Friday, May 26, 2006

Enron and education

To start off, Bully Boy's once again trying to act as though he was misunderstood when, as is often the case, it now appears that he lied, flat out lied. For a humorous take on this read Wally's "THIS JUST IN! BULLY BOY GOES 'WOOPS!'" and Cedric's "THIS JUST IN! BULLY BOY GOES 'WOOPS!'" which is a joint entry they worked on together. Please visit Mikey Likes It! for Mike's thoughts on today's headlines and there will be a posting at this site (and others in the community as well) on Monday.

"Enron Execs Found Guilty On Conspiracy, Fraud Charges" (Democracy Now!):
The two top figures in the Enron corporate scandal have been found guilty. On Thursday, Enron founder Ken Lay was convicted in two separate trials on 10 counts of conspiracy, securities fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud and for making false statements to banks. Enron's former CEO Jeffrey Skilling was also convicted. A jury found him guilty on 19 of 28 counts. The conspiracy and fraud convictions each carry a sentence of up to 10 years in prison. Four years ago Enron filed for bankruptcy after years of defrauding its own employees and investors. The bankruptcy put over 4,000 people out of work. The value of the company's stock dropped from ninety dollars to about 30 cents. Thousands of Enron employees lost their lifesavings.

That seems like news to celebrate. And on one level it is. Two crooks got punished in spite of the Bully Boy and the administration running interference for them, in spite of the punishment coming almost five years after the world realized Enron had cooked the books, created energy 'crisises' and much worse. So, by all means, celebrate the conviction. But don't fool yourself into thinking that anything's changed.

"Enron - The Smartest Guys in the Room" (Democracy Now!):
AMY GOODMAN: Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, an excerpt. It was produced and directed by Alex Gibney. Our guests are Robert Bryce, Pipe Dreams, and Greg Palast, Armed Madhouse. Greg, this is the point you were making about it being larger than Enron.
GREG PALAST: Yeah. I mean, basically the co-conspirators, the rest of the mob, was breaking out champagne yesterday, because they said, "We're off the hook." This should have been the beginning of new indictments, and like I say, the only new indictment are the guys that went after Enron, the law firm that sued Enron for its shenanigans. Milberg Weiss was put up. It was clearly political prosecution to say "We're going to go after the guys who went after Enron," and yet you heard the list. You had the law firm Vinson & Elkins, you had Arthur Andersen, you had a whole crew of characters who got off scot-free here.
And what's even worse is that the game continues. See, the last Ken Lay -- and this is important to understand -- was a guy named Sam Insull. In 1930, all those companies called Edison were actually started by Sam, who was the Ken Lay of his time, watered the stock, played games with the books, overcharged customers. F.D.R. came into office, had the guy busted, but even more, he says, "I'm not just going after the criminal. I'm going after the crime." And F.D.R. changed the law to say we're going to prohibit price gouging by these power pirates. We are going to prohibit them from flickering the light switches. They keep those lights on. No more freezing Grandma Millie, okay? And third -- this is the big one -- the law under Franklin Roosevelt said you cannot make political donations if you're a big power company.
Now, Ken Lay slithered around that to give the big bucks to the Bush family. I mean, the law says they can't do that, you have to understand. He was the number one giver, when the law says you can't give. And in 2005, Bush made it official by repealing the F.D.R. Public Utility Holding Company Act, which barred these contributions by power companies to politicians. In other words, basically they just opened up the game, they threw Lay and Skilling to the dogs, to the crowd, and the game continues on.

"Toll Rises For Haditha Massacre As Murtha Sees Dozen Court-Martials" (Democracy Now!):
The estimated toll of innocent civilians killed by US Marines in the Iraqi town of Haditha is now higher than previously thought. Democratic Congressmember John Murtha told the Marine Corps Times that the number of dead Iraqis is actually 24, up from the previous figure of 15. Murtha says would not be surprised if a dozen Marines face court-martials for the killings. Retired Brigadier General David Brahms, a former top lawyer for the Marine Corps, said: "When these investigations come out, there's going to be a firestorm. It will be worse than Abu Ghraib -- nobody was killed at Abu Ghraib."

