My Wallstrip column about the bailout is live.
Monthly Archives: September 2008
I know I’m going to hell for this but I can’t contain my disgust any longer: I hate the Susan Komen Foundation and I hope every regional office, every pink ribbon, every piece of crap Race For The Cure literature blows away in a huge hurricane-slash-earthquake-slash-wave-of-pestilence (or just for the irony, AIDS). Every September, we start to see the pink stuff everywhereand everybody is wearing their stupid pink ribbons. It started with some flyers in my mailbox about a Race For The Cure, which I moved from the mailbox to the trashcan with the cool efficiency of someone who has discovered anthrax spores on the mail. Then yesterday I breezed into the market and -bam- first thing any shopper saw was an enormous display of pink “Susan G. Komen” pink cupcakes, rice crispie treats with pink icing, pink cookies, and whatever else – probably things that are not recommended for fighting cancer. I didn’t stand there and stare because the mere sight of it filled me with rage so violent that I had to dig my nails into my wrist to keep from uplifting the table and sending it hurling across the baked goods section with a scream of triumph ripped from my white throat and the look of a marauder who barely stops seething enough to ask, “Who is next?”
I realize the Susan Komen people don’t want me to feel this way. They want me to support women with breast cancer. They want me to feel up my boobs in the shower and then donate a coupla bucks to their (very worthy if completely insane) organization. They want to instill in me a feeling of purpose when I see pink cupcakes and pink ribbons, all Adult Purpose like George Washington crossing the Potomac.
In reality, all I see is a bunch of nutcases who just do not know when to quit.
Must they oppress me with their presence everywhere? I tolerated it when they came into the shower with me with their little ads and their little “Check yourself for tumors like we all live in Chernobyl” voice. But some things are sacred. Like cupcakes. Do not market to me on my cupcakes. Doesn’t that seem queer to you? I do not want to think about breast cancer when I am trying to enjoy a cupcake, just like men probably don’t want to think about testicular cancer as they’re enjoying meatballs. Just doesn’t work. Fails on every level.
The night of my market rage, I made the mistake of grabbing my Self Magazine to take with me into a long, hot bath. There it was, on page 24, the pink. My cerebral cortex began to swell and itch. Calm down, I told myself. There’s little chance I would encounter the Evil Pink two times in a single day.
Lo, it is BREAST CANCER AWARENESS MONTH and boy oh boy, Self Magazine is going all out. Every page is pink. Everything in it is about breast cancer. Not cervical cancer or leukemia or brain hemorrhaging – which is what I really needed an article on at this point. Just breast cancer because, as we all know, breast cancer is the only disease that is worth losing your flipping mind over. Apparently the Susan Komen Foundation had simply bought the entire magazine for the whole month. So you know I’m not overreacting, here is the proof (and keep in mind my pink rage was so acute by this point I stopped about 1/4 of the way through the magazine; I simply had pink saturation; I could not endure another pink page or the word “cancer”. Also, I only took pictures of the first page of the article – so basically every page here represents three or four more pages of pink.)
This is too much in a single publication. But it doesn’t stop there. Walking into a women’s sports store these days is like being mobbed by the ghost of every woman who ever had a cancer scare in her life. There are posters on the walls and displays and pink bras and pink Race For The Cure branded sneaks and shorts and watches and water bottles and energy bars. They will not leave me alone. They’re with me when I buy my cupcakes, when I run to burn off the calories from the cupcake, and when I go into the shower afterwords.
I don’t even know what they’re hoping to accomplish anymore. It doesn’t even seem to be about raising money, just infiltrating every corner of every woman’s life with a pink breast cancer traffic signal. I will never, ever donate a dime to the foundation – not because it’s not worthy (it certainly is) but because it fills me with such violent, choking, paroxysmal fury that if I have a choice between giving a charity dollar to the Susan Komen Foundation and any other organization, even if its for male pattern baldness, I will give it to the other one. I will not only give it to someone else, if I have the chance I will actually steal money from the Susan Komen Foundation to give to some charity that deals with childhood diseases. After all, these predatory marketing professionals have obviously lived long enough to not only survive but annoy the living bejeesus out of all of us who have never had the disease. Might as well give the kids a chance to at least grow up.
I believe the Susan Komen Foundation has become actually disgusting. Its coffers must be insanely fat to fund all the Self Magazine layouts, the local and national races, all the pink cupcakes and other branded merch, all the crap that they throw out there in the blind hope of raising awareness. It’s not even about the cancer victims anymore; I don’t know what Komen does except advertise itself and instill in me a hatred for all things related to this charity.
