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June 2, 2004

A callous disregard for human life
Posted by Teresa at 10:33 PM *

Remember the rolling blackouts in California? The misery and waste and loss they caused? CBS reports that some audiotapes have turned up from that period that make Enron’s attitude all too clear:

During California’s rolling blackouts, when streets were lit only by head lights and families were trapped in elevators, Enron Energy traders laughed, reports CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales.

One trader is heard on tapes obtained by CBS News saying, “Just cut ‘em off. They’re so f——d. They should just bring back f——-g horses and carriages, f——-g lamps, f——-g kerosene lamps.”

And when describing his reaction when a business owner complained about high energy prices, another trader is heard on tape saying, “I just looked at him. I said, ‘Move.’ (laughter) The guy was like horrified. I go, ‘Look, don’t take it the wrong way. Move. It isn’t getting fixed anytime soon.”

California’s attempt to deregulate energy markets became a disaster for consumers when companies like Enron manipulated the West Coast power market and even shut down plants so they could drive up prices.

There was quick reaction in Washington to the Enron audiotapes first aired by CBS News last night, and the tapes have become part of the debate over the President’s massive energy bill.

“People were talking about market manipulation. People were talking about schemes, people were making jokes,” said U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.

“While the president would like to have an energy bill, I’d like to have an energy bill that protects consumers,” said Cantwell.

Consumers like Grandma Millie, mentioned in one exchange recorded between two Enron employees.

Employee 1: “All the money you guys stole from those poor grandmothers in California?”

Employee 2: “Yeah, Grandma Millie man.”

Employee 1: “Yeah, now she wants her f——-g money back for all the power you’ve charged right up, jammed right up her a— for f——-g $250 a megawatt hour.”

It’s clear from the tapes that Enron employees knew what they were doing was wrong, and now lawmakers are responding.

“I will offer an amendment to compel the Bush administration to get off the dime and get back this money that has been stolen,” said Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash.

Another taped exchange between different employees regarding a possible newspaper interview goes like this:

Employee 3: “This guy from the Wall Street Journal calls me up a little bit ago—”

Employee 4: “I wouldn’t do it, because first of all you’d have to tell ‘em a lot of lies because if you told the truth—”

Employee 3: “I’d get in trouble.”

Employee 4: “You’d get in trouble.”

Eventually, the lies unraveled and traders scrambled.

“I’m just — f—k — I’m just trying to be an honest camper so I only go to jail once,” says one employee.

Two Enron traders, from the office where the tapes were made, have admitted manipulating energy prices and pled guilty in court. Another goes on trial in October. Former Enron chief Ken Lay is the only top company official who has never been charged with any crime.
Yeah, but let’s see how much time they serve, and how tough the fines are.

Ken Lay’s a real prize. Before the Enron collapse he was being hailed as the top dawg businessman in his field, and he was lapping it up. Then, when the hard questions started being asked, poof! He suddenly doesn’t know a darned thing about what was going on. Anyway, that’s his story, and he’s sticking to it.

If I were Empress of the Universe, there’d be a law saying that any executive who’s received a significant performance bonus any time in the last three years will not be allowed to plead ignorance about the operations of the company he’s been working for. What are all those obscene salaries for, if the people receiving them don’t know jack about their jobs?

But I digress.

Enron stole from everyone they could, screwed over everyone from the power users of California to their own employees, and lied themselves so blue in the face that they looked like evil Smurfs. Is there some reason our legal system isn’t going after them with fire and sword? If so, I think we deserve to know what it is.

Comments on A callous disregard for human life:
#1 ::: stacy ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2004, 11:15 PM:

It may not change anything in the long run, but in the short term, people are at least getting smacked with some surprisingly hefty penalties. I'll be surprised if Lay doesn't go down for something. He's got lots of political buddies, but there are also a lot of pissed off DOJ lawyers looking for scalps. In a lot of these coporate fraud cases, they're taking their time rolling the underlings so that when they eventually work up to charging the Big Boss, they can flatten them.

And it remains to be seen, again, how well it'll do for long-term change, but the Sarbanes-Oxley accountability rules are scaring the shit out of big companies. They're aimed at making the high-paid execs -- at minimum, the CEO & CFO -- accountable for the operations. (I cover some of this stuff for a tech newswire. I'm really curious to see how well the current accountability kick does at shaping lasting reforms.)

#2 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2004, 11:21 PM:

If it makes the underlings think they WILL get prosecuted no matter what their boss tells them, maybe this will help. Ken Lay deserves to have his life cut off at the knees forever, totally, like sent to the worst federal prison and forced to mix in with the general population OR take solitary in a cage, like the other animals in solitary. Not a white, middle-class country-club joint where he can lounge.

#3 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2004, 11:29 PM:

Cruz Bustamante, California’s Lt Governor, filed civil suit against Enron (and four other energy companies) for 8 or 9 billion dollars back in May 2001. I haven’t heard much about the suit since Schwarzenegger become Bustamante’s boss. I wonder if it has anything to do with the mysterious meeting Arnold had with Ken Lay shortly after that suit was filed, a meeting Arnold later said he couldn’t remember anything about.

#4 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2004, 11:30 PM:

It's the question of whether society is a machine for the producing general opportunity and prosperity, or whether society is a machine for ensuring the continued wealth of the wealthy.

These are incompatible objectives, and the folks who want to be guaranteed wealth for all time to come have been making thorough demonstrations of the respect in which they hold the law.

I shall stop now, before I start advocating Chestertonian socialism.

#5 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2004, 11:32 PM:

Is there some reason our legal system isn’t going after them with fire and sword? If so, I think we deserve to know what it is.

Kenneth Lay was one of W's biggest financial supporters. Now W is saying, "Um, yeah, what was that name? I think I may have heard of him..." If they prosecute Lay, he may sing about a lot of things...

#6 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2004, 11:49 PM:

Kenny-boy Lay.

Bush has problems of his own. Tonight's reports are that Bush has hired outside counsel for himself, to deal with the Plame affair.

#7 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2004, 11:51 PM:

Robert L, let him. This f-ing president can't even tell you the literal truth about the weather where he rides his dirt bike, so I do not expect him to be truthful about anything else. I have seldom held a polticial official in such contempt, but he reminds me way too much of the frat boys who dismissed me after they tried an approach and found out that large 'assests' did not an easy girl make. They want an easy way out. I hope they are not going to get it.

