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This is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

Monday, April 24, 2006


A Thought on the Media

 

One of the major problems I see with the media today is the presentation of people with subjective interests as objective commentators, what I like to call "Opinionators". This practice is simply downright dishonest. Worst of all, it is exactly what the "G"reed "O"ver "P"eople party and many of the leaders in congress have proposed as the reason why we "need" lobbyists. Their argument is this: If we don't allow lobbyists to contribute to political causes, campaigns and create what is known as 527's, then we are going to lose out on their expertise.

Let me guarantee all of you something: Whether or not we take political contributions from industry or lobbyists, they will still offer their opinions. The only difference is that honest politicians will be able to stay that way and without the fear of losing their re-election bribes from these "Opinionators" from "K" Street.

News programs are now controlled by the corporate money-making arms of their respective networks. "Fair and Balanced" is not only missing from the "Luffa-Boy" network of Bill O'Reilly, it is now sorely lacking from most news programs. News and information programs were, traditionally, money losers which were put up with by the network higher-ups because they were mandated to do so. Now they have become twisted and spun organizations that live at the whim of their advertisers. Good-looking teleprompter readers have taken the place of real newsmen and women who came up through the ranks of the newspaper industry. The search for the "next smile" has surpassed the search for independent and knowledgeable guardians of the truth. And the American middle class is caught in the middle.

It is my guess that most Americans who watch one or the other news program defend their choice like the fans of one team versus another. News programs have become the Yankees Vs. the Red Sox. Speak with friends that watch "Luffa-Boy" O'Reilly if you have any doubt and you'll see what I mean. I believe their reason for their blind-loyalty is their refusal to believe that they "fell for it". They have.

Having all points of view used to be a responsibility of the national media. Today, you can turn on any Sunday news program and see a panel of Republicans discussing the fate of soon-to-be former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) without so much as one Democrat in the building, let alone on the panel. (See Tim Russert's Meet the Press a couple of months ago.)

 

And if all of this weren't enough, the national media is scared of the President "G"lobal "W"arming Bush and his "G"reed "O"ver "P"eople party. I remember when the political bosses were scared of the press. They are scared of losing their White House press pass "privileges" (as was the case with Maureen Dowd, who lost her credentials while male prostitute Jeff Gannon was allowed unfettered access to the press room ath the White House) and being rendered impotent. I could use a terse "Mr. President! Mr. President" from Sam Donaldson right about now.

The perception with many Americans is that the main stream media is "liberal". it isn't liberal or conservative: The mainstream media is open to the highest bidder. It serves no one but those with "special interests" who have the money to spend, to make the money, and achieve the power that they want, need and crave.

When will the mainstream media stand up and take a stand? Perhaps never. After all, they have to pay the rent.

-Noah Greenberg


 

"Kenny-Boy" Speaks

"I don't think there ever was a conspiracy of any kind,"
I take "full responsibility for everything that happened at Enron"
"I'm sure there's absolutely nothing in my life, including the loss of life of many of my loved ones, that even comes close to the same level of pain, and the same enduring pain, that has caused,"
-Ken "Kenny-Boy" Lay on the witness stand today

Taking Lay's statements, one has to ask several questions, not the least of which is just what Lay thinks is actually a conspiracy? Does the shredding of important documents by one's accountant define a conspiracy? After all, it does meet the definition. Is the selling of your own shares in the company you run while informing your employees and retirees to buy more the way a "leader" "takes responsibility"? I can't imagine that it would. I'm sure that your actions, Mr. Lay,  "don't even come close to the "loss of life of many of your loved ones"... After all, none of those deaths would have you end up in jail. Besides, doesn't it take a soul for one to feel emotional pain? I certainly hope that the jail cell you share with Jeffrey Skilling will be in one of those Texas prisons that offer hard labor.

