Some guy is selling Jeff Skilling and Rick Causey’s business cards, as well as the Enron Code of Ethics, on Ebay. I always wonder what these people are really selling. Surely there is no actual monetary value in any of these three items. The code of ethics is readily available on the internet, and the business cards are … what? Mementos of something tragic? Sort of like the paper revenants that the dazed office workers picked up from the ground after 9/11 as they made their way, shivering and stunned, back home after the attacks? Or are they supposed to be ironic, something almost kitchy? The buyers must believe there is something intriguing about owning these items. I wonder if they are like the people who write to Charles Manson in the hopes of owning something touched by evil, something notorious. If so, they would have to have a very low opinion of both Jeff Skilling and Rick Causey to start with. The pathology behind that kind of obsession is too dark for me to attempt to muddle through.
Yet the “aura”, for lack of a better word to describe the sensation of owning these things, seems to appeal to those who would only own these things for their perceived notoriety. Surely if you are a friend of Jeff Skilling or Rick Causey you don’t need these kinds of talismans to connect you either to the events of 2001-2006 or the men themselves. You have the more reliable material of memory. You also have Christmas cards or notes if you require material proof of your friendship (a concept that is troubling in itself).
There is something decidedly hostile about selling these items, and by owning them. Something gloating.
If you love Enron as I love Enron, you would never sell your beloved artifacts. You would jealously guard them, and keep them private, and hope nobody ever came to look for them.
I have been reading about other witch hunts in our past, for example the Salem Witch Trials in 1692 and the McCarthy “Red Scare” Trials in the 1950s. The similarities with aspects of the Enron Trials are dramatic. I will write more on this later.
In the meantime, I saw this interesting book review: God’s Jury: The Inquisition and the Making of the Modern World. I have not read this book yet, but, drawing from some of the description in the review, I am struck by the similarities between aspects of the Inquisition and the Enron trials. Bureaucratic show trials, playing on public superstition about business executives, is a great description of the Enron trials. The government openly promoted the Enron trials as their “signature prosecutions”, and they spared no expense in trying to make criminal cases out of what should have been, at most, civil proceedings.
What is perhaps most frightening about witch hunts is not the malevolence of the prosecutors (although this is certainly scary). What frightens me the most is that witch hunts require the participation, or at least the acquiescence, of the public. That seems to be why so many of the witch hunts have an entertainment aspect to them — the prosecutors make them showy so that the public will remain gleeful enough about the entertainment to overlook the utter stupidity and evilness of the prosecutions themselves. This often requires that the “witches” be creatures who the public has already been conditioned to dislike. In the Enron Trials, the public had been primed for decades by the media to believe that “big business” and business executives are, as Enron prosecutor John Kroger wrote in his autobiography, “pre-disposed to greed” and therefore, entirely likely to commit criminal fraud.
Witch hunts are one of the most desperately unsavory aspects of human behavior. One of the things that continues to drive me to blog about Enron is my desire to see the Enron Inquisitions exposed. I am actually becoming optimistic that this will happen, sooner than I had once believed!
I’m loving Siri. As you can see on my Flickr page, I’m enjoying talking to Siri and seeing what she has to say. So I asked her an Enron question. And the answer is… not good. Not good at all.
Reuters has a hard-hitting report about how John Arnold isn’t cool anymore. He has apparently been supplanted by David Coolidge.
The article amuses me, and I can’t really explain why. There is something about the comparison that just seems ridiculous to me. All our lives we’re told not to compare yourself to others. The race is long, and in the end it is only with yourself. And all that jazz. But the tabloids, and increasingly even reputable publications, seem to really enjoy fostering these rivalries.
I don’t claim to understand it.
Jury selection has begun for the trial of jailed Texas financier R. Allen Stanford. Judge Hitner narrowed the jury pool from 80 to 32. Attorneys are expected to make the final selections on Tuesday morning.
Since his arrest two and a half years ago, Allen Stanford has been assumed guilty, and he’s been compared to Jeff Skilling. In most media reports, the similarities between the two are too compelling to deny: both lived in Texas and both were accused of financial crimes. Those two merest wisps of coincidence are plenty for journalists and pundits, who have gone stir crazy in the last twenty-four hours to squeeze Skilling’s name into the narrative. A particularly galling example is here, the website of the local NBC affiliate.