#8 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 12:13 AM:

I sometimes wonder how people lose their innate sense of right and wrong. Being a new parent, I can't help but notice that it happens at some point in childhood, but I wonder when that occurs.

It also makes me wonder about extremes. Why is it a fundamental part of human nature to take things to their extremes? Food is good. Let's not just have enough to fill our stomachs, let's have more. Sex is good. Let's start a porn company and make women objects rather than people. Money is good. Let's have more than we can ever spend in our lifetimes and make sure that no one can ever take it away from us.

I can say this about the conservative mindset, but I can also say it about the liberal mindset. When did unions lose track of why they were formed in the first place? The teacher's union here in Ontario just blacklisted my wife because she signed a contract with a district that was "pink listed". That means that new teachers weren't supposed to sign contracts with the district because the district was to be punished. We moved here from British Columbia and had no idea that the district was pinklisted. When we told them this, they said she should quit. They wanted her to quit her job, even though the district was delisted a week later. Incredible.

Maybe it's my inherent bitterness, but people suck. However, conservative people suck more.

#9 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 12:25 AM:

An extension of my thought process on this matter can be found here.

#10 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 12:59 AM:

Man . . . remember, when the Cal energy crisis was at its worst, how the "Libertarian" corporate brown-nosers and Ayn Randies and Cato Institute flacks and other ideological lapdogs wallowed in self-righteous smuggery, blaiming the environmentalists and hot-tubbers and dismissing claims of market manipulation as akin to belief in evil spirits?

How, if prices were high, it was because the Invisible Hand made them so, or maybe because there wasn't _enough_ deregulation?

God, I'd love to rub their noses in this.

Except . . . I doubt it would register. They'd say this wouldn't have happened if the Democrats had allowed drilling in wildlife preserves, or let coal plants get rid of pollution controls.

No doubt, no shame, no regrets.

Election day can't come soon enough.

#11 ::: Alex von Thorn ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 01:03 AM:

Paula Helm Murray> he reminds me way too much of the frat boys...


Funny story. I know a guy who went to Yale at the same time as Dubya. So we asked our friend if he knew the junior Bush. He told us, no, [our friend] was very politically active in the Young Republicans, while Bush was always off partying with the frat boys.

#12 ::: Bill Humphries ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 01:12 AM:

EMC (a mass storage firm) bought Documentum (a document management firm) last year, and Sarbanes-Oxley was the big reason. The enterprise/CTO rags are full of stories on the rush to compliance.

I don't know if S-O will do any good, but it's a good time to be in document management.

#13 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 01:17 AM:

The corporate offices of my former employer are one floor down from what used to be a rather palatial set of Enron offices (the crooked E logo was on the building itself). While I can't say that I ever heard any nefarious schemes in the elevator, the superior and smartass attitude of the E-zians upstairs was a ripe topic at work. When the FBI came and sealed their offices one night, none of us were sorry.

#14 ::: Cynthia Gonsalves ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 01:25 AM:

My very GOP brother (who has a portrait of Shrub on his mantel, to my dismay) and I actually agreed recently during my most recent visit that Ken Lay and his fellow crooks need to be made completely destitute and live under a freeway overpass. We were actually considering being charitable and letting him use a shopping cart, but after these most recent gloat-laden disclosures, I feel comfortable in speaking for my sibling as well as myself. No Safeway shopping cart for you, Kenny-boy!

#15 ::: cyclopatra ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 01:47 AM:

It looks as though Bustamante's case was consolidated with several other cases, bounced back and forth between state and federal court for a while, and then got settled for $147M.

#16 ::: Ms. Jen ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 02:32 AM:

Cynthia is much kinder than I would be, as I would send Mr. Kenneth Lay and all the politicians he paid off to a 4 week all paid vacation to Abu Ghraib prison with spa services compliments of Ms. England and her dog leash.

#17 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 02:48 AM:

CA residents may remember the White House telling us that conservation was some sort of liberal "lifestyle" but the real problem was that we weren't following some Republican plan or another.

#18 ::: Niall ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 06:49 AM:

Due to the recent arrival of heir #3, I was up late last night and caught this report in an oddly Dan Ratherless show called "CBS Evening News with Dan Rather" on satellite TV.

The first story was Bush lawyering up for the Plame Grand Jury, then these Enron fuckers, including comments from a Democratic senator, then Pin the Leak on the White House Traitor again, this time for the leak to Chalabi while drunk, no less, then a non-story about General Karpinski shoplifting which did at least keep the torture story in the news.

Only after 3 solid stories about treason and daylight robbery by Bush&Co and one thin one about US torture related program activities did the show lapse into pap about Teens Take Drugs! Parents Shocked! for the final piece.

I seldom see CBS news (or any US news program) except in bits excerpted in Irish or UK shows and I was surprised that this show pulled so few punches. Is this unusual? A sign that CBS are turning on the White House?

#19 ::: Daniel Martin ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 07:54 AM:

Here's what I want to know: why are there audio tapes?

I mean, it's pretty clear that the people being recorded didn't know that they were being recorded, given what they said. So then are these tapes from a government- (or, I suppose, competitor-) planted bug? Or do we have someone just recording what went on around their office ala Nixon?

#20 ::: Mike Bakula ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 08:08 AM:

All interations, phone conversations, etc, by commodities and stock traders are recorded; the SEC mandates this. (In the bank I worked for, there was a secured room with the tape system. A _big_ tape system.) However, the tapes are out of sight, and AFAIK, are never heard by anyone unless there's a federal investigation. It's easy, I suppose, to forget the tape's running.

#21 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 08:10 AM:

Daniel, the reports are that these kinds of recordings are a routine practice in this kind of trading operation, where a great deal of money can move purely on the basis of a phone call. You need to have some kind of a record in the event of a dispute.

Why did they say these things, knowing they were on tape? First, people "forget" after a while that they are under surveillance. Second, they may not have expected these tapes would ever be heard outside Enron. And third, exreme arrogance.

#22 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 08:14 AM:

Nobody should be above or below the law. Lay should be tried, yes, and if found guilty he ought to go to prison, where he ought to be treated just like everyone else.

It horrifies me when people treat the abuses of the prison system as if they were part of the punishment. I find that comment above from "Ms Jen" about Abu Ghraib, with the gloating over the details, absolutely chilling.

