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Saturday, January 19, 2002
BLOG WATCH II: Your guide to who is saying what, where
PM Edition - by Tony Adragna
Brian Linse: Doin' a #2 on #2, then flushing

Andrew Hofer: Krugman and Enron goin' to Hell in the same handbasket

Damian Penny: The numbers are still bunk; Conventional prisoners; plenty of blame to go around

Dr. Frank: Guardian of the future; (bloggers) riding on the back of a behemoth (media); Goldhagen in Fantasyland

Moira Breen: Clueless Euro-naifs don't even know the right question

Tim Blair: A town named Impractically-Idealistic-Superior-Part-Of-A-Land-Dwelling-Reptile

Duncan Fitzgerald: Growing older with no goals

Alex Knapp: Medal of Honor , arriving!; no new news from the Middle East - it's all boilerplate, anyway; S 155299352 - Short Title: A Bill to regulate natural sulfur emissions

protein wisdom: "West"ern criticism; Colour me American; conservative conservative

Ginger Stampley: I'll tell ya in a minute!

Click here: for more "Blog Watch"ing

Tony Adragna
Q. Why wasn't Churchill re-elcted after the war?

A. "Because he didn't get enough votes..." - Lord Jenkins, answering a question from the audience during a speaking engagement about the subject of his new book, "Churchill: A Biography" - 11/14/01

Shattering the Glassman
Tony Adragna
Will, Glassman is only 1/2 right - executives who had their money in the 401(k) had their money locked down like everybody else - that's true. But, Glassman confuses the issue when he assumes that senior Enron execs had all -- or even a substantial portion -- of their stock in the 401(k) plan. That's the point I was making about "top hat" last night. Qualified Plans, like a 401(k), are strictly regulated as to who can participate, and how they can participate. Plans that don't meet compliance to retain their qualified status must refund excess contributions to highly compensated employees. At the high end it's practically not worthwhile to put money into a 401(k) because of the contribution limits.

The way around this is what are known as Non Qualified, or "top hat", plans. These plans are actually promises by a company to provide something -- health insurance, rent, vehicle, you name it -- at the company's own expense in lieu of salary. The most popular "something", by far, is stock options. Since these options are outside of the qualified plan(the 401(k) that was locked down), the change in plan administration wouldn't have "locked down" any trading for the holders.

Besides, Glassman's argument is off point, since Lay was selling on knowledge that the stock was gonna be worthless at the same time that he was telling employees to buy! -prior to the lock down. Even if his stock had been in the 401(k), he used a certain knowledge that his employees didn't have, so he wouldn't have been affected anyway.

p.s.: The argument that employees are to blame for their own losses has merit. But, that merit is balanced against the company's obligation to ensure that employees had all the information they needed in order to make an informed decision. Should they have been more diversified? Yes! Should they have sold Enron soon as it dipped to, what $50, or $30, or whatever number Glassman wants to pick? Not necessarily! If you're in for the long term -- these were pension savings, so it's reasonable to assume that the employees were making long term investments -- then you might reasonably decide to hang on in expectation that there'll be a rally. It's still a risk taking by employees, but in this case there was also a failure of the fiduciary to fullfil it's obligation - looking out for the interest of plan participants.

Bunch of Big Babies
a chronicle of inane griping - Tony Adragna
Sorry Will, but I just can't get myself worked up over Goldberg's "I'm gonna get y'all back" book, nor the reflexive "your stupid" defense mechanism criticisms of Kinsley. It's all pointless - eveybody already agrees (to differing degrees) that there is bias in the media. Anybody who argues the opposite is either clueless or lieing - that's why none of Goldberg's colleagues have dared to attempt a refutation of the underlieing premise.

What I really find tiresome is the back and forth over which camp is really biased. Enough! - they both are. And, they both use the same devices to sway the audience. One of those devices -- the one that you mention -- is the "label", which we've been hearing alot about lately. The argument includes this assertion: the liberal press always refers to conservatives by label, but never does so when referring to liberals. Well, the thruth is that everybody, especially those in the commentariat, uses the "label".

Here are a few examples (all emphasis is mine):

Larry Elder - The Washington Times, Sep 4, 2001 - Hollywood misunderstood by NAACP "Black liberal commentator Tavis Smiley recently signed a multimillion-dollar, multimedia deal with ABC and CNN." (Elder gets a twofer - Tony)

Dick Polman - INQUIRER [Philadelphia] STAFF WRITER, Mar 4, 2001 - "An unrepentant Nader sticks to his plan A prominent liberal commentator, Robert Kuttner, argued not long ago that..."

DAVID FUTRELLE - Salon, March 1997 - Media Circus "...liberal commentator Molly Ivins lambasted the Washington press corps..."

This use of "label" doesn't bother me because, sans the label Pat Buchanan is still conservative, Jack Germond is still liberal, and Tedd Rall is still clueless.

What does irk me is another device - editorializing in news reportage. Again, both camps do it, and deny it. That's why I read more than one newspaper, and (as much as it pains me) FOX Newschannel, too. I would appreciate more journalistic integrity, though I'm not holding my breath - most journalists try to be fair and accurate, but they're human.

I'll close with this thought - the whole argument is really academic. People aren't constrained to a limited number of sources - if people don't wanna watch CNN, or read NYT, because those outlets aren't fair, then by golly they can always choose another outlet.

What He Said
Will Vehrs
Tony, thanks to Instapundit, I saw this column by James K. Glassman. He makes one of the points I was making yesterday:

That pension rules are complicated is no excuse for the inaccuracies in the media coverage of Enron's retirement plan--especially the claim that rich managers could sell their stock while lowly workers were "locked in." All plan members, including top executives, were prevented from moving any of their 401(k) assets between Oct. 29 and Nov. 13--a temporary shutdown, announced on Oct. 4, supposedly to allow for a transition to a new outside plan administrator. By then Enron's stock had already fallen to $13.81 (it declined another $3.83 during the 10 trading days of the freeze).

Glassman goes on to make some fair points:

The timing of the changeover does sound a little fishy, and investigators should examine it carefully. But such shutdowns are common, and there's no need to ban them. One small change in the law that might be worthwhile is for companies to be prevented from issuing restricted stock to plan members. Other investors aren't barred from selling stock before they're 50; employees shouldn't be either.

But let's not lose sight of the main lesson of the Enron disaster: Bad things happen to good investors, and diversification is the only protection. Companies should design plans that make diversification easier, but ultimately, the responsibility for wise investing must lie with the investor. Politicians who say it doesn't are only encouraging risky behavior.

Tony, every time some new "revelation" about Enron is published, it's followed a few days later by something that indicates maybe that revelation is a little more complicated or a little less pat than originally advertised. Take Bush's assertion that "Kenny boy" Lay supported Ann Richards, enshrined now as Tim Noah's "Whopper of the Week" in Slate. That looked like a slam dunk, but some new information at least makes Bush's assertion arguable. Lay supported Bush during his primary campaign against token opposition, and that's where a big chunk of Lay's donation was made. Lay's wife gave during the campaign, apparently hoping it wouldn't be public because, as usual, Ken Lay was hedging his bets in a political race. There are indications that some of Lay's other contributions were made after Bush was elected governor. I'm hoping someone eventually nails all this down completely; Bush may have been Clintonian, but let's get the full story.

I guess Bush saying he didn't get to know Lay until 1994, instead of 1992, remains a "whopper," but I'm waiting to see what happened in those two years that Bush would want to hide. Could it be that Bush misspoke? That's never happened before.

Finally Getting Around to Judge Posner
Will Vehrs
Tony, on Monday you talked about Richard Posner's turn at Slate's Diaries. Posner, of course, is a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School, and a prolific author. Since I wasn't having much luck with the math challenge, I read all of Posner's diary entries. What an amazing man. If only more judges were willing to open up their thinking to the public!

Two passages from the five day series fascinated me because I thought they distilled his controversial philosophy of "pragmatism" into understandable "bytes." Here is Posner, talking about the course in evidence that he teaches, a course where he has set up a trial scenario for the students to role play:

The class was the high point of my day. The mock trial (which lasted a total of six hours, almost as much as a real trial of such a case) ended, the "lawyers" gave their closing arguments, the jurors retired to deliberate. Jury deliberations are of course private, but the nine student jurors deliberated in the hearing of the entire class. It was a slip and fall case, very closely balanced, and the jurors, forgetting they're fledgling lawyers, sounded exactly like real people. They will be better lawyers if they carry into the practice of law a sense of what it is like to participate in a legal proceeding not as a lawyer; and likewise the students who played the role of witnesses at the trial.

This learning by doing—"clinical education," as it is more commonly called—is derided by many law professors as insufficiently intellectual. I wouldn't recommend it for every course. But it should play a larger role in legal education than it does. In first-year civil procedure the students study the litigation process without ever seeing a "complaint," the document that kicks off a civil lawsuit (corresponding to an indictment in a criminal case), or an "answer," a "deposition," and so forth. It's a needlessly, as well as bafflingly, abstract way of teaching a practical subject like law.

