Dear John Hall

Grlygrl201@aol.com Grlygrl201@aol.com
Tue, 22 Jan 2002 07:16:18 EST


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   =20

    This is too good not to post in its entirety (a la Carrie), but here's=20
the url also:
http://slate.msn.com/?id=3D2061023

(Sorry, but when the wsj allows crap-ed blaming clinton for enron, someone's=
=20
gotta answer.)

Who's politicizing what?
Geege

hoping this c&p format transfers okay . . .=20

Blaming Liberalism for Enron
Conservative pundits rise to the challenge.
By Timothy Noah
Posted Monday, January 21, 2002, at 3:31 PM PT=20

With the Bush administration taking heat for its ties to Enron, and pointed=20
questions being raised about whether Enron's collapse suggests that <A HREF=
=3D"http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/17/opinion/17LEVI.html">
accountants</A> and <A HREF=3D"http://www.thenewrepublic.com/012802/editoria=
l012802.html">pension funds</A> require tighter regulation, conservatives ha=
ve=20
gone on the counterattack. The main strategy has been to point out that many=
=20
Democrats and/or liberals also fed at the Enron trough, which is certainly=20
true. (Chatterbox continues to believe that in the "government sleaze"=20
department, the only scandalous <A HREF=3D"http://slate.msn.com/?id=3D206071=
2&">nugget</A> so far is that former Treasury=20
Secretary Robert Rubin lobbied Treasury on behalf of Citigroup, a major Enro=
n=20
creditor.) In the long run, though, arguing that Bob Rubin can be bought wit=
h=20
corporate lucre just as easily as Larry Lindsey won't help conservatism's=20
twilight struggle against liberalism. It's a liberal argument. If the=20
Republicans push this line too hard, they'll be heading down the slippery=20
slope toward support for campaign-finance reform.

Rising to this ideological challenge, the more entrepreneurial conservative=20
commentators have begun to argue that liberalism itself created the=20
Frankenstein monster known as Enron. So far, the argument has taken two=20
forms:

1) The 1960s created Enron. Social conservatives have long argued that the=20
Woodstock generation's If-It-Feels-Good-Do-It ethic destroyed the nation's=20
moral fiber. It was a useful tack against homosexuality, abortion, and=20
various other Christian-right bugaboos, but not really helpful when the caus=
e=20
was greater latitude for the free market to wreak creative destruction. In a=
=20
Jan. 21 column, though, the Wall Street Journal's Robert Bartley attempts a=20=
<A HREF=3D"http://www.opinionjournal.com/columnists/rbartley/?id=3D95001756"=
>
bold synthesis</A>:


> The systemic failure is not a matter of economic arrangements, but of the=20
> societal collapse of standards and morality over the last three decades or=
=20
> so. As a society we seem increasingly incapable of sitting in judgment of=20
> each other=E2=80=94certainly not on the behavior of prominent entertainers=
, sports=20
> figures or presidents. We have a legal profession that tolerates and even=20
> promotes abuse of the legal system in class action suits=E2=80=94in the cu=
rrent=20
> Microsoft claims settlement enriching lawyers while not even trying to giv=
e=20
> a cent to supposedly injured plaintiffs. What kind of behavior can an "I'm=
=20
> OK, you're OK" society expect from its professionals or business leaders?
>=20
"Presidents" is of course a sly reference to Bill Clinton, the pre-eminent=20
political poster child for 1960s self-indulgence. A <A HREF=3D"http://www.op=
inionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=3D95001748">Jan. 18 editorial</A>=
 in the=20
Journal blamed Clinton more explicitly:
>=20
> We'd say it's also impossible to understand Enron outside of the moral=20
> climate in which it flourished. Those were the roaring '90s, when all of=20
> America reveled in the economic boom. They were also the Clinton years,=20
> when we learned that "everybody does it." The culture wanted to believe in=
=20
> Enron's promises, which helps explain why 16 of 17 Wall Street analysts=20
> rated Enron a "buy" as recently as last October.

Not only was Clinton bad, but his economic boom was bad, too! The obvious=20
problem here is that railing against prosperity is a liberal thing to do.=20
Worse, it's a dumb liberal thing to do. Back to the drawing board.

