"Capitalist Pigs"

By Andrew Leonard

Published January 24, 2002 8:30PM (EST)

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"They made capitalism look bad," writes Andrew Leonard of Enron's stewards. To whom? The thing I find most disturbing about the Enron scandal -- and it is a scandal by every quantitative and qualitative measure except the following -- is the apparent total absence of public outrage. The news media, at least the print and online news media, are covering the heck out of it, unearthing a disturbing new angle almost every day, and good for them -- we haven't seen this kind of conscientious investigative reporting in years.

But left-wingers like myself (who still feel no remorse over having voted for Nader, dammit, because he was the only one who dared to talk about stuff like this) take for granted that such swindles happen all the time within our system and that our system is in fact set up to make them easier. And we can only shake our heads in sadness and frustration while the rest of our fellow citizens -- who are the ones who should be outraged, because it's their beliefs and expectations that have been betrayed, not ours -- either shrug and write it off as something they have no control over or, more upsettingly, angrily denounce a "biased" press for prying into Enron's "private business" and daring to point out the extensive personal and professional links between Enron and the Bush campaign, characterizing such reporting as a "liberal smear campaign"!

It's official: The American public has a bad case of Stockholm syndrome.

-- Keith Ammann

What's all this nonsense about "class warfare" and "class warriors" in relation to the Enron scandal, as if this is somehow novel or exceptional in history? Capitalism is a class system: always has been, always will be -- class difference and class conflict are part of its essential nature, just like booms and busts. Any idiot who opens his eyes can see that. The Enron 29 are not some bad apples who have "discredited" the system. They exemplify the excesses that are inevitable in capitalism. One need only look at history to see this kind of thing happening over and over. The only thing new about the "new economy" is the increased gullibility of so many "smart" people. Wait! Never mind. There's nothing new about that either.

-- James Curry

Andrew Leonard is right. The Enron mess does make capitalism look bad. But he doesn't draw the connection between that mess and the assault on U.S. government regulatory powers that has been going on for the past 25 years. Big government and government regulation have been out of fashion since Jimmy Carter was president. The difference between Democrats like Carter or Clinton and the current Bush is only a matter of degree. Now that the government bashers have done their work, it shouldn't be a great surprise when criminals like the executives at Enron and Arthur Andersen take advantage.

The myth promoted by the "smaller government is better" hustlers promises an enhancement of individual freedom as government regulation shrinks. The reality has shown that the jobs, pensions and health care of working Americans are more and more dependent on corporate decisions motivated by the personal greed of corporate executives. We are exchanging elected leaders for governance by anonymous thieves.

-- Larry Specht

It seems pretty clear now why Republican U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas suddenly chose to retire last year rather than answer to the people this year for his ties to the Enroctopus. His wife, Wendy, one of the tentacles of the Enroctopus, almost certainly tipped Gramm off just in time that the frosting was going to hit the fan and advised that they both ought to get out while the getting was good.

Just as the religious right is the Taliban without beards and burqas, Enron is an international al-Qaida without bombs or box cutters. And like al-Qaida, Enron also has at least one government as its wholly owned subsidiary -- ours.

Now we know that when Mr. Bush said taxes would be raised over his dead body, he really meant that Enron's taxes would be raised over his dead body. Or perhaps he meant that Enron would pay any taxes at all over his dead body.

Plus we now see that deregulation, tort reform, polluting, corporate tax cuts, 401K theft, industrial bailouts, kneecapping the ADA, securities loopholes, crooked lawyers and accounting fraud -- and privatization such as letting imbeciles check airport baggage and allow terrorists on airplanes along with sundry other bad ideas -- all came from Enron. Couple that with the policy agenda of the AmeriTaliban religious right and what do you get? That's right: You get compassionate conservatism.

The Gramms, the Bushes and the "Kenny-boy" Lays, Enron, Andersen, Ashcroft, Pitt, among others, are exactly what Theodore Roosevelt meant when he spoke of "malefactors of great wealth." Privatize Social Security anyone?

-- Thom Prentice

Enron. It embodies everything that the Republican Party (and some Democrats) has done over the last 10 years to corrupt our political and economic system under a facade of "deregulation." There is no way to exaggerate the scale of the fraud perpetrated by the Enron execs and their enablers in the political community, and it's a measure of how dysfunctional our society has become that we are not more repulsed by this behavior. It's disgusting. To pique your sense of revulsion, just compare it to the sacrifices of the FDNY, the NYPD and our armed forces, who give their very lives to protect us and our children for rotten pay, lousy hours and the opportunity to get a flag and 21-gun salute at their funeral.

