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Not Important? Think Again - July 15th

Not Important? Think Again
15 July 2002
Sanders Research Associates

You bet it’s a political issue, Mr. Hastert

Dennis Hastert, Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives allows, “Some people will try to politicise this issue, yes.” The issue to which he is referring is white-collar crime, corporate fraud, and theft. Hastert and his colleagues in the House and Senate are trying hard to distance themselves from the fact that so many of them have taken money from the same people who embezzled, stole and cheated to get it to pay to politicians in the first place. As the article here points out, it looks like there is little chance of substantive changes to accounting practices being enacted, though “stiff” penalties will be written into the books. Before a penalty can be imposed, though, something has to be proven, and the record on that is not good. How many indictments have been brought yet? None, to our knowledge.

Pension debacle

One of the things to most excite rage about Enron has been the investment by the firm’s pension fund in Enron paper, effectively wiping out employees’ pension assets. Across the Atlantic in Britain, something more mundane has been happening to pensions. Many, if not most, corporate plans are finding themselves short of funds thanks to the falling markets, reduced return expectations, and corporate use of pension surpluses during the bull market to pad earnings. One of our favourite cartoonists, Steve Bell, sums up.,7371,753999,00.html

It was only a matter of time before someone blamed it on clothes

Clearly, this guy has an interest in Brooks Brothers. For the record, in twenty-two years in finance, I have never noticed a connection between sober, boring suits and honesty - never mind intelligence and moral fibre. Look at the Bush family.

And for that matter, look at Secretary of the Army, Thomas White

White, as an Enron vice chairman, has been directly implicated in market manipulation. As the Voice article predicted, the army has removed the detailed biography that used to exist on its web site bragging about his extensive experience with the energy trading company. It is wrong to convict people without a trial, but is equally wrong for public figures plausibly implicated in a crime to continue to hold positions of public trust.

The Thomas White official biography, revised

Here you can read Mr.White’s resume. Or perhaps we should refer to him as General White. A man who otherwise should be well qualified for his job, he is a good example of the revolving door between government and industry. Notice how eleven years (i.e. the most recent third of) of his career are briskly and superficially described as filling various but unspecified “senior executive positions” for Enron.

Harvard, slush fund of first and last resort

Harvard turns up in scandal after scandal like the proverbial bad penny. Indeed, Harvard is becoming notorious. This is truly a shame, because there have been honest people who have been connected with that institute for higher learning, but if we were interviewing a Harvard graduate today for a job, we wouldn’t give him the benefit of the doubt. Now we learn that Harvard Management Company was involved with Harken Energy. When Larry Summers, now Harvard president, gives speeches on patriotism, or Bob Rubin, now on Harvard’s board, talks about housing for the poor, one really wants to say, “Right guys, pull the other one.”

Meanwhile, the head of the Shadow Government stays in the shadows

Dick Cheney is possibly the most elusive Vice President that America has ever had. A graduate of Yale, not Harvard, he refused to answer questions about Enron’s role in last year’s energy policy review, which set him up on a collision course with the General Accounting Office. Now he is stonewalling about his role at Halliburton in approving the recognition of projected cost overruns as current income.

Ort is it really Dick Cheney? Who saw him last anyway?

What qualifies intellectuals to be “intellectuals?”

Often, it seems, only a willingness to do a job for someone else. Joseph Stromberg’s essay is an entertaining romp through some of the more interesting aspects of American intellectual life. How do we justify mass murder anyway? If this excites your interest, Christopher Simpson’s book is an in-depth look at how the US intelligence and military-industrial apparatus came to dominate the high ground of academic life. Both shed light on the modern approach to economics, and the transformation of a discipline dedicated to understanding social man into the truly dismal science as practiced today on Wall Street and at the likes of Harvard University. Empiricism, indeed. What makes money? Let’s do it, and then figure out a theory.

And for an example of our point…

Take George Will for instance. An undoubtedly smart man and articulate to boot, Will betrays the emptiness behind both in the following polemic against the International Criminal Court. We aren’t for the court either, but the American government with imperial inconsistency simultaneously wishes to try the likes of Slobodan Milosevic and exempt itself from the same sort of “justice.” Will betrays his real agenda with his criticism of European elites (what about American “elites?”) as “…incorrigibly tolerant of Yasser Arafat’s terrorism...” What on earth does the CIA’s favourite Palestinian have to do with the ICC?

Dubya Bush, Christian-in-Chief and the Apocalypse

The modern Republican Party is a bizarre cast of groups and characters. It boasts the support of the American Christian right, which has virtually anointed President Bush as Head Christian. It is supported by the “neo-conservatives,” an odd collection of former socialists, left wingers, and the like, who have in common a burning desire to attack “rogue” or “failed” states and think that Israel is actually a democracy and a free-market economy. It is run by men whose primary gifts seem to be loyalty to George Bush Senior (or George the First, as some critics, no doubt affectionately, know him) and not too much concern for details like the law. This has all become a combustible mix with the declaration of war on terror and the canonization of Ariel Sharon by the American congress. Dissent is being discouraged by a combination of legal opportunism, such as the effective suspension of habeas corpus, and unofficial harassment, such as Robert Fisk describes in the following article.

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