Tuesday, March 29, 2005

BBC's Greg Palast gives me a message for LA Times editor on Arnold/Enron news blackout

On Mar 19, 2005, at 10:57 PM Professor Smartass wrote:


I recently wrote a letter to the LA Times asking why they haven't been more aggressive in covering Arnold's relationship to Enron and the other energy scammers, and attached the project censored coverage of your story. The editor disputed some of the basic facts about Cruz Bustamante even filing a lawsuit, and Arnold having the ability to make it go away.

You can see the LA Times letter and my original letter at http://professorsmartass.blogspot.com/

-- Professor Smartass


From: contact@gregpalast.com

Subject: Re: LA Times disputes Arnold/Enron story
Date: March 29, 2005 12:54:51 PM PST

Hi Professor Smartass,
Greg has written a response which he would you to post or sent to this LA Times guy.
Thanks for making us aware of it.
Kindest regards,

Here's Greg's comment:

The LA Times editor misreads my exposé on your governor's undermining of the legal action against Enron and other power pirates (or, typical of editors, he commented without reading it).

I'm not surprised. This is a highly complex matter involving regulatory financial accounting and the nexus of regulatory and tort law. It is not the expertise one normally finds in a typical newsroom where almost all matter printed comes from simplified press releases and official statements.

While best known for my TV and popular writings, I am, in another life, an expert on electricity finances and law, author of a seminal work in the area, Democracy and Regulation, introduced by California Public Utilities Commissioner Carl Wood, based on my lectures at the Department of Applied Economics at Cambridge University, England, and the University of Sao Paolo.

The Times editor says his reporters have reviewed much energy-related "stuff" -- and could not find these stories. Indeed, the Times missed the entire Enron story until they could re-print the discoveries of the Wall Street Journal.

I sympathize with the Times limitations in this area; which is why it may be unfair that my team won a journalism award for this story from California State University and not the Times.

As one newspaper wrote in an embarrassingly glowing profile of my reporting, "Palast's ability to make sense of stacks of dense financial data earned him a reputation for doggedness (he holds an MBA from the University of Chicago)."

It was in the LA Times.

Greg Palast
Author, "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy." View Palast's reports for BBC TV at www.GregPalast.com

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

final rounds of Arnold/Enron debate with LA Times editor

RE: Your defense of Arnold/Enron coverage
Date: March 21, 2005 3:14:50 PM PST

Re Bustamante's suit: He sued as an individual, not on behalf of the state, so there's not much that Schwarzenegger could do to settle the case, whether he wants to or not. (There also may not be much to come of the suit since it's not on behalf of the state.) Lockyer has a number of proceedings in which he's been pursuing the energy companies and has actually gotten some large settlements. No one's likely to get much money out of Enron since it's bankrupt.

Re the broader issue: You can only connect the dots, as you put it, if there's actual evidence. We've had a number of reporters scrub through all sorts of energy-related stuff several times, and we've published what we thought was provable.


Professor Smartass
Re: Your defense of Arnold/Enron coverage
Date: March 21, 2005 5:12:16 PM PST

Enron was just one of the named defendants in the suit. I talked to Bustamante's office today, and they said the suits are still in play. It sounds like you aren't too familiar with them, so I'm attaching the original complaints.

Enron was just one of the named defendants in the suit. I talked to Bustamante's office today, and they said the suits are still in play. It sounds like you aren't too familiar with them, so I'm attaching the original complaints.


RE: Your defense of Arnold/Enron coverage
Date: March 21, 2005 5:39:04 PM PST

Thanks. I am familiar with the suits.

Schiavo Brain Dead-- New England Journal of Medicine

This is really all you need to know about the case: her EEG is flat. That's when doctors pull the plug every day.

I can see why many on the right wouldn't want the lack of higher brain function to be the legal standard of death. Legally, most of them would never have been alive in the first place.

Of course the doctors who peer review the New England Journal of Medicine don't know as much about this as Sean Hannity, Pat Robertson, or George W. Bush, a C student business major.

Somebody offered the husband a million dollars to leave her plugged in and he should have taken it. It's just an empty husk of a body, and she isn't suffering. If it makes her family happy to keep it as a memento, let them have it.