I'm an attorney who deals with the business community, and I know that this isn't the way the majority of American businesspeople conduct themselves, but I think we are in a definite situational ethics slide linked to our modern obsession with money and markets. In many ways, this is far more insidious than the type of Clintonian personal failings that obsessed the last Congress, because these are the kind of temptations that supposedly "moral," upstanding citizens are more vulnerable to.

If the average guy gets caught doing what Clinton was doing with Monica, his least worry is the law. He's more worried about what his wife will do, what his kids will think and what embarrassment he will suffer in his social circle. But the kinds of financial shenanigans we see in Enron are less vulnerable to those types of extralegal sanctions. The regulations are all that stand in the way in a market that's predicated on the free exercise of capital, because there is no moral tradition inherent in capitalism itself. Capitalism is predicated on getting one up on the other guy, taking advantage of superior knowledge or talent.

Our country is a democratic republic first and a capitalist economy second. We apply our own morality to the exercise of capitalism, and more particularly, to the extent to which we allow its logic to guide our lives over other interests, such as religion and cultural tradition. In our country, the things that have defined how far we let the market rule have taken the form of certain standards of fairness expressed in disclosure rules, codes of conduct for attorneys and accountant and so on.

That's why it's important that these sleazebags get the maximum ride to instill a fear of personal ruin in those who might be contemplating similar escapades. It's also critical that we shore up the institutions these folks have degraded. Otherwise, we're slouching toward Argentina.

-- Bob Meeks

Andrew Leonard's comment on the egregiousness of Enron's fraud is excellent, but, as I'm sure he knows, there will be no changes made. Perhaps someone will be sent to a country-club jail for a year or two, perhaps some cosmetic changes will be hand waved. But nothing substantive will change. I would be willing to bet serious money on that prediction.

The bestselling author Terry Pratchett, who wraps deeply humane philosophy in a multilevel tapestry of erudition and humor, has one of his characters muse that, when faced with arrogant claims of unrestrainable privilege, people too often succumb and bend their knee rather than start looking around for an ax.

To our sad discredit, he's right.

-- Margaret Tarbet

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I agree with all of the major points that Damien Cave makes in this article, but there is one false statement that I think should be corrected. Defined benefit pension plans are not plans that "pay out what you put into them." In other words, the benefits are not defined by the contributions.

Rather, the benefits are calculated by a formula based on salary (typically the average of the final three or five years) and years of service. Workers and employers contribute funds that are invested by professionals in order to earn the returns to pay the benefits. Many of these plans include early retirement incentives, so employees gradually earn a small benefit, and then at a magic age they start earning big benefits. Workers who leave the company before serving 20 years typically earn an insignificant benefit or none at all, despite their contributions (unlike defined contribution plans, where the benefit is defined by how much you contribute, how much the company contributes and the earnings).

One big reason companies have abandoned DB plans is they aren't valuable to employees who plan to leave in a few years. Also, increasingly burdensome rules make them more expensive to operate. In contrast, DC plans are relatively easy and cheap to maintain. Also, workers appreciate 401Ks much more because they can see how much is there and they can take it with them when they job hop.

Another common fallacy is that from 1945 to 1980 all companies offered and funded generous pensions, and these were subsequently abandoned in recent years in favor of DC plans. The reality is that many of the largest companies offered pension plans to reward worker loyalty, but the benefits they paid were often very small, little more than gratuities. Medium-sized and small companies often offered no retirement benefit. Before ERISA was passed, companies could disqualify workers from pension benefits for the slightest reasons, such as a four-week separation in service due to illness or injury in a 25-year career. In other words, the benefits weren't that great and the plans didn't cover the majority of workers.

-- Craig Gunsauley

It is entirely predictable. Enron goes bust, a bunch of employees get screwed and the knee-jerk response is "legislation to protect workers from themselves coupled with campaign-finance reform."

1) As is now well-established, the Bush administration did not heed campaign-contributor Enron's appeals for special consideration. ("Then it's a scandal if they didn't help," says Waxman!)

2) Instead of new laws limiting employees' options, restrict the companies' abilities to control employees' investing decisions.

This scandal will likely create a smarter class of 401K investors. There is little the government needs to do after the executives and auditors have been brought to justice.

-- William Moser

I've seen quite a bit of pap written in the wake of Enron's collapse, and while I'll admit that Damien Cave's article is not one of the more egregious offenders, it is the one that pushed me over the edge.

