This is America--a satire-jk
Bird Flu threat and research
VIOXX, 55,000 die because of politicians
STOCK MARKET REFORM--Greenspan head of Fed Reserve
Instability in Market & lack of social responsibilty, warns George Soros
Understanding the U.S. War State--Prof McMurty
BUSH'S KILLER POLICY: opposition to cheap drugs in 3rd World
Family health insurance averages $11,000
Tax Havens--Huffington
Congress and SUVs--Huffington
CEOs, how sweet it is--Huffington
Medicare Reform of 11/03: Government as Usual
Universal Medical Insurance--Nader
JK ON AFGHANISTAN--published 1980, things haven't changed



 Her book is also available as a book read on CD.  Also availbe is her Fanatics & Fools, read by Arianna, which gave me new insight into the Republican Party & its leader     

link to Huffington's website

"The purpose of government is the promotion of the public wellbeing; there can be no other"--Catherine the Great.  To place any other concern before is to violate this principle. 
"There can be no effective control of corporation while their political activity remains.  To put an end to it will be neither a short nor an easy task." 
Theodore Roosevelt, August 31, 1910.    

What Counts as a Conflict of Interest to Congress?


          We all know that those who play important roles in the economy can communicate either directly or through lobbies with those in Congress.[i]  In what follows, I will be relying upon the New York Times best seller by Arianna Huffingtons, Pigs at the Trough (Crown Publishers, NY, 2003) to present some typical facts and their results. 

Most of the self-serving action by business is through lobbyists (the Business Roundtable is an equally important policy shaper).  Some lobbyists, such as Ed Gillespie, have direct and easy access to the oval office. 


1.  Enron:  Hired Gillespies firm for around $700,000 concerning energy plans.  Dick Cheney and the staff of his Energy Task Force had at least six meetings with Enron representatives.

2.  National Association of Realtors:  Gillespie persuaded Treasury Secretary Paul ONeill to postpone a proposal that would have allowed banks into the real estate brokerage business.

3.  Daimler-Chrysler:  In March of 2002 the higher fuel efficiency standards were yanked out of the Bushs energy bill.

4.  American for Better Education:  The phony grassroots organization (ran by Gillespies Washington Office) raised over $1 million to lobby for Bushs education bill.

21st Century Energy Project:  A coalition of Gillespies clients used to lobby for Bushs energy bill that passed the House in August of 2001.  It contained about $33 billion of tax breaks for the energy industry (83).

          There are hundreds of firms whose business is the manipulation of government legislation for the sake of their clients best interests as measured by profits.  Gillespie is one of 4 that Arianna uses to make her point about how the actions of lobbyists are not in the publics interest at all.

          Arianna then goes on to describe how these lobbying firms hire Senators and Congressmen family members, former Congressmen, collogues, former generals, and high-ranking bureaucrats.   She lists 5 sons, 2 wives, and one aunt (95).  Former Montana Governor, Marc Racicot has two hats:  one as a lobbyist, the other as Chairman of the Republican National Committee (86). 

          In 2 years, between 97 and 99 Phillip Morris spent $54,216,000 on lobbying, and the big four tobacco companies spent in 1998, $365,000,000.  This amounts to 81 dollars for each of the persons who died early from the effects of tobacco in this country, and if we assume the average early retirement at 3 years, that would amount to $27 for each year retired to the grave.   Other big contributors include Bell Atlantic which spent $49.6 million in 1996. 

These contributions yield benefits.  General Electric spent $23.3 million to have among other things Washington pressure the EPA from fining GE for polluting the Hudson River.  Lobbyist Gillespie persuaded, on behalf of the steel industry, that there should be a tariff on imported steel, contrary to early free-trade proposals.  A look at the legislation exposes its venal foundation.  Newt Gingrich et al passed the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act, which in among other things protected auditing companies from shareholder lawsuits.  With a stroke of the pen, Congress made it easier for corporate thieves to plunder public companies without fear of being sued (110).  Business wants more freedom to fleece the public, and their contributions have paid off.  Each businesslike a feudal statehas its own ax to grind, and the system of contributions and lobbying is the motor that turns the grinding stone. 

One would suppose that the logic which resulted in the regulations, many of which had their birth during the administrations of the two Roosevelts, would still be understood to be sound.  And one would suppose that the S&L collapse, costing this nation over $350 billion, would remind the politicians how sound that old logic was and is.  This wave of deregulation in a series of abuses, such as gouging of the State of California during its orchestrated power shortage, continues.  Another type of headline maker has been the failed companies who seemed financial sound right up to their bankruptcy. WorldComs crisis alone cost telecom investors $180 billion, while the investors in Enron lost $80 billion.  By the fall of 2002, the scandals surrounding Enron, Adelphia, Global Crossing, Quest, Kmart, Tyco, Citigroup, and WorldCom had lead to a collective loss of almost $700 billion in shareholder value sine the share were at their peak (175).  The errors in accounting that has resulted in a lack of confidence in the corporate reports similar to the scandal riddle 20s.

