, when they run out of money, or cut benefits," spokesman Mark Wolfe said. "It is colder than last year. Unemployment is higher ... We are starting to hear from some states that their caseloads are going up."
Heat for me but not for thee... This is compassionate conservatism in action. Perhaps we should encourage the poor to move to a warmer climate like Texas, where we can more easily incarcerate and kill them.

2002 will be colder than 2001, and every year thereafter will be still colder until we throw the energy industry out of the White House.
The path to faith-based hell. From
The New York Times:
President Bush is enacting by executive fiat key pieces of his divisive "faith-based initiative,'' including one that lets federal contractors use religious favoritism in their hiring. [...]

Joe Conn, a spokesman for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said religious groups would be allowed to discriminate in hiring while other groups could not.

"It's not equal treatment,'' he said. "It's special treatment for religious groups. ... In essence, the government is going to be funding religious discrimination.'"
Divisive indeed. Junior's a divider, not a uniter, as head of HR for the American Christian Taliban.
Time to retire the formula. What would Jesus drive? Who would Jesus lynch? Who would Jesus impeach? Which sodomy laws would Jesus enforce? Which loans to corporate insiders would Jesus forgive? Which 401(k) plans would Jesus save? Which people would Jesus bomb unilaterally? Which blogs does Jesus read? Does Jesus have any insider Super Bowl 2003 tips? Which senators should Jesus allow to live into their second century of decrepitude?

I feel the spirit move me. Let's join hands — it's what Jesus would do. Get on your knees and pray with me now. Lift your voice to heaven and say it with me, say it with feeling, let it come out of your heart and soul just like the bumper sticker says: "Oh God, please protect me from your followers."
"The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington today [12/10/02] said it is offering free legal advice to booksellers in the state who receive subpoenas or search warrants seeking disclosure of customer purchase records. [...]

"The ACLU’s action comes in response to the USA PATRIOT Act, which has given federal law enforcement agencies new tools to demand records from booksellers. Passed in 2001, the PATRIOT Act empowers the government to obtain records of a person’s book purchases as part of an intelligence investigation, without evidence that the buyer is suspected of committing a crime.

"In recent years, there has been an increase in subpoenas to bookstores demanding evidence about customers’ reading habits. In one notable incident, Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr demanded that Barnes & Noble and Kramerbooks in Washington, DC divulge information regarding all purchases by Monica Lewinsky. Booksellers in Washington state, ranging in size from to the small Arundel Books in Seattle, have received subpoenas to disclose customer records."
Given the amount of Amazon and other bookselling that takes place through blog referral commerce, and the extensive electronic identity residues that remain, it makes sense for every person who reads or writes a blog to support the efforts of the ACLU.

Noted at the invaluable TalkLeft.
Wednesday, December 11, 2002
Technical difficulties with the USA, via Boing Boing.
"Yeah. Right. I mean, who cares what my political opinion is? My politics don't mean anything. Nobody's politics on the internet do. It's a black hole of prose and opinion."

—Neal Pollack, interviewed in
Contrasting views of Yemen, North Korea, and Iraq. In today's
New York Times, we see that a Stalinist state with a nuclear weapons program has apparently shipped Scud missiles to Yemen:
North Korea recently disclosed that it has a program to make nuclear weapons from highly enriched uranium, in violation of its international agreements, but the United States has taken pains to defuse any sense that it is planning an immediate confrontation over the issue. That policy is in contrast to the administration's approach with Iraq, where the Bush administration has threatened military action to disarm President Saddam Hussein if he does not voluntarily dispose of any weapons of mass destruction.
To qualify the distinction between its posture on Iraq and North Korea, it stands to reason that either (1) the administration has specific material evidence against Iraq that it refuses to share with UN weapons inspectors, leading them and the rest of the world as well as the American people on a wild goose chase, or (2) the administration is pursuing a secret agenda of its own, probably related to the needs of the energy industry and the legacy of Bush presidencies.