They can’t even fix it now. The hatred is so entrenched in my soul that even if I were stricken with the disease tomorrow, I would plead with my friends to have nothing to do with this self-important jagoff organization. I would be ashamed to be associated with it. It would be as horrific as being associated with NAMBLA.
If you’re a cancer victim and Susan Komen has done great work for you, then I’m pleased. Obviously all the pain they’ve put me through has resulted in some goodness. But I’ve had enough. I am reclaiming my breasts and my shower-time.
Join me, people. Free yourselves from the Pink Menace! The pink ribbon has bound you! It is time to free yourself, to walk bravely into the daylight.
Not for the Cure.
But for your own peace of mind.
Scrappleface nails the bailout with the headline, “McCain: Bailout Deal Hinges on Length of Perp Walks”. (As you know, the perp walk is one of my favorite subjects so naturally I laughed like a hyenna when I read this.)
Sen. John McCain said reluctant Republicans would sign on to a $700 billion federal bailout of “Big Finance”, as soon as Democrats agree “to require criminally-negligent Wall Street CEOs and their enablers in Congress to perform a videotaped and broadcast perp walk, of not less than 10 yards per million dollars squandered.”
The 11th-hour negotiations were said to focus on whether Sen. McCain would concede to Democrat demands for “handcuffs and business suits”, or if he would stubbornly stick with his original proposal to require full shackles and fluorescent orange jumpsuits as the perpetrators walk to court to face federal fraud and racketeering charges.
“Of course, we all have a sense of urgency about this deal,” said Sen. McCain, “Because, once the perp walks start, there’s no telling how long Congress will be able to assemble a quorum.”
Oh it’s nice to laugh again.
September 29, 2000
The Gas Pipeline Group name was formally changed to Enron Transportation Services.
September 29, 2006
The two beautiful gleaming blue Enron towers at 1400 Smith Street in downtown Houston were sold to New York-based Brookfield Properties for $9 billion. The two towers were originally designed by Ceasar Pelli; the second, smaller tower had barely been touched when Enron collapsed. The trading floor had never been used; nor had the executive suites.
Chevron leased all fifty floors and has consolidated most of their Houston operations into the building.
September 28, 2001.
After the meeting with Greg Whalley, Andy Fastow, Ken Lay, Rick Causey and a few others, Ken Lay had made the executive decision to unwind Raptors. Today in Enron history, Enron did so.
According to the Powers report, Enron calculated the Raptors’ combined assets were approximately $2.5 billion and their liabilities $3.2 billion. This would result, in the next month, of a write-off of $544 million.
Meanwhile, at the Arthur Andersen office in Chicago, a young attorney named Nancy Temple was invited to a conference call to deal with Enron’s third-quarter accounting issues. The reasons given in the literature on the subject indicate that AA’s Enron team on the ground was in conflict with the Professional Standards Group, what Jeff Skilling called at his trial the “rocket scientists of accountants.” It was time to involve the lawyers.
After the meeting, another attorney asked Nancy Temple what documents should be kept from all this. Andersen had a policy on document retention, Temple replied, and explained that the policy was to keep the original and final drafts of memos from David Duncan (head of the Enron account). Everything else, including emails, should be destroyed. It was Andersen’s policy.
This article in Townhall argues that people do not have the right to suicide, and especially do not have the right to ask others to help them kill themselves. If this is a traditional Conservative viewpoint, I diverge drastically. I can’t even respect his argument:
At the heart of Lady Warnock’s comments (and, indeed, the entire euthanasia movement) is an atomistic, subjective, utilitarian view of life. Once one becomes dissatisfied with the quality of their life or determines that they have outlived their usefulness, the door is open for them to end their life. They are the sole arbiters of whether their life is worth living. And if they are unable to “do the deed” themselves, they should be free to select a proxy to do it for them.
This “freedom” ignores the duty and responsibility people have to their families and communities. As John Donne famously said, “No man is an island.” Perhaps the greatest modern lie is that every person has the right to do with themselves whatever they please. This lie fuels the selfish desires of every person: the elderly person who is too proud to let themselves “be a burden” to others, and those “others” who don’t want to have to care for a person suffering from dementia or physical maladies.
I take exception to the idea that I am somehow unqualified to decide for myself whether or not my life is worth living. My responsibilities to my community? I don’t believe I have any other than to obey the rules; I owe nobody anything. And the responsibilities to my family – one could argue that the value one has to oneself must exceed the value one has to one’s family – or any other entity – in order for that value to be fully derived.