This from a man trained at Harvard Law at a time when professors almost "hazed" their students in high drama lectures.

Posner summarized a speech he gave that explained his philosophy in approaching the law:

Most laypersons and many lawyers think that the law is a Procrustean bed to which life must be fitted. The opposing view, which I like to think of as that of the sophisticated insider, is that law is an instrument for promoting social welfare and so seeks to strike a sensible balance between competing interests. The theme of my talk was simple: What we call "civil liberties" is a body of rules mainly created by courts out of general language in the Constitution. The rules strike a balance between personal liberty and public safety. When the relative weights of these interests change, the judges, who created the rules in the first place, change them. As concerns with public safety mount, the scope of civil liberties contracts, and as those concerns recede, civil liberties once again expand. That is how it is, and how, in my opinion, it should be.

The outlook that generates this understanding of law is pragmatism—not in any fancy philosophical sense but in the everyday sense in which American culture might be described as pragmatic. Applied to law, it asks judges to weigh consequences rather than to steer by abstractions such as "property," "liberty," "rights," "justice," "fairness," and "equality." The judge who thinks he can reason his way to what is "just" and "fair," a self-appointed moral virtuoso, is unlikely to think seriously about the practical consequences of his decisions. May we be spared those judges, as well as the ones who shirk responsibility for their decisions by imagining themselves a mere transmission belt for conclusions reached hundreds of years ago by the all-knowing framers of the Constitution. The judge is a responsible official, not an oracle; and his responsibility is to use the resources of text, history, and precedent to help him reach practical results that are responsive to the needs of the present day.

As one who has always fashioned himself as something of a "strict constructionist," this philosophy is attractive alternative. Great minds like Posner should be on the Supreme Court as opposed to the many politically expedient choices who sit there today.

Anybody Need Some Angel Soft?
Will Vehrs
Tony, I hope you're still enjoying the snow. Ours suddenly turned to cold rain. The sledding expedition has been cancelled and I'm stuck with a very grumpy six year old who doesn't like the alternative I've suggested: practicing for her upcoming first grade math challenge.

Bernard Goldberg Fights Back
Will Vehrs
Bernard Goldberg, author of "Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News," has taken a lot of criticism from his ertswhile colleagures and others, such as Michael Kinsley of Slate and Tom Shales, TV critic for the Washington Post. Today, he fights back in a Washington Post op-ed.

Since its publication I have been both gratified by the book's reception (it's on a number of bestseller lists) and amused at how upsetting it has been to those on the political left. It almost seems that liberals have forgotten how to be liberal.

Let's start with Kinsley, who used his column to show us just how smart he is. After calling me "remarkably dense," he describes my book as "dumb." This is what passes for intelligent thought when the left is wounded by the truth.

And then there's Tom Shales, The Post's TV critic. Shales wrote a column in something called Electronic Media that charmingly refers to me as a "disgruntled has-been," "a no-talent hack," "inept," and a "disheveled and bleary eyed" TV reporter. Another crisp, objective analysis.

Those on the liberal left still don't get it. They think my book is one that had to have been written by an ideological conservative and one that would be read only by ideological conservatives.

So far, so good, but then Goldberg, it seems to me, tries too hard to vouch for his own bona fides:

In "Bias," I write that I consider Martin Luther King Jr. one of the two or three greatest Americans of the 20th century, that I would make racial discrimination a criminal offense, not simply a civil offense, that I am for gay rights and that, with reservations, I am pro-abortion rights. I also write that I voted for George McGovern twice (once in the primary) but never for Ronald Reagan. Not exactly the kind of political credentials that would get me automatic entry into the secret meeting rooms of all those right-wing cabals. But, yes, on some of the other big issues of our time, my views are indeed conservative.

Who's Goldberg trying to impress by stating these private views? Tying media bias or fairness to the political proclivities of individuals is simplistic. One can be a liberal or a conservative and still report the news fairly, or offer commentary that is reasonably balanced. Bernard's big beef seems to be that conservatives are called "conservative" before their name or title, while liberals are just called Mr, Ms., or Senator. There's an easy fix for that.

What Grocery Stores Pray For
Will Vehrs
Tony, it's snowing like crazy here in Richmond, VA, too! Soon there will be enough on the ground to support a outing to the big sledding hill at my daughter's school. Luckily, having had the day off yesterday, I've done all my grocery shopping. We have enough bread and eggs to make French Toast for the Special Forces, and almost enough Angel Soft for them, too. You have Safeway, we have Ukrop's. Both just love the white stuff.

Bread, Milk and Toilet Paper
Tony Adragna
YIPEE! IT'S SNOWING! It's our first snow of the season here in the DC metro area, Will, and I'm gettin' ready to go play.

Well, gotta go to the store first. We don't need anything, but it's kinda a traditional rite everytime we get snow. Gotta go get those staples of daily life just in case we get snowed under -- you never know, these systems have a habit of stalling over the mid-Atlantic coast every once in a while (he said with hope in his voice) -- and if we don't get to the Safeway before they sell out of Angel Soft, then somebody's not gonna be a happy camper.

BLOG WATCH II: Your guide to who is saying what, where
AM Edition - by Will Vehrs

RED Hot: Cavanaugh. Hot: Saudis expulsion plans. *** Picks: Birds and Libertarians, Perry de Havilland; War and Medicine, Steven Den Beste.

Charles Johnson. Saving embarassment, the American way; Al-'Afif--brave guy; Ms. Breen, Saddam's a bad guy; Euro-whining chattering classes; bye, Saudis, we'll be back to finish you off; Cavanaugh's envy.

Libertarian Samizdata Aging Euro elites on a volcano; bellicose Berlusconi; conservative governments, but no change; peace sign pretzel perplexes pooches; *** a little birdie whispers in Perry's ear: explain libertarianism; soggy little crypto-Marxist pussy cat; bottom feeding Cavanaugh; going postal in Belfast.

Steven Den Beste How to be dead meat; Cavanaugh: suckering bloggers or vendetta in progress?; ingrates ragging on the US; *** war and medicine, al Qaida and disease; Gosling's graveyard tune; expelling us from Saudi?

Kathy Kinsley Golfing in Kabul (tell Fritz!); flight attendants get battlefield commissions as Bellicose Men/Women; exploding chips; a cold day in al Qaida's hell; the not quite right part.

Fritz Schranck Two bites of the apple at Waffle House; just apply for a permit, you potheads.

Kevin Holtsberry T. S. Eliot and rumors of conservatism's death greatly exaggerated; Cavanaugh, here's why I blog; Steelers, Rams, Patriots, and Bears.

SGT Stryker Third state of being, General?; Chinese leash laws; Islamic humanitarian terrorists; vaccine side effects?; sucks to be off to Cuba; Somalia's boycott; more AF blogs; An Airman's Life, Part II; clarifying McCain's fireball.

Andrew Olmsted Aggie cartoon controversy; will Krugman survive?; West lashed out, as any guilty party would.

Because I could not stop for blogs,
Tim kindly blog watched for me ....

Above the fold
QuasiPundit's daily list of top stories, without commentary
Washington Post:

Front Page Image

White House Aided Enron in Dispute ( The White House coordinated a multi-front effort last year to help Enron Corp. settle a dispute with the Indian government, which the energy company hoped would deliver $2.3 billion as it was running out of cash in the weeks before declaring bankruptcy.

China Finds Bugs on Jet Refitted in U.S. ( BEIJING, Jan. 18 – Somewhere on a military airfield north of Beijing, China's presidential aircraft, a new Boeing 767-300ER with all the trimmings, sits unused with parts of its innards torn out.

Experts Urge Ban on Human Cloning ( Washington Post Staff Writers – Congress should pass a law prohibiting the creation of cloned human babies but should not interfere with medical research involving human embryo clones, a panel of influential scientific experts has concluded.

New York Times:

Front Page Image

Despite Warning, Enron Chief Urged Buying of Shares WASHINGTON, Jan. 18 — More than a month after an Enron (news/quote) vice president warned that the company might be an "elaborate accounting hoax," Kenneth L. Lay, the chairman, used an online chat to urge employees to buy Enron shares, a transcript of the session shows.

Auditing Firms Gaining Muscle in Washington WASHINGTON, Jan. 18 — When Arthur Levitt Jr., then chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, tried to impose tough conflict-of-interest rules on the accounting industry two years ago, he was hit by a barrage of high-powered lobbying, including calls from 10 or 11 senators. The senators, whom he did not identify, warned that if he did not relent on the new regulations, the agency's appropriations could be cut, he said.

Science Academy Supports Cloning to Treat Disease WASHINGTON, Jan. 18 — The creation of human clones, babies that are genetic replicas of adults, is unsafe and should be outlawed, a panel of scientific experts said today. But citing the promise of research, it said that scientists should be permitted to clone embryos to treat disease.