If you don't give your enemies due process of law, yes, cruel and unusual punishment and Abu Ghraib is what you get. Don't wish for it.

#23 ::: Martin Schafer ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 08:21 AM:

NPR finally went into why there are audio tapes last night. These conversations were happening on a trading floor where people make deals, jot down a note about the deal and move on. If there is a later dispute about what was agreed they roll the tape and check what was said.

The FERC impounded these tapes right after Enron's collapse. The lawyers for Washington State's civil suit against Enron (they got hit as bad or worse than California) finally pried them loose.

#24 ::: Cat D ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 08:23 AM:

Did anyone die as a provable result of the power outage? If so, what are the legal differences between man-slaughter and murder 1? Everybody's going after stolen money, which can be given back under duress, but stolen life, however . . .

#25 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 08:26 AM:

Murder One is a crime of specific intent.

#26 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 08:36 AM:

And why did Enron think they could get away with it?

Their traders appeared to think that the fix was in because their friends were in power in DC:

One trader asks, "...all the money you guys stole from those poor grandmothers of California?"

The second trader replies: "Yeah, Grandma Millie, man. But she's the one who couldn't figure out how to (expletive deleted) vote on the butterfly ballot."


#27 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 09:06 AM:

Murder One is a crime of specific intent.

Yes, but involuntary manslaughter is nothing to sneeze at.

#28 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 09:33 AM:

Jo, thank you. I was about to make the same point about Ms. Jen's comment.

Abu Ghraib was a shock. What made me truly depressed, though, was the realization that the people most directly implicated were "corrections professionals," people that work in prisons and prison administration here, in my country. All of a sudden, the fact that my culture obviously considers prison rape is as a reasonable part of punishment for incarcerated felons plunged me into despair. The scary truth is that the treatment of prisoners in Abu Ghraib is not different either in type or degree from a large number of state and federal prisons here.

#29 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 09:38 AM:

"Why did they say these things, knowing they were on tape?"

Look at the following exchange (via Kevin Drum):

"He just f---s California. He steals money from California to the tune of about a million."

"Will you rephrase that?"

"OK, he, um, he arbitrages the California market to the tune of a million bucks or two a day."

#30 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 10:02 AM:

I agree with Jo. I hate this business of treating prison abuse, rape, etc., as if it's a legitimate part of the punishment.

That said, I've made comments like that myself. It's human to be angered by injustice, and to wish for extravagantly cruel comeuppances to those who are being deliberately unjust.

Still. In any sane future, our descendants will wonder how we live with America's grotesque prison system the way we wonder how 19th-century Americans lived with the constant presence of human slavery. Stunning statistics on this here.

#31 ::: Adrian Turtle ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 10:04 AM:

Randall P. writes of children losing their innate sense of right and wrong. As he mentions being a new parent, this error may be due to sleep deprivation. Children do not start with any innate sense of right and wrong -- they need to learn it. Very young children are entirely selfish, entirely demanding. They can't understand other people well enough to empathize with them, and they can't appreciate abstract ideals like fairness. Sometime between infancy and adolescence, most kids figure out both empathy and a certain amount of abstract idealism (if they're lucky, they get help and support and consistent teaching.)

A few people never seem to figure it out. I don't know why. (It may be a solved problem among developmental psychologists, which I'm not.) I suspect that may be a different problem than figuring it out, and then then abandoning the sense of how it works.

#32 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 10:13 AM:

I've been rolling an idea around in my head lately and I wonder what you guys would think about it.

What if we had a completely open government? What if the intelligence community was entirely open source? What if by law there was no secrecy with organizations? What if everything regarding national security and budget were out there in the open and it was illegal to keep it from the eyes of the public (including corporate information, so places like Enron couldn't pull this crap)?

Would that be possible? I've been trying to think outside the box on several systems and since this is an intelligent community, I wonder if any of you think this would work (and please forego the "It'll never happen" arguement. I know it will never happen).

#33 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 10:14 AM:

I've been rolling an idea around in my head lately and I wonder what you guys would think about it.

What if we had a completely open government? What if the intelligence community was entirely open source? What if by law there was no secrecy with organizations? What if everything regarding national security and budget were out there in the open and it was illegal to keep it from the eyes of the public (including corporate information, so places like Enron couldn't pull this crap)?

Would that be possible? I've been trying to think outside the box on several systems and since this is an intelligent community, I wonder if any of you think this would work (and please forego the "It'll never happen" arguement. I know it will never happen).

#34 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 10:18 AM:

Adrian:

You know what? You're absolutely right. It was sleep deprivation. Innate was the wrong word to use. Also, please forgive the double post. My computer went all screwy.

#35 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 10:28 AM:

Randall P: go read _Strategic Intelligence for American World Policy_ by (my great uncle) Sherman Kent for a sense of why some intelligence should be kept secret. Not all, not most, but some.

It's not always good to have all your cards on the table. Sturgeon's "Mr. Costello, Hero" is also relevant here.

#36 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 10:53 AM:

The thing that chilled me about NPR's report on Enron this morning was the line "Enron, which hopes to be out of bankruptcy by the end of the year..." OUT of bankruptcy? How can we allow a company like this to continue to exist 1) at all and 2) without court supervision?

In a perfect world, they would be dissolved by court order and their assets seized to pay reparations for the damage they've done. But that is less economically advantageous to their victims (including the employees who were forced to buy their worthless stock) than letting them run as an estate indefinitely. One thing I'm sure of: no stockholder should ever get a single penny of dividend from this company again. ALL profits (should the company become profitable again) should go to reparations and restitution.

Yes, it's perfectly just to punish the stockholders. They elected the BOD who appointed Lay and his unholy kindred. There's a social good to punishing the stockholders of a company that commits outrageous crimes, as well: investors will shy away from companies they suspect are shady.

About prison abuse: remember a few things here: 1) false imprisonment happens every day. 2) The worst offenders are not the victims of prison abuse, but the perpetrators. 3) The victims of prison abuse are simply the most defenseless - i.e. the least hardened criminals, i.e. the most like you and me. (I'm talking chiefly about your standard beatings and rapes, not the systematic abuses as in Abu Ghraib, though those occur too, right here in the old US of A.)

Why does the United States, an allegedly "free" country, have a higher percentage of its population behind bars than any other country, including Russia? Why, because the for-profit prison industry protects its investment, of course. My usual rant against the for-profit prison industry is off-topic, so I'll just say this: there is one civilized country in the Western Hemisphere, and I don't live in it.