This thinking that one must stick around because you owe somebody something is wrong headed and silly. You own your life. If you or I or anyone else wakes up in the morning and decides that today is their last day on earth, then so be it.
The issue gets a little more clouded when one involves others in the death of a human being. My gut instinct says that if you’re certain you want to die, you should be clever enough to find a way to do it without seeking a professional. I do think there is something to be said for allowing the dignity of self-administered death with the aid of another as opposed to say, shooting oneself in the head. Perhaps it is these extreme, violent measures that signify we need professionals to help people die quietly, serenely, in their own homes. I don’t know, I’ll have to think about that some more.
But the idea that we’re not entitled to die at a time of our own choosing, for whatever private reasons we harbor, is ridiculous – and insulting to all of us who feel we have a better than average grasp of own consciousness.
Bruce Hiler, a former SEC lawyer who has defended Jeff Skilling, shares his thoughts on short selling and the bailout. I found it interesting and thought you might too.
I am weary of seeing the gaping maw in the center of Manhattan – but this story makes me feel a tiny bit better about our utter lack of progress with the 9/11 memorial.
Construction workers digging at ground zero have uncovered a 40-foot pothole and other features carved by glaciers about 20,000 years ago.
A hole was discovered under the hole. But the Ice Age was interesting and this is interesting, even if it does nothing to sooth the ache in our collective soul.
That same article has some amazing photos I have never seen before of the artifacts found at Ground Zero, including the shimmery silver facade of the WTC and a New York Times dated June 23, 1969, which conservationists say must have been left inside the structure of the buildings by a worker who built the skyscraper. It was open to the obituary of Judy Garland and was unscathed – beautifully whole, but yellowed with time.
After dismissing Gwyneth Paltrow’s rules for living (“Enjoy your life”), I decided I must not merely complain but actually add something to the conversation. So here are my observations. Just observations – not rules for a happy life or how to talk your way out of a traffic ticket or to lose 10 pounds. Just what I know to be best practices.
Hover and observe.
Memento mori. Remember you must die.
Obstruction is not compartmentalization.
When you trace the origin of trouble, it often leads to a smile.
There are three words which will make your enemies stop whatever they’re doing: the US attorney.
You’ll never get through marriage if you can’t pass the orals.
Bravery is something that comes, in part, from other people’s expectations of you.
Rehab is for quitters.
Make it difficult for the translators.
Drinking champagne is gloating. Drinking beer is just celebrating.
Ass kicking is not official until the paperwork has been submitted.
The only two things considered in sniper school are your physical fitness score and marksmanship score.
Carpe Puerellum. Seize the babe.
Respect the time you will never have back in the making.
If you must, you can live off the fat of the land. There are Taco Bells and McDonalds and Applebees where you live.
Lisbon itself is a museum for the Portuguese.
You are precious and irreplaceable.
Knowing that nothing lasts and moving toward tomorrow anyway: that is what being an adult is about.
When you can not transverse, circumvent.
The goal is sustaining yourself and the only experience you have is sustaining yourself so you’re qualified, if not employed.
When the will is silenced, there is terror.
The location of Idaho really isn’t important.
People who look through keyholes will see things as keyhole shaped.
In an argument with a poet, the best a mathematician can do is tie. In an argument with a mathematician, the only thing a poet can do is tie.
There have been times when I thought I was going to die. But I didn’t. As usual.
Put the F U back in FUN.
Obey the zeitgeist, because the zeitgeist is bigger than you and packs heat.
To be sure, you will say: ‘Delight in petty wickedness spares us manya a great evil deed.’ But here one should not wish to be spared.
Things can be unexplained and not suspicious.
When you counter-measure the counter-measures, you’re pretty much godly.
Beware of self-promoters bearing gifts.
On the Caribbean island of St. Marten the police vans sport a bumper sticker which reads: “We fight what you fear”.
Memory: a crime scene impossible to preserve.
Money is a motive with a universal adapter.
There is no power in acting the way you think other people want you to be.
Beware of people who value life less than you do.
Enjoy at your own risk.
Once in a while you have to pause and assess and ask yourself why you became an evil genius in the first place.
Refuse to be doomed.
Benefit from low expectations.
You’re not going to live forever. Especially not in Iran.
Mythology is for me.
The truth shall make you freak.
Fools and children shouldn’t see things half-done.
Goths kind of remind me of Quebec. They had the potential to be quirky yet charming, but they just end up annoying.
The Cookie Monster doesn’t do much interaction with other muppets anymore; just standalone stuff. I guess that’s what addiction does to you.