Office Workers Haunted by Views of Terror Site It is there in the morning, when Denise Paterna, an investment assistant, approaches the windows on the 19th floor at 1 Liberty Plaza and tilts her head toward ground zero. The only time she used to peer outside was to gauge the line at Krispy Kreme.

Unease Grows in Philippines on U.S. Forces MANILA, Jan. 18 — A political firestorm has erupted in the Philippines over the impending arrival of some 650 American soldiers dispatched to help battle an Islamic insurgency. A few senators here are even demanding the impeachment of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, only a year into her term, and her vice president has said he feels uneasy about the policy.

Washington Times:

Panel: Ban human cloning -- The Washington Times The National Academy of Sciences yesterday recommended that the United States make it a crime to attempt human cloning but encouraged the cloning of embryos in early stages to develop stem cells.

Was bin Laden killed by disease? -- The Washington Times The commander of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan yesterday shrugged off speculation by Pakistan's president that kidney disease may have killed Osama bin Laden and said they are still looking for the terrorist leader.

Los Angeles Times:

Front Page Image(pdf)

U.S. Lays Claim to 6 Suspects Held in Bosnia BERLIN -- U.S. forces flew six terrorist suspects out of Bosnia on Friday after that country's Supreme Court ruled that it had too little evidence to charge them, the first known instance of the United States casting its anti-terror net beyond the homeland and Afghan war zone.

River of Lava Kills Scores, Chases Thousands in Congo GOMA, Congo -- A fast-flowing river of lava more than a mile wide sliced through this border city Friday, a day after a towering nearby volcano erupted in a torrent of molten flame. Scores of people were feared dead and about half a million others were forced to run for their lives.

Pentagon Flies High on Drones When the Central Intelligence Agency jury-rigged a remotecontrolled spy plane with missiles and then used them to take out a Taliban target in Afghanistan, it was a first step in revolutionizing air-to-ground combat.

Go to The Newspaper Rack

BLOG WATCH II: Your guide to who is saying what, where
Late-Late Edition - by Tony Adragna
Brian Linse: "Huffin'" all over Evans' hind quarters

Andrew Hofer: We know who you are, and we're commin' to get ya

Damian Penny: POWs get Froot Loops?; Ebert likes all the bad guys; The Cavanaugh Complex

Dr. Frank: Milk builds strong webs; Bellicose Blogger Brigade; M-16 still prone to jamming

Moira Breen: Let 'em eat sand...

Tim Blair:We call those things cantaloupe; Who get's better mail - Tim Blair or Red Green?; Contemptuous Cavanaugh

Alex Knapp: You have to fight, for yor right...; More ice please; a milestone, and guess whose fault it is

protein wisdom: Weekly Standard has sunk to Bottom; Echo Eco

Daniel Taylor Kashmir for the Kashmiris - nah, it's just just too logical

Ginger Stampley: If you're wearin' grey, your hair shouldn't match; Eron...FERC; Houston Dodgers; Roundabout way of disagreeing with Iain

Click here: for more "Blog Watch"ing

Warbloggers lookin' for another
pound of media flesh
Tony Adragna
Hey Will, there's been a takedown afoot of Scott Shuger's "IGNORAD". The criticisms range from Rand Simberg's "...but his command of basic facts in the situation does not provide confidence in his reporting..." to Flit's "... This is, unfortunately, total BS...", but neither one addresses Shuger's thesis: whether or not doing more would have prevented the attacks, there was definitely more that could have been done.

Both Rand and Bruce make it pretty clear that those fighters probably couldn't have prevented what happened, but that's hindsight. At the time nobody knew that there wasn't going to be time - and that's a problem for Scott's argument, too. There's the problem of speed and fuel consumption, which Scott doesn't adequately address in the original article, but the critics concentrate on the "max speed" language as if Scott suggests that the pilots shoulda lit out on afterburner the whole way. All Scott suggests is that the planes should have been moving at something better than cruise speed.

OK, Bruce retorts that Scott's reliance on "average speeds" is bogus, and he puts forth a perfectly probable (and highly likely) explanation for the discrepency between the speed cited by the Air Force (1200 mph) and that cited by Scott (510 mph). But, by Bruce's own reckoning, the planes couldn't have been at the higher speed for more than a few minutes before they reduced speed. Reduced speed to what? Might it have been closer to Scott's average speed?

And neither critic deals with the problem at the beginning - where did those six minutes go. Might those six minutes have made a difference? I know, more hindsight...

There's also a takedown on Scott's view of the scenario in Tampa. Again Bruce misses the point - it's not the Air Force's response that's troubling, but it's lack of abilityto adequately respond had the need been there. The Air Force didn't even know what was going on til they kinda stumbled into some radio chatter.

Of course, it's not all NORAD's fault - it shouldn't have taken 29 minutes for the FAA to give NORAD the heads up in the first instance (more hindsight), and in the second instance the FAA's failure to inform was egregious. But, it's still NORAD's job to protect the skies, and it seems that NORAD still hasn't gotten to the point of being able to do that job.

Bruce also takes exception with Scott "blaming the pilots", but nowhere does Scott do that - he criticizes the systemic problems that keep the pilots from doing what they oughta be able to do - defend us.

Here's the punch line, though - both Bruce and Rand jump on the "know nothin' media" theme in their criticisms of Scott. Ummm, guys - remember that "we can fact check your ass" bit of blogger CW. Did either of you happen to fact check your assertions about Scott? You might have discovered that Scott Shuger spent 5 years in the U.S. Navy. You didn't even need to look for it - it's right there at the bottom of the original article, Busted!!!

p.s.: Another little detail I forgot to mention, though I've harped on it before - why pre-9/11 were there no active duty fighter aircraft stationed at either of the Air Force bases in the DC metro area? An alert aircraft launched from Andrews AFB -- the same place that Air Force One is based -- coulda definitely prevented the attack on the Pentagon. Let's see the critics refute that...

Friday, January 18, 2002
Another QP Winner!
Will Vehrs
For the third week in a row, a Quasipundit Forum member has won the Ipse Dixit caption contest. This time it's the lovely hummingbird, JulieC. Congratulations, Julie--you've still got the old News Quiz knack.

Rating the Stories
Will Vehrs
Tony, here's how I'd rate a few of the stories that hit today:

**** Paul Krugman took $50,000 from Enron, has never mentioned it in a column. I cannot believe how smugly arrogant this brilliant man can be. I wonder if his pundit colleagues will defend him, denounce him, or just ignore the whole thing. I wonder if he'll give the money back.

*** Sara Jane Olson gets 20 years to life. I have no sympathy whatsoever for this SLA domestic terrorist. She could have turned herself in and renounced violence back in the 70's, throwing herself on the mercy of the court when she was a single woman responsible only to herself. Instead, she hid out and now her children and husband must suffer for her actions.

*** Moussaoui trial won't be televised. Good decision. Who needs an even bigger circus? No matter what happens at the trial and who sees it, it will be denounced in many parts of the world.

Tony Adragna
I would agree, Will, that these executives who sold their stock were simply taking their compensation, if it weren't for some complicating factors.

In a sense the executives who took options were simply deferring compensation just like the people who contributed to the company's 401(k), but from there on the similarity disappears. 401(k) contributions are pre-tax deductions from an employees paycheck (OK, everybody knows that), but the stock options granted to CEO's et al fall into the category of "top hat" plans (so called because they only apply to the most highly compensated executives). These plans are invcentives (not regular compensation) that are supposed to be tied to performance, but they too often turn into the "Golden Parachute" for malperforming CEOs.

The worst part about this case is that it looks like Lay & co knew that the stock was going to soon be worthless prior to launching the change in plan administration. IOW, they may have purposefully locked their employees out in order to avoid paying on that funded liability (the employees funded it out of their own pockets), while they raked in millions on their unfunded "top hat" plan. Sound too sinster? Well, yes it does, but it's not implausible given who knew what and when. It's an almost impossible conspiracy theory to prove, but a crook is as a crook does....

NFL Play-Off Picks
Will Vehrs
Sticking to issues between the white lines, America's Worst Pigskin Prognosticator put his 3-1 record on the line for this weekend's games.

Philadelphia at Chicago I don't know how the Bears do it, but they're fixing to do it again. Remember the Fog Bowl? Bears

Oakland at New England I picked against Oakland last week and won't make that mistake again. Tom Brady had a good run. Raiders

Baltimore at Pittsburgh The defending champ is always a tough out. Sorry, Kevin, the Steelers can't take the presssure. Ravens

Green Bay at St. Louis Look for St. Louis to strike early and often, but falter before rallying. Rams

Prediction asides: lots of missed field goals in the outdoor games and not much scoring. GB-StL might outscore all other three games combined.