In another article, we learn that Yemen is our "friend and partner":
Asked if Yemen was a state that sponsors terrorism, [White House spokesman Scott] McClellan said: "No ... We now know that in fact Yemen has been a friend and partner in the global war on terrorism.''
And yet Richard Clarke, NSC Coordinator for Counterterrorism, 1992-2001, feels otherwise, in a report from Frontline:
I think there were two things going on in Yemen [in the FBI investigation following the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole]. The first thing was the government of Yemen didn't want us to know all the details; in part, because that would reveal that some low-level people in the Yemeni government may have been part of the conspiracy; in part, because it would have shown that the Yemeni government didn't really have control over a large section of Yemen; in part because it would have shown that Yemen was filled with terrorists from a whole variety of different organizations. So Yemen didn't want to cooperate fully, didn't want us to see everything that was there.

The other thing that was going on was that you had an U.S. ambassador [Barbara K. Bodine] who wanted to be fully in control of everything that every American official did in the country, and resented the fact that suddenly there were hundreds of FBI personnel in the country and only a handful of State Department personnel. She wanted good relations with Yemen as the number one priority.

[FBI counterterrorism expert] John O'Neill wanted to stop terrorism as the number one priority, and the two conflicted. Almost all of us who were following the details in Washington, whether we were in the Justice Department, the FBI, the White House, State Department, the Defense Department -- almost all of us thought that John O'Neill was doing the right thing.
From the same set of interviews, we hear the following from Clint Guenther, Former FBI Agent NYC – Counterterrorism:
Q: Now we know the connections. There were connections between some of the individuals there in Yemen and the Malaysian meetings and some of the [9/11] hijackers. There were dots to be connected. What did we lose by, months before 9/11, having to pull out the best people [O'Neill's team] to investigate the case, having to pull them out of Yemen?

A: That's hard to say, what we lost. We could've lost a lot. We could've lost the intelligence that could've connected that dot to the World Trade Center. I don't know that to be a fact, but a lot of the Al Qaeda people are coming out of Yemen. A lot of the Yemenis are involved. I think if we could have had better investigative effort over there, had been able to build the confidence of the local law enforcement, we may have been able to find people, interrogate them, and get a lot more intelligence that would have shown us something going on.
In its so-called war on "terror," the administration protects Yemen and Saudi Arabia, ignores North Korea, and mobilizes all of its resources against Iraq.

Could this make any less sense? There is no doubt that there are real threats facing this country, and that the administration has yet to demonstrate it is remotely capable of addressing them.
Tuesday, December 10, 2002
Why so many middle aged antiwar protesters? Because we still remember the draft.
Pat Elder, who owns a real estate title company in Bethesda, Md., says he got involved with a Quaker group after attending an anti-war protest in October.

"A third of the people there were over 50 and I thought, "Jesus, man, that's not what I remember from Vietnam. I'm 47 and I was a teenager when the big Vietnam demos were going on."

Now, he said, it merges "the person in the suburbs, the conservative crowd and the traditional activists ... to strike a tone that is more palatable to middle America. So we're not 20-year-olds in bandanas, shouting that Bush is a bastard."
Not a bastard, really, more of an overprivileged, underachieving chickenhawk, wouldn't you say? [From the
Toronto Star.]
Revolutionizing fuel – and fueling the revolution.
Hydrogen is the most basic and ubiquitous element in the universe. It never runs out and produces no harmful CO2 emissions when burned; the only byproducts are heat and pure water. That is why it's been called "the forever fuel."

Hydrogen has the potential to end the world's reliance on oil. Switching to hydrogen and creating a decentralized power grid would also be the best assurance against terrorist attacks aimed at disrupting the national power grid and energy infrastructure. Moreover, hydrogen power will dramatically reduce carbon dioxide emissions and mitigate the effects of global warming. […]

In a hydrogen economy the centralized, top-down flow of energy, controlled by global oil companies and utilities, would become obsolete. Instead, millions of end users would connect their fuel cells into local, regional and national hydrogen energy webs (HEWs), using the same design principles and smart technologies that made the World Wide Web possible. Automobiles with hydrogen cells would be power stations on wheels, each with a generating capacity of 20 kilowatts. Since the average car is parked most of the time, it can be plugged in, during nonuse hours, to the home, office or the main interactive electricity network. Thus, car owners could sell electricity back to the grid. If just 25 percent of all US cars supplied energy to the grid, all the power plants in the country could be eliminated. […]