Hitner promised the potential jurors that the trial will take no longer than six weeks, but prosecutors and defense attorneys have said they will each need a month to present their cases. Stanford’s attorneys say they expect the financier will testify.
KPRC Local 2 legal analyst Brian Wice said putting Stanford on the stand is a bad move.
“Think back, the last two defendants in high profile white collar crime cases that took the stand — Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling. We all know how that movie ended,” Wice said.
This is a casual line but I think the fact that it was so easily tossed out there says something about how Skilling and Lay really are viewed by most people. It is interesting to me that Wice called it a “movie”. Jeff Skilling and Ken Lay were not actors. They were not in a movie. Only their visages, meant to represent evil, were on display in The Smartest Guys In The Room. There was no actual “Jeff SKilling” or “Ken Lay” in that movie. That movie illuminated none of either man’s interior life.
And yet this “legal analyst” who really should know better, fell back on the easiest, laziest, most irresponsible metaphor possible. Furthermore, it is a lazy comparison. Just because Skilling and Lay testified and were not successful doesn’t mean that anyone who does will have the same outcome. The fact that Skilling and Lay testified and were still found guilty should not frighten innocent defendants; it should enrage them.
But Wice isn’t alone and I don’t mean to single him out as a bad guy. Most people probably rely on the same weak thinking. So Mr. Wice can take cover in the group – he is just one of hundreds who are speaking the same lines, reporting the same point of view, and reinforcing the same tired old cliches.
I’ve had a lot of changes recently but most of them are finally completed so I am now back to regular blogging starting tomorrow, Monday January 23, 2012.
I’m a logophile; I read poems and books and even the dictionary every day. I subscribe to two “word of the day” lists. In one of them, Tom Skilling, Jeff’s brother, made an appearance. Recognizing his name was a shiny moment of serendipity.
Christopher Hitchens was one of my many imaginary boyfriends for about three years before he died (and still is; I suspect he always will be). I didn’t always agree with what he said, but his voice was so distinctive, his thoughts so clear, that I was always eager to hear how he articulated them. His style was perfect: calm, witty. His aim was true.
I’ve watched just about every one of his debates and interviews on YouTube; I am partial to the debates. We in America are actually not exposed very often to honest debates. Traditionally, a debate has a motion and each side puts forth his best arguments for or against it. There is a thrust and parry,a genuine exchange of ideas. Presidential debates are basically press conferences in which each candidate has his own parochial concerns and simply recites his talking points. The candidates are expressly forbidden to speak to each other; they must go through the moderator. This makes no sense at all. It doesn’t clarify the issue for either side or for the audience. And late night tv programs in which guests yell back and forth is not a debate either; it is the adult equivalent of a schoolyard shoving match.
Trials, however, are the only place two people can actually spar back and forth. It is not a perfect analogy of a debate, but it is at least something. It satisfies a need to hear people actually discuss an issue instead of screeching incomprehensibly. This might be why I am so fascinated by them.
Besides trials, the only time I’ve seen actual good debates are when Hitch gets up there and starts talking about “celestial North Korea” and “Biblical myths” and so on. Again: don’t always agree with him, but there is something beautifully compelling about the way he will argue his ideas. His freshness, his nonpareil use of language, his historical reach are all just wonderful to witness.
I was talking the other day with a friend and realized that Enron is literally the only subject I believe I could competently debate with Christopher Hitchens. I think I could hold my own in a real debate with him. I would be scared speechless, but once I finally came out of the shock, I could probably put forth some ideas he might go for or walk him backward into a corner.
The desire to discuss Enron with intelligent people – even if it can’t be Hitch – is why I have my blog. It is why I delete the comments of morons who blather a series of insults. That kind of nonsense is boring to me. If you’re going to say something about Enron, for god’s sake, make it interesting and compelling. The subject deserves that respect.
* DARPA is investigating a way to piece together shredded documents, and of course, Enron is used as an example of why this is so necessary, though, of course, Enron did not shred documents.
* David Bermingham gave testimony on January 10, 2012 to a committee investigating extradition. As usual he is smooth as butter. Check it out here.
* Quite possibly the strangest Enron comments I’ve ever heard can be found here. Such as:
Like so many things, it all started with Enron over a decade ago. Because of their fraud, Enron got so bloated with cash that it didn’t know what to do with it all. So it started buying up the naming rights of things. First the building that its offices were in became known as the Enron Building, although Enron wasn’t the only business that had headquarters there. Eventually, it bought a sports stadium just to have its name everywhere it could. Other businesses followed suit.
