Tuesday, April 26, 2011

2002: Enron Body Count

I suppose you'd have to add the conveniently timed death of Kenneth Lay to the mysteries surrounding the Enron case. I'm just wondering - do people investigating Obama's birth certificate keep dropping off like this?

As amusing as it is to watch the Usurper from Texas squirm and lie as Buick-sized chunks from the Enron eruption hurtle towards the White House, we must not lose sight of the fact that many of the company's employees and investors have been financially devastated. Plus, at least one of them is quite dead.

A popular right-wing bumper sticker used to morbidly note that more people have died in Ted Kennedy's car than at Three Mile Island. They had to leave it at that since there's no room on a bumper sticker to discuss increased childhood leukemia rates. But the Enron scandal has already racked up a higher body count than Chappaquiddick. Besides the late Cliff Baxter, to whom we shall return, there is also the December 1st suicide of James Watkins, who worked for Arthur Anderson. We should also keep an eye on the kidnapping of the Wall Street Journal's reporter Daniel Pearl. Pearl had been poking into Enron's dubious dealings in India (Asian WSJ, 03/19/01) as well as the politics of Pakistani pipeline deals (WSJ, 06/27/01).

Sure, sometimes folks just up and die, but when powerful people die in a way that benefits other powerful people, it's worth asking a few questions. Apparently the police in Sugar Land, Texas (in the district of Enron bedmate Tom deLay) didn't see it that way at first. They were happy to send dead whistleblower Cliff right over to the funeral home as soon as possible, until somebody pointed out that he was about to testify before Congress about Enron and that he had spoken of the need to hire a bodyguard.

According to Rep. Jim Greenwood (R-PA), his committee saw Baxter as "a good guy in the company... There is nothing in the documents we've seen, nothing in the interviews we've conducted, that would lead us to believe that he had anything he needed to be ashamed of. So it's perplexing for us that, of all the players, he would be the one to take his life." Indeed, even as police discovered Baxter's body, his lawyer was working out a deal for him to testify. So it might be important to find out if turning up dead was Cliff's idea or not.

Well, according to Joye Carter, Chief Medical Examiner for Harris County, Texas, the cause of death was suicide. End of story. Or is it?

According to stories in the Houston Press and the AP, it turns out Dr. Carter is not the sort of pathologist you'd like to have examining your own dead relatives. Harris County has twice been sued successfully by whistleblowers in her own department. The first suit involved a doctor who was fired for reporting illegal cover-ups and sabotage at the Medical Examiner's Office; a jury award totaled nearly a half million, and the county declined to appeal. A second suit also involved an employee fired for reporting illegal practices at the office. More action came from the State Board of Medical Examiners, who fined Dr. Carter for allowing an unlicensed examiner to conduct over 200 autopsies. Other controversies have dogged Carter's office, involving possibly murdered persons who got no autopsies or were said to have died of "Gulf War Syndrome."

So perhaps the Harris County coroner shouldn't be the last word on how Cliff Baxter happened to leave this world. Nor is this the first suspicious death of someone whose brains contained information damaging to the Bush Crime Family. Recall, for starters, the cases of Iran-contra conspirators Cyrus Hashemi and Amiram Nir or journalists Danny Casolaro, James Hatfield and Paul Wilcher. In the latter case, we find yet another dubious autopsy, also conducted under the auspices of Dr. Joye Carter, back when she was Chief Medical Examiner for Washington, DC. No wonder Governor Bush was so friendly with SCI, the world's largest funeral home company (which, in case you're keeping track, also involves a big scandal with a central witness who turned up as an "apparent suicide").

Nobody who has done their homework on the Usurper should be surprised to find him stuck in a gooey metastasizing scandal with pilfered funds and dead bodies. This is the guy whose grandfather was convicted of playing footsie with Hitler, whose daddy played footsie with Saddam and Noriega, and who apparently had his own shoes off under the table with members of the bin Laden family. But what's interesting about Enrongate is the way it intersects with other burgeoning scandals, coming soon to a television near you.