"I appreciate the fact that you do acknowledge I was born."
-Lay, jokingly to his lawyer's question, contradicting the feelings of almost every other
American who was affected by his "alleged" criminal acts

"It all began with the deceit of Andy Fastow,"
-Lay, in the Bush-Cheney \ "G"reed "O"ver "P"eople Party \ Big-Business-and-screw-everything-else pass-the-buck-and-never-take-responsibility-for-your-own-actions mantra that they have made famous over these past five-and-a-half years

This just fits in with the strategy of avoiding responsibility that makes these elitist ultra-rich Bush "base" of "have and have-nots" ,who have overtaken common sense and fair play in the post-millennium Unites States. This is the administration of "anything goes for the middle class buck" and it allows those like Skilling and Lay the opportunity to rip all of us off. Remember, it was, and is the people of the United States who are financing the loss of retiree benefits that the former employees of Enron were looking forward to. It is us, the US middle class, or what remains of us, who will pay for it while the Bush "base" gets huge tax breaks on our backs.

Think of it like this: Even when Lay and Skilling are in jail, they won't have to pay taxes on their capital gains while we pay more and more of their share. It's simply disgusting!

Here is a "sort-of" Enron timeline, as provided by the Houston Chronicle (http://www.chron.com/news/specials/enron/):

Date Houston Chronicle Description Approximate Price Madman's Notes
Feb 12, 2001 Jeffrey Skilling becomes Enron CEO $81.00 The beginning of the End
Mar 9, 2001 Enron-Blockbuster cancel video-on-demand deal $69.00 Suspicion of a legitimate company regarding an illegitimate one?
Mar 29, 2001 Enron's Dabhol plant's sole customer, the Indian state of Maharashtra, stops buying power in price dispute $54.00 The beginning of price gouging
Jun 21, 2001 Skilling hit in face with pie as Enron comes under fire in California electricity crisis $46.00 A Good Idea, too bad it was only a pie
Aug 14, 2001 Skilling quits citing personal reason $43.00 A crook about to get caught
Aug 15, 2006 A VP, Sherron Watkins (the Whistle-Blower) writes memo to "Kenny-Boy Lay, the new CEO, blasting off-the-book partnerships $40.00 The correct path chosen by Ms. Watkins
Sep 11, 2001 The Excuse for Everything $32.00 nuff said
Oct 8, 2001 Employees told that their 401(k) plan is changing administrators and stock sales are to be locked down (through Nov. 29) $32.00 Enron's "we got ours, too bad you'll never get yours" statement to their employees
Oct 15, 2001 Vinson & Elkins law firm reports on inquiry into VP Watkins' allegations and concludes that no further investigation is warranted $32.00 Corruption as a disease
Oct 16, 2001 Enron reports a $638 million third-quarter loss and a $1.2 billion reduction in shareholder equity, mostly related to partnerships run by CFO Andrew Fastow $32.00 Remember, that's just one quarter's loss
Oct 22, 2001 SEC tells Enron it's looking into Fastow partnerships $20.00 more beginnings of ends
Oct 23, 2001 David Duncan, head of Arthur Andersen's Enron account, calls meeting to stress "document retention" policy $19.00 Code for "Let the shredding begin!"
Oct 24, 2001 Fastow fired, replace by Jeff McMahon $16.00 Fastow says "Uh-oh"
Oct 25, 2001 Enron draws $3 billion form lines of credit $16.00 Stupid bankers
Nov 1, 2001 JP Morgan and Salomon Smith Barney agree to provide an additional $1 billion more credit $11.00 More Stupid bankers
Nov 5, 2001 Enron seeks another $2 billion to keep credit rating above junk $11.00 Are there even more stupid bankers?
Nov 6, 2001 Shares fall below $10.00 $10.00 Too bad that I averaged this out to the nearest dollar
Nov 8, 2001 Enron restates finances for the last five years, accounting for $586 million loss $10.00 Truth?
Nov 9, 2001 Dynegy agrees to buy Enron for $9 billion and immediately injects $1.5 billion in fresh capital; shredding is stopped after Arthur Andersen is subpoenaed by SEC $9.00 A life preserver after most have drowned
Nov 12, 2001 Lockdown ends allowing employees to sell stock $10.00 Enron's high was about $90 a share meaning that some have lost more than 90 percent of their investments
Nov 14, 2001 Enron seeks to raise another $1 billion $11.00 Wanted: More stupid bankers
Nov 19, 2001 Enron restates third-quarter earnings and says it's trying to restructure $690 million in debt due on Nov. 27 $10.00 Stupid bankers thinking
Nov 20, 2001 Enron shares reach $6.99, lowest in nearly a decade $6.99 Wait! Wait! It has nowhere to go but up, now.
Nov 21, 2001 Enron reaches agreement to extend $690 million debt payment $6.00 Stupid bankers can get even dumber
Nov 28, 2001 Enron Bonds are now of the "Junk" variety; Dynegy gives up and terminates merger agreement; Enron suspends all but essential payments; Stock hits 70 cents ($0.70) $0.70 Maybe I was wrong a week ago
Dec 2, 2001 Enron files for bankruptcy; sues Dynegy for $10 billion for breech of contract $0.70 Enron starts the "blame anyone else" campaign
Dec 31, 2001 Enron's stock price hits 60 cents ($0.60) $0.60 Happy New Year, Enron investors. Retirees learn new phrase: "You want fries with that?"