Well, okay then!
* Enron creditors get a 53% payout, which is about $21.8 billion. At what point can we declare the company officially dead? It has been ten years, which I believe is long enough that there are no more victims (if there ever were.)
* Loren Steffy is still bloating about Enron.
* Some moron has basically accused Andy Fastow of trying to take down Hugo Chavez. If he had, Fastow’s face would be on Mt. Rushmore.
Gary Mulgrew, one of the NatWest Three, has written a book titled Gang of One about his experience with the American justice system. The UK Daily Mail has excerpted the book; it sounds utterly horrific.
On the other hand, Mulgrew sounds utterly charming. For example:
‘Look,’ I said, speaking more quietly. ‘I’m not from around here, and I ain’t trying to be disrespectful. But I’m not part of your battles, and I won’t be part of your Brotherhood. I’m a Scot, from Scotland. I’m British. I play football and eat chips.’ Embarrassingly, they were the only British credentials I could muster.
Check out the article and pre-order the book here.
I have never heard of the “We Party” but apparently they are full of haterade for Enron. And they’re idiots too.
Pat Shortage has been elected or appointed the new Minnesota GOP chair. Mr. Shortage, according to the tards writing the webpage, apparently was a lobbyist for Enron. I am curious why some are so sensitive about this. People have to work, right? Why not be a lobbyist for Enron? And it isn’t like he was ever accused of anything nefarious. But no matter. When there are political points to score and Enron enters the conversation, you can be sure that facts are the first casualties.
MN Publius has learned that Mark Kennedy’s campaign manager, Pat Shortridge, was the senior lobbyist for Enron! Wait, it gets better, [sic] he was also a key player in the secret energy talks with Dick Cheney in 2001 as Enron’s representative. Pat Shortridge’s title was Senior Director for Federal Government Affairs [Roll Call 5/10/01] and was the go-to guy for Enron in Washington D.C. This information can be confirmed with the United State Senate’s register of lobbyists.
In addition to working for the poster boy of Corporate dishonesty, Patty worked for no other then [sic] Dick Armey as his Press Secretary and Director of Special Projects. Wow, quite a track record.
Having worked with Dick Cheney, Enron, and Dick Armey, Shortridge earns, at the very least, honorable mention on the GOP’s All-Corruption Team, 2000-2010.
If everyone who worked at Enron was corrupt, who were the victims? If only working there means you’re corrupt, why have all 20,000 of them been able to find new jobs?
A few days ago, I saw an article on some website about Andy Fastow. I can no longer find it but the gist was that the reporter had tracked down Lea Fastow and Lea – who by all accounts is a sweet, lovely woman – was gracious enough to talk to the reporter instead of slamming the phone down. Lea said that she and her family were at a friend’s house on a “mini-vaction” and that they’re all just trying to relax.
It was by any measure a truly gracious response to the reporter’s questions. But the report was full of snickering sarcasm and left one with the feeling that a Christmas effigy was in order.
Incidentally, Sherron Watkins defended Andy Fastow in that article. She stated something to the effect that Jeff Skilling was the real bad guy. I can’t remember the exact words because every time she opens her mouth, she sounds like the Peanuts character’s teacher. Wahwhahahahaha.
I bristled at the reporter’s usage of Watkins in the report. Who cares what she thinks of Andy Fastow? And hasn’t she graced us with her opinions on everything from Jeff Skilling’s competence to the United States’ prosecution of corporate crime? Maybe it’s time to shut her pie hole and go away. Her expiration date was about ten years ago.
I am tired of hearing from Sherron Watkins at all about anything. But I am also frustrated by people jumping all over Andy Fastow without thinking – and I include the corpulent moron in this statement. Andy Fastow and Jeff Skilling were both persecuted mercilessly in the media. Both were accused of things they didn’t do. Andy has rejoined society and officially speaking, the DOJ has no problem with him so we shouldn’t either.
I fear that Andy Fastow is going to bear the brunt of the Enron collapse, and that isn’t quite fair. Even if he stole $100 million from the company, it would not have been enough to topple Enron. The liquidity crisis wasn’t caused because he took all the cash, as some people seem to think. He is not a choir boy, but it is far too easy to put all the blame onto him. It is too simple an answer. And even if he is guilty of everything you believe, the least you could do is leave his wife alone.