...she exhibited no evidence of higher cortical function. Computed tomographic scans of her brain eventually showed severe atrophy of her cerebral hemispheres, and her electroencephalograms have been flat, indicating no functional activity of the cerebral cortex. Her neurologic examinations have been indicative of a persistent vegetative state, which includes periods of wakefulness alternating with sleep, some reflexive responses to light and noise, and some basic gag and swallowing responses, but no signs of emotion, willful activity, or cognition.

There is no evidence that Ms. Schiavo is suffering, since the usual definition of this term requires conscious awareness that is impossible in the absence of cortical activity. There have been only a few reported cases in which minimal cognitive and motor functions were restored three months or more after the diagnosis of a persistent vegetative state due to hypoxic–ischemic encephalopathy; in none of these cases was there the sort of objective evidence of severe cortical damage that is present in this case, nor was the period of disability so long.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Arguing with LA Times editor about Arnold/Enron story

March 21, 2005

David Lauter
Deputy Editor/Daily
Los Angeles Times
202 W. 1st St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Dear Mr. Lauter,

Thank you for your quick response.

Since you are a professional journalist, I would expect you would know more about this stuff than I would.

But I was unclear on a couple of things from your response. By saying that it is the attorney general’s prerogative to file lawsuits on behalf of the state, does that mean that there is no suit filed by Cruz Bustamante on behalf of utility customers, as covered by the LA Times on page A21, May 3, 2001? To your credit, you did cover that story, but it was buried on page A21, even though the blackouts were front page news for those of us affected by it. I was giving a college final when a blackout occurred and had to decide between canceling it or having my students huddle under one dim emergency light to finish their essays.

You said you covered this issue prominently, but a search of the archives for Schwarzenegger and Ken Lay or Kenneth Lay turned up a handful of incidental mentions in campaign notebook articles, usually when another candidate or protestor mentioned it, and to their credit, in the columns of Steve Lopez and Patt Morrison.

Further, your Jun 30, 2004 story on page C1 seems to confirm what Greg Palast of the BBC reported the summer before: that Arnold would support the weaker FERC settlement rather than the civil suit filed by Bustamante. The article could have connected the dots to explain why a governor so fixated on slashing our budget wouldn’t be interested in recouping as much as possibly of money stolen from us.

To the Times credit, you have covered Arnold’s push to further deregulate electricity, but again, this was buried in the California section of the paper even though the consequences, further rate hikes and blackouts, would be front page news to most Californians. A scan of recent Arnold front page stories includes his visit to the La Conchita landslide, his proposal for a low budget bridge in San Francisco, and his proposals regarding Indian gaming. Are these stories really more important than our governor trying to help the criminals who screwed us out of billions of dollars and who turned out our lights?

You are right that the meeting with Ken Lay by itself might not mean much, but Arnold got substantial aid from President Bush, not the least of which was advice from Karl Rove, staff loaned from Jeb Bush, and a visit from the President to Gray Davis to say he WOULD NOT intervene to cap electricity prices. At the time, Ken Lay was still the lifetime top donor to George W. Bush (he may still be). It’s not exactly a conspiracy theory to connect dots that big, and if the press was taking it’s watchdog function seriously, Arnold should have at least had to give a good explanation why all those things lined up in his favor without this being racketeering before the election.

You did this kind of work on Arnold’s sexual harassment problems. You didn’t just mention a case as it came up, but did the research to connect the dots. That’s all I’m asking. Connect the dots on the front page of the LA Times far enough before Arnold runs for re-election that information becomes part of the public debate.

Given that television news has become a embarrassment focused on celebrities and murder cases, and the free ride Arnold gets on right wing talk radio, where he is fawned over and unlikely to get a tough question, you have an even greater obligation to give the voters of California the news they need to make an informed decision because they aren’t getting it from any other local media.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Iraq's oil: Tony Soprano vs. Fredo

This is just weird, but it's Greg Palast, and he has proved pretty reliable in the past.

Apparently, the oil companies OPPOSED Bush's plan to privatize Iraq's oil because it could undermine OPEC and lead to a collapse in oil prices. Bush began to immediately implement his plan to privatize and sell off Iraq's oil wealth anyway, a move that was accurately interpreted by Iraqis and helped ignite the insurgency.

According to this, they are moving toward something closer to what the oil companies wanted, which would lead to more stability in Iraq.