Thanks to the Houston Chronicle online: www.chron.com


Take a look at the following statement by "Kenny-Boy" Lay that took place in an online forum with employees on September 26, 2001:

I "strongly encouraged" management to buy additional Enron stock,
"My personal belief is that Enron stock is an incredible bargain at current prices."
-Lay, from the online forum

At the same time he was "strongly encouraging" others to purchase Enron's soon-to-be-worthless stock, Lay purchased $4 million worth of the stock while hiding $24 million worth of it in sales back to the company. In case your calculator's broken, that's a net gain of $20 million for Bush's buddy "Kenny-Boy".

"We're not hiding anything....I'm disclosing everything we've found."
"Our liquidity is fine. As a matter of fact it's better than fine, it's strong..."
-Lay on October 23, 2003

What Lay was actually hiding was the fact that the only "liquidity" that Enron possessed was a $3 billion line of credit. Most of don't consider our "lines of credit" to be part of our "liquidity". I wonder how much of that "liquidity" went to fund GOP campaigns?

It was "a firestorm that we couldn't stop,"
-Lay, regarding the falling stock prices of Enron

So, instead of trying to fix Enron the proper way, Lay's answer was to "look out for number one", lie and cheat his employees, retirees and stock holders... all of those who had shown confidence and loyalty to Enron, which is more than Skilling, Lay and Andrew Fastow, the former-CFO-turned-witness showed in their own abilities.

Adding to the Sergeant Schultz (Hogan's Heroes') defense that seems to be all the rage when Republicans get caught with their collective fingers in various pies. Lay confessed to being almost out-of-the-loop on most decisions regarding just about anything that happened to the company he led.

"Oh no. I'm very much a decentralization person."
-Lay, in answer to his lawyer's question as to whether he was a "micro-manager"

"He's perhaps from time to time a little bit more blunt than I am."
-Lay, referring to Skilling


So let me get this straight. Lay, who is facing six charges considers Skilling, who faces 28 charges more forthcoming than he is. It's good to know that the smaller thief is sticking up for the bigger thief. One lies and the other one swears to it.

Liars, cheats and thieves. It is the story of fleecing America's Middle Class.

-Noah Greenberg


Media Madman
Dear Al Franken: Defining an "Act of War"


I listen to your radio "show" (I prefer program) as often as possible but your morning hours are so inconvenient for [retired] me that I frequently find myself catching only fragments of it as I drive to and from my cardiac therapy exercises. To make matters worse, I switch over to fragments of Rush Limbaugh whenever you are taking one of your long commercial breaks. Sometimes this causes my blood pressure to "spike" and the nurses have recommended that I omit Rush.

