Here's a good one from John Dean on the history of presidential scandals.
Another Good One
In today's LA Times. "It is no wonder that today's corporations do not value "older" workers. They know too much."
Seeing the Forest II
In an earlier "Seeing the Forest" piece I wrote about the surprising transformation in the 2000 election of candidate Gore's image to the point where people questioned his character instead of Bush's. (!) The "Love Canal" and "Invented the Internet" stories were trees. The forest is the bigger picture of this transformation.

Today I read that Republicans are making the accusation that the "Democrats are willing to hold the economy hostage to help their chances in the November elections." Polls show that more voters say Republicans are better at handling the economy than Democrats. Recent polls show that more people blame Clinton than Bush for what's going on with the stock market. Those are trees.

These polls largely reflect the Republican line on issues. Blaming Clinton may sound silly to many of us, but maybe this says something about where the public now gets its information. Have you listened to AM radio lately or turned to Fox News? You hear the same things repeated over and over and over, and then you see it reflected in the polls. This is the forest.

It's a new era. The information business isn't about journalism anymore and you'll be frustrated and disappointed as long as you hold the old-fashioned notions that it is "supposed to" be. That's all gone. Now it's different and the public is only getting one side of the story. The public is getting its information from the likes of Rush Limbaugh. As old and worn-out as this sounds, a few large corporations now own almost all of the sources of information and they are using that power to benefit themselves, not the public. This is the forest.
Robert Hemsley, a machine operator at a paper mill, has written a powerful op-ed piece in today's New York Times titled "Losing My Stake in the Economy". "Free enterprise is a system of risks and rewards. As it now stands, employees suffer most of the risks, while executives enjoy most of the rewards."

P.S. When is the last time you saw in the media - ANY media - the words of someone identifying him or herself as a union member?
Hooray for Frank Rich in today's New York Times.
"What is the president hiding? Clearly the story here is not merely a hard-to-prove case of insider trading, tardy stock-sale forms and Mr. Bush's knowledge of the sham transaction involving Aloha Petroleum. Most likely it also involves the mystery first raised by The Wall Street Journal and Time in 1991. Back then, their investigative journalists tried to break the cronyism code by which tiny Harken, which had never drilled a well overseas, miraculously beat out the giant Amoco for a prized contract for drilling in Bahrain. They also tried to learn what various Saudi money men, some tied to the terrorist-sponsoring Bank of Credit and Commerce International, may have had to do with Harken while the then-president's son was in proximity."


Still overvalued.
Another perspective.
Cliche Item
I turned on the cable news channels this morning and every one of them had Bush on, live, giving a speech (mispronouncing much of it). Now the stock market is down more than 300 points. Can't they just keep the guy off the tube for a while before we're all broke? This reads like a cliche, but, jeeze, just get the guy away from TV cameras for a while.
Campaign Finance Reform - Unintended Outcome?
After this November's election the Democratic Party is going to have to start asking Democrats for money instead of hitting up corporate Republicans as they have been doing. They are used to getting large chunks of cash from corporations and now they have to raise lots of smaller chunks from actual Democrats. I think the changes they will have to make to tailor their message to actual Demcorats is going to make a huge difference in the message of the Democratic Party.

I've been to a few Democratic clubs and other meetings lately and have to say that the mood of the grass roots is nothing like the message that the Democratic Party has been putting out. Grass-roots Democrats are not at all happy with the way House and Senate Democrats have been voting for several years. I think we are likely to see a very strong populist resurgence.
Corporate Culture - It Comes From the Top
I wouldn't expect many changes in corporate culture as long the White House insists that President Bush did nothing wrong when he sold his Harken stock just before the company announced a surprise earnings drop. (He sold shortly after he received a "weekly flash report" of the revenue drop). It's called leading by example.

He says he was "cleared" by the SEC but refuses to let us see the SEC file. The file will tell us if the SEC was told he had received that "flash report" about the coming earnings drop.

