Posted by: Anonymous
The Truth Begins To Come Out - 07/16/02 04:42 PM
By Robert Sheer, A syndicated columnist
Vice President Dick Cheney has spent most of the past year in hiding, ostensibly from terrorists, but increasingly it seems obvious that it is Congress, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the media and the public he fears. And for good reason: Cheney's business behavior could serve as a textbook case of much of what's wrong with the way corporate CEOs have come to play the game of business.
The game involves more than playing loose with accounting rules, as Halliburton Co. is accused of doing while Cheney was the Texas-based energy company's chief executive.
On Sunday, SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt, whom Cheney pushed for the job, reluctantly turned on his sponsor and announced a vigorous investigation of Halliburton's accounting violations. Recent business scandals, however, are also the product of legal loopholes that allow firms to scoop up billions in unregulated profits.
It was just such loopholes that allowed the rise and subsequent fall of Enron and telecom heavyweights like WorldCom--in the process making CEOs like Dick Cheney very, very rich.
Recall that Cheney was a political hack for most of his professional life, first as a staffer in the Ford White House, then as a congressman for a decade and after that as secretary of Defense under the current president's father.
During the Clinton years, however, Cheney took an extremely lucrative five-year cruise into the private sector as chief executive of Halliburton.
After deciding, following an extensive search, that he would be George W. Bush's best candidate for vice president, Cheney resigned from the energy services company with a $36-million payoff for his final year of corporate service.
This journey from the public payroll to the corporate towers and back left a slimy trail of conflict-of-interest questions. For example, Defense Secretary Cheney conveniently changed the rules restricting private contractors doing work on U.S. military bases, allowing the Kellogg Brown & Root subsidiary of his future employer, Halliburton, to receive the first of $2.5 billion in contracts over the next decade. When Cheney left to become CEO of the entire company, he recruited his Pentagon military aide, Joe Lopez, to become senior vice president in charge of Pentagon dealings, which ultimately formed the most lucrative part of the otherwise ailing company's business.
Since returning to the public office, these disturbing patterns have continued.
In a scathing expose of Halliburton's military contracts, for example, the New York Times revealed that the vice president's old company had been the main beneficiary of the Pentagon's rush to build anti-terrorism military bases around the world. This new work will cost taxpayers many billions, and, according to Pentagon investigators' estimates, without any cost controls the final bill will be considerably higher than if the military's own construction units do the work.
Cheney denies having a role in securing those recent contracts, as he does knowledge of Halliburton's alleged accounting improprieties.
Unfortunately for Halliburton's stockholders and employees, parlaying his Pentagon contacts into profit has proved to be Cheney's only major business success.
In fact, CEO Cheney put Halliburton's future in doubt by engineering the acquisition of rival Dresser Industries, a move ballyhooed at the time as justification of his $2.2-million annual salary and massive stock options.
But the acquisition has proved to be a disaster because Halliburton assumed Dresser's long-term liability under asbestos lawsuits.
Even without the Dresser acquisition, Cheney was running a failing operation at Halliburton.
The company, despite the government gravy garnered, had earnings well below Wall Street's expectations--until it suddenly changed its accounting rules. By assuming it would be able to collect on cost overruns on myriad construction projects, Cheney's Halliburton was able to inflate profits by $234 million over a four-year period.
Halliburton failed to disclose its accounting shenanigans to the SEC or the company's investors for more than a year afterward, leading to more than a dozen lawsuits alleging fraud, including one by Judicial Watch.
And why are we not surprised that Halliburton's accounting firm was Arthur Andersen, earlier this year convicted of obstruction of justice for shredding documents in connection with Enron?
Andersen's dubious methods have become the disgrace of American accounting. Cheney, however, was sufficiently enamored with it that in 1996 he glowingly endorsed the accounting firm in a video, thanking it for going "over and above the just-sort-of-normal, by-the-books audit arrangement."
Of course, ordinary investors did not know they were getting less than "by-the-books" auditing.
It is especially ugly that the president and vice president, men in a position to know just how sketchy the accounting practices of public companies are, were so eager to make our Social Security system a vehicle for pouring individuals' retirement money into a stock market they knew to be a house of cards.
Posted by: Larry
Re: The Truth Begins To Come Out - 07/16/02 06:07 PM
All the shouting about Cheney will turn out to be nothing more than one more attempt by the Democrats to smear him. But since we're on the subject, let's see what the head of that party did:
July 16, 2002 8:45 a.m.
by Byron York, white House Correspondent
McAuliffe’s Shady Business Past[/b]
Why the DNC chairman can’t preach about business accountability.
Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe has been a leading critic of President Bush's business dealings with the Harken Energy Corporation, as well as the president's corporate-reform efforts. "It's time this CEO, President Bush, took responsibility for his actions as a private businessman," McAuliffe said shortly after the Harken matter appeared in the press. On another occasion, McAuliffe strongly called on the president to release decade-old Securities and Exchange Commission files on the Harken stock sale, adding, "Every day, more questions arise." And McAuliffe's DNC website says flatly: "Despite his empty calls for corporations to hold themselves accountable for their misdeeds, President Bush continues to refuse to take responsibility for his own questionable business practices in the past."
But even as he questions the president's credibility on the issue of corporate responsibility, there are questions about McAuliffe's own past as a private businessman — questions that suggest how difficult it will be for the DNC chairman to be a credible voice for greater accountability. In the late 1990s, some of McAuliffe's business ventures came under investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor, which filed suit against two labor-union officials, both of them with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers pension fund, for entering into questionable business arrangements with McAuliffe. Both officials later agreed to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in penalties for their actions, and the union itself had to reimburse its pension fund by nearly $5 million.
In one deal, McAuliffe and the fund officials created a partnership to buy a large block of commercial real estate in Florida. McAuliffe put up $100 for the purchase, while the pension fund put up $39 million. Yet McAuliffe got a 50-percent interest in the deal; he eventually walked away with $2.45 million from his original $100 investment. In another instance, the pension fund loaned McAuliffe more than $6 million for a real-estate development, only to find that McAuliffe was unable to make payments for nearly five years. In the end, the pension fund lost some of its money, McAuliffe moved on to his next deal, and fund officials found themselves facing the Labor Department's questions.
A SWEET, SWEET DEAL
The lawsuit that details McAuliffe's dealings with the electrical workers' pension fund is Herman v. Moore, filed in May 1999. The title refers to Jack Moore, a friend of McAuliffe's who ran the pension fund (Herman was Alexis Herman, the Secretary of Labor when the suit was filed). McAuliffe and Moore met when they were both supporters of Democratic Rep. Richard Gephardt's 1988 presidential campaign. At the time, Moore was a long-time electrical workers' union official who had virtually unchallenged authority to choose where to invest the pension fund's $6 billion store of capital.
According to Herman v. Moore, on November 19, 1990, the fund entered into a partnership with a firm called American Capitol Management Company, which was owned by McAuliffe and his wife, Dorothy. The purpose of the partnership, according to the suit, was "to acquire, hold, improve, lease, operate, and sell a shopping center and various apartment complexes located in central Florida."
The suit continues:
In 1991, the limited partnership acquired the Woodlands Square Shopping center and five apartment complexes through $39 million in capital contributions from the fund. American Capitol Management Company made one capital contribution of $100....At the outset, each partner held a 50-percent interest in the limited partnership. If the limited partnership's properties sold at a profit, American Capitol Management Company and the fund would share in the gains according to their percentage partnership interests.
The next year, according to the suit, McAuliffe proposed another venture for the partnership: the purchase of a parcel of land near the apartment complexes which could be divided up into more than 500 single-family lots. Instead of another lopsided buying arrangement, the fund came up with the idea of lending McAuliffe up to $10 million to buy the property, which was known as Country Run. As collateral, McAuliffe put up the Country Run land itself, plus his 50-percent interest in the apartment/shopping center venture.
But not long after the Country Run loan was finalized, McAuliffe got out of the apartment/shopping-center deal. According to the lawsuit, in June 1992 the pension fund paid McAuliffe $450,000 for a portion of his 50-percent share. Then, in August 1993, the fund paid McAuliffe $2,000,000 for most of the rest of his share — for a total return of $2.45 million on that original $100 stake. It was an unusually generous deal for the fund's officers to give McAuliffe — especially since it meant that McAuliffe no longer had the property which he had put up as collateral for the Country Run loan.
In the years that followed, the Country Run project went nowhere; according to the lawsuit, by the end of 1996, lot sales to homebuilders were less than half the number that had been predicted. The pension fund's loan to McAuliffe, according to the suit, "was in default continuously from December 1992 until October 1997." In 1997, McAuliffe found another partner and bought out the loan. In the end, Labor Department investigators found, the pension fund got a relatively meager return on its money — significantly less than it would have earned in a more conservative investment.
"The fund lost money as a result of the [Country Run] loan in 1992 and the purchases of additional partnership interests from American Capitol Management Company [the buyout of McAuliffe] in 1992 and 1993," says the lawsuit. "In addition, if the fund had not made these investments, it would have had the money it invested in Country Run and the additional partnership purchases available to invest in prudent investments that would have earned a greater return."