So this is where we are, with what's being covered as a crime. We couldn't do that with Falluja, we were too rah-rah to see either April 2004 or November 2004 as a massacre (and reporters like Dexy Filkins were too busy spinning). So are we finally going to face a few, never all, ugly facts about the illegal occupation?

"What If They Gave a War...?" (Tony Long, Wired News via Common Dreams):
1968. It was the height of the Vietnam War, the year of My Lai and the Tet offensive. Student riots in Paris nearly brought down the French government. Soviet tanks put a premature end to Czechoslovakia's
Prague Spring.
In the United States, the streets were teeming with antiwar protesters and civil rights demonstrators. Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated within two months of each other. The
Democratic convention in Chicago dissolved into chaos. And by the summer, America's cities were in flames. The world was seething, and for good reason. There was a lot to be angry about. It was a lousy year, 1968.
I was in high school then. I quit the baseball team because, frankly, sports seemed frivolous. In 1968, there were more important things to worry about than perfecting a curveball. All very high-minded and, in retrospect, more than a little pompous. But nearly 40 years down the road I don't regret having done it. My political consciousness was awakened and I was actively engaged in the world around me.
But as bad as things were then, they seem infinitely worse now.
So why aren't the streets clogged with angry Americans demanding to know why their president
lied and deceived them so he could attack a country that had absolutely nothing to do with his so-called war on terror? To an extent, we got suckered into Vietnam. We can't make that claim about Iraq. Iraq was the premeditated, willful invasion of a sovereign nation that was threatening nobody. "Saddam Hussein is a prick who treats the Kurds miserably" is no justification. By the principles established by the Nuremberg Tribunal and international law, our president is a war criminal.

On Wired News, forgive me, I've been meaning to note something for the last few days. You probably know about the Wired News story "Whistle-Blower's Evidence, Uncut" and the documents in the next story (PDF).

"AT&T's Implementation of NSA Spying on American Citizens, 31 December 2005" (
In 2003 AT&T built "secret rooms" hidden deep in the bowels of its cetnral offices in various cities, housing computer gear for a government spy, operation which taps into the company's popular WorldNet service and the entire Internet. These installations enable the government to look at every individual message on the internet and analyze exactly what people are doing. Documents showing the hardwire installation in San Francisco suggest that there are similar locations being installed in numerous other cities.
The physical arrangement, the timing of its construction, the government-imposed secrecy surrounding it, and other factors all strongly suggest that its origins are rooted in the Defense Department's "Total Information Awareness" (TIA) program which brought forth vigorous protests from defenders of Constitutionally-protected civil liverties last year.

If you don't know about the above already, please check them out.