Let's get one thing straight: The principal reason that so many Enron employees had such a high proportion of their 401K assets invested in Enron stock is that Enron matched employee 401K with Enron stock. Why would Enron (and dozens if not hundreds of other companies) do such a thing? There are a number of reasons, but one of the most important ones is that matching 401K contributions in stock requires minimal cash but still qualifies the company for a tax deduction. If the law is changed so that the ability of companies to match in stock is limited, it does not follow that they are likely to match in cash instead. It is reasonable that many will choose not to match at all or to match less extensively. The assertion to the contrary is supported by neither logic nor evidence.

Quite frankly, I fail to see how Enron employees are any worse off than they would have been if Enron had not matched their 401K contributions at all. More generally, I fail to see how any employee is worse off with an employer contribution in stock than he would have been if the employer had contributed nothing. Perhaps Senator Boxer should consider the fact that her legislation if enacted would have the perverse consequence of preventing matching employer 401K contributions to the very employees who need those contributions the most.

Anyone who chooses to invest in equities has the responsibility to educate himself about what he is doing. This isn't rocket science: Any average person can make informed and reasonable decisions about what to do with his money if he is willing to put forth the effort. Any book, Web site, or financial planner, even those with marginal credentials, will tell you that it's exceptionally risky to invest substantial portions of your retirement savings in the company you work for. Many Enron employees did so anyway with their own 401K contributions, indicating that they either didn't bother to educate themselves about their investments or that they judged that the likely return of their Enron stock justified the risk they were taking.

It's clear that employee investors in Enron, just like non-employee investors, were victimized by a management that failed to disclose the enormous risks that the company was taking; but it's also clear that the Enron employees are substantially responsible for the perilous condition of their retirement accounts. Railing about the senior managers who cashed in millions of dollars worth of Enron stock at inflated prices, the matching of employee 401K contributions in Enron stock, and the lockdown of the Enron 401K plan while Enron stock fell from $16 to $9 a share in October and November doesn't change the fact that many Enron employees, like the Wall Street analysts and the Arthur Andersen auditors, were asleep at the wheel.

-- John Cusey

I've also had employer matching funds, which had to be invested in company stock, melt away from my 401K when my employer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. I had complained about the risk years before, but my complaints were ignored.

Why should an employee's fully vested retirement assets be locked into the investment choices offered by an employer? Why should an employee be forced to quit his job just to gain control of those assets? One simple change to 401K regulations could fix this. Allow an employee to roll over his vested 401K assets to his own IRA account, where he could direct his own investments. Such a transfer should be allowed at least once a year and should not jeopardize the employee's continued participation in the 401K.

-- Larry Jensen

While I agree completely with preventing companies from influencing employees' investment decisions or enjoining them from selling whenever they wish, I'm against government or corporate-mandated maximum single-company investments in all its forms.

What's at stake is the right to make your own decisions, stupid or ingenious, with your own money. Sure, it's a common maxim that you shouldn't place all your eggs in a single basket, but who is the SEC to force that way of thinking upon me? If I want to pour all my money into Salon Inc this afternoon, I should be able to without a broker for a damned nanny telling me I can't because I might hurt myself. In exchange for this right of self-determination, however, comes the responsibility to know what it is I'm putting my money into. I must educate myself about money and investing and look extremely closely at companies I've put my money into.

While I may have sympathy for those who've lost capital in the Enron debacle, either in 401Ks or their stock portfolios, I'm also forced to remind them that there is never any sort of guaranteed return on any investment. You're not even guaranteed your money back. You want security? Open a savings account. Buy a T-bill. Don't invest in stock. And if you do, don't come crying to me when you're broke because you failed to inform yourself that the power-trading company you were deep into was using questionable pro-forma accounting practices to hide its debt. These problems were only found when business journalists took a very close look at Enron's accounting using public documents. It's something any investor could have done. They didn't, and thus reaped the whirlwind. My sympathy abounds, but unless you were one of those prevented from selling, the fault lies not in thy stocks, but in thyself.

-- Gregory Dyas

Following the Enron collapse and 401K debacle, it's time to rethink all of these employer sponsored, tax deductible programs. The retirement plans are risky and discriminatory, the other plans (such as dependent and health care contributions) are both discriminatory and misdirected.

The main problem with 401K plans (and their 403B, Keogh and other brothers) are that they are discriminatory. The type of plan available, rules for contributing to the plan, and even availability of the plan depend on your employer. As with defined benefit plans, if you pick the right employer you will be well off in retirement. If you don't, you might not even have a retirement.