2) Environmentalism created Enron. Blaming environmentalism is more shrewd=20
than blaming the 1960s because while Timothy Leary and Ken Lay never made=20
common cause, Timothy Wirth and Ken Lay did. A <A HREF=3D"http://www.suntime=
s.com/output/novak/cst-edt-novak17.html">Jan. 17 column</A> by Robert Novak=20
made much of the fact that Wirth, a former Clinton point man on global=20
warming who is now president of Ted Turner's United Nations Foundation,=20
spread the Kyoto Treaty gospel from Ken Lay to Paul O'Neill when the latter=20
was still running Alcoa. That Enron stood to benefit from the Kyoto Treaty's=
=20
international limits on carbon emissions is indisputable:
>=20
> To burn coal, it would be necessary to purchase credits for the emission o=
f=20
> CO2. That would create a market for Enron, buying and selling emission=20
> credits. Internal memos show that Enron envisioned a profit here as early=20
> as 1996. =E2=80=A6 [A Dec. 1997 Enron memo] asserted that the Kyoto treaty=
 ''will=20
> do more to promote Enron's business'' than any other regulatory initiative=
.=20
> It called the treaty's authority to trade in CO2 credits ''another victory=
=20
> for us,'' adding: ''This agreement will be good for Enron stock!!'' Enron'=
s=20
> advocacy began years earlier. On Dec. 5, 1995, Lay wrote Environmental=20
> Protection Administrator Carol Browner pressing for the trading of emissio=
n=20
> standards. O'Neill can be accused of being a misguided idealist about=20
> global warming, but Lay saw Kyoto's green as the color of money.

But the mere fact that Enron stood to benefit financially from the Kyoto=20
Treaty, and therefore was pushing energetically for its passage, doesn't in=20
itself constitute an argument against the Kyoto Treaty. What really worries=20
conservatives like Novak is that other companies might be harmed by the=20
treaty. To the extent that potential harm is real, it needs to be weighed=20
against the potential benefits that would come from reducing carbon=20
emissions. And that has nothing to do with Enron.
A more challenging variation on this theme is the argument by Jerry Taylor,=20
director of natural resource studies at the Cato Institute, that=20
overregulation of the electricity industry created Enron. He makes his case=20
in a <A HREF=3D"http://interactive.wsj.com/articles/SB1011568206221331160.ht=
m">Jan. 21 op-ed</A> in the Wall Street Journal:
>=20
> [W]hile donning the garb of Ronald Reagan on the one hand, the company was=
=20
> donning the mantle of Ralph Nader when it came to the transmission and=20
> distribution side of the energy business. Enron, you see, was worried that=
=20
> the incumbent utilities would either under-price the non-utility=20
> competitors that Enron wanted on their trading floors or, alternatively,=20
> would charge such high prices for access to their transmission systems tha=
t=20
> non-utility gas and electricity providers would be unable to effectively=20
> compete for business. So Enron insisted that electric utilities be forced=20
> by law to get out of the generation business, that strict price controls b=
e=20
> set for the rates charged for access to the various transmission grids, an=
d=20
> that the day-to-day operation of the electricity distribution systems be=20
> handed over to state officials who were directed to govern those systems a=
t=20
> the behest of the system's "stakeholders" (read: Enron and friends).

The problem here is that Taylor doesn't acknowledge the liberal argument tha=
t=20
none of this would have come up had utilities remained fully regulated in th=
e=20
first place. But since Chatterbox suspects the deregulation of electricity=20
will ultimately prove beneficial, he won't make that argument himself. =20