"Iraq snapshot" ("Democracy Now: Focus on Enron, Greg Palast and Robert Bryce," The Common Ills):
Chaos and violence continue but Bully Boy and Tony Blair appear to have their minds elsewhere. Al Jazeera notes that Bully Boy's concerned about speaking better and Tony Blair hides behind the puppet government. [See Cedric's excerpt of Norman Solomon writing on puppet governments.] The AFP and Reuters report that Tony Blair, unable to fly the American flag, is saying it's the duty of the entire world to support the puppet government he and Bully Boy have created. Apparently not buying into Blair's bluster, CBS and the AP report that Romano Prodi, the new prime minister of Italy, held a talk with his cabinet "to map an exit strategy for the nation's troops in Iraq, who are being gradually withdrawn." Updating that story, Maria Sanminiatelli reports that Italy has announced they are pulling 1,100 troops out of Iraq (which would leave 1,600 stationed in Iraq). This as the Guardian of London reports Bully Boy's begging Tony Blair to stay on as England's prime minister.
In Baghdad, the AFP reports that two players on Iraq's national tennis team as well as their coach have been murdered "reportedly for wearing Western-style tennis shorts." The AFP reminds that "[l]ast week 15 members of the Iraqi Taekwondo team were kidnapped between Fallujah and Ramadi." The BBC reports on roadside bomb attacks on two markets that have resulted in the deaths of at least nine and at least fifty wounded. There were other bombings that wounded Iraqis today but no reports of any other fatalities. Reuters notes that three corpses ("bullet wounds and showing signs of torture") were discovered in Baghdad.
More corpses were discvered today. In Kut, the Associated Press notes the discovery of four. Reuters notes the killing of two police officers in Baquba following the kidnapping of employees of a TV station. In Sinjar, a liquor store owner is dead from a bombing (two others wounded).In Basra, the BBC notes the death of a "Sunni Imam and his bodyguard" from a drive-by shooting. Also in Basra, the AP reports that mosques were closed following the murder of the Sunni cleric. KUNA reports on an oil pipeline fire in Khour Al-Emmaya, reportedly caused by a leak in a pipeline "at a docking station." In Kirkuk, the Associated Press reports that a roadside bomb took the life of one police officer and wounded four others.
CNN reports on the investiation into the deaths of civilians in Haditha last November and quotes Pentagon sources that "Charges, including murder, could soon be filed against Marines allegedly involved." Editor & Publisher notes that the investiagtion and the off the record admissions take place months after the press reported the events in Haditha. Gulf News reports that Human Rights Watch John Sifton as stating: "There is no excuse for a massacre and anyone concerned about America's image can only wish that those who are responsible will be severely prosecuted and those who tried to cover this up will be punished.'' This as CBS and the AP note "Investigators believe that their criminal investigation into the deaths of about two dozen Iraqi civilians points toward a conclusion that Marines committed unprovoked murders, a senior defense official said Friday." Finally, the Scotsman reports that "the bodies of Privates Adam Morris, 19, and Joseva Lewaicei, 25, British troops who died in a roadside bomb attack near Basra two weeks ago, arrived back at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire yesterday."

So the college talk. Which ended up of more interest than I thought and was certainly due to people being able to fill in their own details and memories and not a reflection upon my own writing.

The point is that you can go through college with your head stuck in a book, always doing what's expected (what will bring you good grades), or you can show some bravery and take control of your education. If you enjoy reading (and I do), do not stick to the required texts. Find something to read on a similar topic. Find several things to read. You'll increase your understanding of the subject.

Join study groups where you'll be able to reinforce knowledge and to interact with other students.

Don't be afraid to stand up and don't be afraid to stand out. I remember the fear of being called on. Rebecca could and did charm anyone (male professor or female professor) if she was called upon. I remember in one class, asking her after, "What was that answer?" She had no idea herself. She said she just grabbed the last words of the question and smiled a great deal. She got away with it too, repeatedly. That's not slamming her. Rebecca's very smart, and always has been and, I'd argue, not to use the benefits of the package wouldn't be smart at all. So if a question threw her, that's how she dealt with it. If you've got that gift, by all means use it.

If you don't? Steal from C.I. as I learned to. There was never a question that threw C.I. because the work was done long before the class began. I'm not suggesting you immerse yourself the way C.I. did (I didn't, I did learn to strengthen my own learning away from classes) by following up on footnotes, reading up to the point that you're ahead of the instructer. But if you're having a problem in a class that has nothing to do with the grade but has to do with the professor, follow the example. C.I. could and did take on racists and sexists. It didn't matter that they were in the role of teacher. It shouldn't matter to you either. You can be one of the many who sits there silently and complains to your friends afterwards or you can challenge directly. To challenge directly, you need to know your facts and have them at the ready.

Stealing from C.I., I learned to do that but needed note cards in front of me. You can figure out what you need to arm yourself. But you don't need to passive. This is your education and you need to take a lead role in it. People my age needed to do that (and hopefully many did) but it's only more important today when education is mistaken as memorization of facts that you can be 'tested' on as opposed to actually learning how to question, how to evaluate and how to form your own opinions.

Doing that may allow you to look at your entire life differently. You may end up someone like Kat able to write something as amazing as "Kat's Korner: Dixie Chicks Taking The Long Way home while NYT gets lost along the way."