The global energy and utility companies will make every effort to control access to this new, decentralized energy network just as software, telecommunications and content companies like Microsoft and AOL Time Warner have attempted to control access to the World Wide Web.
Jeremy Rifkin in
The Nation. Via Cursor.
CSX effective tax rate (1998-2001): –17.5%. "If the President’s goal is to encourage even more corporate tax sheltering, then Mr. Snow looks like a fine choice to help him do so," said Robert S. McIntyre, director of Citizens for Tax Justice.

Here's their
report showing that, instead of paying taxes, CSX supplemented its $934 million in pretax U.S. profits over the four years with a total of $164 million in tax rebate checks from the federal government. Noted at Eric Alterman's Altercation.
Secrets of Dick, Bush and Lay. The puppet court has spoken (story in the
Washington Post):
The 40-page opinion by U.S. District Judge John D. Bates, in the suit brought by the General Accounting Office against Vice President Cheney*, ruled that the GAO, which conducts hundreds of investigations into government affairs each year, has no personal or institutional right to bring almost any suit. Analysts said this means the agency might face trouble in enforcing its requests for information from any federal department. [...]

The case was randomly assigned to Bates, who was appointed to the bench by President Bush last year. [...]

"[A] Republican judge has decided that, once in office, Bush and Cheney can operate in complete secrecy with no oversight by Congress," [Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.)] said.
The score is Walking Cadaver 1, GAO 0. But keep your eye on Judicial Watch's lawsuit against the Cheney Energy Task Force.

*For the issues surrounding these events: "Wednesday, January 9, 2002 – The White House told Congress in a letter released yesterday that Vice President Cheney or his aides met six times with Enron Corp. representatives last year, including a session two months before the energy trading company made the largest corporate bankruptcy filing in American history. [...] One of the staff meetings occurred six days before Enron announced actions that reduced its shareholder equity by $1.2 billion.

"Cheney met for half an hour on April 17 with Kenneth L. Lay, Enron's chairman, according to a Jan. 3 letter by David S. Addington, the vice president's counsel. The letter was written in response to a Dec. 4 request by Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), ranking minority member of the House Committee on Government Reform, who released the correspondence." {link}
How does the estate tax repeal affect the personal finances of presidential candidates? Let's assume George H W Bush dies in 2010, the year of peak benefits for the wealthy under Junior's tax "reform" legislation of last year (EGTRRA) that he hopes to make permanent.

What kind of personal financial benefit can Junior expect? How much money will he see from Daddy's activities with The Carlyle Group, etc.? Can we compare Junior's "death tax" scenario against the inheritance scenarios of other presidential candidates, and can the resulting scandalous disproportionality become a factor in campaigns against him and his dynastic policies? Discuss.
Is the David Keene who is Chairman of the
African American Republican Leadership Council (noted at Talking Points Memo) the same David A. Keene who spawned the Parkway BMW gunman we wrote about last week?

We haven't seen nearly enough "overreaction" to the routinely bigoted, violent rantings that emanate from the right. (TPM link from Atrios.)
Monday, December 09, 2002
What kind of revival was that again?
According to the blurb for Six Steps to Spiritual Revival, the Christian Coalition's Pat Robertson "reveals an amazing Scriptural pattern". But there's a pretty amazing pattern emerging amongst buyers of his book on [...] Scrolling down, you can see that a number of users have recommended The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Men in addition to, or as an alternative to Robertson's tome.
Found at
The Register, via Moby Lives.
Jeffrey Toobin's profile of proto-candidate and Republican suckup Joe Lieberman in
The New Yorker:
Intentionally or not, Lieberman spent the fall doing the Republicans' bidding. His stature gave the President's policy on Iraq the shimmer of bipartisanship; his leadership on homeland security led to a political debacle and policy failure for the Democrats. (After the election, the final version of the bill, which Lieberman voted for, basically adopted the President's position.) I asked him whether he was uncomfortable serving simultaneously as a punching bag and a cheerleader for the Bush White House. "It's odd," he said without emotion. "It happens in politics."
Al Gore created not just one presidential monster (by botching the post-election campaign) but possibly two with his lousy choice of running mate, another faith-based hypocrite.
Further explorations in the bottomless pit of Enron.
According to the affidavit, [former CFO] Fastow used his own children and wife as conduits for questionable payments that he himself was afraid to accept. Former friend and Enron subordinate [Michael] Kopper, who has already pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy in the Enron scandal, claimed the routine was just part of a Fastow special gifts program.

