What bokononists whisper whenever they think of how complicated and unpredictable the machinery of life really is.

By Elton Beard

There are two kinds of people in the world, those who divide people into two kinds and those who don't. I don't.

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Saturday, July 6, 2002
11:00 PM PDT
This story won't run by itself. The potential of the Harken Energy story to damage George W. Bush's image has been noted by such online luminaries as Josh Marshall ("this has legs") and Charles Murtaugh ("enormous negative implications for the Bush presidency"), but the Democrats are inaudible on the subject and the respectable media seem quite content to reduce the issue to a matter of confusion over form 4 vs. form 144 filings. The media will soon exhaust this story and move on, unless the Democrats organize a political party and make a federal case out of Harken Energy.

Bush Explains Late SEC Filings
This is a critical point for the Democratic Party, I think. If they have a shred of desire to win on anything, if they have a will to impose, then they had better use this issue to weaken Bush. If they don't then (to borrow a right-wing idiom) they will show themselves to be the weak horse, perhaps irrevocably so. Chronic losers, in other words. And who wants to be associated with losers?

Harken Energy is the best issue to come down the pike for Democrats in a while. Think of it as Bush's penis. Bush's weakness is a smaller version of the weakness exhibited by the people who ran Enron and WorldCom and Arthur Anderson -- an inability to resist the temptation to partake of other people's money without having earned it. The people who ran these publicly-held companies looted them for personal gain, a pure and simple betrayal of trust. And right now the public is keenly aware of the negative consequences of such behavior for shareholders, employees, consumers and just about everyone else. Strongly associating this sort of behavior with Bush, and by implication with other Republicans, should greatly improve Democratic prospects for the 2002 and 2004 elections.

Not to forget the casual breaking of rules ("like doing a 60 in a 55 zone"), the multiple explanations for late SEC filings or the possible insider selling, but there is one point the Democrats should hammer in by repeating in unison.

When Bush was on the Harken Energy Board of Directors and on the company's Audit Committee, the company cooked the books by using a phony transaction similar to Enron's Raptor scheme to conceal losses from investors.
This is not merely guilt by association. The sale of the Aloha subsidiary to a group of Harken insiders took place on Bush's watch. This Harvard M.B.A. was being paid to be a company Director, and he should have known that Harken loaned money to a group of its own executives so that they could buy the Aloha subsidiary from Harken. He should not have missed the fact that this phony transaction allowed Harken to hide about $10 million in losses from its shareholders (until the SEC discovered it and forced the company to restate earnings).

This is a matter of morality and ethics. Bush was intimately involved in running a company that blatantly violated business ethics well before Bill Clinton induced such bad behavior in those other corporate CEOs. You could say that George W. Bush was a pioneer of corporate corruption, engaging in Raptor-style schemes long before they became fashionable.

If the Democratic Party can't give legs to a story like this, just what the hell is it good for?

Wednesday, July 4, 2002
11:30 AM PDT
Correction: we only kill women and children who show hostile intent. John "Akatsukami" Braue of Rat's Nest kindly points out that the Ithaca Journal interview with Army Private Matt Guckenheimer in April, quoted in my previous article, was not the last word on the subject. In a May 31 letter to the Journal, Pvt. Guckenheimer wrote:

Recently your paper quoted me as saying that my unit was ordered to kill women and children.

I would like to clarify this quote and provide more context.

Army Pvt. Matt Guckenheimer
Prior to the operation, we were made aware of the fact that the hostile forces of the Whaleback might include women and children. In that event, if those women and children showed hostile intent, we were ordered to kill them as hostile forces, just like any other hostile force we encountered. However, this does not mean that we were ordered to slaughter noncombatants such as babies.

We were further informed that some of these children are trained starting at a very young age to be soldiers. Knowing this, we could not afford to just dismiss them as noncombatants.

However, I do not want anyone to get the idea that we were ever sent out to kill anyone and anything that moves. We are better than that, both as a military unit and as a society.

Well, I sure hope we are better than that. I'm also sure that Pvt. Guckenheimer, whose private parts are still encased in underwear stamped U.S. ARMY PROPERTY, was not pressured in any way by his military peers or superiors to issue the clarification.

Wednesday, July 3, 2002
11:45 AM PDT
Why do we hate the International Criminal Court so much? Mr. Bush explains:

"The International Criminal Court is troubling to the United States," Bush told reporters following a tour at a Milwaukee church. "As the United States works to bring peace around the world, our diplomats and our soldiers could be drug into this court, and that's very troubling -- very troubling to me."
But why would Mr. Bush be troubled by the possibility that American diplomats and soldiers working to bring peace around the world would be drug into this court? Perhaps this has something to do with it (italics added):
In an April interview with The Ithaca Journal at his family's Cayuga Heights home, [Army Private Matt] Guckenheimer, 22, shared his experiences during Operation Anaconda. He was sent on March 6 in a company of more than 100 soldiers to participate in the largest U.S.-led ground engagement in Eastern Afghanistan.

"We were told there were no friendly forces," said Guckenheimer, an assistant gunner with the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum. "If there was anybody there, they were the enemy. We were told specifically that if there were women and children to kill them."

[Via a May posting at Blowback by Brian Lamb, who knows the duffle we're in.]

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Addendum: As of this writing, a slight majority of respondents to this CNN Poll seem to disagree with the Administration's position.
Should U.S. personnel be granted immunity from prosecution by the International Criminal Court?
Yes Yes votes   46% 61419 votes
No No votes   54% 71882 votes
Total:  133,301 votes

Monday, July 1, 2002

12:15 PM PDT
Not prepared to break a few eggs. U.S. District Court Judge Jed Rakoff has declared the federal death penalty unconstitutional:

The court found that the best available evidence indicates that, "on the one hand, innocent people are sentenced to death with materially greater frequency than was previously supposed and that, on the other hand, convincing proof of their innocence often does not emerge until long after their convictions."
The decision (PDF) seems well reasoned. Nonetheless, I am not breaking out the champagne quite yet.


July      8th - July     14th, 2002
July      1st - July      7th, 2002
June     24th - June     30th, 2002
June      3rd - June      9th, 2002
May      20th - May      26th, 2002
May      13th - May      19th, 2002
May       6th - May      12th, 2002
April    22nd - April    28th, 2002
April     1st - April     7th, 2002
March    25th - March    31st, 2002
March    18th - March    24th, 2002
March    11th - March    17th, 2002
March     4th - March    10th, 2002
February 25th - March     3rd, 2002
February 18th - February 24th, 2002
February  4th - February 10th, 2002
January  28th - February  3rd, 2002
January  21th - January  27th, 2002
January   6th - January  13th, 2002
December 10th - December 16th, 2001
December  3rd - December  9th, 2001
November 26th - December  2nd, 2001
November 19th - November 25th, 2001
November 11th - November 18th, 2001
November  4th - November 10th, 2001
October  11th - November  3rd, 2001

Busy, busy, busy.

What bokononists whisper whenever they think of how complicated and unpredictable the machinery of life really is.


The floggings will cease when morale improves.
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