Fact-check THIS!!
Spelcheck!. It's not "Anderson", it's "Andersen" (formerly "Andersen Worldwide", formerly "Arthur Andersen", and estranged parent of "Andersen Consulting", now "Accenture"). This far into the scandal, major media -- from LA Times to -- should know better. Lucky none of the Big Five were founded by Poles or Arabs...

(and it just keeps goin' on at Dispatches From Afar)

Help Me Out Here, I'm Not Sure I Know What I'm Talking About
Will Vehrs
When I joined a big bad oil company in the late '70's, they had something called a "savings plan." The company put a certain percentage of your salary into it and employees were free to contribute additional money. There were several investment choices, including company stock. At five years one became "vested" and could access the company contributions. Sometime after I got vested, it seems to me, the rules and regulations concerning such plans changed--they started being treated like 401Ks that had just been created. There were tax penalties for withdrawing the money and a host of other regulations.

What causes me to think of the old savings plan is something that's been bothering me about the Enron coverage. We're told the Enron executives were able to cash out millions of dollars in Enron stock, while employees were stuck with the stock in their 401K plans that eventually became next to worthless. It sounds awful, and it is, but isn't there perhaps a little bit of apples and oranges to this tidy little dichotomy?

Wasn't the stock the Enron cretins cashed out part of their executive compensation plan? In other words, wasn't it just a part of their paycheck that they were free to do with as they wished? (Don't get me started on the ills of executive compensation--that's another topic.) Wasn't the stock the employees were stuck with a part of their 401K plan, regulated a lot differently than their paycheck? If the executives had 401K plans (God knows with the kind of money they were pullling down, why they'd fool around with that small change), didn't they lose out on that piece just like regular employees, if they didn't change their investment choices away from stock before the free fall? It would seem almost more damning for the executives to have moved away from Enron stock in their 401K plans than it was for them to cash out their compensation stock.

Enron employees were stuck in a highly regulated 401K that to some extent hamstrung their choices. If the old savings plans rules were around, somebody who was vested could cash out everything if it appeared the sky was falling out and just face normal tax liability, not tax liability plus 10% penalty.

A remedy proposed by Senator Corzine of New Jersey and others would limit the amount of company stock as a percentage of holdings in a 401K. I suspect the old savings plans rules were changed because people weren't keeping it for their retirement. Freedom was being limited because some people lived for today, not tomorrow. This proposed Corzine remedy limits freedom even more (and is probably a bonanza for his old industry, the investment banks). Maybe the remedy--limiting how much people can control their money--is worth the trade-off.

If this stream of conscious ramble is at all coherent or accurate, I'd love to hear comments on the issue of government making choices for people versus letting them have the freedom to invest as they please, taking the level of risk they desire.

Between the Lines
Will Vehrs
I occasionally write about sports. I once was close to being a rabid fan of some sports, but over the years I increasingly become disenchanted and even disgusted with the fact that what happens between the lines is too often not the most important story. Sports is now about salary caps, self-indulgent coaches, boorish players, and greedy owners. The game and the scores just don't seem to matter when one player is punching out another, or one father kills another.

Today Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal captures a lot of my feelings about sports. His column is posted here. Here's an excerpt, but I recommend it in its entirety to anyone who cares about sports:

How sports in America got from fields of dreams to flagrant fouls, on and off the field, is worth a moment's thought.
Some of us grew up on that wonderful show of Jim McKay's, "The Wide World of Sports." The one thing everyone remembers is the McKay tagline over the opening montage--"The thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat," a nine-word phrase that says as much as anyone needs to know about why mankind has thought up ways to break a sweat and keep score since at least ancient Athens. At the highest and lowest level of the game, it's fun, indescribable fun. Guys lying on their deathbeds, who have no idea of their net worth, can recall the details of wins and defeats from grade school.

Somehow, some way, I wish that McKay tagline was still the essence of sports.

Portraits of the Innocent
Will Vehrs
Three people were killed in Grundy, Virginia, in this past Wednesday's tragic shooting by a deranged student. The most prominent, Appalachian Law School Dean L. Anthony Sutin, was hailed by Attorney General Ashcroft, among others. He had served with distinction in the Clinton Administration and was doing noble work in rural Virginia, trying to develop a struggling law school that served an underserved population. The two other victims, less prominent but no less noble, deserve mention, too.

Professor Thomas F. Blackwell

Blackwell's wife, Lisa, a librarian at Appalachian School of Law, detailed in a statement yesterday her husband's love of music and running. He played trumpet, trombone, piano and flute and sang in the choir of Buchanan First Presbyterian Church.

Blackwell was an active church member and a man of abiding faith, his wife said.

"Tom Blackwell - my best friend, life companion and husband - was a very generous and loving man to his children, his wife, his friends, family and work companions," she said in a statement read by a family friend

Besides his wife, Blackwell is survived by three children - sons Zeb, 14, and Zeke, 10, and daughter Jillian, 12.

Angela Denise Dales

Angela Denise Dales was a single mother in the second semester of her long-awaited pursuit of a law degree when she was killed, a former co-worker said.

Dales, 33, left her administrative job in admissions at the Appalachian School of Law to become a student there in the fall.

"One of her greatest joys was telling students on the phone that they had made it through the admissions process and had been accepted," professor Stewart Harris said at a candlelight vigil for the victims last night.

Dales' 8-year-old daughter, Rebecca, has been with her grandparents in Vansant since the shooting, family friends said.

Important and vital lives, ended in a split second by a madman. Too tragic for words.

Above the fold
QuasiPundit's daily list of top stories, without commentary
Washington Post:

Front Page Image

Enron's Influence Reached Deep Into Administration ( As presidential candidate George W. Bush's top economic adviser in 2000, Lawrence B. Lindsey was also a paid consultant to Enron Corp. At one point, those two roles merged.

SEC Seeks Reform Of Auditor Controls ( The chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday proposed the most significant change in the way accountants are regulated since the Great Depression in an effort to restore the public's trust in corporate financial statements.

Saudis May Seek U.S. Exit ( Saudi Arabia's rulers are increasingly uncomfortable with the U.S. military presence in their country and may soon ask that it end, according to several Saudi sources. Such a decision would deprive the United States of regular use of the Prince Sultan Air Base, from which American power has been projected into the gulf region and beyond for more than a decade.

Hopes Rise for Baseball In D.C. ( PHOENIX, Jan. 17 -- Commissioner Bud Selig today for the first time said Washington is "the prime candidate" to receive a relocated Major League Baseball team, predicting a move would come "in the near future."

New York Times:

Front Page Image

S.E.C. Leader Sees Outside Monitors for Auditing Firms WASHINGTON, Jan. 17 — Responding to growing criticism of accounting practices stemming from the collapse of the Enron Corporation (news/quote), the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission proposed today that the accounting industry should be policed by a group dominated by outside experts instead of policing itself.

U.S. Hunts 5 Men Seen on Tape, Saying They May Plan Attack WASHINGTON, Jan. 17 — The Justice Department announced a global manhunt today for five suspected members of Al Qaeda who were videotaped in Afghanistan offering what Attorney General John Ashcroft described as "martyrdom messages," indicating that they could be preparing for a suicide attack.

In Shattered Kabul, Powell Vows Longterm U.S. Help for Afghans KABUL, Afghanistan, Jan. 17 — In a whirlwind visit to this war-ravaged capital, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell announced today that the United States had restored its crumbling, long-shuttered embassy to full diplomatic status, and he assured Afghanistan's interim leader, "We will be with you in this current crisis and for the future."

Six Israelis Slain by Palestinian Gunman HADERA, Israel, Friday, Jan. 18 — A lone Palestinian gunman walked into a crowded reception hall here late Thursday night and opened fire with a semiautomatic rifle, killing 6 people and wounding at least 25, witnesses and the police said.

Washington Times:

U.S. seeks identities of 'martyrs' -- The Washington Times Attorney General John Ashcroft yesterday released videotapes he described as "martyrdom messages from suicide terrorists" in issuing a global alert for five suspected al Qaeda members who could strike anywhere in the world.

Rumsfeld offers four options for Taliban fighters -- The Washington Times Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld yesterday set down four options for disposing of what is likely to be hundreds of pro-Taliban guerrillas held in Cuba, and none of the possibilities includes setting them free.

Los Angeles Times:

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Andersen Knew of Enron Risks Last February WASHINGTON -- Top executives at the Chicago headquarters of accounting firm Andersen discussed Enron's financial problems in February, but two months later its auditors gave the energy giant's books a clean bill of health, documents show.

Donations Could Taint Probe on Capitol Hill WASHINGTON -- None of the key congressional committees investigating Enron and its former auditor, Andersen, could muster a majority at their hearings, if campaign contributions from the powerful companies disqualified members.

