Mon 23 Dec, 2002 12:06 pm
Arianna's latest column is just too funny not to post (although I'm more in favor of links, this is short and sweet):
A Very Corporate Christmas: No Need To Ask If They've Been
Naughty Or Nice
By Arianna Huffington
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Actually,
for corporate America, more the latter than the former, what with
all the Congressional investigations, indictments, camera ready
perp walks, SEC fines, multimillion dollar restatements of
earnings, and billion dollar bankruptcies. (Welcome to the club,
Things have been especially hard on this country's CEOs, who have
undergone the most drastic image shift since MTV transformed Ozzy
Osbourne from a drug-addled satanic rocker, famous for biting the
head off a live bat, into America's cuddliest dad. Gone are the
days when they were treated like American royalty, invited on
talk shows and glorified on the covers of magazines. Their faces
are now more likely to appear in mug shot photos or not very well
concealed behind a raincoat or newspaper as they are being perp
walked to the police station.
I've got a feeling it isn't going to be a very merry Christmas
this year in CEO-land. You can almost picture our corporate
Capones, rolling out of bed in their silk pajamas and excitedly
trundling down the halls of their vacation homes in Aspen,
Greenwich, Gstaad, or St. Barth's on Christmas morning only to
find their diamond-encrusted stockings overflowing with lumps of
coal. It's almost enough to make you feel sorry for them. Naah,
But this is the holiday season, after all. So in that spirit I
have decided to put my animus aside, at least for one column, and
draw up a list of the gifts I'm planning to give to some of my
not-so-favorite corporate kingpins. (This is no easy task, by the
way. I mean, what do you get for the CEO who has stolen
everything? A box of Harry and David's finest pears just
isn't going to cut it.)
Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling, and Andy Fastow: A warehouse full of
Hallmark's new "Sorry I Gutted Your Life Savings" cards to be
signed and sent to former Enron employees.
Dennis Kozlowski: Something to go with that $6,000 shower curtain
of his. Like a $2,000 toilet brush. No, this is Dennis Kozlowski,
I'll make it an $8,000 toilet brush. Oh, hell, why not go for
the top of the line. I am going to get Dennis Kozlowski a $13,000
toilet brush. And he better use it. Plus, DVDs of those art heist
classics "Topkapi," "Entrapment," and "The Thomas Crown Affair."
The Rigas Clan: Applying the holiday maxim that the best gift is
one that you make yourself, I've had t-shirts printed up for
the Rigas kids that say, "My Dad Looted the Company, and All I
Got Was This Lousy Shirt and an Adjoining Jail Cell!"
Those duplicitous stock analysts at Merrill Lynch: Loads and
loads of this year's hottest gifts. (Actually, it's a bunch of
"crap." But we won't tell them that -- let 'em see how it feels
for a change.)
Martha Stewart: I've got a hunch she'd appreciate something
hand-made rather than store bought. So I've whipped up a paper
trail proving incontrovertibly that she didn't sell her shares of
ImClone because of insider information but because she had a
standing stop-loss order with her broker.
Incoming Treasury Secretary John Snow: A train set for the CSX
CEO. But I'm not paying sales tax on it. Why should I, when CSX
hasn't for three of the four last very profitable years!
Sam Waksal: Forgeries of the art he had to sell to pay off
cheated investors. As a small time fraud himself, Waksal might
appreciate fake art hanging in his cell.
The Bush Economic Team: Since the president seems intent on
loading up on advisors recycled from the Ford Administration, how
about a slightly rusty collection of those ridiculous WIN (Whip
Inflation Now) buttons?
Steve Case, Gerry Levin, Bob Pittman and the gang responsible for
the AOL-Time Warner merger: A paperweight embossed with "Bigger
Isn't Necessarily Better" and a needlepoint "Synergy Is Dead!"
Eli Lilly: Why bother? The drug-maker already got its gift early,
in the form of that billion-dollar provision tacked on to the
Homeland Security Bill.
Dick Cheney: A framed and mounted chunk of asbestos to
commemorate his time as CEO of Halliburton, especially his
decision to acquire asbestos maker Dresser Industries -- a savvy
business move that culminated last week with the VP's former
company agreeing to cough up $4 billion to settle hundreds of
thousands of asbestos related lawsuits.