And on that other matter - the Aloha Petroleum accounting scam where they sold the company to themselves for an inflated price and recorded the sale as a profit, to move the stock price up - Bush told reporters to look in the Minutes of the Board Meetings to learn whether he was involved. And of course, now he refuses to make those minutes available.
Stock Market
I hate to refer to this extremely pessimistic opinion piece about the stock market, but its numbers look accurate. Remember, it describes a worst-case-scenario. The market is still way overvalued.

It does have a wonderful line, at the end, "It is vital to remember that, during a financial panic, just preserving what you already have is a wonderful investment."

Today's Google Experiment - S&L Crisis, Insider Deals and Redwoods
If you are wondering how the current "Corporate Responsibility Crisis" could turn out, let's revisit the Savings and Loan Crisis of the early 90's. This is a two-part experiment today.

For background, go to Google and search using these keywords, "savings and loan crisis". Or, just click here. Once you've refreshed yourself on the events, get ready to get angry, and go to Google and search using these keywords, "savings and loan Hurwitz Maxxam Pacific Lumber Company". Or, just click here.

That's right, this guy not only got away with looting $1.6 billion from an S&L, he used the proceeds to buy Pacific Lumber, with much of the remaining old-growth redwood forest acreage in the West, and started cutting it all down as fast as he could. To slow this down the government PAID HIM $380 million to save just the Headwaters old-growth acreage from clear-cutting.

I'll be doing some research and will try to post some figures on just how many S&L looters went to jail, and how many of them had to even pay any of the money back. The S&L bailout was another huge transfer of taxpayer money to the very rich, and the selling off of the acquired assets to the well-connected for pennies on the dollar.

The outcome of the S&L crisis will not leave many of us feeling optimistic about the outcome of the "Corporate Responsibility Crisis". I doubt that that ANY corporate execs are going to go to jail, or even have to pay any of the money back. Certainly no one from Enron has been charged with anything yet, or has given any of the money back. It's more likely that the public outrage will be engineered into a situation where even more of our money will be channeled to the very wealthy.
Today's Homework - Beef, Corn, Health, Environment and Economics
In March the New York Times Magazine had a story about beef. This extremely informative article talks about how the cattle are raised, what they're fed, and how all of this affects our health, the economy and the environment. For example, in nature cattle eat grass, which converts sunlight into food. But we feed them corn, which is grown using fertilizer, tractors and other products that use fossile fuel. So we've taken a SOLAR source of fuel and turned it into a PETROLEUM consumer. And the cows can't digest corn, so they get sick and we have to feed them antibiotics. They're miserable and we're making the germs resistant to antibiotics. There's so much more in the NY Times Magazine article...

And the article's author has a follow-up op-ed piece in today's NY Times, talking about the effect on the Federal Budget of our focus on growing corn. "The problem in corn's case is that we're sacrificing the health of both our bodies and the environment by growing and eating so much of it."
KPIG Off the Web
It's a sad day in webland. KPIG has been forced to shut down their webcast because of the new Copyright Office fee structure. Corporate radio has succeeded in knocking out more of our choices. Read more at their website.


Address Change

If you're reading this, you're at the right address.
Great Column by Ralph Nader
Ralph Nader has a great op-ed piece in today's Washington Post. It's a "must read."

Thanks, Ralph! (Usually these days when I say that I mean something entirely different.)


More bribery and backscratching with the Bushes!
Have you been filled in on the Texas Rangers' land deal that made Bush Junior rich? If not, go do your homework and read Joe Conason's Harper's Feb., 2000 article. (alternate source)

According to the article the lucrative land deals were set up by Mayor Richard Greene of Arlington, Texas. Well it turns out that while Mayor Greene was working against his constituents to set up a public land grab that made Junior rich he was being sued by Bush Senior's Resolution Trust Corporation! (That's the organization that was set up to handle the Savings and Loan bailout.) What a coincidence! He's getting sued by Daddy so he starts handing public land to Junior! I bet I can guess how the suit turned out - probably a lot like how Dad's SEC investigation of Junior's insider trading scam did. ;-) Read about it here at Salon (Premium, pay up). (Go to page 2 to read about Mayor Greene.) Then refer back to page 6 of Joe Conason's article to read about how Mayor Greene handed the loot to Bush. Maybe now we know why.
Today's Google Experiment
Today we will examine a page in the history of corporate responsibility. Go to Google and search using these keywords, "union carbide bhopal." Or, just click here.
Bush Says Probe Will Clear Cheney and Bush Defends Cheney in Face of SEC Probe. I'm sorry, but this is really inappropriate. Bush is the guy at the top, the boss of everyone involved in the probe. So what's he doing describing the probe's conclusions before the probe starts? Can you imagine being on the team that's looking into this, after getting this subtle hint from the boss? And, meanwhile, Cheney led the transition process that gave jobs to everyone who will now be probing his activities.