#37 ::: Alison Scott ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 11:10 AM:

I feel I have to stand up for overpaid managers with large performance bonuses. Hmm.

OK, let's start that again. T writes "If I were Empress of the Universe, there’d be a law saying that any executive who’s received a significant performance bonus any time in the last three years will not be allowed to plead ignorance about the operations of the company he’s been working for. What are all those obscene salaries for, if the people receiving them don’t know jack about their jobs?"

I spend a lot of time thinking about corporate responsibility -- I have now reached the point where, for example, I would be personally criminally responsible if there were a significant health & safety breach in my area. Am I able to see all the work my staff do? No. And I only have 19 staff, and we all sit together. Suppose I had 10,000? Across 80 sites?

What can I do? I can be personally irreproachable in word and deed (eg by never typing comments on webpages in working hours...). I can promote values, ways of behaving, standards, ethics. I can personally intervene when I see behaviour that does not meet those standards, and celebrate behaviour that does. I can work with my team to create a climate that means that everyone in the team feels confident that they can personally challenge behaviours.

Moving to planning. I can be aware of the top-level plans for the organisation; I can understand how, in broad terms, money is spent and made (er, for orgs which make money, which mine doesn't) within the organisation, I can understand the core business in principle. I can steer the work of my teams by outlining short and longer term objectives, ask my team leaders to plan against those objectives, and scrutinise those plans and monitor against them. I can make sure that people are trained to do their work, and know what action to take if there are gaps in that training.

And, well, that's about it. I can't see everything that's going on; I can't prevent collusive behaviour that's carefully hidden. I can't even prevent blithe incompetence other than in people who work for me directly, though I can support intermediate managers to some extent. I have far less control than this over every area apart from the one I run.

So when terrible things happen, the question that needs to be answered is 'could this have happened without the senior management either (a) knowing or (b) being insanely negligent in planning and monitoring'? Because if the answer to that question is no, then obviously it's heads on stakes time.

But where you have organisations where the leadership is doing what it can, imperfectly (because it's an imperfect process), where bad things are going on but being carefully and deliberately hidden from managers, and there's no reasonable way for the senior management to have identified those things (I'm not thinking here of, eg, the case where a contract is let to a hugely lower-priced tender who then turns out to be doing bad things; that's spottable), I am not sure it's reasonable to prosecute the management.

#38 ::: Sara ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 11:28 AM:

As someone who lived through the rolling blackouts in CA and a Texan to boot, I really hope they eventually NAIL Ken Lay and the rest of the Enron Bastards...but I'm not holding my breath.

Ken Lay knew what was going on, he had to, because he set the corporate tone for Enron. Such attitude and arrogance was set from the top down.

In the end, nothing will happen to the "big guns" of Enron until Bush is out of office. As a corrupt and lying administration, they won't push prosecution because a trial will show the collusion between Cheney and Ken Lay when it comes to setting our nation's energy policy.

Grrrrr, I need to stop now, as I feel my blood pressure rising...

#39 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 12:01 PM:

Jill Smith, I think it's probably more like criminally negligent homicide. But they show what is called depraved indifference in those tapes, so maybe not.

Also, depending on the jurisdiction, they might be charged with felony murder (i.e. they commit a different felony that results in someone's death; no intent on their part required). I don't know if there's a federal felony murder statute, and a court might be reluctant to go from wire fraud to felony murder, but one can hope.

#40 ::: erik nelson ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 12:33 PM:

"depending on the jurisdiction..."
Which jurisdiction are they in? Several at once, in a falling-between-two-stools kind of a way?

#41 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 12:36 PM:

If there is a federal felony murder statute (and I think there is) it would AFAIK apply only on federal reservations -- otherwise homicide simple is a state issue. The other homicides that come under federal jurisdiction are specialized offenses, such as killing a federal law enforcement officer while they were carrying out their duties.

#42 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 12:45 PM:

Violence inside detention facilities is a real problem -- I have not seen it directly while inside, but I have seen it's effects.

What is just as bad in some ways is the dehumanizing effect of the unbeliveable bureaucracies that run prisons. There is a great, and macabre, example going around right now. From my experience it sounds about right.

#43 ::: Scorpio ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 12:48 PM:

Reason? C-O-R-R-U-P-T-I-O-N.

And Repbublicans seem to stay bought.

Scorpio
Eccentricity

#44 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 12:51 PM:

Well, if their wire fraud under CA law caused a death in CA, perhaps they could be charged under CA's felony murder statute. If there is one, and I think there is (I'm told not all states have them, but I haven't heard an example of a state with no such law).

If the wire fraud is strictly federal, would CA law still apply WRT felony murder? I'm no lawyer, and this sort of thing makes my head spin.

#45 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 01:00 PM:

While IANAL, I think it would be difficult to actually convict any Enron employees on a felony murder charge. If it's possible to bring the charge, then an indictment should not be too difficult, but there's then a fairly complex causality chain to establish beyond a reasonable doubt.

Now, a civil wrongful death suit would be an entirely different matter...

#46 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 01:10 PM:

"perhaps they could be charged under CA's felony murder statute. If there is one, and I think there is (I'm told not all states have them, but I haven't heard an example of a state with no such law)"

I don't know what CA law is, but my state, Michigan, does not have a felony murder statute in the strict sense. In Michigan, a murder becomes first degree murder if committed in the course of certian specified felonies, but the killing must still be a murder--that is, the defendant must have posessed an intent to kill, or have acted in willful disregard of the fact that the natural and probable consequences of his action was death.

"Pure" felony murder leads to serious injustices, like defendants being convicted of first degree murder because the police shot someone helping the defendants commit a felony.

#47 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 01:24 PM:

Oh, I'm far from a fan of felony murder statutes. In some jurisdictions, a burglar can be charged with the felony murder of a cop whose partner shoots him in the back of the head because he's sleeping with his wife, as long as the shooting happens during the burglary. Not to say the murdering cop can't be charged too.

Our legal system isn't exactly a justice system. Until recently I was convinced it was at least striving for that ideal.

#48 ::: Rob Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 01:34 PM:

>Is there some reason our legal system isn’t >going after them with fire and sword?

