January 15, 2002

This one's just for entertainment value. File it under "political snafu classics".

Question: What's the point of going through all of the trouble to make political allies out of the Hell's Angels if you're just going to insult them a few days later? (Answer: none.)

Lastman 'didn't know' Hells Angels sell drugs,
By James Rusk (with a report from Rheal Seguin).

Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman said yesterday he did not know that the Hells Angels make money from illegal drugs when he shook the hand of a gang member on the weekend.

"These guys are in drugs. This is drug money. Over the weekend when I spoke to them, I didn't know that. Phooey. I had heard the stories, but, yes, the [police] chief has explained it to me. We've gone over it," the mayor told reporters after a morning spent trying to contain the damage from his latest gaffe.

NY Times piece about a book by that builds upon the work of Dr. Noam Chomsky:
Hard-Wired' Grammar Rules Found for All Languages,
by Brenda Fowler.

While most linguists would now agree that language is innate, Dr. Chomsky's ideas about principles and parameters have remained bitterly controversial. Even his supporters could not claim to have tested his theory with the really tough cases, the languages considered most different from those the linguists typically know well.

But in a new book, Dr. Mark C. Baker, a linguist at Rutgers University whose dissertation was supervised by Dr. Chomsky, says he has discerned the parameters for a remarkably diverse set of languages, especially American-Indian and African tongues.

In the book, "The Atoms of Language: The Mind's Hidden Rules of Grammar" (Basic Books, 2001), Dr. Baker sets forth a hierarchy of parameters that sorts them according to their power to affect and potentially nullify one another.

Just as the periodic table of elements illustrates the discrete units of the physical world, Dr. Baker's hierarchy charts the finite set of discrete factors that create differences in grammars.

That these parameters can be organized in a logical and systematic way, Dr. Baker says, suggests that there may be some deeper theory underlying them, and that the hierarchy may even guide language acquisition in children.

The hierarchy is not the same as a family tree, which illustrates the historical relations among languages — for example, Italian, French, Spanish and their mother tongue, Latin. Nor does it have anything to do with the way words vary from language to language. Instead, Dr. Baker analyzes grammar — the set of principles that describe the order in which words and phrases are strung together, tenses added and questions formed. Dr. Baker, like Dr. Chomsky, believes these instructions are hard-wired into humans' brains.

I guessed wrong. Looked like Kenneth L. Lay and Arthur Andersen will be taking the fall for this one.

See the Time article:
Enron: Who's Accountable?.

Does anyone else know anything about this mention of the U.S. Attorney General Ashcroft's involvement? (below)

The U.S. Justice Department announced last week that it was creating a task force, staffed with experts on complex financial crimes, to pursue a full criminal investigation. But the country was quickly reminded of the pervasive reach of Enron and its executives—the biggest contributors to the Presidential campaign of George W. Bush—when U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft had to recuse himself from the probe because he had received $57,499 in campaign cash from Enron for his failed 2000 Senate re-election bid in Missouri. Then the entire office of the U.S. Attorney in Houston recused itself because too many of its prosecutors had personal ties to Enron executives—or to angry workers who have been fired or have seen their life savings disappear.

Specifically, how does one "recuse" one's self from such a probe? Apparently a person can "recuse himself" but an entire office of people, such as the U.S. Attorney's office in Houston, can also "recuse itself".

Just curious :-)

January 14, 2002

The title says it all on this one:
Philips says copy-protected CDs have no future,
by Will Knight for New Scientist. (Thanks, John)

Philips, the inventor of the Compact Disc, does not expect controversial attempts by the music industry to introduce CD "copy protection" technologies to last very long, because of consumer complaints.

Philips is opposed to the use of copy protection systems. The technology is designed to stop CDs playing or being copied on personal computers but it can also prevent them from playing on many normal systems.

As inventor of the CD standard and the industry's licensing body, Philips could refuse to license such copy protected discs as genuine CDs, or pursue some other legal obstruction to the practice.