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<HTML><FONT FACE=3Darial,helvetica><FONT  SIZE=3D2 FAMILY=3D"SANSSERIF" FACE=
=3D"Arial" LANG=3D"0">    <BR>
<BR>
    This is too good not to post in its entirety (a la Carrie), but here's t=
he url also:<BR>
http://slate.msn.com/?id=3D2061023<BR>
<BR>
(Sorry, but when the wsj allows crap-ed blaming clinton for enron, someone's=
 gotta answer.)<BR>
<BR>
Who's politicizing what?<BR>
Geege<BR>
<BR>
hoping this c&amp;p format transfers okay . . . <BR>
</FONT><FONT  COLOR=3D"#000000" style=3D"BACKGROUND-COLOR: #ffffff" SIZE=3D2=
 FAMILY=3D"SANSSERIF" FACE=3D"tahoma" LANG=3D"0"><BR>
Blaming Liberalism for Enron<BR>
Conservative pundits rise to the challenge.<BR>
</FONT><FONT  COLOR=3D"#000000" style=3D"BACKGROUND-COLOR: #ffffff" SIZE=3D2=
 FAMILY=3D"SANSSERIF" FACE=3D"Arial" LANG=3D"0">By Timothy Noah</FONT><FONT=20=
 COLOR=3D"#000000" style=3D"BACKGROUND-COLOR: #ffffff" SIZE=3D3 FAMILY=3D"SA=
NSSERIF" FACE=3D"Arial" LANG=3D"0"><BR>
</FONT><FONT  COLOR=3D"#cc0000" style=3D"BACKGROUND-COLOR: #ffffff" SIZE=3D3=
 FAMILY=3D"SANSSERIF" FACE=3D"Arial" LANG=3D"0">Posted Monday, January 21, 2=
002, at 3:31 PM PT </FONT><FONT  COLOR=3D"#000000" style=3D"BACKGROUND-COLOR=
: #ffffff" SIZE=3D3 FAMILY=3D"SANSSERIF" FACE=3D"Arial" LANG=3D"0"><BR>
<BR>
With the Bush administration taking heat for its ties to Enron, and pointed=20=
questions being raised about whether Enron's collapse suggests that <A HREF=
=3D"http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/17/opinion/17LEVI.html">accountants</A> a=
nd <A HREF=3D"http://www.thenewrepublic.com/012802/editorial012802.html">pen=
sion funds</A> require tighter regulation, conservatives have gone on the co=
unterattack. The main strategy has been to point out that many Democrats and=
/or liberals also fed at the Enron trough, which is certainly true. (Chatter=
box continues to believe that in the "government sleaze" department, the onl=
y scandalous <A HREF=3D"http://slate.msn.com/?id=3D2060712&">nugget</A> so f=
ar is that former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin lobbied Treasury on behalf=
 of Citigroup, a major Enron creditor.) In the long run, though, arguing tha=
t Bob Rubin can be bought with corporate lucre just as easily as Larry Linds=
ey won't help conservatism's twilight struggle against liberalism. It's a li=
beral argument. If the Republicans push this line too hard, they'll be headi=
ng down the slippery slope toward support for campaign-finance reform.<BR>
<BR>
Rising to this ideological challenge, the more entrepreneurial conservative=20=
commentators have begun to argue that liberalism itself created the Frankens=
tein monster known as Enron. So far, the argument has taken two forms:<BR>
<BR>
1) The 1960s created Enron. Social conservatives have long argued that the W=
oodstock generation's If-It-Feels-Good-Do-It ethic destroyed the nation's mo=
ral fiber. It was a useful tack against homosexuality, abortion, and various=
 other Christian-right bugaboos, but not really helpful when the cause was g=
reater latitude for the free market to wreak creative destruction. In a Jan.=
 21 column, though, the Wall Street Journal's Robert Bartley attempts a <A H=
REF=3D"http://www.opinionjournal.com/columnists/rbartley/?id=3D95001756">bol=
d synthesis</A>:<BR>
<BR>
</FONT><FONT  COLOR=3D"#000000" style=3D"BACKGROUND-COLOR: #ffffff" SIZE=3D2=
 FAMILY=3D"SANSSERIF" FACE=3D"Arial" LANG=3D"0"><BR>
<BLOCKQUOTE TYPE=3DCITE style=3D"BORDER-LEFT: #0000ff 2px solid; MARGIN-LEFT=
: 5px; MARGIN-RIGHT: 0px; PADDING-LEFT: 5px"><B>The systemic failure is not=20=
a matter of economic arrangements, but of the societal collapse of standards=
 and morality over the last three decades or so. As a society we seem increa=
singly incapable of sitting in judgment of each other=E2=80=94certainly not=20=
on the behavior of prominent entertainers, sports figures or presidents. We=20=
have a legal profession that tolerates and even promotes abuse of the legal=20=
system in class action suits=E2=80=94in the current Microsoft claims settlem=
ent enriching lawyers while not even trying to give a cent to supposedly inj=
ured plaintiffs. What kind of behavior can an "I'm OK, you're OK" society ex=
pect from its professionals or business leaders?</B><BR>
</BLOCKQUOTE><BR>
"Presidents" is of course a sly reference to Bill Clinton, the pre-eminent p=
olitical poster child for 1960s self-indulgence. A <A HREF=3D"http://www.opi=
nionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=3D95001748">Jan. 18 editorial</A>=20=
in the Journal blamed Clinton more explicitly:<BR>
<BLOCKQUOTE TYPE=3DCITE style=3D"BORDER-LEFT: #0000ff 2px solid; MARGIN-LEFT=
: 5px; MARGIN-RIGHT: 0px; PADDING-LEFT: 5px"><BR>
