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This is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Ready, Set... GUILTY!


Was anyone else hoping that Jeffrey Skilling, former CEO of Enron, who is on trial for fraud, conspiracy and a host of other "shenanigans", would have dropped to his knees and admit what he's done before all those present in court? It would have been some sight, wouldn't it?

SKILLING: Your honor... I'm so ashamed... I don't kow what I was thinking! I did it... I did it... Please forgive me. Here is a list of all of y Cayman Island and Swiss bank accounts. Take it all and throw me in jail. I deserve it.

Now, back to reality.

In the classic rich-guy approach, Skilling would have blamed his own mother if he thought it would do him any good during his "truth time" on the witness stand.

"Out of hundreds of investments Enron made, these are the ones being watched,"
-Skilling, referring to the stocks where the "alleged" fraud took place

Just to refresh everyone's memory, Skilling and Ken "Kenny-Boy" Lay are accused of: Cooking the Enron books; artificially inflating Enron's value; dumping their stocks when the prices were high while convincing others, including their own retirees, many of whom had their life savings tied into the company, to invest in those same stocks; while at the same time inflating the price and availability of energy throughout the "Enron Nation".

"This is a misrepresentation,"
-Skilling, accusing
prosecutor Sean Berkowitz of only showing the bad side of Enron's investments

Liars lie... It's what they do. Even when they know the facts before they take the stand, sometimes they just can't help themselves. When confronted by Prosecutor Berkowitz regarding an undisclosed "loan" he made to a his ex-girlfriend's photo sharing company (which did business with Enron), that might have violated the Enron "Code of Ethics" (I chuckled the first time I read that one), Skilling had this to offer:

"It may be. It didn't occur to me,"

He then claimed to have "lent" his ex-girlfriend's company $60,000. Berkowitz then took out cancelled checks that showed a different total:

BERKOWITZ: $180,000, is that correct?
SKILLING: I guess so.

A liar has to lie. It's like a disease. (Maybe they can plead not guilty by mental defect.) Skilling's lawyer is, no doubt, prepared and has, no doubt, prepared Skilling for any and all questions that Berkowitz might ask. To think that Skilling had to lie about the sum of money he lent his ex-girlfriend is just pathological. Remember that last week, Berkowitz caught him in another lie when Skilling said he "forgot" about 200,000 shares of stock he ordered his broker to sell, PRIOR to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. (Skilling used 9/11 as the reason for his selling an additional 500,000 shared on September 17, 2001.)

BERKOWITZ: You just forgot about that original order, correct?
SKILLING: That's correct, yes.

I forget things, too. Why, just the other day I forget where I put my wallet. Sometimes, when I don't take off my shoes in my bedroom, I forget where I did take them off. But there are things I would never forget, like:
-Where I left 200,000 shares of Enron stock

Hmm.... Where did I leave my car keys anyway?

When Sherron Watkins (the eventual Whistle-Blower) sent Ken Lay (just a week after Skilling's resignation) an email regarding accounting improprieties at Enron, the recent ex-chief said he didn't know about the note until he read it in the newspapers.

"I didn't hear about it, the note, until it was published in the newspapers that following January,"
"I didn't know about any investigation into accounting improprieties,"

In 2002, Skilling made himself the face of Enron, wishing, I guess, to stem the tide before it turned into the Tsunami it now is. He opened up to Congress, the SEC and even Larry King!

"Someone had to get out and start explaining what had happened before someone else explained it incorrectly,"

Now he's playing the part of Sergeant Schultz, from Hogan's Hero's.

"I know nothing. I see nothing"

Enjoy your stay in jail, Mr. Skilling.

-Noah Greenberg

The 20th Hijacker

The press has written and the broadcast media have aired quite vivid testimony from Zacharias Massaoui and his spectacular revelations concerning the 9/11 hijacking, the plot between and shoe bomber Richard Reid and al Qaeda.

The tone of the reports I have heard, read and seen all treat Massaoui's testimony as new information.

