EMAIL PAGE THREE
COLUMN SEVENTY-EIGHT, NOVEMBER 1, 2002
(Copyright © 2002 The Blacklisted Journalist)
BY MOLLY IVANS
1.THE BUSH SHELL GAME
Gotta love Molly Ivins
Date: Fri, 13 Sep 2002 03:38:12 -0700
From: "Peter Coyote" firstname.lastname@example.org
Organization: Wild Dog Productions
on Sun, Sep. 08, 2002
Keep your eyes on the shell game
like a lot of distracting saber-rattling to get you to take your eyes off the
shell with the pea under it.
of like the prospect of being hanged in the morning, impending war does tend to
concentrate the mind wonderfully. But the remaining balance, if any, in your
401(k) is an attention-grabber as well, so while the administration tries to
make up its mind whether it agrees with itself on the best way to handle Saddam
Hussein, I recommend a swift glance back at the corporate reform agenda.
Bush went around the country this summer essentially saying, "Done that,
it's all over," on corporate reform. His adoption of Sen. Paul Sarbanes'
Accounting Reform and Investment Protection Act, which he staunchly opposed
until two weeks before it passed by a unanimous vote, is his most unusual claim
to parenthood since he announced in mid-debate he was the father of the Texas
patients' bill of rights. In that case, he had first vetoed the bill of rights
and then refused to sign it after it passed by a veto-proof majority.
the media failed to run the DNA on his paternity claim. Listening to Bush at his
Economic Forum in Waco, one would have thought that the Sarbanes bill was his
very own pet project and that he had shepherded it carefully through the
bob-wire thickets of Congress. As they say in West Texas, not hardly.
Karl Rove or somebody with political savvy did have the sense to get him to sign
it, for which we are all appropriately grateful. Unfortunately, what remains to
be done is considerably more than what has been accomplished to date. Still
unresolved is that matter of counting stock options as an expense on corporate
balance sheets, and here we need to keep an eagle eye on the shell game.
of corporations have already announced they will begin expensing stock options
when they are granted under a complicated formula called Black-Scholes. As
Reuven Brenner and Donald Luskin point out in a recent Wall Street Journal
article, that's jumping from the frying pan into the fire---trading one form of
fake accounting for another. No one knows what a stock option actually costs
until it is exercised.
means the options are risky liabilities of unknown future cost---a short
position in derivative security, actually," Brenner and Luskin write.
"As such, they should be reflected on the company's balance sheet and
marked to market every quarter. ... Keeping the options off the balance sheet
conceals what is potentially a vast liability. ... Putting options on the income
statement reveals their expense. Putting them on the balance sheet reveals their
risk. Together, they reveal exactly how much a company is paying for its
precious human capital. ... By bringing the true cost and nature of options into
explicit public view, the debate will focus on the fundamental issues behind the
accounting facade. One such issue is the role of boards and the functioning of
markets for corporate control in awarding these compensations and significantly
altering the company's risk profile. Another is whether or not linking
compensation to stock prices, rather than companies' actual performance, is a
good idea to start with."
Democrats and Republicans can do themselves a great deal of good by shutting
down the phony mailbox, offshore corporations in places like Bermuda and the
Cayman Islands. Shutting that tax loophole will meet with thundering approval
from the voters. That is a real bone-in-the-throat issue, and not fixing it is
definitive proof of how far Congress has been corrupted by campaign
contributions. These corporations that use offshore mail-drops to evade taxes
use our air, our water and our roads, they are protected by our laws, our police
and our military, and they can damn well help pay the taxes.
there are the continuing issues of corporate governance and pension protection.
Employees need the right to sell the company stock in their 401(k)s. Give
workers the right to elect the trustees of their retirement funds. Corporations
need truly independent directors, including a director to represent the
employees' interests. Management should be forbidden to spend company funds
electing its preferred candidates. Stop loans on 401(k)s.
anyone ready to admit yet that permitting banks, brokerage firms and insurance
companies to merge was a rancid idea? We can thank Phil Gramm, the senator from
Enron, for that one. Anyone ready to tackle derivatives yet? Because I guarantee
you, if we don't regulate derivatives, we're going to see a mess that will make
Enron look like patty-cake.
party gets out in front on these issues is going to have an overwhelming
advantage in the fall. According to Newsweek, congressional committees are
sitting on evidence that could seriously embarrass pols of both parties. Of
course, they're both up to their necks in making this mess - the question is
which one is going to get the credit for fixing it.
watch out for any paternity claims by George W.