Some plans limit when you can join; you might have to wait a year. Most plans severely limit your investment options, often to company stock and a handful of dubious stock and bond funds that may not even be traded outside of the plan. And 401K plans can limit the amount of contribution by highly compensated employees if a company's lower paid employees are not contributing enough.

But the main problem with these plans is that you must work for an employer that offers these plans. Otherwise, you are limited to an IRA which has flexibility but has significant limitations on the amount you can contribute and whether it is tax-deferred.

And a final, and very significant, issue with these plans is that the income from them is taxed as income when you retire, rather than a combination of income (for the tax-deferred contributions) and capital gains (for the gain). This will be significant if Republicans can repeal the capital gains tax.

The solution to 401K plans? Eliminate the employee contribution part and expand the IRA to compensate. This means raising the maximum IRA contribution and making all contributions tax-deferred. The government argument against expanding the IRA program is that it would decrease tax revenues. It takes very little thought to realize how discriminatory this argument is; those people who only have IRA plans available are usually lower-income and are denied the tax-deferred advantages of more highly compensated employees. Employers can provide their own contributions to pension plans, but employee contributions should be under employee control through IRA programs.

With regard to the other type of plans such as dependent and health care contribution plans, these are both discriminatory and illogical. If you work for the right employer, you can make pre-tax contributions to handle dependent and health care expenses that are predictable.

The amount you can contribute depends on your employer. So a person whose employer does not have this plan, and who encounters a medical emergency, does not get the same tax benefit as someone who has the right employer and wants to set aside pre-tax dollars for optional or cosmetic medical procedures or expenses.

Medical expenses used to be tax deductible, but now they are only deductible if they are extreme. The solution is to eliminate these health care plans and make the items covered by these plans tax deductible. Of course, the government will apply the same argument as for IRA expansion; it will reduce tax revenues. This means that it is OK for some people to have a tax benefit but not for everyone to enjoy that benefit because the government can't afford it.

These plans are preferential, discriminatory, and need to be replaced with programs that are universally available and controlled by the individual. Not likely to happen in these days of special interests and preferential treatment, but one can hope.

By the way, I happen to work for an employer that offers the maximum of flexibility in all of these plans. And I take full advantage of all of the plans that apply to me (I have no dependents, so I don't use the dependent care plan). So I fully recognize the advantage I receive from this preferential tax treatment, and I realize how discriminatory they are. I am not going to not contribute to these plans on moral grounds; I just wish they were available to everyone.

-- John C. Isaacs

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Enron lied to its employees, imagine that! "Let them freeze" was the attitude of Texas energy companies during a fuel crisis in the northeast. I'm sure the employees watching Enron stock prices during the gouging of California ratepayers were thrilled.

Unlike victims of raids on their pension funds during the last Republican administration, Enron employees had a choice. They didn't have to participate in the Enron 401K. The real victims are non-employee stockholders.

Anyone who expects the rich in Texas to be held accountable is in for a rude awakening. Look at the double murder trial of Cullen Davis -- although identified by three eyewitnesses he was acquitted -- one juror stated that "rich people just don't do things like that."

-- John Boydstun

Enron really must have done a PR job on its employees. Sorry, but if I worked for Christ himself, I would never labor under the illusion that management had my best interests in mind. The problem lies in the attitude (one that I thought had passed away long ago along with my Chrysler devotee grandfather) that any given employee was more than fodder for the corporate machine. How could these people be so naive? To "live, sleep and eat Enron" tells me that these people were their own worst enemy, not the jackals at Enron. Enron was just cashing in; since when was big business about anything more than that?

-- Sarah Parviz

Oh, we are a nation of victims, aren't we? A couple of grossly overweight whiny-asses and we are supposed to "feel their pain." Goddamn, how would we ever have won World War II with a national mindset like we have today? World War II was the most serious event in modern history. Ask any Jew.

-- Dan Pope

I have an idea. In order to dispel any thoughts of impropriety in investigating this company, let's have both political parties (75 percent Republicans, with Bushie the largest recipient) return all the monies they received from Enron and then, perhaps, we could use the funds to start to restitute the losses of the employees from the time their stocks were frozen.

-- Adela Hall

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Please name an energy company (other than PG&E and SC Edison, as to point three) that would not also agree with the points illustrated in the following passage:

"We know that Enron essentially shaped the Bush administration's energy policy, with its pro-drilling slant, bias against conservation and reluctance to intervene in California's electricity crisis."