This morning, however, I was taking the high blood pressure risk and happened to hear something so outrageous that I am appealing to you and Ed Schultz, if you agree with me, to try to make enough noise on AirAmerica radio to correct the error in the public mind. Rush was carrying on about things being said by Ted Kennedy, who had been, I believe, talking about his new book on one of the radio shows. Limbaugh was playing a transcription and interrupting to insert his own interpretations. As Kennedy mentioned "...the tragedy that happened on Sept.11..." Rush stopped the tape to say: "No, Senator, that was not a tragedy. It was an act of WAR."

Now I am old enough to know that An Act of War consists of an armed agression by one country upon another - such as the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that started the war in which I fought. But I am not sure our younger citizens know that, or are aware that the horrific assault on the U.S.on 9/11 was, as far as I know from reading the newspapers, the work of a loosely organized force of 19, armed with "box cutters", and none of whom, as far as I know, were from the country where our troops are now killing and being killed.

I believe correction of this mis-perception is sorely needed and I am doing everything I can think of to accomplish that - including this message to you. Can you help me?


-Carroll S. Rankin


Viva La Resistance!

 

Join the resistance!!!! I hear we are going to hit close to $4.00 a gallon by next summer and it might go higher!! Want gasoline prices to come down? We need to take some intelligent, united action. Phillip Hollsworth offered this good idea:

This makes MUCH MORE SENSE than the "don't buy gas on a certain day" campaign that was going around last April or May! The oil companies just laughed at that because they knew we wouldn't continue to "hurt" ourselves by refusing to buy gas. It was more of an inconvenience to us than it was a problem for them.

BUT, whoever thought of this idea, has come up with a plan that can really work. Now that the oil companies and the OPEC nations have conditioned us to think that the cost of a gallon of gas is CHEAP at $1.50 - $1.75, we need to take aggressive action to teach them that BUYERS control the marketplace.....The only way we are going to see the price of gas come down is if we hit someone in the pocketbook by not purchasing their gas! And, we can do that WITHOUT hurting ourselves. How? Since we all rely on our cars, we can't just stop buying gas. But we CAN have an impact on gas prices if we all act together to force a price war.

Here's the idea:
For the rest of this year, DON'T purchase ANY gasoline from the two biggest companies (which now are one), EXXON and MOBIL. If they are not selling any gas, they will be inclined to reduce their prices. If they reduce their prices, the other companies will have to follow suit.

But to have an impact, we need to reach literally millions of Exxon and Mobil gas buyers. It's really simple to do! Now, don't wimp out at this point.... keep reading and I'll explain how simple it is to reach millions of people.

I am sending this note to 30 people. If each of us sends it to at least ten more (30 x 10 =3D 300) ... and those 300 send it to at least ten more (300 x 10 =3D 3,000)...and so on, by the time the message reaches the sixth group of people, we will have reached over THREE MILLION consumers. If those three million get excited and pass this on to ten friends each, then 30 million people will have been contacted! If it goes one level further, you guessed it..... THREE HUNDRED MILLION PEOPLE!!! All 300 MILLION people could conceivably be contacted within the next 8 days!!!

Acting together we can make a difference. If this makes sense to you, please pass this message on. I suggest that we not buy from EXXON/MOBIL UNTIL THEY LOWER THEIR PRICES TO THE $1.30 RANGE AND KEEP THEM DOWN.

THIS CAN REALLY WORK.

-Forwarded by Robert Chapman


Protest Time

 

David Swanson reports:
Congresswomen Lynn Woolsey and Barbara Lee will host a hearing on the Iraq War next Thursday, April 27, in 2325 Rayburn House Office Building (with an overflow room planned for anyone wanting to attend who can't fit in). The two Co-Chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus are continuing to do what the "leadership" of both parties does not, respond to the demands of the majority of Americans, who disapprove of current policy.

Woolsey and Lee are expected to give introductory remarks, as is former CIA officer and current Georgetown University Professor Paul Pillar whose article in the March/April issue of Foreign Affairs magazine, "Intelligence, Policy, and the War in Iraq," severely criticized the misuse of intelligence before, during and after the March 2003 invasion.