"To disguise the nature of the payments," reported [FBI special] agent [Omer J.] Meisel, "Fastow instructed Kopper to establish a 'gifting program,' whereby Kopper and his domestic partner [William Dodson] made annual gifts of $10,000 to individual Fastow family members." Even as he was constructing special partnerships that the government and the Securities and Exchange Commission claim broke numerous accounting rules, Fastow was mindful of IRS guidelines.

The $10,000 amount was chosen because gifts of up to that amount to an individual in one year are not required to be reported and are excluded from taxable income. In order to skim kickbacks from the various partnerships, the government claims, Fastow made his own family the mules for the illicit payments.

"Fastow instructed Kopper that he and his domestic partner should write checks not only to Fastow but also to Fastow's wife and two children," according to the affidavit. "Fastow told Kopper that, if ever asked, they could explain the checks from Kopper by saying he and Fastow were very close friends and the checks were gifts." On December 31, 1998, Kopper wrote two $10,000 checks to Fastow's children and one for $19,724 to his wife. The goodies over two years totaled $125,000.
Houston Press.
"The suspect charged in connection with a deliberately set fire at the River Oaks home once owned by former Enron executive [CFO] Andrew Fastow is at LBJ Hospital recovering from a jail cell suicide attempt Sunday," says today's
Houston Chronicle.

Add that to Vice Chairman's J. Clifford Baxter's death which was ruled a suicide but may actually have been something more sinister. Reminders as to who he was:
"Cliff Baxter complained mightily to (then-CEO Jeff) Skilling and all who would listen about the inappropriateness of our transactions with LJM," Sherron Watkins wrote. LJM is one of the partnerships apparently used to keep a half-billion dollars in losses off Enron's books. The same letter warned, "We will implode in a wave of accounting scandals" unless Enron changes its practices. [...]

[Baxter] Sold 577,436 shares for $35.2 million.
Awful lot of fishy "suicides" floating around the Enron folk. Twice as many as Vince Foster as of today. Looks like Junior's friends are blurring the lines between Texan good ol' boy networks and The Sopranos.
"Religion, like bad poetry and vacation photos, should be kept to oneself. If you have a personal relationship with your god, good for you. It will save us both a lot of time if you keep it to yourself because, like a lot of people, I'm not interested and I just don't feel like being polite about it anymore."

Three cheers to
TBOGG, commenting on the Stachowicz murder in Chicago.
The Washington Post goes hiking in
Utah, in the very same wilderness threatened by the Junior's administration.
This Just In. "Venetian Snares Hard at Work on Creating Entire Full-Length CD from His Own Sex Sounds," according to
Kerry-McCain? Last week I half-jokingly remarked about the viability of a Kerry-McCain (or vice versa) ticket as a wake-up call to both parties, in a comment thread on
Ruminate This*.

The synchronized character of a two-party shake-up has become even more appealing upon further reflection. Third-party tickets tend to hurt one party or the other, but with a candidate from each side such a ticket could hurt both at once, and would send a message to both the Republican and Democratic parties that their old tricks are not working anymore. We the People really need political and legislative solutions to actual problems, not just smokescreens and demonization.

That is, of course, only if we're still bothering with such formalities as elections in 2004.

*The only blog with a nice Dubuffet graphic in the masthead.
Sunday, December 08, 2002
How to rape the American Northwest.
The sky is pierced by snow-painted pines, their craggy trunks pre-dating the existence of the United States by centuries.