But Gary Wirtz, general manager of the Philips Copyright Office at its headquarters in the Netherlands, believes that copy protection technology will fail all by itself.

Hmmm. How much you wanna bet Thomas E. White gets scapegoated for the whole thing? (see previous posting)

Just thinking outloud :-)

Maybe President Bush fainted after he read this informative piece by Joshua Micah Marshall -- which provides more than a few details about the Enron scandal.

Pardon me Josh for reprinting it here, but stuff like this is too good to keep quiet about.

Wondering how many Bush administration (Senate-confirmed) appointees owned stock in Enron? Or how much they owned? Or what business relationships they had with the company? Well, hey, you came to the right place!

Now it's important to keep in mind that most of these folks listed below just owned stock in the company, which probably only means they got suckered and cleaned out by the company brass like a lot of other people.

But then if some of them cashed in their stock a few months ago (which next year's disclosures will tell us) based on inside information ... well, that would be another matter entirely.

Appointee: Kathleen B. Cooper Title: Undersec. for Economic Affairs Department: Commerce Relationship: Enron stock $1,001-$15,001

Appointee: Thomas C. Dorr Title: Under Sec. for Rural Development Department: USDA Relationship: (1) Enron stock $1,001-$15,001 (MG Dorr IFT), (2) Enron stock $1,001-$15,001 (Roth IRA)

Appointee: Emil H. Frankel Title: Asst. Sec. for Transportation Policy Department: Transportation Relationship: Enron stock $1,001-$15,000

Appointee: Eugene Hickok Jr. Title: Undersecretary Department: Education Relationship: (1) Spouse Katherine Hickok Rev. Trust: Enron stock $15,001-$50,000 value, $5,001-$15,000 dividends/capital gains; (2) Son Adam Eugene Hickok Trust: Enron stock $15,000-$50,000 value, $5,001-$15,000 dividends/capital gains; (3) Daughter Katherine C. Hickok Trust: Enron stock $15,001-$50,000 value, $5,001-$15,000 dividends/capital gains.

Appointee: Allen F. Johnson Title: Chief Agriculture Negotiator Department: US Trade Rep. Relationship: Enron stock $1,001-$15,000

Appointee: John H. Marburger Title: Director Department: Office of Science and Technology Relationship: Enron stock $1,001-$15,000 value, $201-$1,000 dividends

Appointee: Alice H. Martin Title: US Attorney, Northern District of Alabama Department: Justice Relationship: Enron stock $1,001-$15,000

Appointee: Sandra L. Pack Title: Asst. Secretary Department: Army Relationship: Enron stock less than $1,001 value, $5,001-$15,000 capital gains.

Appointee: Robert Zoellick Title: US Trade Rep. Department: USTR Relationship: Enron stock $15,001-$50,000, Enron advisory fees $50,000

Appointee: Hansford T. Johnson Title: Asst. Sec. Department: Navy Relationship: Enron stock $1,001-$15,000

Appointee: Donald H. Rumsfeld Title: Secretary Department: Defense Relationship: Enron stock $1,001-$15,000

Appointee: John E. Robson Title: Chairman/President Department: Export Import Bank Relationship: Enron stock $1,001-$15,000

Appointee: Thomas Scully Title: Administrator Department: HCFA Relationship: Enron stock $15,001-$50,000

Appointee: Martin J. Silverstein Title: Ambassador to Uruguay Department: State Relationship: Enron stock $15,001-$50,000

Appointee: William Winkenwerder Title: Asst. Sec. Department: Defense Relationship: Enron stock $1,001-$15,000

