December 19th, 2002


Bush and Enron... together again!

When it comes to politics, videotapes are dangerous things...

Such as the one with Dubya and George Bush, Sr. going on about their close friendship with Enron's former CEO.

You have been fantastic to the Bush family. I don't think anybody did more than you did to support George..."

George Sr. is right. Enron and its employees have contributed more to Dubya's campaigns over the years than any other company. In return, they basically got to design the U.S. energy policy, getting special access and meetings with our leaders, while environmental and clean energy groups were denied any access whatsoever to the formulation of our energy policy.

What's worse, they helped to create the California "energy crisis".

Enron executives have plead guilty to overcharging and defrauding Californians during the "energy crisis", engineering phony shortages and conspiring to raise the price of energy from $40 a megawatt hour to as much as $1500. As such, Enron bears considerable responsibility for the billions of dollars that that Californians were overcharged - by some estimates, up to $40 billion dollars. Of course, Bush knew that there was no real energy shortage... certainly no shortage that dictated a nearly fortyfold increase in the cost of electricity. They turned their back on the intentional gouging of our citizens by their friends and financial contributors.

Sure, Enron was out to make money, but they didn't actually *conspire* to make an energy crisis, did they? Yes, actually, they did. Internal documents from Enron revealed the scams they were pulling to manipulate California's energy system. They even gave these scams a series of arrogant nick names, such as:

  • "Death Star": A plan to intentionally schedule power deliveries onto California's power grid in such a way that it would overload the grid. Because of this potential power overload, Enron would be paid hugely inflated rates not to deliver power in the midst of a shortage.

  • "Fat Boy": Transferring power from Enron to a company subsidiary that didn't need the power in such a way, and timing the power delivery from that subsidiary in such a way that it would lead to overloading, allowing Enron and the subsidiary to make money for non-delivery of power. In other words, playing corporate "shell games" in order to engineer overloads on the California power grid.

  • "Ricochet": Buying power cheaply that was produced in California in order to engineer power shortages, selling it out of state to an intermediary or subsidiary, and then reselling it back to California at prices up to 40 times what they paid for it.

    In effect, they played with our power system in the same sort of the same way that a computer virus plays with a computer system... they engineered power shortages, drove up energy prices to over 40 times what was normal, and even conspired to deliver that overpriced energy in such a manner that they would be paid hugely inflated prices for not delivering energy.

    Under the circumstances, shouldn't the people of California be entitled to a great deal more anger about this than we have thus far displayed? Shouldn't the people of the United States be more than passively concerned when a company buys our politicians, designs our energy policy, and engages in price gouging, while the president turns a blind eye? What would be the people's response, I wonder, if there was an engineered "food shortage" that raised the price of a loaf of bread to $50 in one part of the country, while the rest of the country had a huge surplus of food and no shortage of transportation?

    Enron made their money from buying surplus energy capacity in one place, and then selling that energy elsewhere... they didn't really produce anything. One wonders what we would know about Enron if they didn't go belly up due to fraudulent accounting.... not only were they playing unethical shell games with energy, they were doing it with money too. They hid over half a billion dollars of longterm debt from their shareholders and employees for as long as possible.

    Even though thousands of Enron employees lost their jobs and their savings due to Enron's collapse, we should be glad that they went under, because they almost got away with covering up their fraudulent dealings, largely due to the record profits they recorded during the "energy crisis". If it weren't for Enron's collapse, we would know little of their part in engineering the crisis.

    As sad as it is that Enron employees got screwed over and lost their savings, you have to wonder how many businesses went under and how many jobs were lost in California due to price gouging during the "energy crisis". I suspect that the number was considerably more than those lost at Enron. It's hard to underestimate the damage done to California's economy due to lost work, damaged hardware, and higher cost of operations due to the crisis. This doesn't even touch upon the pain companies like Enron inflicted to the state's poor and retired who can hardly afford to live under normal conditions; how many old people couldn't afford medicine or food because they needed to pay the electricity bill? How many were evicted because they couldn't afford both their electricity and their rent?

    That appears to be the American way, I guess... businesses pay for politicians to get where they are, and the politicians act in a clearly biased manner to make those businesses money. Bush almost certainly wouldn't have become president without Enron, but somehow, without direct payoffs, there's no corruption, right? Still, the Bush Administration's overt support for and cronyism with Enron makes previous cases of presidential financial corruption look like very small potatoes indeed.
  • fashionable

    The last straw?!


    After September 11th, a program was set forth requiring all males over 16 from a list of 20 Arab or Middle East countries, who do not have permanent resident status in the United States, to register with U.S. immigration authorities.

    In southern California, hundreds of Iranian and Middle East citizens came forward yesterday to register with immigration authorities, only to be handcuffed and put behind bars. Over 500 people have been arrested so far, with some putting the figure at closer to 1,000 people... approximately a quarter of those that came forward.

