This article reminds us of the good old days, when we were actually terrified of terrorists. It’s actually an article about a guy who tries to get arrested for terrorism and can’t. And it’s not fiction. So read it. And weep.
Monthly Archives: October 2008
RealClearPolitics has become my de facto polling source, but I dug out this gem from the 2004 election. It has historical information about the electoral votes of every state going back to 1992, which is why I find it so valuable.
One of the interesting things about Enron is the way the iconography of the scandal immediately was absorbed by the culture and continues to flourish. The images flashed on teevee every evening made us familiar with the perp walk – and I know I will never forget how very relaxed and gracious Ken Lay looked as he was handcuffed and walked toward the courthouse where he would be arraigned. The dignity of the moment is not generally recognized – people don’t talk about the fact that he was kind to the media who were shouting questions at him, or the fact that he managed a sad, wry smile. What we remember is the blue jacket, his hands behind his back.
We remember Jeff Skilling saying, “I am not an accountant,” and “No, I would not be surprised by that,” when asked by Rep. Waxman if he would be surprised to learn he’d sold $66 million of stock. We remember “some thing work and some things don’t.”
These are the “easy” things to take away from the Enron scandal, the abridged version of events that to this day have not been fully understood by the vast, overwhelming majority of people. Some of the images that I carry with me aren’t really glorified the way the above have been. This is what I remember:
After being sentenced, former Broadband CEO Ken Rice walked out of the courthouse and was accosted by media. The expression on his face is unreadable. My best guess is that he had no idea how one was supposed to look when one has just taken a plea deal, so he sort of smiles, but also sort of frowns. His arms are folded defensively in front of him. He looks like he wants to scissor kick the photographer in front of him. He looks like he wants to go home and throw up. The picture makes me incredibly sad. I just found the picture! Check it out:
When I am in a situation that is morally ambiguous, where I feel I must confront something, this is the Enron image that flashes behind my eyes. I do notbegrudge Ken Rice and his testimony. I understand that he did what he did to survive. It is impossible to hold that against him. I adore Ken Rice, I think he, along with Jeff Skilling circa 1997, typify the Enron Man: brilliant, gorgeous, fun, too damn cute. I think he was just as much a victim of the DOJ as Jeff Skilling.
Another image – I’ve looked extensively for it but can’t find it – is Andy Fastow at his son’s softball game. He is wearing an orange t-shirt with an alligator on it, and he’s talking on a cell phone. He looks so sexy in that image, so completely in charge of himself. I think of that – the CFO family man. I am told that my angst about Andy Fastow is severely misplaced, that there was nothing more to him than greed and self-interest. I am trying to accept that. But in this picture, I think of how optimistic human beings are when we start out, how full of hope and good intentions.
The Brits. I think of the NatWest Three pleading with their own government and the US government to not be extradited to Houston, Texas for an alleged crime that took place in London, England. I think of David Bermingham, who looks exactly like an English banker should. He is affable, polite, smart, handsome, and full of rightous outrage.
Dan Petrocelli. Handsome, a wonderful, effective speaker. I think of him walking out of the courthouse after Jeff Skilling was convicted. He looked pale and startled. Jeff Skilling looked so much more calm than Dan. I had the impression that before they came out, Jeff might have said, “It’s okay, it will be okay, we’re not finished yet,” to Dan. I remember thinking this is what an ethical, invested lawyer looks like.
There are hundreds of thousands of images – from the good old days to today – which inform my feelings on the subject. Maybe it’s because I am looking deeper, and have more to draw from, that I can’t look at Enron and think guilt.
Right Hand of God has a short, pithy, accurate post on how to read the election coverage on Election Night. I agree with everything he says.
Today is a special day for me. It’s Sylvia Plath’s birthday.
It was, I don’t know – three years ago? Four? – that Sheila wrote a birthday post about Sylvia Plath. (UPDATE: check out the yearly post here!) Knowing nothing about the poet, I found Sheila’s essay compelling. Later that same day, I strolled up to Barnes and Noble and bought Ariel. That very night, I fell in love. Deep, irrevocable, inevitable love. That very night, I began ordering every book I could find about Plath on Amazon.com, then the next day, walked back to the bookstore just in case there was something I missed.
One would think this sort of obsession would burn itself out. One would be wrong. That post of Sheila’s launched what would become one of the most defining loves of my life – it would enrich me as a writer (and cause a great deal of consternation and envy), it would inform my relationships with men, and would ultimately serve to make me a happier person than I would have otherwise been.