Appointee: Thomas E. White Title: Secretary of the Army Department: Defense Relationship: Former Vice-Chairman of Enron Energy Service; Enron Corp-common stock worth $25,000,001-50,000,000 that paid over $5,000,000 in dividends and capital gains; Enron Corp-stock options worth $25,000,001-50,000,000 that paid $100,001-1,000,000 in capital gains; Enron Corp Cash Balance Retirement Acct (Enron Stock will rollover into permissible property) worth $100,001-250,000 that paid less than $201 in dividends; Enron Corp-DLJ Private Equity Partners Fund II that paid $5,516,131.08 in salary; Enron Employee Stock Ownership Plan, Defined Contribution Plan Managed by Enron worth $1,000,001-5,000,000 that paid less than $201 dividends; Enron Phantom Stock Award worth $5,000,000-25,000,000 that paid less than $201 dividends; Enron Retirement Account (Enron Stock) worth less than $1,001 that paid less than $201 dividends; Agreements: Pursuant to provisions of employment agreement and routine practice of Enron Corp, given $1,000,000 in severance pay; The Phantom Stock Award in Enron (approximately 240,000 shares) were accelerated and paid out when he left Enron

Appointee: Mark Weinberger Title: Assistant Secretary (Tax Policy) Department: Treasury Relationship: Enron stock $1,001-$15,000 value, $201-1,000 dividends

Appointee: Vicky A. Bailey Title: Assistant Secretary, International Affairs & Domestic Policy Department: State Relationship: Enron stock $1,001-$15,000

Appointee: Alexander Vershbow Title: Ambassador to Russia Department: State Relationship: Enron stock $50,001-$100,000 value, $201-1,000 dividends

Appointee: Marcelle M. Wahba Title: Ambassador to the UAE Department: State Relationship: Enron stock $1,001-$15,000

Appointee: Steven M. Colloton Title: US Attorney (S.D. Iowa) Department: Justice Relationship: Enron stock $1,001-$15,000

Appointee: Richard J. Egan Title: Ambassador to Ireland Department: State Relationship: Enron Partial Sale Value: $250,000-500,000 Dividends: $5,001-15,000 Capital Gains: $100,001-1,000,000

Enron Corporation (SOLD) Value: Less than $1,001 Dividends: $201-1,000

Egan's spouse: The following is owned through his wife's Lawhill Capital fund for the year 2000:

Enron Gas & Oil 15,679 US G/L

Enron Corp. Lost 12,429 US G/L

Appointee: Donald W. Washington Title: US Attorney (W.D. Louisiana) Department: Justice Relationship: Enron stock $1,001-$15,000

Appointee: John Prince Title: Ambassador to Mauritius, Comoros, Seychelles Department: State Relationship: Enron stock through four direct/indirect sources: (1) less than $1,000; (2) $15,001-$50,000; (3) $1,001-$15,000; (4) $15,001-$50,000.

Appointee: William Schubert Title: Administrator, Maritime Administration Department: Transportation Relationship: Project Consulting Services for Enron, paid over $5,000

Appointee: Bruce Carnes Title: CFO Department: US Dept of Energy Relationship: Enron Stock $1,000 - $15,000

Appointee: John S. Wolf Title: Assistant Secretary for Nonproliferation Department: Dept of State Relationship: Enron Stock $50,000 - $100,000

Appointee: Linnet Deily Title: Deputy Department: Office of the Trade Representative Relationship: Enron Stock $15,000 - $50,000

Appointee: Nils J. Diaz Title: Commissioner Department: US Nuclear Regulatory Commission Relationship: Enron Stock $1,000 - $15,000

Appointee: George L. Argyros Title: Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Spain and Andorra Department: State Relationship: Enron Stock $100,000 - $250,000; $1,000 - $15,000

Appointee: Charlotte L. Beers (Beadleston - married name) Title: Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Department: State Relationship: Enron Stock $100,000 - $250,000

Appointee: Stephen F. Brauer Title: Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Belgium Department: State Relationship: Enron Common Stock $50,000 - $100,000

Maybe reporters covering the relevant departments should ask some questions.

-- Josh Marshall

I'm asking Josh. I'm asking.

January 13, 2002

A slight mishap involving a president and a pretzel at the white house:
President Faints at White House, by Ron Fournier for the Washington Post.

New even older findings of the same old doodles. Courtesy of the BBC.

'Oldest' prehistoric art unearthed, by Dr. David Whitehouse.

Here's another good link for Enron ammo:
Oliver Willis' EnronGate. (Thanks, Cory.)