On October 16, 2001, Jack Moore and another official named in the suit agreed to pay six-figure penalties for their role in the McAuliffe ventures, and the electrical workers union was forced to reimburse the pension fund for its officers' failure to act "with the care, skill, prudence, and diligence...that a prudent person acting in a like capacity and familiar with such matters would use." McAuliffe was not charged with any wrongdoing; his $2.45 million payday, while a violation of common-sense norms of business propriety, did not break any laws.
HE'S NOT PRESIDENT
McAuliffe's real-estate deals have attracted relatively little attention in the press. Last October's consent agreement that ended the Labor Department lawsuit, coming after the terrorist attacks of September and just before the collapse of Enron, received almost no coverage. But the details of McAuliffe's business career may take on new importance now that he has become one of the president's chief critics on the issue of business ethics.
A Democratic-party spokeswoman dismisses suggestions that McAuliffe's record might damage his credibility. "First of all, Terry McAuliffe isn't president of the United States," says the DNC's Jennifer Palmieiri. "He doesn't have the responsibility or the ability to restore confidence in the markets." Second, Palmieiri says, "We're holding Bush to Bush's standard — the standard he has laid out for corporate CEOs. He should follow that example. He has not been upfront with what his own situation was." Finally, Palmieiri says, the business records of Bush's Democratic critics are far less important than the fact that they support the Sarbanes corporate reform bill. "Whatever their business dealings are, and whatever they have done in the private sector," Palmieiri says, "they still want to support the most responsible reforms available."
Nevertheless, McAuliffe's business career might attract increased scrutiny should he continue his high-profile criticism of the president's business history. Already there have been mentions of McAuliffe's extraordinarily well-timed investment in the now-bankrupt Global Crossing, in which McAuliffe invested $100,000 and made $18 million. There has also been talk about the six-figure profit McAuliffe made for helping Prudential Insurance Company win a government contract. And there has been talk about McAuliffe's role in a politically connected Washington bank in the 1980s and early 1990s.
As McAuliffe himself has said, every day, more questions arise.
Then there's Tom Daschle's mess, and several others. I don't think Cheney has anything to worry about. But if we had a balanced media, the Democrats should be fleeing the country right now.
Posted by: JBryan
Re: The Truth Begins To Come Out - 07/16/02 08:01 PM
Hey, as long as we're posting articles, how about one about Robert Sheer, A Syndicated Journalist:
Scheer Lunacy at The Los Angeles Times
By David Horowitz
FrontPageMagazine.com | February 19, 2001
ON A HOT AUGUST DAY in 1988, I was standing in the New Orleans Convention Center with my longtime writing partner, Peter Collier, when an old comrade unexpectedly crossed our path. Peter and I had known each other since the 1960s, when we were both editors at the New Left magazine, Ramparts. We were in New Orleans, as speechwriters for Bob and Elizabeth Dole, part of our recent odyssey from the ranks of the left to the other side of the political barricade.
Suddenly, we noticed our former boss, Bob Scheer, whom we had not seen in twenty years, since we had overthrown him in a Sixties-style staff rebellion and booted him out of the magazine. Scheer was covering the Republican Convention for the Los Angeles Times, whose "national correspondent" he had become.
For a beat or two, the three of us just stood there, eyeing each other at a distance that might have been forty paces, each trying to make up his mind whether to engage or not. "Hi Bob," I said, finally breaking the ice. But Scheer was not up for it. Taking a step towards the exit, he looked over his shoulder almost in the manner of drive-by, and flung in our direction the most crushing retort he could muster to everything we had become. "Deutscher was right," he said, and walked away.
It was vintage Scheer: smug, shallow and intellectually lazy.
For Sixties veterans like us, Isaac Deutscher had provided the key to our continuing radical faith. A famed biographer of Trotsky and Stalin, Deutscher had explained the monstrosity socialism had become in a way that made it possible for us to retain our socialist beliefs. Deutscher described the Soviet Union as still encrusted with the tyranny of Old Russia, but transformed by socialist economics into a competitive world power. The scientific logic of socialism, he assured us, would soon transform the tyranny into a modern democratic state.
We had a New Left bon mot to sum up this Deutscherian vision. The first socialist revolution, we said, would take place in the Soviet Union. It was this hope that encouraged us to support the Soviet bloc and believe it was still "progressive" despite totalitarian excrescences; and it was this hope that made us turn our backs on democratic America as reactionary and oppressive, despite its democratic "facade." Scheer's parting taunt to Peter and me expressed his belief that the reforms of glasnost and perestroika, then taking place under Mikhail Gorbachev, would transform the Soviet Union into a modern, democratic socialist state.