U.S. Seeks Public's Help in Search for 5 From Al Qaeda WASHINGTON -- U.S. authorities warned the public Thursday to be on the lookout for five Al Qaeda operatives who taped messages of martyrdom and may have been planning terrorist acts against the United States.

Olson Probe Led to New Evidence in 1975 Slaying Changes in technology and politics, along with luck and hard work, revived the case against five former revolutionaries accused of killing a bystander during a 1975 armed robbery of a Crocker National Bank branch in a suburb outside Sacramento, prosecutors and legal analysts said.

Rx: Two Bricks, a Turban QUETTA, Pakistan -- Once in a while, Sath Mohammed smiles. On this day it happens as the 11-year-old describes his beloved sport, Afghan wrestling.

The thought of it brings a look of delight to his face. He reaches an arm into the air as if to grab an opponent. Then he moves a leg--or what is left of it--and his face goes blank.

Go to The Newspaper Rack

BLOG WATCH II: Your guide to who is saying what, where
AM Edition - by Will Vehrs

What’s hot: SLA, Natalija's flu. *** Pick: David Carr, Club Fed

Joanne Jacobs: Term paper not due on Monday--or ever; no phonics, no justice; haunting words for SLA victim's daughter.

Joshua Micah Marshall New sitcom: Leave It to Enron.

Charles Johnson. Zuckerman on Saudis; sickening celebration of wedding hall atrocity; silk and gold surround Saudi "victim"; Amnesty International battles for lox; ripping Raimondo round-up.

Jeff Jarvis Crackpot creeps; SLA, like terrorists everywhere; more blog genres wanted, inspired by Will Warren in verse.

Libertarian Samizdata Weird searches; ***no Geneva Convention at Club Fed; Natalija, cold, sick, and catless in Croatia [get well soon!--ed].

Steven Den Beste CD wars; Sub-space stupidity detector fails; Stratfor gutlessness.

Dawson Captivating new pic of Claire posted while poor sick Natalija pines. He's more than a rascal, Natalija.

Kathy Kinsley Greasing society; Kinsley's Guide to English Usage.

Kevin Holtsberry The 12% factor; wishing an old adversary, Natalija, a speedy recovery; everybody, get a gun.

SGT Stryker Crashes of the politically prominent; send a package to the troops; Uh, Professor, that won't work; profane rant directed to Lake Effect; it's ok, they're militants; watch out for the blue; bend over, detainee.

Andrew Olmsted Hyperbolic Linse; partial to Postrel's position.

angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to
the starry dynamo in the machinery of night
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in
the supernatural darkness of cold water flats floating across the tops
of cities contemplating Blog Watch I.

Thursday, January 17, 2002
BLOG WATCH II: Your guide to who is saying what, where
PM Edition - by Tony Adragna
Brian Linse: Inconveniencing ATF agents - making them go after guns that shouldna been sold in the first place; more Enron

Andrew Hofer: Zoom zoom; stop at Buck's; Zoom

Damian Penny: Outing Justin Raimondo - Log Cabin Republican; Rude awakening for little Phil; Conventional treatment

Dr. Frank: That's a funny lookin' cross you got there, Padre; Saddam ain't learned his lesson - gonna fail the test

Tim Blair: The Great Down Under Nomenclature Convention

Duncan Fitzgerald: Blogging from Denny's; the real poop on affiliations

protein wisdom: Taliboy Tailboy; Justin who?; Coffin coitus

Daniel Taylor Depends on how new "new" is

Ginger Stampley: Dilbert Defeated; Speak up, or shut up!;

Click here: for more "Blog Watch"ing

Does Pat ever shut up!
Tony Adragna
Mr. Buchanan is at it again. For the record, I have nothing against Mr. Buchanan's personal opinion in opposition to homosexuality. But, when he keeps citing that thoroughly debunked "survey", then I just gotta say:

"Shame on you, Mr. Buchanan. I used to enjoy you on The McLaughlin Group, back when Jack Germond was there to keep you in line. Now I find you citing Paul Cameron's thoroughly debunked "survey" -- again! (as if the first time wasn't inane enough)

Are you into "rational ignorance", or just plain stupid!"

Yup, that's exactly what I put in my response to his article. It's so nice of those people at Townhall,com to put that little "contact____" link at the bottom of every item...

Arthur Approves
Will Vehrs
Tony, Arthur Levitt was on The News Hour tonight and he endorsed SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt's initiative announced today as a "strong first step." Levitt remains a bit skeptical that Congress will allow the depth of reform that is needed.

Wonder if the Chase and Citi folks will have to forego bonuses because of Enron and Argentina. Nah.

The Refuge is hopping! I'm going to check in one last time for the night.

The System is Being Held Up
Tony Adragna
Am I OK with Levitt's suggestions? If I were to say yes, Will, that would be an understatement! I insist upon the course that Levitt outlines.

I'll admit that it's not time too start looking for a tin cup, but we're not away from the cliff yet. This is Gallup's bottom line on "investor optimism": "While investor optimism has clearly recovered from its sharp September plunge, it remains relatively weak. Most significantly, substantial investor optimism is going in the wrong direction as the year 2001 comes to a close." "Consumer confidence" does appear to be slightly up, with 49% positive v. 41% negative. What's most intersting, though, is the poll on how the government should go about stimulus -- 46% prefer government spending v. 41% prefer more tax cuts.(sorry, I had to sneak that one in)

I can't find a poll that address public opinion of L' Affaire Enron's impact on consumer confidence, but I did find one that tracks opinion of the scandal. The numbers on Enron execs aren't surprising, but the number of people who think the administration did something ranging from unethical to illegal (36% and 10%) -- despite there being evidence to the contrary -- did surpirse

Just a word on how bad the Enron collapse coulda been. J.P. Morgan Chase & Co and Citi are looking right now at roughly $1.5 billion in loses just from Enron exposure - that's in addition to their exposure in Argentina. While everything is under control, the numbers could get even bigger.

The System Seems to Be Holding Up
Will Vehrs
Thanks, Charley Brown, er, Tony, for explaining RonK to me. I don't remember saying that there wouldn't be large implications flowing from it being "just" a financial scandal, but I'll accept the possibility that we're just one more scandal away from selling apples on street corners.

Where is the data on American reaction to Enron? Someone noted that Newsweek, usually always including a poll for their major stories, had no poll on Enron. Are they waiting for the saturation coverage to move the numbers? The collapse of Enron has been known for several months, yet it has had no noticeable negative impact on the American economy. We've had crooked companies before--maybe not of this scale--and the confidence of Americans in business has not been shaken. The collapse of the dot.coms and the general bear market woke most American investors from their euphoria long ago. Enron may be the nail in the coffin to privatizing social security and it will probably spawn a few new laws in the 401K and SEC realm, but I don't think it's going to resonate too much further than that unless there are, as you suggest, more Enrons: large public corporations committing an ongoing fraud against their investors.

If you and Ron are okay with looking at Levitt's suggestions and allowing investigations to continue into possible crimes by Enron, Andersen, and even the Bush administration if they're there, I can live with that.

RonK's meta-thought
Tony Adragna
Good grief, Will, Ron is closer to Levitt than you think. What Ron's saying is: let's examine the Big Picture.

Where everybody's correct is (a) this isn't a political scandal, and b(b) the Enron-Andersen accounting details are too arcane for anyone but accountant & lawyers to get worked up over. Where most people have been wrong is in discounting the public's interest in this affair vis a vis getting hit in a place that really hurts - the pocketbook. We've all heard the the telling statistic - 60% of American households invested in the stock market (that's as of 1999). These financial scandals touch too many people, and the right scandal could bring on another crash. That's why Ron says that if your assertion is correct -- that this is just a financial scandal -- the implications are much worse than you realize.

I've noted that business isn't going to be "business as usual" any more. Why not? Because the regulatory authorities -- AICPA and SEC -- aren't going to be able to stop short of real reform: the public really does matter now, and the public isn't going to be satisfied with anything less.

I wasn't going to comment on Glenn's Enron piece, other than to say that I agree (FWIW) on his assessment of the essence of political scandal - it's more about "what can we make this look like"(ooops - I said that already somewhere below).

Mid-day Dispatches
Will Vehrs
Tony, Publius raised some good issues on Title IX in The Refuge and I responded to him there ... some of that touched on your points. As usual, we're probably not that far apart on this.

All of the initial information about the Grundy shooter who killed three and wounded three others yesterday appears to have been accurate--born in Nigeria, naturalized US citizen, loner, history of mental problems, marital instability ... a "walking time bomb," according to a doctor who treated him. Unfortunately, it's tough to do anything about a "walking time bomb" until it's too late. Short of avoiding someone like that or only talking to him at gunpoint, what do you do? It sure looks like this rural Virginia area tried to help this man as a student and to help him and his family with other needs.