Unlike Sheila, I can’t really quantify why I fall in love with someone. I just know that when I read Plath’s poems, I become very still inside. Something rests. It’s like I’m absorbing more than just the words, I’m absorbing the experience that created the words.
It’s Sylvia’s birthday. For that reason, I want to share this poem with you. I am sure that Sheila could write a very compelling essay on how this poem was created, the circumstances, the date, and the Birthday Letters… but I want to focus on the work itself today. It just means so much to me.
A Birthday Present by Sylvia Plath
What is this, behind this veil, is it ugly, is it beautiful?
It is shimmering, has it breasts, has it edges?
I am sure it is unique, I am sure it is what I want.
When I am quiet at my cooking I feel it looking, I feel it thinking
‘Is this the one I am too appear for,
Is this the elect one, the one with black eye-pits and a scar?
Measuring the flour, cutting off the surplus,
Adhering to rules, to rules, to rules.
Is this the one for the annunciation?
My god, what a laugh!’
But it shimmers, it does not stop, and I think it wants me.
I would not mind if it were bones, or a pearl button.
I do not want much of a present, anyway, this year.
After all I am alive only by accident.
I would have killed myself gladly that time any possible way.
Now there are these veils, shimmering like curtains,
The diaphanous satins of a January window
White as babies’ bedding and glittering with dead breath. O ivory!
It must be a tusk there, a ghost column.
Can you not see I do not mind what it is.
Can you not give it to me?
Do not be ashamed–I do not mind if it is small.
Do not be mean, I am ready for enormity.
Let us sit down to it, one on either side, admiring the gleam,
The glaze, the mirrory variety of it.
Let us eat our last supper at it, like a hospital plate.
I know why you will not give it to me,
You are terrified
The world will go up in a shriek, and your head with it,
Bossed, brazen, an antique shield,
A marvel to your great-grandchildren.
Do not be afraid, it is not so.
I will only take it and go aside quietly.
You will not even hear me opening it, no paper crackle,
No falling ribbons, no scream at the end.
I do not think you credit me with this discretion.
If you only knew how the veils were killing my days.
To you they are only transparencies, clear air.
But my god, the clouds are like cotton.
Armies of them. They are carbon monoxide.
Sweetly, sweetly I breathe in,
Filling my veins with invisibles, with the million
Probable motes that tick the years off my life.
You are silver-suited for the occasion. O adding machine—–
Is it impossible for you to let something go and have it go whole?
Must you stamp each piece purple,
Must you kill what you can?
There is one thing I want today, and only you can give it to me.
It stands at my window, big as the sky.
It breathes from my sheets, the cold dead center
Where split lives congeal and stiffen to history.
Let it not come by the mail, finger by finger.
Let it not come by word of mouth, I should be sixty
By the time the whole of it was delivered, and to numb to use it.
Only let down the veil, the veil, the veil.
If it were death
I would admire the deep gravity of it, its timeless eyes.
I would know you were serious.
There would be a nobility then, there would be a birthday.
And the knife not carve, but enter
Pure and clean as the cry of a baby,
And the universe slide from my side.
Earlier this month, former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling was transported from the prison in Waseca, Minnesota to a low-security prison in Colorado because the Minnesota prison is being turned into an all-women’s facility.
According to the Houston Chronicle, Skilling attorney Daniel Petrocelli said he visited his client this week at the Federal Correctional Institution-Englewood in the Denver suburb of Littleton.
“He’s doing remarkably well given the impossible circumstances he finds himself in,” Petrocelli said. “All his hopes rest on this appeal.”
According to someone who would know, prisoners at Waseca could request where they wanted to go, and they were told the BOP would make an effort to move every inmate within 500 miles of their homes.
If Skilling chose that prison instead of, say, Oakdale, Louisiana (where Fastow is currently housed) or Big Spring, Texas – either of which would have been closer to his home in Houston, Texas – it must be because he had some inside information about the facility which led him to believe Englewood would be more comfortable for him.
I remain certain that he will continue to endure the prison experience for as long as he must, though it sickens me a great deal that he is having to endure any of this. He should be home with his family right now.
Godspeed, Mr. Skilling.
On October 16, 2001, Enron announced it would report a third-quarter loss of $638 million. The next day, the SEC launched an investigation into Enron.
On October 20, 2001, the stock closed down at $26.05 per share, making a cumulative loss of 27 per cent for the week in which Enron reported the loss, its first quarterly loss in over four years.