On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero. That’s why God invented zombie biker sluts.
It’s bad form to have the entire dashboard of the tank covered in religious fetishes.
Remember you can be Them too.
Having taken the lightly-booked anniversary flight of American flight 93, I can attest that terrorism works.
The bra: visible means of support.
People in crisis often speak in symbols.
The three elements to profiling: circumstances around the victim being chosen, unbiased information, and trying to connect these crimes to similar crimes.
Their playbook says you apply unrelenting pressure until they crack. This goes for any “they”.
Better living through superior firepower.
Distance exists and matters. That’s the whole point of space.
Be the amusing one. You will be killed last.
Quantify the cost of freedom with absolute honesty and then be damn sure it is worth what you pay for it.
A name is imposed on what is thought to be a thing or a state and this divides it from other things and other states. But when you pursue what lies behind the name, you find a greater and greater subtlety that has no divisions. Atoms of dust are not really atoms of dust but are merely called that. In the same way, a world is not a world but is merely called that.
Arthur Koestler pointed out that humor, like discovery and art, is a creative process whose purpose is to discover hidden similarities by operating on more than one plane at once.
At the 10th dimension, matter begins to separate because there is no cogent explanation of dimensional existence beyond our own.
Bill Gates has probably lost Monopoly to his kids, at least once.
You die, then become extinct.
Learn how to disappoint someone. It will happen, however inadvertantly, and you should be in control of it.
They don’t have to be right; they have the power.
Butterflies are the pupils of God.
By the time you hear the sirens, its too late.
Just live and know that eventually you’ll be caught, even if you’ve done nothing wrong.
Every tool is a weapon if you hold it right.
Never attribute to the mundane what can be attributed to the divine.
Everything is dangerous if you’re stupid.
If it’s not an order, its a threat.
Everything, every situation in the world, comes down to inches and seconds. Everything except the metric system.
Live in stereo. Come at them from all directions.
Live like you mean it.
Make it look like an accident. Especially the good things.
No matter how successful you are, maintain counterculture values.
A suicide note isn’t supposed to tell you what you want to know about the person who wrote it. It’s supposed to tell you about the survivors.
If the market is not listening to you, it could be because you are ahead of your time. Or it could be because you are a person who thinks too highly of himself and you have a lot of unsound ideas.
The shock is good; it assures us it doesn’t happen every day.
Momentum times velocity equals the potential for A to happen at great speed.
Be wary of the “charm them until they confess” technique. It works very well.
Mystery. Embrace it and it will change your life.
Never believe in what you cannot see. That includes the future.
You can’t be intimidated if they can be amused.
Other things being equal, the greater the variety of interesting experiences in your life, the greater your potential productivity.
Paranoia is the feeling of annihilation by a conspirital force – which is called ‘Vision’ in Washington.
Power is the ability to compel obedience. Its sources are force from above, and dependency from below.
Power that depends on Beauty isn’t real power. It’s just a pose that will eventually fail. That is why it’s so easy to brush off most of today’s “powerful” women; they’re just beauty queens with really good scripts. True power comes from writing your own script, or choosing to throw away the predictable old script for something much scarier, but better in the long run.
The issue of competence is always tied to the motives of the person raising the question.
The Pythagoreans might have been onto something there.
The relationship between liberty and responsibility hasn’t been fully exploited in this culture. Achieving more liberty is a simple matter of taking more responsibility in one’s life.
Master the simple art of Being Awesome.
The writer and literary critic Gabriel Josipovici reminds us “We do not decipher people, we encounter them.”
They say everybody believes in something. If you want to believe objective reality still exists, it’s okay by me. But if by chance some balmy evening, when you’re dressed in your sheerest crimson negligee, you look down from your workstation and out of the corner of your eye you notice that smooth, plump calf of yours flickering ever so slightly in the space-time continuum, well, don’t say I didn’t warn you, cupcake.
On June 3, 2008, I wrote a post asking what is taking the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals so long to decide the appeal of Jeff Skilling. Now, in late September, it is still a relevant question. Not a peep from the appeals court. It’s been five months. Come on, it only took the jury a week to decide. Gimme something!
Yet the news about Enron and Jeff Skilling spills forth each day like a Dutch dyke, glutting up the internet with ridiculous comparisons to Lehman, opinions about Phil Gramm’s connection to Enron, conspiracy theories connecting Enron to the housing crisis, the banking crisis, the Chinese, the Russians, the President…. it never seems to end. All this crap. The only valuable information about Enron will come from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, and it will tell us whether or not the myths of Enron will become ever more entrenched and Skilling will be forced to advance to the Supreme Court, or if we can see him walk out of prison a free man.