But now a new feature marks the landscape – the barren 'clear-cuts', where the trees have been felled. They appear like scars, slashed across what would otherwise be the most awesome landscape in America; wastelands gouged into what were once forest but are now huge stretches of castrated tree trunks and the debris of destruction.

They are a picture of the future as the lumber industry, after years of restraint by rules and protective regulations, is unleashed by new regulations, announced last week by the administration of George Bush, giving managers of America's 155 national forests rights to approve the exploitation of the land they control – primarily logging and mining.
Ed Vulliamy in
The Observer (UK).
Friday, December 06, 2002
Oh, to be young, dumb, and Republican. First Jenna and now
News4 has learned the son of a gun activist was arrested Wednesday night and charged with an apparent road rage shooting on the George Washington Parkway.

Police believe David Michael Keene, 21, shot a gun from a BMW on Sunday afternoon. The bullet shattered the window of a Mercedes Benz and became lodged in the driver's seat, just inches from the driver's head. [...]

News4 has learned Keene is the son of David A. Keene, who is on the board of directors for the National Rifle Association. Keene is also a conservative political consultant and lobbyist who has worked in the White House and in Congress.
I miss Chelsea! I want American leaders to have good kids!
Susan Sontag has written an important essay on the intricate relationship we have with images of human suffering (e.g., war photography) in the December 9 issue of The New Yorker. A sample:
Perhaps the only people with the right to look at images of suffering of this extreme order [i.e., gruesome combat horrors] are those who could do something to alleviate it – say, the surgeons at the military hospital where the photograph was taken – or those who could learn from it. The rest of us are voyeurs, whether we like it or not.
The essay is not online but there is an excellent
introduction with links to other galleries of the imagery discussed.

With a new war likely on the way, her essay provides a timely set of insights into wartime suffering and how it is usually depicted, often manipulated, and never understood.
"If you set aside Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, the safety record of nuclear is really very good." Outgoing Treasury secretary Paul O'Neill, as quoted in
The New York Times. Impeccable logic for our times.

That's like saying, "If you set aside support for the Taliban, the intelligence failures of 9/11/01, the anthrax attacks on Democratic senators, the casino-toilet economy, job loss for millions, the disappearance of billions of citizens' 401(k) and IRA dollars, the non-prosecution of accounting and corporate deviants, the Leave-No-CEO-Behind fundraising, untold damage to America's reputation internationally, the Pharmaceutical Homeland Security legislation, oil exploration in Alaska and the redrock Southwest, the incessant erosion of civil liberties, the parallel legal system for 'terrorists,' the continued existence and influence of Al Qaeda, and the Cheney-led secret energy cabal, the record of the Bush administration is really very good."

It's fun to watch corporate toadies fighting. However, no doubt the replacement robot will be worse than the original.
Thursday, December 05, 2002
"I had first become concerned many months before the June 1972 burglary [Watergate] about the deliberate, systematic, and, unfortunately, extremely successful efforts of the President, Henry Kissinger, and a few subordinate members of their inner circle to conceal, sometimes by simple silence more often by articulate deceit, their real policies about the most critical matters of national security."
Stanley I. Kutler quoting Elmo Zumwalt's memoirs in Harper Magazine's extensive
"Regarding Henry Kissinger".
One area in which conservatives and liberals can agree. From The
Associated Press:
"Larger numbers of American people have realized that the ACLU is fundamentally a patriotic organization,'' executive director Anthony Romero said. There are now 330,000 dues-paying members, 50,000 of whom joined after the [9/11/01] attacks.

The group has been in the thick of legal challenges to the government's broadening anti-terror powers.

Last week, in response to an ACLU lawsuit, the government agreed to tell the group by mid-January which documents it is willing to release about its increased surveillance activities.

Especially notable among the new enthusiasts are conservatives who once thought the ACLU represented everything that was wrong with the left.

"They are very useful and productive force in jurisprudence,'' said Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill.