We hear so much about Big Pharma, Big Oil, Big Retail that perhaps we’re overlooking all the idustries that are never demonized. I’ve taken the thinking out of it and compiled a list:
Big Independent Music
Big Maternity Clothing
Big Computing (odd!)
Big Gay Porn
Big Nautical Themed Mobiles For Babies
Big Yuppie Home Furnishings (I’m looking at you, Pottery Barn)
Big Bathroom Tile
Big Cream (whipped, liquid, and iced)
Big Space Exploration
Big Cell Phone
Big Government Entitlement Programs (Republicans actually do complain about this)
Big Plant Nursery
Big Jewish Deli
Big Space Donkey
My agent’s assistant had written two comments on a page of my manuscript. I had written the sentence:
He was eager to be at home.
In the margin, in her flawless penmanship, the assistant wrote, “Sounds like Hemingway. Short declarative sentence. Beautiful.”
The other sentence was:
In the margin she wrote: “Very Plathian. Beautiful.”
This was before I knew who Sylvia Plath was, before I fell in love with her and claimed her, before I absorbed her every word and held them in my bones like heavy metal elements, things that do not degrade over time.
I knew Hemingway. I loved Hemingway, and still love him in a clumsy unstudied way. I remember the exact moment I fell in love with him. Reading For Whom The Bell Tolls, two sentences cut through my flesh, flayed me, rendered me helpless upon them. They were:
“We will not be going to Milan, little rabbit,” he said.
And then she began to cry.
I wept, deeply and unapologetically, all afternoon. As if Robert Jordan had forced me away while he was dying on the pines with a broken leg, death certain at his fingertips.
The experience of being so deeply invested in his words cemented my love for Hemingway. From Hemingway, I learned to trust in simplicity.
Sylvia came to me later in life. I hadn’t read her in high school or college. I hadn’t bothered to know the Ariel poems until Sheila wrote about her. When I finally found her, it was love at first sight. I acquired every thing I could about her, disected her poems and her life and journals like; scientific texts and diagrams of the world’s most brilliant poet. It was only after I’d learned who Sylvia Plath was that I returned to my manuscript, to the comment beside “uranium brains”. Very Plathian. Pure silver joy. What does that say about me that I could provoke that comment, before I even knew Sylvia Plath? I love the question as much as the comment.
Sylvia is with me now, in my heart and bones, in a way that no other artist ever has been. I take her with me, whereever I go.
I wrote the October 16 edition of Today In Enron History with such passion that I am sure if it had survived the Great Computer Crash of 2008, you would be so impressed you’d run out to tell all your friends and neighbors about it.
It’s a brand new computer, it shouldn’t crash.
It was a great piece of work. I guess you’ll just have to take my word for it.
Instead of re-doing three hours of work right now I will leave you with this:
Today In Enron History, Enron published a press release announcing a third quarter loss of $618 million. Later that day, in a conference call with analysts, Enron announced it would reduce shareholder equity by $1.2 billion.
I will update this either today or tomorrow – it’s an important day, a critical, pivotal day, and I intend to do it justice.
Houston Chronicle reports that the former chief executive of Enron Broadband Services pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of wire fraud.
The plea deal requires Joseph Hirko, 52, of Portland, Ore., to serve up to 16 months in prison and make about $8.7 million in restitution to the government for Enron victims. He also agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in other pending broadband prosecutions.
Hirko’s sentencing is set for March 3.
He admitted to allowing press releases to be distributed in 2000 that said a groundbreaking operating system had been embedded in Enron’s broadband network that would allow users to pay only for bandwidth they used instead of a flat monthly fee.
The operating system was still under development and the bandwidth-on-demand feature never materialized. Hirko admitted that he knew broadband operating system, or BOS, hadn’t been embedded and couldn’t provide bandwidth on demand.
Per Ramfjord, one of Hirko’s lawyers, said in Tuesday’s online edition of the Houston Chronicle that the plea allowed him to “reduce the risk of going to trial and puts him in a position to be able to return to an active life as soon as possible.”
A trial of Hirko and four other EBS executives ended in September 2005 with jurors unable to reach verdicts on most charges. Hirko was acquitted in the 2005 trial on 14 of the 27 charges against him, two of them for insider trading and 12 for money laundering. He was charged in a new indictment with wire fraud, securities fraud and insider trading.
Hirko had been set to go to trial in December alongside Rex Shelby, a former top software executive.