Yeah. They own the legal system. There might be a
few cosmetic prosecutions if there's too big an outcry, something to con the public into believing there's actual justice and oversight at work, but otherwise probably not. The reason these guys get such huge renumeration regardless of how companies they run are doing is because, well, giving them huge renumeration is *the point* as far as their class is concerned. The little people are just there to be fleeced in every way possible, both legal and illegal, and to pay the taxes.

#49 ::: Andrew Shultz ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 01:54 PM:

A couple of interesting things I see in this.

The first is why are we surprised? Capitalism as promoted in this country is supposed to work like this. The business has one goal - to make more money - and complies with laws only in so far as it costs less to do so than to break them. Only people have morality and ethics and can make the decision that they are more important than profit. These people were apparently bereft of that quality, but I can't believe that had they held to the good and true they wouldn't have been fired and replaced, because that would maximise the company's profit.

The second is that businesses take advantage of being legally people in many ways, though this is in not way part of our constitution. People have rights. Businesses have no rights except in that they are made up of people and additionally we have granted them many rights as though they are people.

When people break the law enough, we lock them away forever or impose the death penalty. Businesses can do much much more before being "killed". Also, punishing the business often insulates the people inside the business who made the actual decisions, again allowing them to easily push their morality away. If it were really wrong, they think, they'd be punished for it, but they're not really, only the business is.

-andy, flooded with antibusiness cynicism

#50 ::: alan ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 02:59 PM:

All these people are Republicans and Republicans aren't responsible for anything. For decades they've insisted they should be elected to public office because they're not responsible for anything and government should be more like them.

Who cares who dies? Those people should have known better than to rely on a public utility.

#51 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 04:47 PM:

Egad. I've an itch to play Devil's Advocate here, but you all are seeing so many devils I'm not sure where to start.

Observe the chain of events. It's inconsistent with your conclusions. The government's not giving Ken Lay the tiniest bit of help; quite the opposite, federal prosecutors are busting their asses trying to pin a charge on him. Hell, they pulled the cheapest trick they could find on Andrew Fastow to get him to squeal: they went after his wife, too, and made his kids part of the plea deal. The Bush administration *needs* Lay to go to prison, to counter conspiracy theories such as yours, and they're trying hard to do it. That they haven't done it yet is because Lay is a sly S.O.B.; it's not for lack of effort.

(And where did I hear about how hard the feds are trying? NPR. Yeah, there's your right-wing cover-up.)

This is not a breakdown in capitalism. This is not how business is "supposed to work." This is *one* particularly scummy company, run by particular scum, that defrauded all the businesses it dealt with in addition to its consumers. Nobody was patting them on the back except themselves.

And what was the result? Capitalism *worked*. They cooked the books as long as they could, but eventually they ran out of money, their lies imploded, and their house of cards fell. They self-destructed because they practiced bad capitalism. That's why the vast majority of Fortune 500 companies don't operate like Enron: it's bad business and unsustainable. Enron's death, and the _seppuku_ of Enron's sidekick Arthur Andersen, is an example to them. Never mind the prison terms, other CEOs contemplating this will be scared off by the Enron stock being sold as a novelty on EBay.

There are a lot of things the Bush administration can be blamed for (and I do, and I decided a little while ago that I cannot morally vote for him), but this is not one of them. There are also some legitimate shortcomings in modern U.S. industry, but this is not one of them. This is a singular example of poisonous corporate culture, an aberration, and the guys who poisoned it are getting what's coming to them. Ken Lay will get his, too, and believe me, Bush and Cheney will both breathe sighs of relief when he does.

#52 ::: Ms. Jen ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 05:54 PM:

Dear Jo, Lydia, and Patrick,

I apologize that my tongue-in-cheek/bad black humor response was seen as thinking that the Abu Ghraib prison horrors ought to be a regular part of prison treatment. I don't think that.

Teresa had stated that if she were empress she would hold them into accountability to the full extent of the US Law, and then Paula said in her comment that she would have Mr. Lay cut off at the knees.

My response was a flippant taking off of Paula's post to the far extreme given that, in my mind, the horrors of Abu Ghraib and the Bush administration's discounting of them seem to be very similar to their similar discounting of Enron and Mr. Lay's responsibility. The connection being in Bush administration's lack of willingness to be accountable and hold others in high positions accountability, not in the connection between level of horror.

My bad. This is what I get for starting everyday by reading the comics rather than the front page.

#53 ::: Rich McAllister ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 06:00 PM:

the cheapest trick they could find on Andrew Fastow to get him to squeal: they went after his wife, too

Going after Lea Fastow wasn't much of a stretch, considering she was an assistant treasurer of Enron and was a principal in several of the shell corporations set up to hide Enron's debt.

Then they cooked up a plea bargain that would ensure the Fastows wouldn't be in jail at the same time, a heart-warming concern for their children that I don't think many federal prosecutors show to people charged with drug possession. This was such egregious favoritism that the judge threw the bargain out.

Given the Adelphia, HealthSouth, Tyco, and WorldCom prosecutions, it's hard for me to see Enron as unique.

#54 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 09:39 PM:

Rich McAllister wrote:

Then they cooked up a plea bargain that would ensure the Fastows wouldn't be in jail at the same time, a heart-warming concern for their children that I don't think many federal prosecutors show to people charged with drug possession. This was such egregious favoritism that the judge threw the bargain out.

Of course, the whole point of the bargain was to convince Fastow to testify against Lay. That's the point I'm making -- not whether or not the Fastows deserve time (it seems they do), but that Lay is in the crosshairs.

Given the Adelphia, HealthSouth, Tyco, and WorldCom prosecutions, it's hard for me to see Enron as unique.

Excellent point. And what do they have in common? They're all being prosecuted. Someone tell me again how this is evidence of the federal government wanting to ignore all this.

#55 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 10:43 PM:

Hell, they pulled the cheapest trick they could find on Andrew Fastow to get him to squeal: they went after his wife, too, and made his kids part of the plea deal.

Excuse me. Lea Fastow is not a ditzy housewife. She is an educated, professional businesswoman who was an integral part of the shenanigans. She was involved in using her kids' bank accounts to play the financial shell game. There was nothing at all "cheap" about going after her.

Was it harsh? Sure. But you know, you play the game and you take your chances. If the Fastows didn't want their kids to have Mommy and Daddy jail, they should have kept their hands out of the cookie jar. You want cheap? Cheap is hiding ill-gotten gains under your toddler's name, and then whining that the poor tot will be traumatized if you face the consequences for it.