I was going to do a "Punditwatch Annex" on our increasingly hot colleague, Glenn Reynolds, for his two columns appearing on the same day. Howard Kurtz, the uber-punditwatcher, beat me to it--at least he covered Glenn's Enron piece for Fox. Glenn puts the scandal in context and his cynicism is justified by the sad history of the species. Kurtz didn't talk about Glenn's other piece, a outgrowth of his Wall Street Journal essay on "third places." What struck me was the contrast of Glenn's two subjects--Enron, a business built on a chimera, versus coffee houses, book stores, and other retailers building their real businesses on products and services that customers want and need.

Tony, I've read RonK's Enron essay in our new section three times. Maybe I'm dense, but I'm not sure I understand his point. I think he's trying to be too cute with his language, trying too hard to be like zeitguy, the poet of the Fray. He ought to try to be more like Glenn and just come out and say what he means.

Ron doesn't seem to think too much of my initial position on the Enron scandal--more "Andersenian" than political. I'm sticking with that analysis and I think I'm in good company with some of the major pundits. The "Andersenian" view leads one to taking a hard look at deregulation, at existing regulatory structures in finance, and at business ethics in general. The political view is just looking for scalps. If Ron doesn't get some scalps, I hope he'll still support some of the ideas Arthur Levitt, former SEC chairman, advances in today's New York Times.

Buncha Big Babies
Will, I quite agree that an insistance on 1:1 gender equity in sports is inane, but I think that there are some issues in addition to "fairness" driving opposition to Title IX. For the schools it's not about the "inequity" of cancelling men's wrestling (though, that's how it's argued in court) -- it's about money. You can only fund a limited number of teams, and the focus is obviously gonna be on (a) the teams that bring in the most revenue, and (b) the teams that generate the most support from alumns. IOW, the focus has traditionaly been on men's sports. Where does wrestling fall into that scheme? Might it not be the case that a good women's basketball program could be just as economically viable as, or more so than, men's wrestling? If so, then what's the hangup in the athletic departments?

Honestly, I smell a little latent (and often overt) chauvenism in the locker room. Let's fix the problem with Title IX, but let's also not forget what pigs men -- not all of us, and certainly not even most of us -- can sometimes be

Ye Olde Mailbag
Will Vehrs
Tony, as always, some interesting things in the QP in-box. Jonathan Gerwitz provides a good answer to the question I asked about why Robert Rubin gets more of a pass for his Enron phone call than others do. Gerwitz compares Rubin to former Secretary James Baker as a serial leaker to the press. Baker got teflon for keeping the press fed and Rubin probably did the same thing during his tenure and may very well be leaking to this day.

Tim Craley calls attention to a developing story--wrestling coaches are suing the Department of Education over Title IX. Title IX, of course, attempts to equalize women's athletics. From an AP story by Jennifer Loven, "Federal regulations say schools can comply with Title IX by showing that the number of athletic opportunities for women is “substantially proportionate” to their total enrollment. The 1996 clarification of those rules said the number of athletes would be counted rather than simply the number of spots allotted to teams." The wrestling coaches say colleges have reacted to the law by cutting back on men's sports (often wrestling), rather than by adding women's teams.

For me, Title IX is one of those things that is noble in purpose but ignores some harsh realities in practice. A higher percentage of men participate in competitive sports than women. That's just the way it is--now. At the junior high and high school level, Title IX type regulation is essential. Opening up athletic opportunities to women takes time to blossom. Only now, for example, are we seeing the true impact in the military of having admitted women to the service academies. For colleges and universities, I think Title IX is a bit heavy-handed. And let's face reality--aside from football and basketball, most sports programs for men and women are relatively low budget and practically invisible to the general sports watching public. I feel for the wrestlers and those participating in track and field, soccer, field hockey, swimming, fencing, lacrosse, and all the rest. They get the "shaft," and even more so in attempts to just do away with them, rather than expand opportunities.

Finally, peripatetic blog-syndicated Tom Roberts reminded us of the Clinton and the military issue that was a part of the 2000 campaign and is an undercurrent of today's war. This article is an interview with a general who resigned during the Clinton administration and held his comments until recently. It's an interesting read about "inside" machinations.

Thanks, everybody, for reading Quasipundit and giving us great information.

Camp Enron: "To Infinity and Beyond"
Setting aside the "astronomical" thesis of my dispatch from Planet Enron, and picking up Josh Marshall's "meta-scandal" and Richard Cohen's "no category for it", what's the right sized box for the Enron debacle?..

(read the rest at "Dispatches From Afar", QP's new section for contributors' commentary)

Above the fold
QuasiPundit's daily list of top stories, without commentary
Washington Post:

Front Page Image

Suspect In Bomb Attempt Indicted ( Richard Colvin Reid, a small-time London thief and recent convert to radical Islam, was indicted in Boston yesterday for attempting to blow up a jetliner with explosives contained in his shoes, a technique that authorities say he learned in terrorist training camps run by Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.

BWI to Be Testing Lab for Security Systems ( Baltimore-Washington International Airport will become a laboratory for testing the latest security technology and training methods as the federal government undertakes its sweeping effort to build a new airport security system for the nation, Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta said yesterday

Andersen Considered Severing Enron Ties ( Senior executives of accounting firm Arthur Andersen considered dropping Enron Corp. as a client in February 2001 because of concerns about the Houston energy company's bookkeeping, according to an internal e-mail cited yesterday by sources.

Legislators Rush to Dump Enron Money ( Until a few weeks ago, Enron Corp. ranked among the biggest contributors to lawmakers and campaign committees of both parties. But now that the Houston-based firm is considered politically radioactive, members of Congress and party officials are devising ways to give away hundreds of thousands of dollars in Enron donations to distance themselves from the company's woes.

New York Times:

Front Page Image

Auditor Received Warning on Enron Five Months Ago WASHINGTON, Jan. 16 — Enron (news/quote)'s auditors knew in mid-August of a senior Enron employee's concerns about improprieties in the energy company's accounting practices, Congressional investigators studying Enron's collapse said today.

U.S. Says Tribal Leaders Balk at Aiding Search for Taliban WASHINGTON, Jan. 16 -- Many Pashtun tribal leaders in eastern Afghanistan have balked at cooperating with American Special Operations Forces in the hunt for Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters, weapons caches and intelligence that could prevent future terrorist attacks, military officials said today.

Al Qaeda Trained Bombing Suspect, Indictment Says WASHINGTON, Jan. 16 — Richard Reid, who was overpowered on a Paris-to-Miami flight last month as he tried to light explosives in his shoes, was a Qaeda-trained terrorist who tried to bring down an airliner carrying nearly 200 people, according to a federal grand jury indictment filed in Boston today.

New Mayor, New Focus Just two weeks into his mayoralty, with most of his administration in place, Michael R. Bloomberg is now offering significant clues about where his policy priorities may differ from Rudolph W. Giuliani's, on such issues as services to the poor, human rights abuses and public health.

Enron Avoided Income Taxes in 4 of 5 Years Enron (news/quote) paid no income taxes in four of the last five years, using almost 900 subsidiaries in tax-haven countries and other techniques, an analysis of its financial reports to shareholders shows. It was also eligible for $382 million in tax refunds.

Washington Times:

U.S. indicts Reid on 9 counts -- The Washington Times A federal grand jury in Massachusetts yesterday returned a nine-count indictment against Richard C. Reid, accusing the 28-year-old British citizen of being an al Qaeda-trained terrorist who attempted to destroy a Paris-to-Miami jetliner with explosives hidden in his shoes.

Auditors knew Enron was in trouble -- The Washington Times Senior auditors at Arthur Andersen & Co., one of whom later ordered the destruction of Enron Corp. accounting documents, were told in August at a hastily called "emergency meeting" that Enron was in imminent danger of collapsing, congressional investigators said yesterday.

Los Angeles Times:

Front Page Image(pdf)

4 SLA Figures Arrested in '75 Bank Slaying A full generation after their alleged crime, William and Emily Harris and Sara Jane Olson, co-survivors of the weird and violent revolutionary movement known as the Symbionese Liberation Army, were arrested Wednesday and charged with murdering a Sacramento-area church volunteer during a 1975 bank robbery.

Victim's Son Calls Arrests 'Therapeutic' Over the years, the sight of Sara Jane Olson's face was enough to fill Dr. Jon Opsahl with anger.

It was the way she seemed to proffer a Norman Rockwell-like lifestyle as a defense to charges that, more than a quarter of a century ago when she was known as Kathleen Soliah, she allegedly helped a band of self-styled revolutionaries who gunned down Opsahl's mother as she deposited church offering receipts in a small-town bank branch.

Enron Exec Warned Auditors on Practices WASHINGTON -- Enron Vice President Sherron S. Watkins warned the company's auditors, Andersen, about a series of questionable accounting practices that now are the focus of investigations of the energy company's collapse, congressional investigators said Wednesday.