Conservatives such as Hyde are mindful of the history of an organization that was lonely in its defense of positions now accepted as universal: Blacks who suffered spurious prosecutions in the 1930s, Japanese interned in the 1940s, books banned as obscene now regarded as part of the literary canon. [...]

"When you have the highest ranking law enforcement official in the country saying either you're with me or against me, and that your tactics aid the terrorists, that rubs people the wrong way,'' Romero said.

That includes conservatives who bridle at government intrusions into privacy.
Whatever happened to the conservative calls for less, and less intrusive, government? Invasions of privacy will affect not only liberals, but also South Park Republicans, Log Cabin Republicans, and all the other cutely named (and unnamed) factions that have something personal to hide from the electronic gaze of Ashcroft and/or Poindexter.

No matter who's in power, liberal or conservative, some official is always disapproving of something you're doing – whether it's political, aesthetic, financial, or sexual – and that's why we Americans invest part of our identity in having this wonderful thing called privacy.

What kind of social hell are you waiting for? Join the ACLU. Right now.
Wednesday, December 04, 2002
Roberto Sebastian Matta Echaurren, artist. Born November 11, 1911; died November 23, 2002.

The world has lost a great visual imagination. We loved the show at the
Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and began a glowing review that we never finished and that has since vanished. Now he has vanished too.

His obituary and his art.
More D5E smoke from Lord Rumsfeld, Minister of Propaganda. From "The Military's New War of Words," in the
Los Angeles Times:
...a summary of the strategic capabilities plan and a raft of other Pentagon and armed forces documents made available to The Times make it clear that the new approach now includes other elements as well: the management of public information, efforts to control* news media sources and manipulation of public opinion.

The plan summary, for instance, talks of "strategic" deception and "influence operations" as basic tools in future wars. According to another Defense Department directive on information warfare policy, military leaders should use information "operations" to "heighten public awareness; promote national and coalition policies, aims, and objectives ... [and] counter adversary propaganda and disinformation in the news."

Both the Air Force and the Navy now list deception as one of five missions for information warfare, along with electronic attack, electronic protection, psychological attacks and public affairs. A September draft of a new Air Force policy describes information warfare's goals as "destruction, degradation, denial, disruption, deceit, and exploitation." These goals are referred to collectively as "D5E." [...]

Since reporters cannot travel into parts of Iraq and other places in the region without military escort, what they report is generally what they've been told.

And when the information that military officers provide to the public is part of a process that generates propaganda and places a high value on deceit, deception and denial, then truth is indeed likely to be high on the casualty list.

That is bad news for the American public. In the end, it may be even worse news for the Bush administration -- and for a U.S. military that has spent more than 25 years climbing out of the credibility trap called Vietnam.
*It's much easier to control news sources when the FCC's overlord Michael "Son of Colin" Powell gives the thumbs-up to media monopolies. See the post below.
Watching the watchers, yet again. Let's all pause and consider the media cabal for a moment, shall we? Byrd's Brain provides a nice
overview of the media ownership issues that face the FCC:
Colin Powell's son, Michael, is the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC traditionally has limited the number of newspapers, radio stations and television outlets that a company can own in any given metropolitan area. These rules have been relaxed over the past 5 years. Now Chairman Powell is interested in eliminating the restrictions.
Byrd's Brain points out that the deadline for public comments is January 2, 2003 (PDF file).

For Christmas, Republicans want unrestricted media monopolies in every market. Will you help them get their wish?
Enriching the suckups. Now political appointments come with a new perk:
cash bonuses (Washington Post):
The White House has decided that several thousand political appointees across the federal government will be eligible for cash bonuses, abandoning a Clinton-era prohibition that grew out of questionable practices in the first Bush administration.

Administration officials said the policy shift, ordered by the White House chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., earlier this year but never publicly disclosed, seeks to correct the inequity of political appointees' working side by side with civil servants who routinely receive bonuses.

The new policy is being instituted at many federal departments, and a few agencies have already begun distributing awards of several thousand dollars each to political appointees. For example, the Justice Department has given bonuses to political appointees who were deemed to have played important roles in counterterrorism* and the Sept. 11 investigation, officials said. [...]