Yes, the point of the plea deal was to flip Fastow. And that is why the legal system doesn't appear to be "doing anything" about Ken Lay. They want to flip all his little henchmen good so they can truly, finally nail him to the wall.

#56 ::: natasha ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 11:05 PM:

...“I will offer an amendment to compel the Bush administration to get off the dime and get back this money that has been stolen,” said Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash. ...

I'm proud to say that Inslee is MY congresscritter, and a better Democratic representative you could hardly hope to find. He's also the one who held the Iraq intelligence panel where Ambassador Wilson made the famous 'frog-march' comment, strongly supports the Apollo Energy Initiative, and answers his constituents' emails, letters, and phone messages scrupulously. If you find it in your heart to give a nod to one of the many incumbents being heavily targeted by the GOP, or live in a solidly red Congressional District, take a look at supporting Inslee.

#57 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 11:31 PM:

Steve --

How many have been missed or ignored? Why is it mete and just that only Lay should suffer the full penalty of the law?

Why has Haliburton not been effectively prosecuted?

Why were the SEC regulations altered, and its regulatory ability diminished?

Why is the responsibility of a corporations board of directors maximization of profit, and why does the translation of that into 'share price at all costs' serve the public interest? (that particular change happened in my lifetime, and I'm scarcely middle aged.)

There's a lot to tax government with the regulatory structure of corporations, even without getting to environmental issues.

#58 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2004, 12:10 AM:

Graydon wrote:
How many have been missed or ignored? Why is it mete and just that only Lay should suffer the full penalty of the law? Why has Haliburton not been effectively prosecuted? Why were the SEC regulations altered, and its regulatory ability diminished?

Why are you changing the subject? The point I was addressing, and the topic of this thread, is Lay and Enron. Having a consensus here that it is mete and just for Lay to suffer the full penalty of the law, I was attempting to correct some misconceptions here and point out that the present administration wants that too, and are fighting to get it. I've said nothing about Haliburton, and the news article doesn't say anything about Haliburton either. As for the SEC -- whatever you think their problems are, in this case they're doing the right thing.


Why is the responsibility of a corporations board of directors maximization of profit, and why does the translation of that into 'share price at all costs' serve the public interest? (that particular change happened in my lifetime, and I'm scarcely middle aged.)

Um. The goal of a for-profit corporation is to make profit. If it doesn't make a profit it goes out of business. Most corporations strive for the opposite of going out of business. I really hope that does not require explanation, nor do I think you're questioning that the mission of a corporation is ultimately the mission of its board of directors. If you disagree, I'd be interested in your proposal for an alternative.

As for "share price at all costs," I happen to agree with you -- and corporations are starting to grok that total disregard for their customer base and their society is bad for business. Many corporations do understand that the intangible benefit of reputation is worth far more than the minor costs involved in maintaining it. (I'm not just reciting platitudes here. I work at the corporate headquarters of a Fortune 50 company, one that's been in business for 97 years, and I can tell you with certainty that anyone caught making wisecracks about our customers like these Enron quotes would not be back the next day.)

Yes, there are exceptions. Lots of them. The sea is full of sharks, and corporate cultures vary hugely. What I don't understand is the attitude some seem to have that American industry is bad in principle. The bad guys need to be punished, yes. But if we got rid of all of it -- where would we get our burgers, books, and computers for our blogs?

#59 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2004, 12:49 AM:

But if we got rid of all of it

Which won't happen, and only a lunatic fringe wants to happen, so why raise the issue?

#60 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2004, 01:13 AM:

I sometimes wonder how people lose their innate sense of right and wrong. Being a new parent, I can't help but notice that it happens at some point in childhood

I don't believe this. I think some children are taught, or not corrected when they figure it out for themselves, that there are rewards connected to wrong behavior that exceed the possible downside, and they're pretty easy to catch in the early stages. I think it's part of the envelope pushing process - they transgress to see if this is the place where they're stopped, if they either get away with it or if it's too much trouble for the adults to keep after it.

This is (as you know) a damn hard job.

#61 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2004, 07:15 AM:

Mythago, maybe the government *should* be taking some care for how much it screws up third parties' lives in the course of punishing criminals.

I'm very tired of "the criminals have all the inititive, and anything we do in response is all *their* fault".

#62 ::: gordon chow ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2004, 09:29 AM:

enron had manipulated the prices but the DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE will not put KEN LAY in jail as long as GEORGE W.BUSH is in the whitehouse.In canada BC HYDRO was charged $400 million by the state of CALIFORNIA for juggling energy consumption from state to state and the province of BRITISH COLUMBIA/CANADA........ENRON was only creating a shortage so it could jack up the energy prices in CAIFORNIA.......IS THAT ILLEGAL???????.......no.......screw the consumer...screw the grandmother....its all about doing business in the GEORGE W. BUSH world......I WANT MY TAX CUTS...... the SEC is only there to protect wallstreet interest not yours. that is what CAPITALISM is all about. if you want roads or clean water or medical treatment be prepared to pay and pay.The middle class is dead in AMERICA.

#63 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2004, 10:27 AM:

I'm very tired of "the criminals have all the inititive, and anything we do in response is all *their* fault".

Please go back and read what I actually wrote, thank you very much.

Perhaps you missed the fact that, in fact, Lea Fastow was allowed to plea-bargain for a very reduced sentence, so that she could be out of jail to care for her children. Because I can't imagine you're arguing that having children is a Get Out Of Consequences Free card. Perhaps Ken Lay should get a young thing who collaborated with him on Enron knocked up--you know, as an ace in the hole, so to speak?

#64 ::: Susan Swan ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2004, 01:23 PM:

Is our legal system, our leadership, and our nation running askew? Consider this.. Rapists, murderers and child molesters often serve under ten years in jail. Sometimes far less. And this for non-consensual behaviour (victimization).

Here Enron/Worldcom antics find the responsible parties (beneficiarie$)toppling the personal savings/retirement plans for the trusting multitudes, laughing all the way to the bank, and somehow able to dodge prosecution/fein ignorance and ultimately serve a sentence a fraction of what is ethically due.

Each shareholder whose lives are inextricably altered by the fiasco must serve the balance of their lives (their life sentence) working longer hours, scrimping, making tough decisions (they wouldn't be facing otherwise), living a meeker quality of life as a result of the greed of the few (charged).