The Enron scandal can be boiled down to this: Kenny Boy Lay and his colleagues gave Dubya the financial equivalent of oral sex, and in return received from the Usurper and his colleagues the regulatory equivalent of oral sex. Part of that blessed deregulation involved easing up on the Clintonistas' plans to crack down on money laundering and offshore tax havens. Who else did this benefit? Why, wily old Osama, who also seems to have gotten some deregulation thrown his way. For instance, the money laundering "charity" known as WAMY, run by Osama's brother Abdullah bin Laden, is now being scrutinized very carefully. But prior to 9/11, FBI investigators were told to "back off" on WAMY and the bin Ladens, perhaps on the quaint Republican theory that government needs to get off the backs of private enterprise.

According to the French investigators Brisard and Dasquie, the Usurper's solicitude for crooked Saudi front groups may be related to his symbiotic relationship with the energy industry. That is, the Bush-linked oil company UNOCAL has spent the better part of a decade trying to cut a deal with the Taliban to build oil and gas pipelines across their turf. Pipelines not unlike those owned by Enron or constructed by Dick Cheney's old company Halliburton. Almost before the inaugural parade had been swept up, the Bushies were starting new talks with the Taliban. But the talks came to a bad end, because the medieval theocrats refused to accept a "coalition government" which US negotiators had hoped might be a big enough fig leaf to get back to business as usual.

Rebuffing the Texans, the Taliban preferred the Argentinean oil company Bridas, whose minions had more respect for their quaint local customs. Well, we all know what happened to the Taliban, but meanwhile the Argentine economy has tanked as well. The Texans now control the IMF, which for once refused to send the customary bailout extended to their roster of loan shark victims. Not only does that damage Bridas, it's bad voodoo for the Argentine government, which is in the process of prosecuting former president Carlos Menem - who just happens to be another crony of the Bush Crime Family.

Back when his daddy was vice-president, our man Dubya used his spare time to make phone calls scaring up business deals in hopes of profiting off the family name. According to Nation editor David Corn (11/21/94), one such call went to Argentina, on behalf of a Texas company named Enron who were looking to get in on a government contract for a, you guessed it, pipeline deal. The Minister of Public Works, offended by this crass influence peddling and by Enron's insultingly low bid for the country's natural gas resources, brushed off the proposal. But once President Menem took office, the decision was reversed and Enron got the deal.

Menem had his way with the Argentine economy for ten years, from 1989-99, stirring up one scandal after another in pursuing the sacred deregulation so dear to the hearts of crooked companies everywhere. From the start he was embraced by the Bushes as the kind of guy they could do business with, preferably on the golf course. Since leaving office he has been placed under house arrest for an arms trafficking scandal, released by the Supreme Court, and more recently investigated for taking a $10 million bribe from Iran to cover up their involvement in a terrorist bombing in Buenos Aires. But since the economic collapse has left his mortal enemy President Duhalde holding the bag, Carlos has just announced he'll be running for president again next year. Perhaps he can get some nice campaign contributions from Enron.

One last thing to keep in mind about Enron: keeping 874 subsidiaries in the Cayman Islands is not what you do when you're losing money. That's what you do when you're looting money. Still-breathing journalist Pete Brewton has described how S&Ls linked to the Bushes siphoned off funds for covert CIA operations. The infamous BCCI - or Bank of Crooks and Criminals International - which was friendly to the Bush family (and, to be fair, the Clinton family), performed much the same function. Is Enron being hollowed out to finance some of the less marketable aspects of the War on Some Terrorists?

Arms scandals, dead journalists, sweetheart deals, money laundering, covering up for terrorists, and always, pipeline deals: these sorts of things follow the Bush Crime Family around like ducklings. But hey: at least they're not involved in any actual oral sex. Because as we all know, that sort of thing is an impeachable offense.

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