Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Smartest Thieves in the Room

A while back, a number of Reichwing pundits were running around the talkshows trying to defend Cheney, Rove, Libby and the rest of the Plamegate Treasonistas by claiming that their critics were engaging in the "Criminalization of Politics" (GOPig Talking Point #666. Collect 'em All!!!!) And last Sunday I see some of these same knuckle-draggers on my TV attempting to defend Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling by claiming that their critics and prosecutors are engaging in the "Criminalization of Business Risk Taking"

Their hilarious "theory" (read: Hail Mary Pass) is that Kenny Boy and Skilling did nothing but take huge risks that turned bad. "Risk Taking" is the Business Fundamentalists most sacred of activities. As long as you are taking risks, you're not to be criticized or doubted and you certainly can't be prosecuted. To these assclowns, risk taking is walking on water. Sing Hallelujah!! The pundits were wringing their hands that, using Enron as the model, the leadership of any company that takes risk and winds up bankrupt could be subject to prosecution. And even more laughable is their concern that the "criminalization of Business' is driving away brilliant and talented people from the board rooms of America. Really? So, brilliant businessmen don't want to become CEOs and CFOs anymore? What are they doing for employment then, Wal-Mart Greeters?

So, Kenny and Skilling took some big risks and got screwed by the incompetence and corruption of those below them. Boo Hoo. Someone hand me a tissue. But weren't these "The Smartest Guys in the Room?' Didn't they create the company of the future? So which was it, were they the guys in the control booth, or were they hapless dupes and victims of wily underlings? Looks like the jury didn't buy their sob story.

From Americablog:
Lay and Skilling testimony helped tip the balance
by Chris in Paris - 5/29/2006 08:58:00 PM

The arrogance of power in action. I'm glad to hear that Lay and Skilling helped the jury decide that they were guilty.

Speaking shortly after a federal judge read their verdict, jurors said Lay's indignant outbursts while testifying in his own behalf made him seem "that he very much wanted to be in control -- he commanded the courtroom," said Wendy Vaughan, a Houston business owner.

As for Skilling, who spent days explaining the tedious financial inner workings of the once high-flying energy company, the jurors couldn't understand how he could know so much about that and not be aware of illegal business maneuvering, whether or not he was responsible for it personally.

And if you really want to be disgusted with Kenny-boy...

During the trial prosecutors had played tapes of conference calls to investors, which Lay and Skilling held several hours after they released quarterly earnings reports, as well as the tape of an employee meeting during which Lay encouraged his employees to buy more Enron stock, calling it "an incredible bargain." Government prosecutors revealed that Lay sold millions of dollars worth of Enron stock the same day.

So these scumbags got busted and convicted for insider-trading, making false statements, blah blah blah. Whatever keeps them off the streets and curtails their ability to further harm others. Fine. But what I'd really like to see is for them to get tried for the real crimes they committed: Bilking the citizens of California out of billions of dollars by creating phony shortages and rolling brown-outs while the White House turned their backs with a wink and a nod allowed (read: encouraged) it all to happen. And the resulting torpedoing of Gray Davis' Governorship was a nice little bonus. So, why didn't the State of California go after Enron and its management for the billions of dollars it lost? Thank Guhvanator Schwartzengroper for that one.

From Greg Palast:
Peninsula Hotel, Beverly Hills. May 17, 2001. The Financial Criminal of the twentieth century, not long out of prison, meets with the Financial Criminal of the twenty-first century who feared he may also have to do hard time. These two, bond-market manipulator Mike Millikin and Ken Lay, not-yet-indicted Chairman of Enron Corporation, were joined by a selected group of movers and shakers -- and one movie star: Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The Peninsula Hotel get-together was all about how to "settle"_ the legal actions in such a way that Enron and friends could get the state to accept dog food instead of dollars. Davis seemed unlikely to see things Ken's way. Life would be so much better if California had a governor like the muscle guy in the Speedos.

And so it came to pass that, in 2003, quiet Gray Davis, who had the cojones to stand up to the electricity barons, was thrown out of office by the voters and replaced by the tinker-toy tough guy. The Governator_ performed as desired. Soon after Schwarzenegger took over from Davis, he signed off on a series of deals with Reliant, Williams Company, Dynegy, Entergy and the other power pirates for ten to twenty cents on the dollar, less than you'd tip the waitress. Enron paid just about nothing.

So, was the combination of the meeting with Lay, the recall election and Arnie's subsequent deals with the energy thieves merely a coincidence? Perhaps. But then again, perhaps Lay and Skilling are also just victims of "the Criminalization of Business" as well.

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