And meanwhile our prison system houses 2.1 million Americans, many of whom are there because of mandatory minimums stemming from charges based ON CONSENSUAL BEHAVIOR (drug sales). We have 5% of the world's population, yet it's fascinating that we house 25% of the world's population of incarcerated. We can't build housing for prisoners (captive minimum wage employees) fast enough. And those criminals, the poorest among us, the voiceless 2.1 million it turns out are the paltry mass of humanity providing job security for what is perhaps the fastest growing branch of government (outside of Homeland Security).

What do you think? Is the War on Drugs working?

One thing is certain; the new prisons aren't being built for the elite con men at the top of the food chain.. it will be home to druggists; YOUR SON, YOUR DAUGHTER, YOUR NEPHEW.. in other words THE NON-VIOLENT INEPT NINCOMP-OOPS ENGAGED IN CONSENSUAL BEHAVIOR. These young people aren't nearly as slick/devious/educated as the Worldcom Execs.

Disclaimer: The preceding was not written out of a position of condoning drug use or drug sales. I'm a child of the fifties, and write because of the glaring inequities & inconsistencies that permeate our legal system & American value system.

Tain't what we all thought we'd inherit is it?

#65 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2004, 01:29 PM:

Susan Swan, I said very similar things here. The War on Drugs is certainly working; it's doing exactly what it was supposed to do, which is a) boosting the for-profit prison industry (concentrated in Texas, by the way), b) giving the police an excuse to arrest just about any young person who annoys them, which leads to c) motion toward a totalitarian police state.

#66 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2004, 01:34 PM:
Yes, there are exceptions. Lots of them. The sea is full of sharks, and corporate cultures vary hugely.

This smacks of excuses. Let me say that the sea doesn't have to be full of sharks, and corporate cultures can vary without being corrupt.

What I don't understand is the attitude some seem to have that American industry is bad in principle. The bad guys need to be punished, yes. But if we got rid of all of it -- where would we get our burgers, books, and computers for our blogs?

That's a straw man argument. The attitude you are actually encountering is one of outrage over actual corporate behavior that was illegal, unethical, and probably killed people. Also, you seem to have been missing the attitude of extraordinary selfishness and irresponsibility that has been passing for corporate and political leadership over the last several years. I am not against corporations, I work for one. But I am absolutely opposed to corruption. My comforts of life do not depend on corrupt corporate behavior. On the contrary, they depend on responsible behavior where society works together. Profit is a part of that, but only a part.

The monomaniacal pursuit of profits, regardless of the consequences, is supposed to be a virtue, but as Enron has shown, when the consequences are bankruptcy, blackouts, market crashes, and the destruction of companies and careers, it kind of makes you wonder whatever happened to the profit.

#67 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2004, 01:44 PM:

Steve --

"making a profit" is necessary, certainly, but it's not of itself an abstract good. (You can, after all, turn a fine profit running a kidnapping ring, and the fact that this is a profitable business does not excuse it.)

So what I'm objecting to is not making a profit, that necessary thing, but the legal requirement to maximize profit. (In effect, quarterly profit.)

There's a perfectly useful business model that says 'go for reliable profit'; it was used up until 1970 or so and that law change concerning shareholder obligations.

The problem I have with the prosecution working its way up to Ken Lay is that it means everybody below him in the food chain gets to plea bargain to a certain extent. I'd greatly prefer that they all be hoeing turnips somewhere very dull until they die of their age.

And the reason people don't trust the justice system would seem to be obvious -- reduction in funding of regulatory oversight, reduction in the scope of regulatory oversight, comments from the executive that regulatory oversight is what's wrong with business today after Enron's massive fraud became public knowledge, the habit of paying immense bonuses to executives on what turn out to be fraudulent accounting numbers under contracts which do not allow recovery of those bonuses; it's pretty much obvious to the meanest intelligence that the system is a fair way along the road to becoming a wealth concentrator for the already wealthy, rather than a machine for making opportunity generally available.

#68 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2004, 01:46 PM:

Okay, here's my checklist for capitalism on the Lay-away plan:

1) Become CEO of an established company.
2) Instill a corporate culture of "anything goes" and hire ruthless, aggressive managers to run things.
3) Cook up crazy schemes to defraud your customers and to cover up the fact that you are actually losing lots of money.
4) Crash and burn, taking down the company, ruining the lives of your employees and the fortunes of your investors. Hire lawyers and pray you won't do hard time.
5) PROFIT!

#69 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2004, 03:26 PM:

Randall P.:

You might enjoy reading a book by someone who agrees with you on Totally Open Government, and has throught through many implications:

The Transparent Society, by David Brin

#70 ::: John Kelsey ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2004, 04:33 PM:

I think it's interesting to see how scandals of any kind tend to re-enforce people's existing beliefs about the world.

Suppose you started out thinking that profit-making corporations are basically evil. Now, you see a big scandal, in which a bunch of companies' managements were doing all kinds of illegal and unethical things to make their stock prices look good, and thus to maximize their own take. You're likely to walk away from that with a re-enforced belief that corporate culture and the profit motive are bad things, which lead inevitably to abuses. If you started with the idea that corporations and the profit motive were basically forces for good, you'd likely take the same scandals as a few bad apples.

More thoughtful people on both sides of that try to look deeper. For example, many people who are deeply pro-capitalism have responded to all these scandals by thinking a lot about why the scandals happened, and what changes to the rules, to corporate governance, to how the auditors are paid, etc., might make it better.

The same thing happens in reverse when the scandal is in governnment, right? Alice sees the videotapes of the congressman taking a briefcase full of money and says "Washington culture and government regulation of industry lead to just this kind of corruption." Bob sees the same thing and says "Gee, I'm glad they got that guy. The system seems to be working."

--John Kelsey

#71 ::: Stephen Sample ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2004, 05:37 PM:

Back when the Enron scandal first broke, my suggested sentence for Ken Lay was to confiscate all his money as ill-gotten gains, and give him community service.

*Lots* of community service. As in, about 100,000 hours of community service.

That's 40 years' worth of 50-hour work weeks. For no pay...Actually, no, set a small percentage of his money aside and pay him minimum-wage.