To the true believer, Gorbachev's reforms may indeed have looked like the transformation Deutscher had predicted, but the result was obviously anything but. A year after our encounter with Scheer, the Berlin Wall came crashing down and the Soviet empire with it. Its collapse revealed not the superpower of Deutscher's imaginings, but the pathetic shell of a Third World backwater, whose economic output was less than South Korea's. Contrary to Deutscher's vision, socialism had turned the Soviet Union into an economic wasteland. In 1989, after sixty years of Five-Year Plans, the average meat intake of a Soviet citizen was less than it had been in 1913 under the Czar.
In a landscape devastated by the crackpot Marxism that progressives like Scheer continued to embrace, the new era of freedom meant only another round of poverty and despotism, albeit not nearly as bad as before. Deutscher could hardly have made a bigger mistake. He was wrong about the economic achievements of the Soviet past, which turned out to be little more than a Potemkin illusion; and he was wrong about the bright prospect of the Soviet future.
Scheer was wrong too, but his retro-Marxism had done nothing to impede his upward climb in the capitalist media world he loved to milk and despise at the same time. While Peter and I were doing our slow motion disengagement from the totalitarian temptation, Scheer, along with an entire generation of New Left intellectuals, was burrowing into the institutions they had tried to burn down, and busily infiltrating the Sixties into the mainstream culture.
Scheer's own path to success was made a lot easier by his marriage to Narda Zacchino, one of the top editors at the Times. In 1976 he was made the Times' national correspondent, a post he held for 17 years before transitioning to his present role as all-purpose pundit and chief in-house columnist. His journalistic fronting for the Clinton White House even earned him a spot on Sidney Blumenthal's email list of media friends. Scheer's power marriage at the Times helped to insulate him from critical scrutiny and created an ideal vantage within a profession that had become a left-wing redoubt. Among his many prestigious perks, Scheer was appointed to a visiting professorship on the faculty of the prestigious Annenberg School of Journalism at USC by its dean, a former Clinton official.
An aggressive sybarite even when I first met him forty years ago, Scheer had acquired a townhouse, a boat, pals like Barbara Streisand and Warren Beatty, and a first name familiarity with some of the finest restaurateurs in town -- all the while he continued his sanctimonious attacks on the ruling class in his columns in the Times. Nor had he lost the reputation for intellectual laziness first acquired among subordinate staffers at Ramparts who were conscripted to write his copy. In the early Nineties, I had lunch with a city editor at the Times who swore he had never seen anyone go so far on so little effort as Bob Scheer.
Two writing consequences flowed from this general life-approach. In 1961, Scheer published his first book -- a celebration of Castro's revolution, co-authored with Maurice Zeitlin. But during the next forty years, Scheer managed to produce little besides a few collections of articles and a pamphlet to show for his effort. Periodically, notices did appear in the literary gossip columns, announcing that he had received a six-figure advance to write a book on Gorbachev, or the official biography of Jane Fonda. But years passed and the books never came. The second result of this lassitude was the intellectual shallowness that characterized everything he did manage to complete.
Scheer's column on the power crisis in California -- a story in his own journalistic backyard -- affords sufficient evidence of the malaise. By general consensus, the California crisis was triggered by the unexpected convergence of at least four significant factors, including (1) a thirty percent increase in the demand for electricity in one of the nation's fastest growing states; (2) a shortage of power sources due to environmental attitudes that had prevented the state from bringing on-line a single new power plant in 15 years; (3) an increased dependency on power from other states in which demand was also rising; and, finally, (4) a misguided legislative decision to half-deregulate the industry, allowing utility companies to purchase power at market-rates on the supply-side of the equation, but maintaining regulatory controls on consumer prices on the demand side. By 2001, the cost of power to California's utilities was more than ten times what they were allowed to charge consumers who (because their price was fixed) lacked incentive to restrict demand. This put the utility companies on the verge of bankruptcy, unable to purchase additional power. Hence the crisis.
But to Scheer, such complexity was only a distraction from ideological clarity. This is how Scheer distilled the situation in a December 26th column mixing metaphors of Santa, Disney and Frank Baum, in a hallmark style that might be described as Beverly Hills kitsch:
These Messes Are What Deregulation Gets Us
By Robert Scheer
Capitalism is falling apart…. Yes, Virginia, we do need government regulation… because the market mechanism left to its own devices inevitably spirals out of control. Recognition of that reality has guided this country to prosperity ever since Franklin D. Roosevelt pulled us out of the Great Depression. But in recent decades, conservative economists and their fat-cat corporate sponsors have led us down the yellow brick road of deregulation. Getting government out of the market would free creativity and investment, leading us to the magic kingdom of Oz, where all would prosper. If anything went wrong, the wizard of Oz - a.k.a. Alan Greenspan - would make it all better.