From NYT is this gem:
False marks — using mark-to-market accounting to hide the true value of security, rather than disclose it honestly — has a lot to do with why Jeffrey Skilling, the former Enron chief executive, is in jail.
This is a lie. Jeff Skilling was not accused of false marks. He was not found guilty of anything to do with mark to market accounting.
If you’re going to use a thing as an example, you should at least be familiar with the example. This moron obviously didn’t even bother to check Wikipedia to find out what the ETF accused Jeff of doing wrong.
So much for the supposed superiority of the mainstream media.
Earlier this year, prior to her wedding to Enron Task Force Varsity Jagoff Sean Berkowitz, Bethany McLean announced she was moving from Fortune magazine to Vanity Fair. The move was supposed to have taken place in June – right after her marriage.
It is now late September and her name is not on the list of contributing writers on the VF website and if one searches her name on the site, there are no results.
So what happened to Bethany McLean’s dream job? And what happened to Bethany in general; usually she’s off giving talks about Enron or writing something somewhere. She’s been creepily quiet for the past quarter.
One explanation: recently I heard from someone who would know that she is expecting a baby. That might explain her strange absence from the world stage.
Jim Chanos has written an opinion piece in the WSJextolling the virtues of the short seller. He points out something I thought interesting:
Short sellers openly warned about the problems at Enron, Tyco, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac before their meltdowns. And when it comes to investigating corporate fraud, it’s the short sellers who are the detectives, while all too often our regulators practice archaeology. Indeed, my firm was among the first to raise red flags about Enron’s finances.
True…sort of. Chanos invented the problem then asked several economy journalists to find proof to support it. But I find it ridiculous that he says “when it comes to investigating corporate fraud, it’s the short sellers who are the detectives.”
What Jim Chanos and other short sellers do is ferret out opportunities to make money on company’s decline, and that is not synonymous with crime. A company need not be fraudulent in order to have an overvalued stock, or a stock that is about to take a hit for some reason (pharmaceutical companies spring to mind here; when a company’s drug isn’t going to be approved by the FDA, stock tanks). Chanos is very good at what he does, but its disingenuous to claim he’s doing something noble here, or discovering bad apples.
Particularly poingnent is this comment:
I believe the SEC has every right to obtain and review information about short positions for market surveillance purposes, but forcing public disclosure will have serious consequences for the market. Companies may retaliate against short sellers. Fund managers will lose their ability to manage assets without revealing their strategy. Other traders will “pile on,” and may trigger panicky selling if an investor sees that noted short sellers have shorted the stock.
Gee James, you sound a bit concerned that a company’s well-being might be compromised. Oh wait… if your scenario played out and other shorts shorted the stock, that would mean that you would have a harder time selling, and thus you’d make a smaller profit.
The whole article is interesting, if you can keep it down.
On September 21, 2001, Vinson and Elkins attorneys met with Ken Lay to discuss their preliminary findings in their investigation into accounting fraud. Max Hendrick, who testified on behalf of Jeff Skilling and Ken Lay during their trial, told Lay at the meeting that the attorneys had met with everyone identified by Sherron Watkins and that none of them thought there was a problem with the accounting or with the Raptors transactions. Hendrick had also talked to people at Andersen, including David Duncan, and had found no problem. David Duncan was one of Sherron Watkins friends and she had called him several times to discuss the problems she saw with the Raptors (these calls were after she delivered her memo to Ken Lay; it’s probable that she was attempting to gather support for her point of view, but found nobody at AA or VE or Enron who was behind her.)
Ken Lay was pleased with what he heard. Still, in an abundance of caution and to be very thorough, Lay instructed the attorneys to question Sherron Watkins again, to present their findings to her and see if she had anything else to add before they would present their final report.
After Sherron Watkins had written a memo to Ken Lay, he took her advice and launched an investigation into the accounting treatment of the Raptors. About a month later – the same week of 9/11/01 – Rick Causey reported to new President Greg Whalley it would cost about $800 million to close out the structure. Whalley then reported this to Lay, and Lay decided to hold a meeting on the subject.
On the morning of September 19, 2001, a handful of Enron executives gathered in Ken Lay’s office to discuss the Raptors. Some wanted to find a way to postpone shutting down the vehicles, hesitant to spend the $800 million. Others wanted to close them once and for all. Ken Lay decided that the Raptors would be shut down.