Molly Ivins writes for Creators Syndicate. 5777 W. Century Blvd.,Suite 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045
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2. MOURNING BILLIE CARR
By MOLLY IVINS
AUSTIN -- Billie Carr, the godmother of Texas liberals,
passed last week at 74. Sue Lovell of Harris County Democrats said she knew
Billie was gone when she leaned over the bed and said, "Billie, should I
get you a mail ballot?" and there was no response.
Billie wanted her funeral conducted in the same political
tradition in which she had spent her entire life: "I'll be half an hour
late. I want a balanced delegation of pallbearers--- blacks, browns, gays and an
equal number of women. And I want an open casket and a sign pasted over my left
tit that says: Hi there! My Name Is BILLIE CARR.'"
They did it exactly as she wished. There were voter
registration cards by the guest book. Hundreds of us were there, wearing tags
pasted over our left tits that said, "Hi there! My Name Is ..." and
people wore old political buttons from ancient struggles. I haven't had such a
good time at a funeral since Nixon died.
Oh, she was so much fun. Irreverent, and improper, and
absolutely fearless. And she had the greatest laugh. She attended her first
political convention in 1928, when she was 26 days old. Her parents pinned a
credential on her diaper.
Carr was a working class Democrat her whole life. Her
granddaddy stood down the KKK, her parents were both politically active, and her
husband, David, was a Steelworker, but she always counted Frankie Randolph as
her greatest political mentor.
What a pair. Randolph was known as "the Eleanor
Roosevelt of Texas." She was from an upper-class background, and although
she was a shrewd political player, she was also a Southern lady to her bones.
Tall, red-headed, raucous Billie, who cussed like an art form and fractured
English grammar to the end of her life, was not. She venerated Randolph, but she
had the special gift of being completely comfortable with who she was.
Between the two of them, plus Ed Cogburn, they built the
Harris County Democrats into a major political power. They did it the
old-fashioned way---by precinct organizing. Billie's book How to Do It! Or
Organizing a Precinct Can Be Fun is still the manual of choice. Billie
believed politics is about people---you have to listen to them, you have talk to
them and all the rest is applesauce.
All over Houston, ever since Billie died, they've been
having "a moment of silence" in her memory at the public shindigs. How
ridiculous is that? If you were having a Billie Carr Minute, obviously everybody
would start talking at once, at a very high volume, about some hot political
topic---or at least start a good story.
Billie often said of politicians, "They are ALL
alligators." If you don't feed them, they eat you. The word is now part of
the lexicon of Texas politics: to be an alligator means you sell-out on one
issue or another. To all the alligators Billie ever chewed out, I would say: She
only cussed you out if she cared. If she thought you were hopeless, she never
Carr had known Bill Clinton since he was a baby alligator,
come to Texas in '72 to run McGovern's campaign. She later worked her tail off
for him. A main thing about Billie was, she didn't just work herself, she made
everybody else work their asses off, too. When President Clinton got himself
into that Monica Lewinsky mess, Billie was pissed off at him as only a woman of
a certain age can be about men and their stupidity. She defended him against the
Republicans, but she was steamed.
Clinton made the mistake of inviting her to the White House
in the middle of that deal. Here it is, a big reception line, everyone duded up,
all these important folks around, and Billie came though that line, looked the
president of the United States in eye and said, low and hard, "You dumb son
of a bitch."
Which is, of course, what every Democrat in America wanted
to say to Clinton at the time. Such a tragedy there was no one there to write
down the rest of the ass-chewing, but we do know that Clinton started laughing
and said, "Billie, I knew you were gonna do that." Which proves he
wasn't all dumb.
I love Texas, but it is a nasty old rawhide mother in the
way it bears down on the people who have the fewest defenses. Not many can claim
a better record for justice and freedom---she was there for the workers and the
unions, she was there for the African-Americans, she was there for the
Hispanics, she was there for the women, she was there for the gays. And this
wasn't all high-minded or we-should-all-be-kinder-to-one another. This was
tough, down, gritty, political trench warfare---money against people. She bulled
her way to the table of power, and then she used that place to get everybody
else there, too. If you ain't ready to sweat, and you ain't smart enough to
deal, you can't play in her league.
I reckon Billie's somewhere up in heaven, in an old-fashioned Texas icehouse, with the ceilin' fans goin' and the beer and soda pop in those long ol' bins full of ice water. All her family's with her, and Randolph, Millie Bruner, Bob Eckhardt and Ralph Yarborough--- and they've all got Bob Bullock cornered at last. ##
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