Enron: under cover of dark and the war
By Matt Bivens
There’s not much doubt left today that the California energy crisis was an Enron esque game. Just 10 days ago, a fifth former Enron exec entered a federal guilty plea
The Enron scandal has all but disappeared from view. Let’s check in on it, shall we?
You remember Enron: It claimed to be making and holding onto lots more money than it really was; it suckered people, including its own employees, into believing it was a success; its top executives paid themselves lavishly and then, when the pyramid shuddered, cashed out early.
That’s the usual chronology, but the 800-pound gorilla it omits is the summer of 2001 in California when “energy traders” like Enron created a phony “energy crisis” in which, for the third summer in a row, they could ransom their energy for eye-poppingly outrageous sums.
There’s not much doubt left today that the California energy crisis was an Enron esque game. Just 10 days ago, a fifth former Enron exec entered a federal guilty plea. He admits he and his colleagues intentionally defrauded Californians intentionally brought about those lucrative power outages.
Enron, of course, wasn’t alone. Traders over at Reliant Energy (just renamed Center point) have been caught on tape laughing about being the cause of power failures across the West Coast, and then under cover of dark sneaking away with the public’s hard-earned money it was “cool” and “fun.”
So, game over, right? There’s a consensus that 55 million Californians were ripped off by the Fraudster 500; now it’s just a matter of doling out the jail time and the public shame, collecting what money can be recovered, and ordering regulators to prevent it recurring, right?
Uh, no. For starters, Americans have forgotten Enron. We’re too busy duct-taping our windows shut against the possibility of a chemical, biological or nuclear attack. The press derides the new government civil defence advice as “duct and cover” a joking reference to the old “duck-and-cover” Cold War drills, in which school kids would hide under their desks from Comrade Stalin but that hasn’t stopped hoarders from buying up all the flashlights and bottled water in my hometown.
With no one watching, it’s back to business as usual and the Bush administration is eager to do the bidding of the oligarchy sorry, wrong country, of its favourite “campaign contributors.” So those Reliant traders who thought themselves so “cool” earned their company a playful wrist slap: Their $13.8 million fine equals 0.03 percent of Reliant’s (rape-of-California) 2001 revenues of $40.8 billion. If Reliant had jacked a Mercedes, this would be equivalent to a judge ordering it to keep the car but return any change found behind the seat.
The fine was set by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC and for anyone who missed the point, the White House just appointed a new FERC commissioner: Joseph Kelliher, a former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney. Kelliher was the Enron go-to guy he was once handed Enron’s “dream list” of government policies and dutifully relayed it to Boss Cheney.
Meanwhile, the man who used to run Enron’s corrupt energy trading division is not only not in trouble, he’s secretary of the US Army that, incredibly, makes him the man in charge of the Army budget. Ken Lay, the former Enron chief, is also doing well. He’s having a day in court soon because he’s suing the US government. He and his wife think the US tax authorities owe them $130,000 from the mid-1980s.
So this is why they say the first casualty of war is truth. —The Moscow Times