Henry Blodget, Mary Meeker, and all the other stock touts who
kept pumping the Wall Street bubble: A super-sized container of
paper towels to help wipe all that egg off their faces.
Jim Cramer: A Valium. A Xanax. And a producer willing to tell him
that it's okay not to yell all the time.
Harvey Pitt: A new position where his never-ending conflicts of
interest won't be such a big liability. I hear Kissinger
Associates is looking for an in-house attorney.
Securities and Exchange Commission chairman-designate William
Donaldson: The phone number of corporate crime fighter Eliot
Jack Grubman: A copy of "Getting Your Kid Into The Best Schools
Without Getting Yourself Indicted."
The 108th Congress: A reminder that the work of cleaning up
corporate America is far from done.
Jack Welch: To help make up for all those pricey perks he gave
up, three front row tickets to see La Boheme on Broadway -- one
for him, one for his lover, and one for his divorce lawyer. Plus,
a truckload of remaindered copies of his autobiography, "Jack:
Straight From the Gut," for which he got a $7.1 million advance.
The Big Three Accounting Firms: A Learning Annex course in
"Turning A Profit Without Cooking the Books."
Alan Greenspan: Another round of "irrational exuberance" to
caution against. And a smile.
Don't know whether to laugh or cry at these sarcastic jabs. Think I'll just respond like Vera in "Auntie Mame" when she learned about the egg that Wall Street laid in '29. "Thank God I never put anything aside."
and as they say in Florida: " Look at the orange marma laid!" (groan)
What are the odds we won't be reading about another round of such gifts to corporate miscreants this time next year? I get no sense that there's much of an urgency to making sure this can't happen anymore. Instead, it's: "Let's cut tax rates for the highest-income folks!"
And to all a good night...
LW, Both funny and bittersweet.
In today's mail was a letter from Public Citizen (Ralph Nader was the founder), with a list of government appointees with close ties to Enron or people involved with the Republican Party.
In the list was: VP Dick Cheney; US ATTY Gen. John Ashcroft; White House political advisor Karl Rove; Sec of the Army, Thomas White; US SEN Phil Gramm; former commodity Futures Trading Commission chairwoman Wendy Gramm (Sen Gramm's wife), on Enron's auditcommittee; former Montana Gov. Marc Racicot (was Enron's Washington lobbyist, but was forced to drop his clients aftrer being named Republican National Chairman; Bush economic advisor Lawrence Lindsey; US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick; Sec of Energy, Spencer Abraham (as a senator, he took Enron contributions); Patrick H. Wood, chair of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; Alberto Gonzalez, White House counsel who worked at Vinson &Elkins, the Houston law firm that represented Enron and signed off on Enron's questionable accounting schemes; Don Evans, Sec of Commerce, who accepted Lay's compaign contributions and took Lay's October 2001 telephone call; Former head of the Christian Coalition and GOP strategist Ralph Reed--hired for $10,000 a month by Enron in 1997 at the recommendation of Bush political advisor Karl Rove, reportedly as a way to keep Reed loyal to Bush but distant enough to not disrupt the campaign's "compassionate consevative" spin.
Corporate America controls such unimaginably enormous wealth, that it very nearly controls the government. Our system of checks and balances, it seems to me, is terminally out of balance.
Until campaign finance reform is given sharp teeth, nothing will change.
BTW, here is a link to Public Citizen: www.citizen.org.
D'Artagnan, your skepticism is well founded. Our government has made delay tactics into a science and not just this administration, it has been happening most likely from the very beginning.
If the prosecution of this scandal is delayed long enough, there will be so many other emergencies, including war, that it will have faded into the background.
Campaign finance reform is the only way to instill trust in our government again and it has to be straightforward, not filled with clauses and loopholes
I truly hope we both will be proved wrong. I'm not holding my breath.
Bittersweet indeed. Although I like it in chocolate, I hate to visit bittersweet in real life. On the other hand, I wouldn't have missed this column, thanks, gw, and also Diane, for your handy list.
This obscure,eccentric,disgusting compassionate chistmas is very very nice after raping, looting,torturing, dehumanizing the globe.
I am not a christian ( not a mistake)
My wife is a christian( by birth without any choice)
Anything organized is conditional.
Anything conditional is loosing individuality and accepting the world to go beyond normal decency.
Lt us enjoy Xmas to the full core and then uphold our hollywood show of
actually the God of the Jews and Christians bases belief on choice....