    No charges have been filed against these people, and a spokesman for the Immigration and Naturalization Service said no numbers of people arrested would be made public. Many of those arrested, according to their lawyers, had already applied for green cards and, in some instances, had interviews scheduled in the near future.

    Many of those who showed were responding to friendly ads on local arabic TV and radio stations and in newspapers telling them about registering with the INS and that not registering could expose them to possible problems with their immigration status. They weren't told that many of them would be immediately arrested, however.

    Similar arrests took place throughout the country, but the number of people arrested in Southern California appears to have been considerably larger than elsewhere in the country, due to the region's large Iranian population.

    The arrests drew thousands of people to demonstrate Wednesday in Los Angeles. At the rally, which police officials estimated drew about 3,000 protesters at its peak, signs bore such sentiments as "What Next? Concentration Camps?" and "Detain Terrorists Not Innocent Immigrants."

    One attorney, who said he saw a 16-year-old pulled from the arms of his crying mother, called it madness to believe that the registration requirements would catch terrorists.

    "His mother is 6 1/2 months pregnant. They told the mother he is never going to come home -- she is losing her mind," said attorney Soheila Jonoubi.

    The mother of the boy has permanent residence status and her husband, the boy's stepfather, is a U.S. citizen. The teenager came to the country in July on a student visa and was on track to gain permanent residence, the lawyer said.

    Lawyers reported crowded cells with some clients forced to rest standing up, some shackled and moved to other locations in the night, frigid conditions in jail cells -- all for men with no known criminal histories. Some were reportedly hosed down with cold water before finding places to sleep on the concrete floors of cells.

    According to the ACLU website, perfectly legal immigrants are at risk, due to the failure of the INS to process more than 200,000 change of address forms, which are piling up in an abandoned limestone mine outside Kansas City, MO that doubles as the largest underground records facility in the world, thereby putting hundreds of thousands at risk of wrongful arrest and deportation.

    More information is available from the BBC and in this article at the L.A. Times. (Registration required.)

    Please make your feelings heard about the INS detentions! Visit the Arab American Institute's website to find out more.

    Soon to be British...

    I heard rumors of some interesting news, so I called up the British Consulate in San Francisco... it looks like next Spring, the law is changing so that all U.S. citizens born by a mother from Britain after 1962 will be eligible for dual citizenship.

    That means me, thankfully.

    ...and I can't tell you how happy this makes me. I was raised by a British mother. I grew up on Rupert, Flanders & Swann, and British television. I visited and stayed with my grandparents in Wales and the Cotswolds. I *am* British.

    I will carry my British passport with pride, because I love Great Britain.

    Now if only if it weren't sooo American...

    What you can do about the arrest and detention of Arab and Muslim immigrants...

    According to the most recent information I have, approximately 800 Arab and Muslim immigrants were arrested in the Greater Los Angeles area. Local prisons are overcrowded, so there is talk of creating a detention facility (i.e. concentration camp) in Arizona until the INS figures out what to do.

    For more information about what you can do to oppose these immoral INS detentions, please visit the Arab American Institute's website. Write your politicians. Spread the word about these arrests and help get the media and the American people to stand up and take notice.

    That this is only the first round of detentions - more are scheduled for early January, with still further detentions in February. We could be talking about the detentions of thousands of American citizens, held indefinitely in concentration camps without charges. Many of these detainees are perfectly legal immigrants who have problems with their paperwork, in many cases, problems that the INS themselves created.

    This is literally an act that seperates mothers from sons, fathers from their families. It is every bit as disturbing and ugly as the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, and will, in retrospect, be seen as one of the ugliest aspects of this "war on terrorism". Do not let U.S. history's darkest days repeat themselves. Do not let this continue in silence.

    There are no widespread nationwide protests that I am aware of yet, but if you are in the Los Angeles area, protest alongside your fellow citizens at the INS offices - don't let people forget those who have been arrested, who have no names, and who cannot speak for themselves anymore.

    Thank you,

    Make death a little less easy and convenient...

    I hope most of you have seen Bowling for Columbine by now. No matter how you feel about Michael Moore, I think you'll find that the movie leaves a lasting impression on you.

    In the movie, one of the things that Michael Moore does is travel to K-Mart corporate headquarters with victims of the Columbine shooting. Both of these victims were wounded for life, and both had bullets permanently lodged in their bodies that were sold by K-Mart. This simple act of protest caused K-Mart to stop selling bullets in all of their stores.

    Well, now it's Wal-Mart's turn. While I appreciate convenience, I think that Wal-Mart is just a bit too convenient of a place to sell bullets. If you feel the same way too, please sign the petition on the Bowling For Columbine website to get them to stop. Michael Moore will let Wal-Mart know how you feel.