The problem I have with this is if the big oil companies aren't really behind Bush, who is? Is the military industrial complex so big it can ignore real world power houses like oil? This seems like an episode of the Sopranos, when a more strategic thinking boss like Tony (the oil industry in this case) is somehow outflanked by by a stupid, hot-headed cousin (Bush). On the Sopranos, this would happen to Tony because his twinges of conscience cause him to hesitate and give his Fredos room to screw him.

Unlike Tony Soprano though, corporations have no soul that would explain their leniency toward a Fredo messing with their garbage routes. As a former Shell exec says in this story, "International oil companies, without exception, are very pragmatic commercial organizations. They don't have a theology."

It seems like there's a piece of this story still missing, but the pieces that are here are troubling enough. A couple of rich guys meet behind close doors to make policies that will affect not just our lives, but a big chunk of the Muslim world, and indirectly, the whole world, and regular people's votes and voices seemed to have NO place at the table whatsoever. That has to change.

As the world runs out of oil, which is finally being mentioned openly in Congress, the oil issue will grow in importance, and the more it is done in private, the more democracy is neglected and starved to death here.

Mr Aljibury, once Ronald Reagan's "back-channel" to Saddam, claims that plans to sell off Iraq's oil, pushed by the US-installed Governing Council in 2003, helped instigate the insurgency and attacks on US and British occupying forces.

"Insurgents used this, saying, 'Look, you're losing your country, you're losing your resources to a bunch of wealthy billionaires who want to take you over and make your life miserable,'" said Mr Aljibury from his home near San Francisco.

"We saw an increase in the bombing of oil facilities, pipelines, built on the premise that privatisation is coming."


Questioned by Newsnight, Ms Jaffe said the oil industry prefers state control of Iraq's oil over a sell-off because it fears a repeat of Russia's energy privatisation. In the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, US oil companies were barred from bidding for the reserves.

Ms Jaffe says US oil companies are not warm to any plan that would undermine Opec and the current high oil price: "I'm not sure that if I'm the chair of an American company, and you put me on a lie detector test, I would say high oil prices are bad for me or my company."

The former Shell oil boss agrees. In Houston, he told Newsnight: "Many neo conservatives are people who have certain ideological beliefs about markets, about democracy, about this, that and the other. International oil companies, without exception, are very pragmatic commercial organizations. They don't have a theology."


Secret US plans for Iraq's oil
By Greg Palast
Reporting for Newsnight

The Bush administration made plans for war and for Iraq's oil before the 9/11 attacks, sparking a policy battle between neo-cons and Big Oil, BBC's Newsnight has revealed...


Saturday, March 12, 2005

CRUCIAL: Help divest from vote rigging companies

The far right take over of America is really all about money for corporate America and financial institutions as the recent bankruptcy bill proved. The religious and cultural right elements are just gestures to get enough votes to give them a fig leaf of legitimacy.

The goal is a one party state where corporate America can write their own rules. If that sounds extreme, consider this treatise by chief GOP strategist Grover Norquist, who runs the weekly meeting where elected Republicans and the right wing press synchronize their message:

"The Democratic Party is Toast"

Norquist also famously said, "Bipartisanship is another name for date rape."

Their financial motive, if it wasn't clear enough in the invasion of Iraq and cuts of capital gains and inheritance taxes, should be irrefutable after Bush chose privatizing Social Security as his first big issue after the election. It would give a big chunk of money to Wall Street, and remove the "security" part of Social Security.

If money is the motive, the logical way to fight back is money.

One part of this is demanding that state retirement funds divest from vote rigging companies, as the campaign below needs a minute of your time to do. If you are unfamiliar with how this is done, take a look at this video, and skip up to the segment with Howard Dean, which is about two minutes long. Anybody with an basic knowledge of computers will understand how blatant this scam is after seeing this: http://votergate.tv/movie_links.html

Another way to do this is to pull your money out of large banks and move it to a credit union. These large banks like Bank of America contribute overwhelmingly to GOP to work against your interests. 600,000 people have pulled their money out of B of A since last summer. If enough people do this, it will put a crimp in the money they have to cause trouble with. For a further explanation, see this:


Protests are good, but they aren't as effective when the people we are protesting own the networks and simply ignore the largest protests in the history of the world, as happened before the Iraq War. They can't ignore an empty pocket though.