There are two questions, I would like to see answered, and this is a request for information from anyway who may have seen something I missed:
Question number one: has anyone offered corroboratory testimony to support ZM's testimony and particularly, the one regarding Richard Reid. I find Massaoui's testimony far fetched and have not heard anyone question its veracity even though it was delivered in a "bombshell" manner.
Question number two: what were the CIA and FBI doing with Massaoui all this time? Why is so much of his testimony being treated with such breathless credulity. The entire media is acting as though Massaoui is delivering major break throughs in new information regarding 9/11. Why are they, the defense team and apparently the prosecution so unprepared for ZM's testimony?

-Robert Chapman

That's four questions, Robert. -NG

They Asked, Someone Told

(But She Didn't)

The U.S. armed forces need more people like Margaret Witt who are willing to step up and serve, the way she's done for 18 years. But in Witt's case, she's no longer permitted to wear the uniform.

"In 1993, Maj. Margaret Witt was a poster woman for the Air Force's flight nurse recruiting program. In her career of 18-plus years, the decorated, 42-year-old operating room and flight nurse from McChord Air Force Base earned stellar reviews for her work.

"In 2003, President Bush awarded her the Air Medal for her Middle East deployment and, later, the Air Force Commendation Medal, for saving the life of a Defense Department worker.

"Less than a year later, following an Air Force investigation, Witt, a reservist, was drummed out. Her offense: a committed relationship, but with another woman, a civilian, from 1997 to 2003."

Witt has been a decorated Air Force officer for 19 years. She wants to serve and injured troops could no doubt benefit from her service during a time of war. She has sterling performance reviews and, in 1993, the Air Force literally used her photograph in brochures used to recruit nurses. Not incidentally, the Air Force has a shortage of qualified, well-trained flight nurses right now.

And yet, the Air Force still threw Witt out of the military. Witt was told she "could no longer report for duty, no longer be paid and no longer earn points toward retirement. Her promotion to lieutenant colonel was moot."

As for her "offense" that led to her dismissal, Witt didn't even violate the latter part of "don't ask, don't tell." As Pam Spaulding noted, the Air Force received an anonymous tip about her sexual orientation, which prompted an investigation.

Last week, Witt filed a federal lawsuit against the Pentagon with the help of the ACLU, which seeks to prevent Witt's discharge. If common sense still has any role here, Witt will not only win her case, but she'll be reinstated, get a check with back pay, and receive an apology.

So: Rumsfeld still gets high marks for killing and maiming thousands of American soldiers.But this woman, who has saved lives for two decades gets the boot solely for who she shares her bed with. You gotta love that compassionate conservativism.


-report from Carpetbagger with comments by Victoria Brownworth

Ask the White House

The White House has this great Internet program called "Ask the White House" where Bush administration officials stand in front of a computer and answer questions from the general public. Well, maybe not great. It would be great if it were uncensored. Today's Bush official was Treasury Secretary John Snow. There was a question which allowed Mr. Snow the chance to tout the Bush administration Tax Cuts for the Very Rich, their plan to eliminate the AMT (Alternative Minimum Tax) and remove all taxes on Capital Gains, which, overwhelmingly benefit the ultra, ultra, very rich. After that was followed up by another softball which asked "How strong is the American economy right now compared to other countries?", I had to chime in. So I clicked the "Ask a Question" icon, sent my question and waited... and waited... and waited. Then it was time to go home.

After an hour and change on the road from Lower Manhattan to Central New Jersey, and a quick shower and bite to eat, I thought it was time to see if my question was answered.

It wasn't.

So here was my unanswered question:

Mr. Secretary,
When you speak about income tax rates for the poor being at an all-time low (or non-existent), why don't you mention that the more money someone makes (over $90,000), the less in a percentage of their income is paid in to the Social Security Trust Fund? Isn't that misleading?

I can't believe he didn't answer that one. Maybe I should have started it out with "With all due respect..." or "Pardon me for asking, but..."

The questions that followed my unanswered post were much of the same. Even the ones with a little bit of controversy were given the Bush company line. That line sounded something like this: "You don't understand and you never will, trust us and get out of the way, we know what we're doing, despite appearances."