There will then be two panels, the first consisting of two Iraqi women and two U.S. veterans of the Iraq War, the second consisting of members of Congress who have introduced bills aimed at ending the war. Then there will a Question and Answers session involving the audience. So, bring your tough questions!

Invited panelists include Reps. Neil Abercrombie, Walter Jones, Barbara Lee, Jim McGovern, Jack Murtha, Mike Thompson, and Senators Russ Feingold and John Kerry.

***

Yes kids, it's time to get out there and protest the Iraq war. There is the UFPJ rally in NYC on April 29th. Let Dumb-Ya know what you think this illegal war.

 

-Robert Scardapane


In regards to "GW's sobriety (or lack thereof)" and "America's Green Zone", Robert Chapman writes:

First, in his official biography GW tells us that around the age of forty, he started getting complaints about the way he acted when he had a few drinks. The legend goes on the GW went cold turkey and has been sober ever since. Really.
 

If GW were your employee, child, student or friend, and displayed the sort of behavior we see coming more and more frequently from him now wouldn't you pull him aside and ask him some hard questions about his drinking?
 

Isn't it time the GOP, the press or whomever started asking GW about what substances he is drinking, popping, ingesting or injecting?

Regarding the American Green Zone, I attended a fund raiser for Eliot Spitzer, a candidate for NYS governor last night, and he is electrifying. My event was one of twenty held state-wide and Eliot hooked in a conference call with us all. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. attested to Eliot's Green bona fides and Eliot himself spoke about bringing corporate power to heel.
I seriously urge all readers to acquaint themselves with this man, to evaluate him personally and hopefully, to join the movement and back Spitzer.
 

He is a man with a future.


In response to "I watched the McLaughlin Group this morning and was surprised to see a panel without the usual suspects. In their place was a group of medical 'opinionators' including, of all people, HHS secretary Michael Leavitt," Robert Scardapane writes:


You beat to the punch on this one. I was irritated watching this show. The panel consists of a Bush-Leaguer Michael Leavitt and CEO of Pfizer (Hank McKinnell) and a MD. There were a couple of political pundits such as John McLaughlin. I kept thinking where is the representation for the citizens of this country? These characters proceeded to blame the citizens for the health care crisis! According to the "masters of the universe" the American citizens get sick too often and aren't very savvy health care consumers. I came away completely revolted by Leavitt and the CEO dude. When are the people of this country going to get tired of being blamed for everything!

It's time to take our country back from these elites.

 

And, in response to "According to Secretary Leavitt, sick Americans are the problem with health care costs today. His logic was that Americans aren't taking care of themselves, therefore there are more Americans who are sick. Mr.. Leavitt feels that diet and exercise are the cure-alls that we need to cure the health care crisis," Robert adds this:

This is the sort of garbage we have been hearing for years from Republicans. It's the blame game. They use this notion of "personal responsibility" to justify everything that is rotten. It's time for people to get angry and tell them to go stick it!

Whether people realize it or not, John Kerry in 2004 did have a universal health care plan. It wasn't quite SPUHC but it was close. Basically, people could buy into the lower cost government health care insurance pool.
 

What plan did Bush have? As John Kerry was fond of saying - the Bush plan is a very short plan - don't get sick! You heard it today from Leavitt.


In response to a "Single Payer Universal Health Care Plan", Carol Yost writes:

You're right on the money about national single-payer health care. You made your points very well, and were funny in the bargain. I laughed my head off. Then came the real payoff--when you said you checked John McLaughlin's web site and found out who his sponsors were--big insurance companies!

Please remember, everybody: Ask your Congresspersons to support HR 676, co-sponsored by Reps. John Conyers and Dennis Kucinich, for national single-payer health care, covering everybody, with NO deductibles, NO premiums, NO co-pays, and you would still get to choose your own doctor and hospital. The Healthcare-Now! website has details if you need more info: www.healthcare-now.org


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-Noah Greenberg