• Go to www.velvetrevolution.us/campaigns/dv4d/ and fill out the form to send letters to all nine companies with one click

• Make a generous donation to VR at www.velvetrevolution.us/donate.php to support this massive effort

• Send a letter to Congress telling them that you want paper ballots, open software and non-partisan election officials at www.velvetrevolution.us

• Spread the word about VR and the campaign by telling your friends, posting on the blogs, writing letters to the editor and speaking out.


Begin forwarded message:

From: "Andy Stephenson"
Date: March 9, 2005 9:43:09 PM PST
Subject: Please Support the Velvet Revolution!

Hello, I am writing to ask for your strong support on an electoral reform issue that can make a real difference – the Divestiture for Democracy campaign initiated this week by www.velvetrevolution.us. In short, after two months of hard work, VR, with my active assistance, sent letters to the nine major vote machine companies (Diebold, ES&S, Sequoia, MicroVote, TriadGSI, HartInterCivic, Danaher-Guardian, UniLect, and Advanced Voting Solutions) asking that they voluntarily agree to have voter-verified paper ballots for all votes cast, open software and hardware that is independently analyzed, no networking, no staff involvement in partisan elections, polices for release of requested documents, and other steps designed to make election results trusted once again. We have given these companies 60 days to state that they will take these steps before their machines are used in another election.

As many of you know, several bills are pending in Congress to require these same things. Moreover, Representative John Conyers just strongly endorsed this campaign. However, we should not have to wait as companies that have the ability to make such changes on their own delay doing so while seeking contracts paid for with your tax dollars. These companies have an obligation to act now.

I believe that a concerted effort over the next two months by millions of people who are concerned about democracy could put enough pressure on these companies to get these needed electoral changes. Therefore, I am asking you to do the following:

• Go to www.velvetrevolution.us/campaigns/dv4d/ and fill out the form to send letters to all nine companies with one click

• Make a generous donation to VR at www.velvetrevolution.us/donate.php to support this massive effort

• Send a letter to Congress telling them that you want paper ballots, open software and non-partisan election officials at www.velvetrevolution.us

• Spread the word about VR and the campaign by telling your friends, posting on the blogs, writing letters to the editor and speaking out.

Of course, we may not be successful within 60 days. If not, we will go to the next phase of the campaign – divestiture and boycott to put these companies out of business forever.

Right now, however, you have my call to action. Please act today because together, we can make a difference!!

Thank so much,

Andy Stephenson
Special Advisor,

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Who slept with the GOP Man Ho?

It's not a sin if it isn't in the press...

How many right wing pundits got taxpayer money? White House won't give docs to find out

I remember hearing Rush Limbaugh say years ago that the radio was flooded with right wingers because they won in the marketplace of ideas and in the market for listeners. Of course he left out a couple of things like Reagan repealing the Fairness Doctrine that required stations to provide some time for opposing opinions or what Bill Clinton himself now admits was a huge mistake, easing the rules on media consolidation, so a handful of companies could own nearly all the media and use the airwaves to promote the ideas of the party that will do them more favors and be silent about any of their corruption and private affairs.

And Rush didn't mention that at least some of these pundits were being paid by the Bushies to sell particularly parts of their policy and pretend like it's their own idea, which is illegal, covert propaganda. I'd like to know who all is getting this money, but we can't because the Bushies consistently violate the Freedom of Information Act and only comply with it when they think it won't harm them politically.

This is what they are doing for people who are on message. Reporters who drift too far from the pro-Bush ranch can be hounded out of their jobs like Dan Rather and his producers. Those who don't toe the line in Iraq get it a bit worse, but I'll send something on that later.


At press time, the White House had not responded to the request by a couple dozen high-profile House Democrats for information on all PR and advertising contracts with government agencies.

The request cited "secret publicity campaigns to promote administration priorities" including an investigation that "revealed that the Department of Education paid a conservative commentator [Armstrong Williams, though the letter did not name him] to support the No Child Left Behind Act in television and radio appearances," plus another contract with a commentator unearthed following the Williams revelation.

It also cited Government Accountability Office conclusions that video news releases issued by Health and Human Services and the Office of National Drug Control Policy violated anti-propaganda rules, though the Justice Department concluded differently.


White House Mum on PR Contracts
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 3/4/2005 5:35:00 PM

w w w . b r o a d c a s t i n g c a b l e . c o m

Friday, March 04, 2005

How close is the president to the White House male prostitute?

Did Bush use the services of this male prostitute that he
had planted to lob softball questions in press conferences?