In response to Mary, a graduate student from New Jersey, who asked "What are you doing to simplify the tax code so that ordinary Americans can file their own taxes without outside help (or a degree in accounting)?", Snow answered (in part) "the tax system needs to be simpler and fairer." Does anyone think that it's simplification will be fairer to the middle class?

Just when I was going to give up hope, Judi from New Hampshire asked this: "When is tax relief coming? I am a family of 4 and we are self-employed. Contributing to society and helping others. When are we, the middle class, going to receive some help? The amount of taxes my family has to pay is criminal. Between heating costs rising, electrical costs, food, housing, water and sewer rates; we are beginning the spiral downward financial battle to just keep our heads above water. Any relief on the horizon? "

I thought that was a good one. Here was Snow's answer to Judi:

"Thanks for your question, Judi – I was in your home state today and I appreciate that the "Live Free or Die" motto is so evident in its citizens! Too much taxation feels unbearable for citizens of a country as wonderfully free as ours, and I believe that freedom from excessive taxation is fundamental to the American identity and way of life.
"Providing tax relief has been key priority of this Administration. The federal income tax burden of a family of four with an income of $60,000 has been reduced by 39 percent by President Bush’s tax relief, and I hope that you have been feeling the effects of that relief for a few years now. This tax relief has also helped to get the economy moving again, after running into some very substantial headwinds just a few years ago. A growing economy provides broad benefits to all Americans by creating jobs and opportunity, and increasing living standards.
"Lower tax rates will only continue if Congress makes the President’s tax relief permanent, and it’s very important that they do that soon – as soon as possible when they return to Capitol Hill from recess.
"The cost of energy also feels like a tax, I know, and that’s why the President’s economic agenda includes a dedication to increased conservation and innovation through advanced energy technology. I encourage you to read more about the President's plan for energy security."

As you can see from the "company line" answer, there was no answer for Judi. Only rhetoric..

This could be a good forum if it truly were open and honest, but why would the Bush administration start doing things open and honest now?

I wonder when they're going to have "Rummy" on the hot seat? Generals, get your "Send" Button Ready.

-Noah Greenberg

Media Madman

The White House is back to its argument that George W. Bush was just a victim of bad intelligence when he rushed the nation to war with Iraq in 2003. But the evidence is now overwhelming that Bush is a liar who apparently believes he can get away with saying whatever he wants to the American people without fear of accountability "
-Robert Parry, former AP and Newsweek (among other things) writer, from his article, "George W. Bush IS a Liar", April 14, 2006

Notice what Parry did not say.
He didn't say, "Bush has a passing acquaintance with the truth."
He didn't say, "Bush has some trouble distinguishing truth from non-truth."
He didn't say, "Bush often forgets to mention all sides of the story."

No, he said, "Bush is a liar."

-David W.

In response to President Dwight D. Eisenhower's "If all that Americans want is security, they can go to prison. They'll have enough to eat, a bed and a roof over their heads. But if an American wants to preserve his dignity and his equality as a human being, he must not bow his neck to any dictatorial government," Robert Scardapane writes:

Eisenhower is one of the great President's in American history. He warned us of the perilous rise of the military industrial complex. Where have all the Statesmen gone?

Today's Quote

"The women are the problem in history. Women who don't want to have children should cut away their breasts, bottoms and love organ because the purpose for those was first for the children. If they don't fulfill that purpose, then they are not needed."
-The Reverend Sun Myung Moon, owner of the Washington Times, April 18, 2004

We all know the religious Right wants to tell us what we can't do in the bedroom, but no one asks what they want us to do instead.

-David W.

In response to "We thank Patrick Fitzgerald for his service and look forward to seeing the prosecution and defense of Tom DeLay.", Rhian follows up:

And the indictments of George Bush and Dick Cheney for outing Valerie Plame?
Which act broke the CIA undercover company that was keeping gas prices down?
And has enabled oil companies to collect triple 'net profits' ever since?

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-Noah Greenberg