And, by the way, Bush is still refusing to let the SEC release the file on his father's "investigation" of his insider trading scam.
Seeing the forest

Recent polls show that the public is blaming Clinton for the business scandals, and Bush's popularity remains astronomical. That's a tree.

Let's see if we can see the forest. Look back to the 2000 election. Step back and look at the candidates. The Democrat's candidate was a well respected, well liked, extremely experienced, Vietnam vet, former seminary student, character beyond reproach, faithfully married family man, foreign policy expert, with many accomplishments including being the person in the Congress most responsible for advancing the Internet... The Republicans ran a foul-mouthed thoroughly inexperienced scandal-ridden (Harken oil, Rangers stadium, recipient of bribes directed at his father) failed businessman, continuously bailed out of jams by his father's connections, draft-dodger (worse, he got into the Nat. Guard through connections and then played hooky!), former drunk, probable drug-user, kids constantly in trouble, with a campaign entirely financed by large corporations obviously looking for favors.

But by election time the only issue was “character”, and the character in question was the Democratic candidate’s! That's the forest.

Issues like the "Love Canal story" and "I invented the Internet" were trees. The forest was how they pulled it off - the smears, the propaganda blitz, the way they spread their message and the way people hear messages these days.

With this weblog I'll be writing about this issue, seeing the forest for the trees.


Rebecca Knight has an excellent accounting of the things Republicans did to block Democratic attempts to reform accounting and other business practices in their Corporate and Auditing Accountability, Responsibility, and Transparency Act of 2002. It's at Southern Style. "Democrats have attempted several times to enact legislation to eliminate or restrict corporate corruption, but the Republicans voted them down. Now Bush is proposing many of the same ideas. " Look about halfway down the page for the list.
Good one today from Robert Scheer! "Cheney's Grimy Trail in Business"
"Cheney's business behavior could serve as a textbook case of much of what's wrong with the way corporate CEOs have come to play the game of business."
Where did Junior get his Money?

Joe Conason wrote a great article (alternate source) detailing President Junior's business background.
Bribe Senior through Junior

The White House is still refusing to release the SEC files from the investigation of Bush's insider sales of Harken stock, as well as the minutes of Harken Board meetings.

We need to see the SEC files to see whether it was just a cover-up of the President's son's illegal activities. Isn't it obvious this is the reason they aren't being released?

I think those Harken Board minutes are likely to show that Bush was not particularly involved in decisions on the Aloha Petroleum scam - but not for innocent reasons. I think that perhaps Bush's involvement with Harken in the first place was part of a bribe to his father and had little to do with Bush himself. The company gives the President's son all this money (and salary) for no reason, then it starts getting contracts with countries like Bahrain (more bribes to Dad - hire Junior's company). Junior takes off to Washington and isn't involved. Just collecting his checks.

But I really don't think that Harken was particularly interested in having Junior around and involved in making any important decisions. I mean, really, would you?

Ralph Nader is a Scab

In the union movement we learned the hard way that the only way to fight the moneyed interests is to stick together. It's called SOLIDARITY. It's what "union" MEANS.

When unions are in a fight the members stick together, and those crossing the lines are called "scabs".

In the 2000 election it was the usual fragile Democratic coalition fighting the usual moneyed interests. Ralph Nader broke the solidarity, divided the coalition, and lost us the election. Ralph Nader is a scab.


Welcome to Seeing the Forest, a Blog for political (and occasionally other) commentary.