“Today’s plea closes another chapter in the Enron scandal,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Matthew Friedrich said in a news release.
Enron, once the nation’s seventh-largest company, entered bankruptcy proceedings in December 2001 after years of accounting tricks could no longer hide billions in debt or make failing ventures appear profitable.
The collapse wiped out thousands of jobs, more than $60 billion in market value and more than $2 billion in pension plans.
It frightens me that Hirko has agreed to cooperate with the other broadband prosecutions. Even so, I do understand what a long, painful slog this has been for him and hope that he can finally get some peace.
Here is a a copy of the indictment against Casey Anthony in the first degree premeditated murder of her daughter. Anthony is charged with six additional counts:
One count aggravated child abuse
One count aggravated manslaughter of a child
Four counts of providing false info to a law enforcement officer
The four counts of providing false information to a law enforcement officer are for Casey’s lies that she was employed with Universal Studios during the year 2008; that she left her child with a babysitter named Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez; that she informed two persons by the names of Jeffrey Hopkins and Juliette Lewis that Caylee was missing; and that Casey received a phone call from Caylee Anthony on July 15, the day before she was reported missing.
If found guilty, Casey Anthony faces life in prison or death. Florida is second only to Texas in their use of the Death Penalty.
A CNN news alert just blazed into my email:
The mother of missing Florida toddler Caylee Anthony has been indicted on a first-degree murder charge, prosecutors say.
The CNN article has a few other details about the grand jury process, which did not name the indicted person until just seconds ago.
A Florida grand jury has returned an indictment in the case of missing toddler Caylee Anthony. The name of the person indicted and the specific charge is not yet known because the indictment remains sealed until an arrest is made.
But Lawson Lamar, the state attorney for Orange County, said the first count is a capital charge — which could carry a penalty of life in prison or death.
The 19 grand jurors — 10 women and nine men — deliberated for about half an hour before returning the indictment. Earlier in the day they heard from police, FBI agents and members of the missing child’s family.
Casey Anthony, Caylee’s mother, has been identified as a suspect in her daughter’s disappearance. She will surrender to authorities if indicted, her lawyer said earlier Tuesday.
“I’ve already given official notice to the state attorney’s office that should an indictment come down, Casey will surrender herself,” attorney Jose Baez told reporters as his 22-year-old client wiped tears from her eyes.
“She’s not running from this,” Baez said during an impromptu media briefing. “She’s doing her best to stand strong, to stand up to the powers that are working against her. And they threw the kitchen sink at her a long time ago.”
Adding that his client “has been living a nightmare,” the attorney asked the public to remember, “She has a missing child. She’s also a child.”
Earlier in the day, Casey Anthony’s father — Caylee’s grandfather — testified before the grand jury. The grand jury is investigating the suspicious circumstances surrounding the 3-year-old’s disappearance.
George Anthony was prepared to do the “unthinkable” — testify against his own daughter, Caylee’s mother, lawyer Mark Nejame told a clutch of reporters gathered on the courthouse steps.
Casey Anthony has been identified as a suspect in her daughter’s disappearance, a case police say they’re investigating as a homicide.
Struggling with his emotions, George Anthony clutched a “find Caylee” binder in his folded arms.
“This is going to be very hard for me to do. The focus has always been on my granddaughter and always will be. I love my daughter, I love my wife, I love my son,” Anthony said.
He asked for the public to keep his family, especially Caylee, in their prayers. “If someone could take a moment out at 11 o’clock this morning and 11 o’clock tonight and just pray for her. That’s all I’m asking for. That’s all I can say.”
Anthony and his lawyer left the courthouse about an hour later without commenting.
The article continues with background information about the case.
I canna say I’m terribly shocked that the grand jury returned (after only half an hour) with an indictment against Casey Anthony. The woman has not behaved like a grieving mother but like a lying, selfish, self-involved coward.
I imagine both her mom and dad are beside themselves right now. What a family
According to Kristen Hays writing for Houston Chronicle, Joe Hirko, one of the Enron Broadband defendants, is slated to plead guilty to federal felony Tuesday rather than face a jury for a second time.
Joseph Hirko was slated to be retried alongside Rex Shelby, a former top software executive, in December this year — more than three years after their first lengthy trial ended with a handful of acquittals, no convictions and jurors hung on dozens of other counts.
But Tuesday, barring any last-minute changes, Hirko is slated to enter a guilty plea to a single count of wire fraud before U.S District Judge Vanessa Gilmore as part of a plea agreement that calls for him to serve 12 to 16 months in prison, according to one of his lawyers.