I did not note where the author explained how we "know" that information.

"We know that Enron essentially engineered the removal of a chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission whose policies it disliked and had him replaced with a long-time Texas ally who could be expected to be more friendly to its interests."

Or the interests of all big business proponents. Oh, wait, isn't that the administration that was elected? Again, how do we "know" these things?

I grant you that you probably know a great deal that I do not know, but the role of journalism is to share that knowledge through reporting -- not ask me to take your word on it!

-- Joseph G. McCarthy

One name I keep hearing in your articles about the Enron scandal is Wendy Gramm, wife of soon-to-be-retired Sen. Phil Gramm. When he decided to retire, I vividly remember, he said that he had come to Washington to do some things and, remarkably, he'd accomplished everything he wanted to accomplish. This was his reason for leaving, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who raised an eyebrow when he said it.

In light of his wife's intimate involvement with Enron and the numerous contributions he himself has received from Ken Lay, I'd love to have one of your wonderful journalists explore the real reason why ol' Phil decided to jump ship (isn't that what the rats always do?).

Thank God for Salon!

-- Gwenn Carlson

Are there no prisons? That's all I can think about every time I see a news article or TV story about Enron. Dickens' Scrooge would have jailed the poor. I say, jail the rich: the criminal rich who gave Bush cash, bought access to his government and reaped his tax cuts.

Bush and Cheney have hidden behind executive privilege to avoid revealing who got in to write Cheney's energy policy. We now know why they've been scared. Enron, the largest single shareholder in George W. Bush, danced at Cheney's party six times. They're now caught up in a scandal ordinary people can understand: The bosses cashed in their chips and prevented the workers from protecting their retirement funds.

Now Bush claims he knew nothing. Enron wasn't the only campaign contributing company at Cheney's secret meetings. As Arlo Guthrie asked Richard Nixon, in his song "Presidential Rag," "If you didn't know about that one, then what else don't you know?" Are there no prisons?

-- Jim Carl

The Democrats are wasting their time to connect Bush with Enron. Bush had nothing to do with Enron, he was not informed about Enron, he was OUT OF THE LOOP.

-- Ferenc Hutterer, M.D.

This piece is opinionated and biased. The author distorts the facts in order to make a case for regulating the energy markets. The real cause for the collapse wasn't the rise of a free market for energy, but that Enron attempted to monopolize that market, with the help of political protection, at the expense of energy producers and energy consumers (municipal utilities). The energy "shortage" in California was not caused by free-wheeling competition, but by onerous state regulatory laws that continue to limit the prices that municipal utilities can charge their customers while those utilities were forced to buy their power on the open market at market prices from a government-protected monopoly (Enron). The real damage will come when articles like these appeal to an age-old populist impulse in American society to "get the fat cats" at the expense of free markets that are allowed to work for the benefit of all.

-- Larry Siden

The critical framework for this article and most of the Enron-Bush articles on your site and elsewhere is flawed. It presupposes that the Republican party pushed the deregulation of energy markets because Enron donated to the party. The causality is actually the reverse. Enron donated to the Republican party because they believe (and the facts support) that deregulation of all markets results in lower prices for consumers. One need only look at the history of the Republican party to see that its support of deregulation pre-dates Enron's donations (it also pre-dates the birth of President Bush). If one wishes to make a case that Enron bought favors from the Republicans, then one must show that Enron received government benefits that its competitors did not also receive. The Bush administration's refusal to use governmental influence to prevent a bankruptcy clearly shows that Enron did not get special favors. You would be much better off reserving your moral outrage for Bush's efforts to protect the U.S. steel industry. These efforts are forcing every American to subsidize steel company shareholders, bankers and workers.

-- Andrew Cueva

In the American political consciousness this Enron fiasco is a great opportunity for those who believe in a return to democracy for the people (rather than the current democracy for the large campaign contributing corporations) to aggressively make noise about campaign finance reform. Making Enron a symbol of what is wrong with corporate America and its out-of-control influence on political legislation (i.e., Cheney's energy policy or Bush's economic stimulus package) is what news agencies should currently be focusing on. Make that those few news sources independent of these mega-corporation's influence or ownership. I guess that is the uncontrollable power of the modern McWorld; these days most people don't know how to, or even care to, access good information. The media keeps Americans entertained with the trivial nonsense that passes for news, and Americans don't recognize the erosion of their democracy.

In the American political consciousness the book "Jihad v. McWorld" could be the poster book for campaign finance reform; maybe Salon.com (being independent of corporate ownership) should increase this awareness of the current erosion of American democracy.