For the first time in eight years, cabinet-level officials and agency chiefs have been authorized to approve annual awards of up to $10,000 — and possibly more — for the influential senior attorneys, policy advisers, confidential assistants and other appointees who are brought onto their political staffs. Awards can total $25,000 — or higher with approval from the White House.
Here's an extra fifty grand, Henry, for helping out with Pinochet, bombing Cambodia, and legitimizing the administration's lack of a grasp on Al Qaeda. In Junior's world, crime has a whole new payscale.

*In the private sector, the Vice President of Counterterrorism would be receiving a pink slip instead of a cash bonus after the fuckup of 9/11.

Former Ambassador to Yemen Barbara Bodine? Former interim FBI director Tom Pickard? Did you receive your retroactive bonuses yet? Meanwhile, John O'Neill, the FBI counterterrorism expert who knew, is still dead, along with nearly 3,000 others.

Death for the competent, bonuses for the toadies. It won't fly as a slogan, but it's making a hell of a party platform and an administration policy.
Tuesday, December 03, 2002
"Henny Penny?" From
FAIR via Cursor:

According to a transcript on the Department of Defense website, Rumsfeld told reporters:
"And then there was the Office of Strategic Influence*. You may recall that. And 'oh my goodness gracious isn't that terrible, Henny Penny the sky is going to fall.' I went down that next day and said fine, if you want to savage this thing fine I'll give you the corpse. There's the name. You can have the name, but I'm gonna keep doing every single thing that needs to be done and I have."
A search of the Nexis database indicates that no major U.S. media outlets-- no national broadcast television news shows, no major U.S. newspapers, no wire services or major magazines-- have reported Rumsfeld's remarks.

Henny Penny? I'll give you the corpse? What exactly are the media reporting these days, besides Jennifer Lopez's diet?

*The new Pentagon group was created "to provide news items, possibly even false ones, to foreign media organizations.”
Watching the watchers. What would
Total Information Awareness of John Poindexter begin to look like? Cryptome starts the ball rolling with aerial photographs of his house and other personal information that deserves to be disseminated because, after all, he is a past convicted felon (via his Iran-Contra participation) and a present public menace (as Director of the DARPA Information Awareness Office). According to prevailing right-wing logic, because he does not consider himself a terrorist, this invasion of his privacy shouldn't bother him.

The original impetus for Cryptome's story was an article by Matt Smith in SF Weekly. Link via Boing Boing.
Monday, December 02, 2002
And Dynegy gets a new CFO too. What a coincidence! The very day I get interested in Dynegy again, here comes new CFO
Nick J. Caruso.

I bet there's a lot of story behind the new CFO story. Since I'm getting hits from, here's an invitation: Email me your version of what's really going on at Dynegy (click "say hello" in the right column) and I'll post it here anonymously.

Let me know who's who on the board and what happened to all your 401(k) money.
Hello, Dynegy people! According to Google search terms that lead to you to this site (like "whistleblower," "Ted Beatty," and "Anthony Corrino"), lately you have been visiting here because of
this post referring to the whistleblower story in The Wall Street Journal.

Retracing your steps, I googled the same terms and found the site dedicated to the case against the Dynegy 401(k) plan:
The Complaint alleges that during the Class Period the defendants breached their fiduciary duties when they were made aware of numerous facts that made Dynegy stock an inappropriate investment for the Plan. [...]