Sure, it's not exactly fire and the sword, but he'd be doing something that might actually repay his debt to society. And for those who think community service is soft, there are always less-clerical community-service jobs out there. Clearing poison ivy. Shoveling manure. And yes, I volunteer at a charity where both jobs are done on a daily basis. <slightly predatory grin />

#72 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2004, 09:30 PM:

As a great fan of openess, there still remain some things which must be kept close to the chest.

Intel is a lot like poker, and the game can't be played if all the cards are on the table.

That said, too much is classified, and far too much of what needs to be classified is both overclassified, and classified too long.

#73 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2004, 10:30 PM:

The problem I have with the prosecution working its way up to Ken Lay is that it means everybody below him in the food chain gets to plea bargain to a certain extent. I'd greatly prefer that they all be hoeing turnips somewhere very dull until they die of their age.

Without plea bargaining, they stay free on bail and cost us, and the legal system, tons of money with an uncertain prosecution. Ken Lay could die peacefully of old age before full trials for all the underlings.

And remember that this thing gathers momentum. The people who flipped early, the ones who got off light, were not the higher-ups with so much more to lose. They saw what was coming, and their testimony adds to the ammunition against those who hedged, and stalled, and tried to dodge the consequences.

These boys are used to paying fines; they don't care. Jail, now, that I don't think they were quite expecting.

#74 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2004, 12:53 PM:

Stephen Sample What I don't understand is the attitude some seem to have that American industry is bad in principle. The bad guys need to be punished, yes. But if we got rid of all of it -- where would we get our burgers, books, and computers for our blogs?

I'm sorry, who said that? Where? Oh, it was the mysterious "attitude some seem to have". I tell you what, if you find them, you can go argue with them.

#75 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2004, 01:03 PM:

Mythago --

You're accepting as a given a legal system which involves an enormous amount of structural delay. There's supposed to be a right to a speedy trial lurking around here somewhere.

#76 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2004, 01:46 PM:

I would rather that the DOJ lawyers take their time. After the next election, there's a chance they may be able to fully prosecute their case. After the way the fix came in on U.S. v. Microsoft, it became clear that justice will not be done under this administration, and that was with a case they weren't directly involved in. The Enron case is a much bigger deal for them. The DOJ needs to get to the bottom of it, or more precisely, to the top of it. I hope they wiil stay on the case, and that we can give them a chance to do justice to it.

#77 ::: Stephen Sample ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2004, 03:27 PM:
Stephen Sample What I don't understand is the attitude some seem to have that American industry is bad in principle.

Just for reference, that was Steve Eley who wrote that. I think you've confused the two names.

To comment on the statement that was attributed to me, I don't have any problem with the attitude that America's psychopathic maximize-profit-at-all-cost corporatism is bad in principle.

However, American industry and America's corporate governance structures are different things. So believing that the latter are bad in principle (which I do) is not the same as believing that the former is (which I don't).

#78 ::: John ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2004, 07:26 AM:

Ah, the irony! In this post you lambast the bastards at Enron for ripping off little old ladies, and in the next you apologize for the plagiarist at University of Kent! Do you not see a connection?

Toleration of cheaters in academe creates an attitude that cheating is okay, even the best route to go. It isn't the Enron trader's fault, going by the logic of your Blog--nobody at the University of Kent (or Harvard, or Yale, etc) told them that ripping off Grandma Millie was wrong!

#79 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2004, 10:19 AM:

Sorry, John, you too have failed to understand the University of Kent comments.

Teresa isn't apologizing for the plagiarist.

In this thread folks are calling on various government entities to be more vigilant to stop corruption. In that thread folks are calling on the University of Kent to be more vigilant to stop corruption.

Do you see the connection now?

#80 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2004, 05:08 PM:

More Enron tapes:

One audio clip from Enron's West Coast trading desk recorded a trader giving instructions on how to profit from artificially the power grid, utility officials said.

"If the line's not congested then I look to see if I can congest it," the unidentified Enron trader says on tape. "If you can congest it, that's a money maker no matter what because you're not losing any money to move it down the line. You're just making money."

Utilities repeatedly paid Enron to relieve congestion on the West Coast electricity grid.

#81 ::: Zeynep ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2004, 06:23 PM:

An idealistic, detached part of me is wondering what sort of Ethics in Engineering course modules would be able to be derived from this whole mess. I don't know much about power engineering, but someone technical must have been involved at several points when artificial congestion or blackouts were created... and those someones have a very good chance of having seen IEEE's Code of Ethics at some point, even if just pinned on the walls of their college.

Why yes, I still am that naive.

#82 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2004, 01:05 PM:

Today's news:

HOUSTON (Reuters) - U.S. prosecutors are expected to ask a federal grand jury to indict former Enron Corp. chairman Ken Lay within two weeks on charges related to the company's 2001 collapse, a newspaper reported Saturday.

The Houston Chronicle, citing unnamed sources, said Lay likely would face fraud charges similar to those filed earlier against former Enron chief executive office Jeffrey Skilling and former Enron chief accounting officer Richard Causey.

Those two have been indicted on multiple charges including insider trading, securities fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy and lying about Enron finances.

#83 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2004, 11:52 PM:

I'm so glad to hear that.

Next, if he's convicted, I'd like to see him given a sentence that's comparable, in terms of days imprisoned per dollars stolen, to sentences for nonviolent larceny handed out to persons who are dark-skinned, poor, and ill-educated.

#84 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2004, 10:48 AM:

Well, even if they do sentence him, his pal Shrub will be president through mid-Jan 2005 at the very least. Longer if we're really cursed. What do you want to bet he gets a presidential pardon?

MKK

#85 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2004, 12:12 AM:

NYT has an interesting article on cleaning up a tech company after massive fraud.

My favorite sentence:

"The fraud, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission, which filed civil charges, ran from 1998 to February 2003, and included a smorgasbord of tactics including tango sheets, cookie jar reserves, candy deals and channel stuffing - some accounting maneuvers that are well known and others that were devised by the former Symbol executives."

The new CEO is a Mr. Nuti.

#86 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2004, 02:20 AM:

And the shoe drops...

#87 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2004, 10:57 AM:

The Other Roger Ailes [link available on Electrolite's main page] has a touching and moving parody of Danny Boy dedicated to this very event. I passed it on to my brother-in-law, who had the misfortune to be in the same major [and the same NROTC unit] at Mizzou with Kenny Boy--he noted that he felt the handcuffs went very well indeed with Mr. Lay's cuff links. I just hope he doesn't break out into song in the office.

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