Sept. 11 Fund's Fine Print Angers Many Relatives NEW YORK -- When a federal fund to compensate relatives of the Sept. 11 dead was announced shortly before Christmas, the average award size--$1.6 million--seemed generous enough to take care of the people left behind.

But now that they've read the fine print and done the math, many families--and the lawyers, financial advisors and politicians who serve them--are considerably less satisfied.

Stalking the Web Predator GOLDEN, Colo. -- By day, Julie Posey is a 37-year-old homemaker, tidying the family's trailer at the foot of the Rocky Mountains and home-schooling her daughter. But at night, Posey logs on to the Internet as Kendra--a gum-snapping 14-year-old looking for trouble.

Go to The Newspaper Rack

BLOG WATCH II: Your guide to who is saying what, where
AM Edition - by Will Vehrs

What’s hot: Raimondo, brave Grundy students. *** Picks: Perry Havilland on birds, Kevin Holtsberry on religion, SGT Stryker on himself.

Joanne Jacobs: Ruminations on Raimondo; jihad games; parents protest Islam in schools.

Joshua Micah Marshall Send your filthy Enron swag to Josh.

Charles Johnson. Microsoft's Achilles heel; NYT bias unabated.

Jeff Jarvis Catty comments on Welch; a clarion call to bloggers: no nya-nya; liberal bias? No, just stupid.

Libertarian Samizdata Gun round-up; ***Hawks, doves, and ostriches; Pellerito on Daschlenomics & mortgages; turgid Raimondo; Perry shakes his head, walks away from Brian; cost for anonymity that's now free; USPS incompetent, Xmas family newsletters insufferable, and ACC fans indignant over Samizdata ignorance of their culture.

Steven Den Beste Pen and touch screen primer; Saudi PR not enough; an ingenius plan; success in the shadows; the ghost of Kitty Genovese applauds Grundy students; Linux low-down.


Kathy Kinsley A little more civilization for prisoners; I'm a misfit, but ...; fighting back in Grundy.

Kevin Holtsberry Meat is meat, dog breath; bad science complicates creationism debate; ***reflections on religious tolerance.

Fritz Schranck Supremes endorse common sense; case of the unusual U-turn.

Andrew Olmsted Not NOW; rethink combat pay?

SGT Stryker ***Life of an Airman: personal, autobiographical essay.

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving
hysterical naked
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for a
Blog Watch I fix.

Wednesday, January 16, 2002
BLOG WATCH II: Your guide to who is saying what, where
PM Edition - by Tony Adragna
Brian Linse: Brian talks about aloota things today

Damian Penny: Ontario Court of Appeal okays spanking Dalton Camp; take some Direct Action against this lady; anti-war blogger goes to war against warbloggers; Alliance of clueless Canadian bigots

Dr. Frank: Whose fault Walker? - those liberal Yemenis, that's who!; do they drink Jim Beam at terrorist school?

Moira Breen: Warrior Women goin' at each other; more sillines from the land of Oz; Muslim mode

Tim Blair: Fun with fat; "Rockefeller" Rall; Sheilas say, "stone 'em!"

Duncan Fitzgerald: Patzer's conviction goe "Up In Smoke"; just couldn't sit and watch the chair; Elton like Justin; a hole, or two (or three) in the head

Alex Knapp: Democracy on the free trade fast track; anti-BOHICA rant; profiling Mona Charon

protein wisdom: Palestinians Lie Outrageously; Goldberg's "scandalous" writing

Daniel Taylor: Once you leave the airport everything's OK!

Ginger Stampley: "Texas is the nation's laboratory for bad government"; Keeping an open mind while reading Chomsky - somebody get the "jaws of life"; DeLay's got some big ones; Long as it ain't got a frisbee in it's mouth....

Click here: for more "Blog Watch"ing

Bloggers v. Meziners
Tony Adragna
You mention "original content", Will, and for me that's what distinguishes. That's where I take minor exception with Virginia's P's reckoning, which seems to lump those who simply link in with those who link and comment. Last time I checked "critique" was still considered "original content" -- at least, it is when you see it in the papers.

There is original content in blogdom., and some of it is even "news" reportage. I don't know what the actual breakdown of blogs like ours (and the blogs we watch) versus blogs that mostly link, but I'll go out on a limb and guess that most bloggers engage in some type of original commentary. I prefer as much original content as possible, both in what I read and what I put out.

OK, there is a line. Posting a link with the comment "Well Duh" doesn't really add much in the form of commentary. But, it does add a lotta value in another way -- pushing items of interest to the readers. I'm curious to know how much benefit the online news sites have gotten from this service that we provide directly to readers, and indirectly to the media.

What do I think about mezines? Here's the punch line - meziners are bloggers. Sure, they include links to the stuff they've written professionaly, but their "entries" are no different from what we do! Ponder that one, you meziners.

First Monday v. Critics
Tony Adragna
It an entertainment. I know that the fanatical strict (script) constructionists are going nuts over the show's implausibilities -- they'll just hafta get over it. I wouldn't cite the show as good precedent, but neither would I deny a hearing based on the briefs in opposition...

I think that both the Chicago case and United States v. Arvizu were no brainers (n.b. Arvizu actually doesn't "clarify" anything - it simply says to the 9th Circuit "you bozos were plain ol' wrong"). The case I was watching is EEOC v. Waffle House, which at first glance seems to be totally inconsistent with last year's Circuit City case. I feel like I'm sitting beside The Three Wise Men (the Chief, Scalia, and Thomas) wondering "wa' hap'nd'?" The Chief counted to 6 last year using Kennedy and O'Connor. The current case swung the other way -- they both joined Steven's crew.

I know what happened, and why. When the EEOC starts legal action against an employer that action doesn't depend upon the participation of the origininal complainant. The justices didn't overturn Circuit City, so you still can't sue on your own behalf after signing an arbitration agreement. But, the effect is the same: my employer can still be sued notwithstanding an existing arbitration agreement. Curiouser and curioser.

The way I read this is, "OK, I'm stupid enough to sign away my rights, but I don't need to worry because Uncle Sam got my back." That's right! I think anybody who would sign an arbitration agreement pre-employment is stupid. In fact, I think the requirement is unconstitutional, and shoulda been struck at Circuit City.

But, what do I know? Well, I know you can never tell where the current court is goona end up goin'.

p.s. I'll keep the folks in SW Virginia in my thoughts.

Tragedy in Southwest Virginia
Will Vehrs
Tony, I'm shocked at the horrible shooting incident at the small law school in Grundy, Virginia. Grundy is in Buchanan County, a hardscrabble Southwest Virginia area that has fought long and hard to beat back stereotypes about the region and to join in the prosperity of the rest of Virginia. Six people were shot and three are dead, including the Dean of the fledgling law school.

Ironically, almost all local political leaders from Grundy and Buchanan County were in Richmond tonight, preparing to host a legislative reception--part of their effort to interest the legislature in Southwest Virginia issues. I was invited, but declined, since I have not had much of an opportunity to work with them in the past. I cannot imagine that the reception will happen. Most of the leaders are probably making the arduous 6 hour drive back to their grieving community.

Early indications are that the student accused of the killings was foreign, had been suspended, and was about to be expelled. These early reports are not always accurate. One fellow student interviewed described the shooter as a "loner." I wonder if this incident will command the kind of coverage that other school shootings have received. It's not an easy place to get to. Even in tragedy, Grundy will probably be shortchanged, but this time, it might be a blessing.

Breaking News fromPlanet Enron
Special to QP By RonK from Seattle

FLASH: In a development whose gravity cannot be overstated, the planet Enron imploded and simply disappeared. Persistent rumors suggest the Elders of Enron had been manipulating a captive singularity -- a so-called "regulatory black hole" -- in a series of covert experiments intended to engineer an inexhaustible source of power.

A number of satellites continue to orbit Enron's last known position, spinning at ever-accelerating rates. Time itself becomes distorted as myriad small bodies plunge helplessly into the vortex, emitting withering blasts of heat and ionizing radiation.

Fragmentary distress signals from Aa, largest of Enron's five habitable moons, are still being picked up on the scan dial. This last dispatch from one Andykin Skytalker: "FASB GAAP EITF ... CFTC CBOT FERC RTO ... RNC DNC FEC SOP ... ENE CFO SPE LLP, SEC 8K ... BBB B-, MBA SOL ... AICPA ASB GAAS N2O, HAHA HAHAHA ... SHAZBAT! (EOT)" Homeworld languages in this sector are barely comprehensible, but we've achieved a partial translation as follows: "Ooooh ... Dark in here!"

An observer on Enron's sister planet Eiron notes with typical Eironic detachment: "Geniuses of Centripetalism? Poor spreadsheet jockeys didn't know Black Holes from Black-Scholes! Only a speculation, but I figure these Masters of the Universe miscalculated the derivatives somewhere, accidentally transforming the net energy field into a total cluster-function. With routine public disclosure, somebody would have nailed the error right off. Just goes to show -- Nature abhors a backroom.".