There is something very troubling by all this.  First those who by there office are commissioned to promote the public weal, they arent.  Second, it isnt how well the vehicle runs, but how well it could.  And third is the assumption that letting things in the business realm take care of themselves is the best solution.[i]  To this Franklin D. Roosevelts statement in his Second Inaugural Address, 1937, is a fitting reply:  Old truths have been relearned; untruths have been unlearned.  We have always know7 that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics.  Out of the collapse of prosperity whose builders boasted their practicality has come the conviction that in the long run economic morality pays.  Congress for the immediate reward of contributions scuffs at this old lesson, and they will continue to scuff until the electorate empowers a political party that has a high standard of service.  This standard will be fulfilled when we learn the wisdom of Plato; namely, that the brightest and best educated ought to run government.

[i]   For the sake of simplicity, I will often include the presidents office within the meaning of Congress.  The two work together within their political party; thus, a distinction would only slow your reading and not promote understanding.

[ii]  The argument runs as follows:  Allow all but the most egregious business practices.  Forces of the market place will create limits.  The alternative of government intervening and establishing limits will cause even more harm both to business and the public. 

Optical illusion picture, stand back 9 feet.
Gala, Salvadore Dali's wife


More material on the pigs by Arriana

Filed October 17, 2002

Pity the poor Democrats. They just can't get a break. At a time when the public is calling for the heads of corporate miscreants, you would have thought that the latest Census Bureau report on poverty and income would be great campaign fodder for Democrats.

"For the first time in eight years, the poverty rate rose," said Dick Gephardt on the floor of the House, but it fell upon the deaf ears of a public preoccupied with sniper attacks and rumors of war. But the statistics to come out of the report are staggering: The number of Americans living in poverty grew 1.3 million last year to 32.9 million, while the most affluent fifth of the population received half of all household income and the poorest fifth 3.5 percent.

With the poor receding so rapidly in our rearview mirror, here are a few postcards from both edges of the abyss between the "let them eat cake" crowd and the faceless millions on the other side.

Upstairs: Former Kmart CEO Charles Conaway received nearly $23 million in compensation during his two-year tenure.

Downstairs: When Kmart filed for bankruptcy in 2002, 283 stores were closed and 22,000 employees lost their jobs. Total amount of severance pay for them: $0.00.

Upstairs: Former Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski made nearly $467 million in salary, bonuses and stock during his four years running the company into the ground.

Downstairs: Shareholders lost a massive $92 billion when Tyco's market value plunged.

Upstairs: The CEOs of 23 large companies under investigation by the SEC and other agencies earned 70 percent more than the average CEO, banking a collective $1.4 billion between 1999 and 2001.

Downstairs: Between January 2001 and August 2002, the market value of these 23 companies nose-dived by over $500 billion, or roughly 73 percent. And since January 2001, these companies have laid off over 160,000 employees.

Upstairs: In the year before Enron collapsed, about 100 executives and energy traders collected more than $300 million in cash payments from the company. More than $100 million went to former CEO Kenneth Lay.

Downstairs: After filing for bankruptcy, Enron lost $68 billion in market share, 5,000 employees lost their jobs and Enron workers lost $800 million from their pension funds.

Upstairs: Wal-Mart CEO H. Lee Scott, Jr. received more than $17 million in total compensation in 2001.

Downstairs: Wal-Mart employees in 30 states are suing the company alleging that managers forced employees to punch out after an eight-hour work day, and then continue working for no pay. Nevermind the Fair Labor Standards Act, which says employees who work more than 40 hours a week must be paid time-and-a-half for their overtime.

Upstairs Penthouse A: Citigroup provided Enron with $8.5 billion in loans disguised as commodity trades. The deals allowed Enron to artificially inflate cash flow and hide debt, which deceptively boosted share price and ultimately led to the company's collapse.

Upstairs Penthouse B: Citigroup offered hot initial public offering shares to WorldCom CEO Bernie Ebbers and other telecom giants in exchange for their investment banking business. Ebbers is alleged to have made nearly $11 million on IPO shares sold to him by Citigroup.

Downstairs: Citigroup agreed to pay $215 million in fines to the FTC to settle allegations of "predatory lending," loosely defined as mortgage lending that preys on customers, especially ones with bad credit. through abusive practices like deceptive marketing and inflated fees on unnecessary refinancings.

Upstairs: More than 1 million US corporations and individuals have registered as citizens of Bermuda to avoid taxes, a practice OK'd by the IRS. Although the exact number is unknown, the IRS estimates that "tax-motivated expatriation" drains at least $70 billion a year from the US Treasury.

Downstairs: If you were a worker poor enough to apply for the Earned Income Tax Credit in 2001, your chance of being audited was one in 47. If you made more than $100,000 a year, your chance of being audited was one in 208.

Upstairs: The top 1 percent of stock owners hold 47.7 percent of all stocks.

Downstairs: The bottom 80 percent of stock owners own just 4.1 percent of total stock holdings.

Upstairs: In 2000, the average CEO earned more in one day than the average worker earned all year.

Downstairs: In 2000, 25 percent of workers earned less than poverty-level wages.

Upstairs: Between 1990 and 2000, average CEO pay rose 571 percent.

Downstairs: Between 1990 and 2000, average worker pay rose 37 percent.

For more information about the disturbing disparity in wealth and privilege between the top 1 percent and the bottom 80 percent open up the business section of your newspaper. Or, grab some cake and turn on Court TV.


1158 26th Street, P.O. Box 428
Santa Monica, CA 90403


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To him who little is not enough, nothing will be enough--Epicurus

Original sin is the difference between your pleasure and mine—BF Skinner

I have met a few intelligent conservatives—John Stuart Mill