<B>We'd say it's also impossible to understand Enron outside of the moral cl=
imate in which it flourished. Those were the roaring '90s, when all of Ameri=
ca reveled in the economic boom. They were also the Clinton years, when we l=
earned that "everybody does it." The culture wanted to believe in Enron's pr=
omises, which helps explain why 16 of 17 Wall Street analysts rated Enron a=20=
"buy" as recently as last October.</BLOCKQUOTE></B><BR>
<BR>
Not only was Clinton bad, but his economic boom was bad, too! The obvious pr=
oblem here is that railing against prosperity is a liberal thing to do. Wors=
e, it's a dumb liberal thing to do. Back to the drawing board.<BR>
<BR>
2) Environmentalism created Enron. Blaming environmentalism is more shrewd t=
han blaming the 1960s because while Timothy Leary and Ken Lay never made com=
mon cause, Timothy Wirth and Ken Lay did. A <A HREF=3D"http://www.suntimes.c=
om/output/novak/cst-edt-novak17.html">Jan. 17 column</A> by Robert Novak mad=
e much of the fact that Wirth, a former Clinton point man on global warming=20=
who is now president of Ted Turner's United Nations Foundation, spread the K=
yoto Treaty gospel from Ken Lay to Paul O'Neill when the latter was still ru=
nning Alcoa. That Enron stood to benefit from the Kyoto Treaty's internation=
al limits on carbon emissions is indisputable:<BR>
<BLOCKQUOTE TYPE=3DCITE style=3D"BORDER-LEFT: #0000ff 2px solid; MARGIN-LEFT=
: 5px; MARGIN-RIGHT: 0px; PADDING-LEFT: 5px"><BR>
<B>To burn coal, it would be necessary to purchase credits for the emission=20=
of CO2. That would create a market for Enron, buying and selling emission cr=
edits. Internal memos show that Enron envisioned a profit here as early as 1=
996. =E2=80=A6 [A Dec. 1997 Enron memo] asserted that the Kyoto treaty ''wil=
l do more to promote Enron's business'' than any other regulatory initiative=
. It called the treaty's authority to trade in CO2 credits ''another victory=
 for us,'' adding: ''This agreement will be good for Enron stock!!'' Enron's=
 advocacy began years earlier. On Dec. 5, 1995, Lay wrote Environmental Prot=
ection Administrator Carol Browner pressing for the trading of emission stan=
dards. O'Neill can be accused of being a misguided idealist about global war=
ming, but Lay saw Kyoto's green as the color of money.</BLOCKQUOTE></B><BR>
<BR>
But the mere fact that Enron stood to benefit financially from the Kyoto Tre=
aty, and therefore was pushing energetically for its passage, doesn't in its=
elf constitute an argument against the Kyoto Treaty. What really worries con=
servatives like Novak is that other companies might be harmed by the treaty.=
 To the extent that potential harm is real, it needs to be weighed against t=
he potential benefits that would come from reducing carbon emissions. And th=
at has nothing to do with Enron.<BR>
A more challenging variation on this theme is the argument by Jerry Taylor,=20=
director of natural resource studies at the Cato Institute, that overregulat=
ion of the electricity industry created Enron. He makes his case in a <A HRE=
F=3D"http://interactive.wsj.com/articles/SB1011568206221331160.htm">Jan. 21=20=
op-ed</A> in the Wall Street Journal:<BR>
<BLOCKQUOTE TYPE=3DCITE style=3D"BORDER-LEFT: #0000ff 2px solid; MARGIN-LEFT=
: 5px; MARGIN-RIGHT: 0px; PADDING-LEFT: 5px"><BR>
<B>[W]hile donning the garb of Ronald Reagan on the one hand, the company wa=
s donning the mantle of Ralph Nader when it came to the transmission and dis=
tribution side of the energy business. Enron, you see, was worried that the=20=
incumbent utilities would either under-price the non-utility competitors tha=
t Enron wanted on their trading floors or, alternatively, would charge such=20=
high prices for access to their transmission systems that non-utility gas an=
d electricity providers would be unable to effectively compete for business.=
 So Enron insisted that electric utilities be forced by law to get out of th=
e generation business, that strict price controls be set for the rates charg=
ed for access to the various transmission grids, and that the day-to-day ope=
ration of the electricity distribution systems be handed over to state offic=
ials who were directed to govern those systems at the behest of the system's=
 "stakeholders" (read: Enron and friends).</BLOCKQUOTE></B><BR>
<BR>
The problem here is that Taylor doesn't acknowledge the liberal argument tha=
t none of this would have come up had utilities remained fully regulated in=20=
the first place. But since Chatterbox suspects the deregulation of electrici=
ty will ultimately prove beneficial, he won't make that argument himself.  <=
BR>
</FONT></HTML>
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