This case was filed against: Jane D. Jones, Robert D. Doty, Jr., Andrea Lang, Sheli Z. Rosenberg, Patricia M. Eckert, Charles E. Bayless, Michael D. Capellas, Glenn F. Tilton, Charles L. Watson, Stephen W. Bergstrom, Daniel L. Dienstbier, Jerry L. Johnson, H. John Riley, Jr., Joe J. Stewart, J. Otis Winters, Darald W. Callahan, and John S. Watson[...]
The above site, with the appropriate name of, is apparently the production of a law firm:
Keller Rohrback and its co-counsel serve as lead or co-lead counsel in a class action on behalf of employees in 401(k) litigation involving the following companies: Enron, Providian, Williams Companies, Xerox, CMS Energy, Dynegy, Duke Energy, WorldCom and Lucent. Additionally, Keller Rohrback is involved in 401(k) litigation with respect to the following companies: Global Crossing, BellSouth, Conseco and Household International.
We are not affiliated with any of the parties, or their accounting firms or legal representation. We are just a guy who follows the story. So why do we care? Because corporate misbehavior has stolen a fortune from the small investors of this country, us included. Add to that a political environment which indicts an accounting firm (Andersen), protects its political-contributor clients (Enron upper management at large), and exacts restitution from neither, and the worst forms of corruption and financial mayhem become commonplace, as indeed they have.

Meanwhile, Lay's lawyer Michael Ramsey seems confident that his client will have "some pretty good answers" for charges against him, according to the Houston Chronicle. Unbelievably good, no doubt.

Never forget that privatization of Social Security was a scheme whose net effect would have been to siphon off even more than the billions already lost by normal people. A Republican scheme, that is.

All hat, no cattle, and the hat isn't even white.
All hail
St. Bibiana, patron saint of hangovers. Here's hoping you had a nice holiday weekend after a rotten November.

Also known as St. Vivian, St. Bibiana is also the patron saint of epilepsy, epileptics, hangovers, headaches, insanity, mental illness, mentally ill people, single laywomen, torture victims, and the diocese of Los Angeles, California. [Link courtesy of the delightful and alluring mimi smartypants, who "firmly believes that beauty should be convulsive."]

Greatest Hits · Alternatives to First Command Financial Planning · First Command, last resort, Part 3 · Part 2 · Part 1 · Stealing $50K from a widow: Wells Real Estate · Leo Wells, REITs and divine wealth · Sex-crazed Red State teenagers · What I hate: a manifesto · Spawn of Darleen Druyun · All-American high school sex party · Why is Ken Lay smiling? · Poppy's Enron birthday party · The Saudi money laundry and the president's uncle · The sentence of Enron's John Forney · The holiness of Neil Bush's marriage · The Silence of Cheney: a poem · South Park Christians · Capitalist against Bush: Warren Buffett · Fastow childen vs. Enron children · Give your prescription money to your old boss · Neil Bush, hard-working matchmaker · Republicans against fetuses and pregnant women · Emboldened Ken Lay · Faith-based jails · Please die for me so I can skip your funeral · A brief illustrated history of the Republican Party · Nancy Victory · Soldiers become accountants · Beware the Merrill Lynch mob · Darleen Druyun's $5.7 billion surprise · First responder funding · Hoovering the country · First Command fifty percent load · Ken Lay and the Atkins diet · Halliburton WMD · Leave no CEO behind · August in Crawford · Elaine Pagels · Profitable slave labor at Halliburton · Tom Hanks + Mujahideen · Sharon & Neilsie Bush · One weekend a month, or eternity · Is the US pumping Iraqi oil to Kuwait? · Cheney's war · Seth Glickenhaus: Capitalist against Bush · Martha's blow job · Mark Belnick: Tyco Catholic nut · Cheney's deferred Halliburton compensation · Jeb sucks sugar cane · Poindexter & LifeLog · American Family Association panic · Riley Bechtel and the crony economy · The Book of Sharon (Bush) · The Art of Enron · Plunder convention · Waiting in Kuwait: Jay Garner · What's an Army private worth? · Barbara Bodine, Queen of Baghdad · Sneaky bastards at Halliburton · Golf course and barbecue military strategy · Enron at large · Recent astroturf · Cracker Chic 2 · No business like war business · Big Brother · Martha Stewart vs. Thomas White · Roger Kimball, disappointed Republican poetry fan · Cheney, Lay, Afghanistan · Terry Lynn Barton, crimes of burning · Feasting at the Cheney trough · Who would Jesus indict? · Return of the Carlyle Group · Duct tape is for little people · GOP and bad medicine · Sears Tower vs Mt Rushmore · Scared Christians · Crooked playing field · John O'Neill: The man who knew · Back to the top

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