“He is looking to get some finality out of this situation and hopes to return to a full and active life in the community,” Hirko lawyer Per Ramfjord said this evening.
I think what this means is that like so many of the Enron defendants, Joe Hirko was simply tired. Tired of being pursued, tired of fighting, possibly, like Tim Despain and several others who took plea deals, running out of money. In the face of another long, heart-wrenching, exhausting trial and all the stress that causes, vs. a year in prison… it might not seem like such a bad deal.
This is a perfect illustration of how the DOJ works. They will call this a victory. Though they did not comment on Hays’ story, they will eventually roll out the press releases crowing about justice. Joe Hirko will enter prison and he will suffer every single day – he will be punished for something he didn’t do. He will not feel like this is justice. In fact for him and other Enron defendants, it is the antithesis of justice.
Hirko, of Portland, Ore., was originally indicted in 2003 on charges including conspiracy, fraud, money laundering and insider trading. Shelby and three others — former co-broadband CEO Kenneth Rice, former division chief operating officer Kevin Hannon, and former top strategist Scott Yeager — faced similar charges.
Rice and Hannon pleaded guilty to securities fraud and conspiracy, respectively, in 2004. Hirko, Shelby and Yeager went to trial in 2005 alongside two other former broadband executives charged with inflating earnings by selling future revenues in a video-on-demand venture that failed.
Rice testified in the 2005 trial that Hirko, Shelby and Yeager knew when the broadband division was unveiled with much fanfare at Enron’s January 2000 analyst conference that the network wasn’t up and running. Yet he said he, Hirko and former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling touted it to analysts as though it was ready to jump into what was then a competitive broadband market.
Hirko, Shelby and Yeager each testified that the network and the software worked, but was being implemented in phases.
Incidentally several other software engineers testified to the same thing. It wasn’t just the three people who were on trials for their lives who might, one assumes, say anything to save themselves.
Enron’s stock jumped $13 a share the day of the conference.
Of the broadband defendants, only Rice and Hirko directly addressed analysts at the conference. During the trial, prosecutors alleged that analysts saw a video of Shelby touting the network’s software as if it worked, but the defense teams revealed that the Shelby video was added to an archived videotape of the conference after the fact.
Skilling’s role in the broadband trial was limited to jurors viewing his analyst presentation on that videotape. However, his descriptions alternated between what the network could do at that time and what it would do in the future.
Rice also testified against Skilling in the ex-CEO’s 2006 trial, saying the broadband division struggled with losses throughout 2000 and brought in cash through asset sales rather than operations. The division never made a profit, and cratered along with the parent company.
Hirko was acquitted of insider trading and money laundering counts, while Shelby was acquitted of a few insider trading charges. Yeager, who had faced more than 100 counts, was acquitted of conspiracy and fraud. Jurors deadlocked on everything else.
Hold on. One hundred counts? For lying about a piece software? Does that honestly sound like the behavior of reasoned, impartial jurists?
The government reindicted all three on fewer counts and split them into separate cases. The defendants later asked the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to throw out all or most remaining charges.
Their lawyers argued because the acquitted counts were interrelated with those on which jurors were deadlocked, all or most remaining charges should be erased.
The government countered that the remaining cases weren’t tainted, and that jurors acted “irrationally and inconsistently.”
Love that phrase. Of course, had the jurors found them guilty, the praise would have flowed like champagne.
In March this year, an appeals panel rejected the defense arguments, clearing the way for retrials.
If Hirko enters his plea and Gilmore accepts it as expected, Shelby will be retried alone on Dec. 1. Yeager’s trial is slated for next March.
The other two defendants in the original trial were retried in 2006. One was acquitted, and former broadband division finance chief Kevin Howard was convicted. A different 5th Circuit panel later erased his convictions because prosecutors misused a theory to prove his guilt, and he is slated to be tried a third time next year.
Rice went to prison in July last year and was recently moved to a federal community corrections program in Houston, a common step between prison and release. Although his term was two years and three months, he participated in a drug and alcohol treatment program available to all non-violent inmates that, if completed, allows for up to a year to be shaved from a sentence.
Hannon is serving a two-year term at a prison in Bastrop.
Skilling was convicted of 19 crimes at his 2006 trial and started serving a 24-year, four-month term at a prison in Minnesota in December that year. He is awaiting a ruling from a 5th Circuit panel on his appeal to throw out his convictions.
My heart breaks for Joe Hirko.