-- Pat Laughlin

Mr. Rosenberg's article seems to assume that all politicians have to carefully vet the balance sheets, income statements, and corporate structures of any company who might give money to their campaign. If they fail to identify potential improprieties, after all, they are held liable by our ever-vigilant press!

I am a Democrat born and bred, but I feel criticizing the Bush administration because Enron blew up is just wrong. Blame them for allowing too much corporate access (which was not specific to Enron, though Enron was certainly one of the best-connected companies to the Bush White House), or blame the current campaign finance system, but the Bushies didn't do anything here that Clinton didn't do for the trial lawyers, or that any political party doesn't try to do for its allies.

-- Stephen Hope

Isn't it odd that the TV media has spent months downplaying any Bush scandal? The mantra seems to often be, "Well, at least he doesn't have a girlfriend in the Oval Office." I say bring on the girls. At least for the last 8 years people were prosperous, we were not at war and crime and drugs were dropping.

Check out things now. We are now in a deep recession with the potential of unemployment hitting 6.8 percent. We are spending billions to turn big rocks into little rocks and have nobody to show for it but that poor stupid disrespectful kid Walker and the wacko shoe bomber who was caught by the passengers. Crime is increasing at an alarming rate and kids are smoking, drinking and using more drugs. We are not allowed by executive order to investigate or even view the dealings of the Reagan papers. And Bush has buried his own dealings as governor in his Papa's library. Frightening.

The heck with the dignity in the Oval Office. Give us back our civil rights, freedom of speech and allow us to gripe about our politicians without worry of the Feds showing up on our doorstep. GIVE US BACK OUR DIGNITY!

-- Gayle Stream

All the pundits (and Salon readers) who are claiming that the Bush administration has broken no laws and has behaved ethically by not acting on requests for action by Enron are missing the point.

Get it straight, folks: Enron executives, knowing their corporation was going down the tubes, contacted not one but two Cabinet departments seeking assistance. No, they didn't get it, but that's not the issue. The issue is what the Bush administration officials who were contacted should have done: that is, alert the SEC and the public (and, perhaps, the IRS) that all was not as it appeared with Enron, that its public financial reports apparently were not to be trusted and that perhaps laws or regulations had been flouted.

At the very least, such an action might have prevented many of the losses suffered by Enron investors, including employees.

No, so far as we can tell, Bush administration officials have broken no laws. That doesn't mean the course of action they chose was ethical or right. That doesn't mean they haven't violated their oaths of office and the public trust. And it certainly doesn't mean they should remain on the government payroll.

-- Lex Alexander

I see this morning that Salon has devoted about seven articles to the collapse of the Enron corporation. A sure sign that the magazine believes it's picked up the scent of serious scandal, one that will allow it to be first hound to corner the chief farmer of capitalist porcines, President Bush.

I've not read such excited journalistic baying since Salon took umbrage over the results of the Florida voting returns during the presidential election. That fracas even generated a secondary hunt by the magazine intended to tree Katherine Harris, the Florida secretary of state. Both hunts barked up the wrong tree.

Undaunted, Salon later hoped to bring discredit on the president by its extended and ongoing commentary on the behavior of the president's daughters, both found guilty of dreadful misconduct involving drinking alcoholic beverages, I believe, while under the legal age.

Then there was the rather halfhearted barking Salon kept up during the early days of the Bush administration about the president's intelligence. This was a very foolish attack--it could so easily have got out of hand. The combined subject of politicians and intelligence is like gas warfare -- very risky -- the breeze may change and blow the poison back against your own side. One's own politicians are at risk, in other words. Even the writers at Salon soon twigged to this and their barking ceased.

Still, aside from the entertainment of it all, I must give the magazine's writers credit for sheer doggedness.

-- James Bennett

This Enron mess has me quite upset.

To think that a house of cards was being built by standard operating corporate practice leads me to question the entire business system. At first the issue was not of enough importance to follow. Anyone should know by now that the stock mania of the last decade was going to end in the same way as did Japan's and Indonesia's. But story after story continues to detail a context of criminal behavior that borders on nothing short of abuse.

I wonder if any of the Enron top executives ever worked a day in their lives. The good old boy network is totally responsible for this. Worst of all, Anderson is showing itself to be just as culpable. Firing all employees who followed orders is more than I can stand.

They, Bill Gates and all of the Enron top execs should be put on an Alabama chain gang!

Please keep reporting this story.

-- Lloyd Little

By Salon Staff

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