(QP offers the above simply for entertainment value. You can scream at RonK , but it won't do any good - eds)

Bursting the Blogosphere's Bubble, Part Deux
Will Vehrs
Hey, Tony, I'm anxious to hear what you thought of First Monday as the real Supreme Court churns out interesting opinions, such as yesterday's two unanimous decisions, one upholding Chicago park use rules and another clarifying police powers to stop vehicles--the "totality of circumstances" must be considered.

I am largely in agreement with your views on the blogosphere, Tony, hence my shameless use of your headline. We are like a neighborhood bar where certain people have gravitated because they feel comfortable, but there are doors to other bars all along the wall. (Did you see the New Yorker cartoon? Two guys are at a bar and one says to the other, "Points well taken, but I just came here to get drunk.") The bar is never going to make money because it's just too casual about what it does and it doesn't worry about all those doors. I agree that some individuals either increased their notoriety and influence (Sullivan) or gained notoriety and influence (Reynolds) through blogging, but beyond that the impact of blogging is difficult to gauge, especially without data, as you suggest. I do believe that individuals like Sullivan and Reynolds pay more attention to their readers and read the blogs of the "proletariot" much more than conventional journalists ever sought input from anyone other than their official sources. In that way, perhaps blogs have an effect.

A few other thoughts: making significant money off blogs in anything like their present state is hard to imagine. I would pay quite a bit to belong to a "ring" of bloggers like Reynolds, Sullivan, Kaus, and Marshall if I had the chance to read their stuff before it was released for free and if it included opportunities to participate in live, on-line discussions with them. I would pay somewhat less to belong to a ring that included some of the more noteworthy "amateur" bloggers. I don't think I would pay right now for any individual blog. Of course, I'm the fool who actually paid for Slate a couple of years and I might again if it wasn't all free. I'd also be willing to pay for the Washington Post and New York Times on-line if they weren't available for free.

I am finding myself increasingly impatient with blogs that are of the two words and a link variety. I know I don't see everything that's out there, but I know enough places to look that I could do it without the benefit of reading any blogs. I admire bloggers who provide some commentary on a link, or, what is even rarer, bloggers who try to provide original content. What did I read somewhere--"Those who can, write, those who can't, link?" That appears to be true. In Blog Watch II, with my *** and **** deals, I'm trying to highlight exceptional original content, or exceptional commentary on a link. Of course, that's just one blogger's opinion of the work of another blogger and we've already agreed that both aren't all that influential. Oh, well.

Blogging is not immune to normal web behavior, either. Just ask Dawson about his hit rate when he was running those fetching pics of Natalija Radic and Glenn Reynolds was linking to him. Glenn has been very kind linking to us, Tony, but I bet we've never come close to the Natalijaosphere.

Punditwatch Endorses Cockfighting!
Print Punditwatch has been posted
Other pundits join veteran Enron-watcher Paul Krugman and see everything through the weeds. There's also marriage counseling, warlord US governors, and a role for Don King. It's all here in Punditwatch

Above the fold
QuasiPundit's daily list of top stories, without commentary
Washington Post:

Front Page Image

Andersen Dismisses Lead Enron Auditor ( Accounting giant Arthur Andersen yesterday fired the partner who ran its audits of Enron Corp., saying he had directed a "rushed" destruction of documents after learning that federal regulators were beginning to look into Enron's books.

SEC, Accounting Firms Redrafting Audit Rules ( Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Harvey L. Pitt and the accounting industry are scrambling to craft a new system for policing auditors in an effort to shore up confidence in the financial reports of publicly traded companies.

Special Forces Join Effort in Philippines ( U.S. Special Forces have begun arriving in the Philippines to assist Philippine troops in their fight against Muslim guerrillas linked to Osama bin Laden, part of a significant expansion of the U.S. war on terrorism outside Afghanistan.

High Court Backs EEOC Suits in Bias Cases ( The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the federal agency in charge of fighting job discrimination may sue an employer for alleged violations of an employee's civil rights, seeking damages for an employee even when the employee has agreed to submit job disputes to arbitration.

New York Times:

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Arthur Andersen Fires an Executive for Enron Orders WASHINGTON, Jan. 15 — Arthur Andersen fired its partner in charge of auditing the Enron Corporation (news/quote) today, saying he had ordered the destruction of thousands of documents and e-mail messages after learning that the Securities and Exchange Commission had begun an investigation of Enron's accounting.

Author of Letter to Enron Chief Is Called Tough HOUSTON, Jan. 15 — In the cutthroat business culture of the Enron Corporation (news/quote), where toughness and a sharp tongue were often prerequisites for success, Sherron S. Watkins could be noticeably tough and sharp.

Walker Will Face Terrorism Counts in a Civilian Court WASHINGTON, Jan. 15 — John Walker, the American wanderer turned Taliban warrior, was charged today in a criminal complaint with conspiring to kill United States citizens and supporting terrorist groups. He will be tried in federal court in Alexandria, Va., and could face life in prison if convicted.

U.S.-Philippine Command May Signal War's Next Phase WASHINGTON, Jan. 15 -- In the first major expansion of the war on terrorism, American and Philippine military officers in Manila began preparing joint operations today against a Muslim extremist group linked to Al Qaeda in the southern Philippines.

McGreevey, Inaugurated, Calls for New Jersey Unity TRENTON, Jan 15 — Declaring that the "days of irresponsible borrowing and runaway spending are over," James E. McGreevey was sworn in as New Jersey's 51st governor today and challenged state residents to help him improve their educational system and deter terrorism even while facing a spiraling fiscal crisis.

Washington Times:

American Taliban fighter indicted -- The Washington Times A federal grand jury yesterday indicted American Taliban member John Walker on non-capital charges of conspiring to kill U.S. citizens, accusing the 20-year-old of training at an al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan and being thanked personally by Osama bin Laden for joining the battle.

Enron gave cash to Democrats, sought pact help -- The Washington Times Enron Corp. donated $420,000 to Democrats over a three-year period while heavily lobbying the Clinton administration to expedite passage of a 1997 global warming treaty that would have dramatically increased the firm's sales of natural gas.

Los Angeles Times:

Front Page Image(pdf)

Memo Warned of Enron's Setup Being Seen as 'Hoax' HOUSTON -- A detailed road map of Enron Corp.'s aggressive accounting maneuvers and an uncannily accurate prediction of the company's collapse were laid before Enron Chairman Kenneth L. Lay in August in a lengthy memo that became public Tuesday.

U.S. Talib Is Charged With Conspiracy WASHINGTON -- The Justice Department said Tuesday that it has charged the American Taliban prisoner captured in Afghanistan with conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens and providing aid to terrorists. If convicted, he faces life in prison.

Last Tango in Cyprus NICOSIA, Cyprus -- One is 82, the other 77. They met as opposing lawyers in a string of terrorist trials nearly half a century ago and have grown old trying to outfox each other in one of the world's most intractable armed standoffs.

Go to The Newspaper Rack

BLOG WATCH II: Your guide to who is saying what, where
AM Edition - by Will Vehrs

What’s hot: Media bias, pretzels, more Enron. Blog Watch *** picks: Charles Johnson on NYT, Fritz Schranck on wetlands.

Joshua Micah Marshall Levin on the fringe; vindication at last; Enron gag lines.

Charles Johnson. My vote on virtual jury; *** disgraceful paen to Killer al-Karmi.

Jeff Jarvis Just fishin', Will; to PC or not PC, that is the statue question; pretzel effects a national security concern, really; size doesn't matter [whew! --ed.]; bias mailbox whines.

Libertarian Samizdata Eliminate the tax man at the water's edge; zap money; Fed Ed punts inquiry; smart tag bees may sting privacy; hate speech: let freedom ring; Palit's phantasm.

Steven Den Beste Dangerous Afghan "bonding"; Remember Chandra? No, silly, the telescope; be all you can be. Be a helicopter; one bad tribunal don't spoil the whole bunch.

Kathy Kinsley Islam portal started; WOOFs and Bellicose Women make common cause; don't update Outlook and other short stuff.

Kevin Holtsberry Jarvis' shibboleth; difficult defense of Christians; making libertarians look normal; Bork mesmerized by kinky ad; the lowdown on Cleveland and Ohio good government.

Fritz Schranck ***Discretion in wetlands; geography lessons for the Delaware-challenged; gay channel ideas: Rehobeth rocks.

Andrew Olmsted Gephardt's pledge; thanks for the campaign donation, you have the right to remain silent, anything ...; back door nat'l ID card; abortion training with tax dollars; zero official introspection after 9/11.

SGT Stryker Sarge attacked by peaceniks; shore leave for Vinson; US troops return to Phillipines, scrogging downturn in Okinawa forecast; radio connection; doin' the monkey hump; coming.

Whenever Tim Blair went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him.
He was a blog watcher from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.