January 29, 2002: Enron has appointed a "turnaround specialist" as CEO to salvage the company. He says it's still viable. I doubt that very much. Former employees have founded a Severed Enron Employees Coalition to sue the company and its officers, and they say that the half-legal offshore shelters that they used to avoid paying taxes (the same kind of shady financial network that Osama bin Laden uses, it has been pointed out) are probably also harboring a lot of cash to protect it from the company's debtors and from lawsuits like theirs. Let's hope they pry it open, and chairman Ken Lay's bullshit about being broke comes true. There may well be so much cash there that if it had been kept in the company, it wouldn't have gone bankrupt at all. Its total collapse is hard to explain unless somebody siphoned off really substantial portions of its assets into such shelters -- that is, into their own pockets at the company's expense. We know they did that on some scale; the question is how much was involved, and how much can we recover.
The Clinton administration was moving to start some serious digging into those kinds of offshore bank accounts, in order to go after drug smugglers, terrorists, and other organized crime outfits. The Bush administration aborted that process, choosing to maintain a blind spot under which any kind of illegal financial games could go on with impunity.
I heard two news items the other day that got me pissed off: one was about the Cardinal of Boston covering up for pedophile priests, and the other was Dick Cheney refusing to give any information about who he met with while setting the administration's energy policy last year, on the grounds that he should protect the privacy of the individuals involved. YOU DON'T HAVE A RIGHT TO PRIVACY WHEN SETTING PUBLIC POLICY! The public that benefits or suffers from that policy has a right to complete and total accountability. That is, at bottom, why we have a democracy instead of a dictatorship: so that the government is more accountable. And that is why bribe-taking is a crime. Cheney seems to think he can run things his way, as if he was fighting a War on Terror and can be as high-handed as he likes. It's time that administration was taught a lesson about who they are working for, and how they are still under the law and not above it. (Their conduct in the War on Terror could certainly stand to be improved by such a lesson. How many amendments in the bill of rights have they violated so far? The fourth, fifth, and sixth at least. Not to mention the Geneva Convention.)
Turns out it was senator Phil Gramm of Texas (Enron contributions: $100,000) who got a law passed taking Enron's phony energy spot-market out from under supervision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Let's get Gramm dragged in front of those investigating committees. Something tells me that isn't likely. Gramm's bill was opposed by Federal Reserve chairman Greenspan, treasury secretary Rubin, and others who should have been listened to. Gramm's wife, by an odd coincidence, was on Enron's board of directors, and sat on their Auditing Committee. It is also an interesting coincidence that Gramm has recently announced his forthcoming retirement from politics.
The administration is spinning some prize blue ribbon grade bullshit about the whole mess: Bush briefly tried to pretend he wasn't very well acquainted with Ken Lay, and then claimed that Lay backed his opponent Ann Richards when he ran for governor of Texas. Lay was actually a top financial supporter of Bush in that election, just as in all of Bush's other campaigns. Ari Fleischer, when asked what special access Enron got for their campaign money, said "The President thinks that access should be across the board. And that's why the Sierra Club, for example, as you know, met repeatedly with the energy task force." In fact, the Sierra Club was completely excluded until after the policy was already decided and released to the public.
Another aspect... here's a quote from Michael Moore:
"Your economic 'stimulus' bill that you got the House to pass after 9-11 had a section that would give Enron a gift of $250 million of our tax money. You were pushing this bill in November and December, long after your administration knew that Enron was raiding the vault and screwing its workers and investors."Here's an example of Enron's reach into the White House: Enron was selling a power plant to be built in Dabhol, in the state of Maharashtra, India (the actual construction to be done mainly by Bechtel and G.E., because Enron doesn't dirty its hands with real productivity), and they got into a disagreement with the Indian government. Enron claimed they were owed $60 million more than they got paid. Guess who steps in? The National Security Agency! It's now a matter of National Security that Enron make its profit in India. Dick Cheney got involved too, and took it upon himself to lean on Indian officials for that money, as reported here. Ken Lay even publically threatened India with U.S. trade sanctions, as if they were his to invoke.
Indian citizens who peacefully protested the environmental impact of the plant were arrested and beaten. One protest leader, Sugandha Vasudev Bhalekar, was dragged naked out of her bath and clubbed repeatedly, though she was pregnant, then thrown in a police van, and her family were beaten right in the beds where they were sleeping. Amnesty International is involved. In 1999, Human Rights Watch investigators found that Enron was paying the salaries of that police department! Police Sub-Inspector P.G. Satoshe verified this. Human Rights Watch's report is here; to summarize, they say that Enron's presence led to a dramatic increase of human rights abuses.
The enormously expensive plant has already ceased operation, after a history of corrupt monopolistic price gouging much like what Enron pulled on us with "deregulation". The state government that signed the crooked deal with Enron got voted out of office. The end result is that local citizens have been taken for billions of dollars and they still don't have their electricity. Here's an article giving the history of the whole mess in three parts: part 1, part 2, part 3.
Here's a chilling item that's surfaced in the Village
Voice and elsewhere: the death of Enron exec Cliff Baxter was
ruled a suicide, but reportedly he was talking
about needing a bodyguard two days before! We all assumed he
was merely another guilty scumbag, but it turns out he repeatedly argued
with former CEO Jeffrey Skilling against the practice of hiding debt in
fake companies, and was expected to make a deal to spill what he knows
to congress. And the coroner who made the ruling, Joye M. Carter,
has twice before gotten in trouble with the law for an appearance, at least,
of covering up evidence...
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