August 8, 2002:  This story is rather far afield from what I've mostly been covering here, but it's on topic.  Some of our oil companies have a pretty unsavory human rights record when they operate in poor countries.  One recent example of this, allegedly, is Esso (Exxon) in Indonesia.  They are now the subject of a lawsuit by the International Labor Rights Fund claiming that they paid Indonesian security forces to protect their interests there by means that included torture and rape.  But guess who has stepped in to try to quash the lawsuit before the case can be heard in court?  The U.S. State Department.  They actually told the court that allowing Exxon to be sued would have "potentially serious adverse impact on significant interests of the United States, directly related to the ongoing struggle against international terrorism."

Oh, really.

Well, it does happen that the area the suit is coming from -- a province called Aceh -- is known for being inhabited by Islamic "extremists" who want to secede from Indonesia.  Practically the same as Al Qaeda, then!  So we mustn't let them have a day in court, must we?  After all, John Ashcroft tells us that these people "abuse" the rights of the accused when we get them into our criminal justice system...

The Lawyers' Committee for Human Rights in Washington made a statement that the war on terrorism "is now going to be used as a cover for all kinds of corporate malfeasance."  Sure looks that way, doesn't it?  But something tells me that if there were no war on terror, they'd still be trying to cover Exxon's ass.

In other news, a suit against pharmaceutical companies in Boston that won $885,000,000 last fall is now widening into multiple lawsuits and investigations around the contry of pharmaceutical industry practices that include kickbacks, medicare fraud, and assorted means of price gouging.  With all the cost pressure from HMOs, your doctor hardly makes a good living any more... but bills keep rising and these companies are raking it in faster than ever.  Hmm, how did that happen?  Same way all this stuff happens, I bet:  through campaign contributions.

To return to our usual subject:  the California Independent System Operator, which was recently told by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to hand over a portion of their state-mandated power to Bush's bunch of Enron cronies, and reorganize themselves into a "two-tiered" system where one tier consists entirely of power company representatives, are defying the order.  They are doing so at the suggestion of Governor Davis.  Davis called the order a "hostile takeover".  The ISO board voted 4-0 to refuse to follow it.  FERC, ironically, claimed the move was needed because the current ISO is too politicized.  They didn't like the fact that Davis replaced the people on the original ISO board, who were power company representatives.

Some progress is being made on stopping the horrid bankruptcy "reform" bill.  Opponents are demanding a close look at a suspiciously favorable $447,500 loan made by a credit card company to Rep. James Moran (D-VA), a sponsor of the bill.  Moran has apparently had trouble keeping his finances in good shape.  This could mess up his re-election.

According to the Washington Post, the two parties in Congress have pretty much stopped going after each other for ethics violations, because the Democrats have told the Republicans that if they don't back off, they will nail up the hide of Tom DeLay, the House Majority Whip, over his own well-known violations.  Since DeLay is one of the main assholes who led much of the past hypocritical Republican effort to stick Democrats with ethics issues (he was also one of the most apoplectic denouncers of Bill Clinton's blowjob), this threat has shut them up pretty effectively.  Dick Gephardt apparently gave them a list with many names on it besides DeLay's that he would go after if they didn't calm themselves down.  This has a positive side, because at the time the level of partisan bickering in Washington was getting so bad that Congress could hardly do its job.  Unfortunately, this deal now means that both sides are getting away with any violation they want to, as long as nobody outside Congress finds out.  This detente is now about five years old.  Without it, the Republicans could have blasted Moran long ago, along with one or two others.  This move against Moran is able to emerge now because it's coming from within his own party.

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