Like the inscrutable reference to Federal Reserve head, Alan Greenspan, Scheer's column never actually got around to the facts of the case (nor did Roosevelt's New Deal "pull us out of the depression"). Instead his column provided a cook's tour of the author's anti-corporate prejudices along with many arcane irrelevancies off the top of the author's head, including the AOL-Time Warner merger and Europe's mad cow epidemic. Scheer's column concluded with a plea for "passage of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform" and "the revival of the consumer movement" to achieve "more, not less, regulation," which was Scheer's ideological solution to the problem.
I once asked an editor at the Times whether Scheer was, in fact, protected by its editorial powers from being held to the journalistic standards other writers were expected to observe. The editor replied, "Bob Scheer is anointed." It is this latitude, perhaps, that has made Scheer's capacity for ignorant mischief seemingly boundless, extending even to matters of the nation's security.
Over the last two years, Scheer has become the nation's leading defender of suspected atomic spy Wen Ho Lee, whom he has lauded as "an American Dreyfus" and about whom he has written a dozen columns - all proclaiming Lee's innocence, while portraying him as a victim of an anti-Asian conspiracy. Scheer has now been hired as "technical consultant" to an upcoming four-hour whitewash of Lee. The mini-series is to be produced for ABC-TV by long-time "peace" activist, Robert Greenwald, whose last feature was an adoration of Sixties juvenile delinquent Abbie Hoffman, which closed almost as suddenly as it opened.
Since Scheer has been a leftist since the onset of the Cold War, his immoderate defense of an accused spy was reckless enough to surprise me. After all, every single Communist spy identified by the FBI in the half-century since the Cold War began (the Rosenbergs, Morton Sobell, Joel Barr, Judith Coplon, William Remington, Alger Hiss, etc.), had been proven guilty beyond any reasonable doubt. At the same time, every one of those spies had been defended as innocent by progressives like Scheer and Greenwald. Why would Scheer want to expose himself to such embarrassment again? The only answer I could come up with was that Scheer had not been paying enough attention to realize his exposure.
The immediate context of the Wen Ho Lee case had been set by a report released in May 1999 by the so-called Cox Committee on the theft of nuclear secrets. The report, approved by a bi-partisan committee, had concluded: "The espionage inquiry found Beijing has stolen U.S. design data for nearly all elements needed for a major nuclear attack on the U.S., such as advanced warheads, missiles and guidance systems."
Scheer's journalistic response to these disturbing facts about the nation's security, proved to be no different than his approach to the California power crisis: Begin and end with an ideological premise; in between, stuff the column with half-baked information, unfounded accusation, and irrelevant asides.
On May 11, Scheer answered the findings of the bi-partisan committee on the theft of nuclear secrets with the following ludicrous dismissals:
Our Secrets Are Of No Use To them
By Robert Scheer
Let's as those Apple computer ads implore, think different. There are no nuclear weapons secrets or, indeed, nuclear 'weapons' for China to have stolen.
Scheer did not actually try to substantiate the claim that the United States had no nuclear weapons secrets (he just left it floating in the ether). But he did make a stab at the idea that there are no nuclear weapons: "Nuclear bombs are not actually weapons because, in today's world, they cannot be employed to win battles but can serve only as instruments of mass terror." (Think about that one for a moment.) The statement - and the entire column -- showed an ignorance of deterrence theory astounding for a man whose personal website boasts that "from 1976 to 1993, he served as a national correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, where he wrote articles on such diverse topics as the Soviet Union, arms control, national politics and the military." A good thesis for a graduate student at the Annenberg School might be to find out what The Times editors - other than Scheer's wife - could have been thinking when they allowed him to occupy his position.
Having established that there were "no nuclear weapons secrets" to steal, Scheer found it relatively easy to reach the conclusion that the Los Alamos scientist Wen Ho Lee was innocent of the suspicions the FBI had focused on him, notwithstanding the fact that he had removed thousands of pages of classified files from the Los Alamos nuclear weapons lab (in and of itself a violation of the Espionage Act). Drawing on years of training in the left, Scheer went on the offensive, identifying Lee as the hapless target of a racial witch-hunt. Two months later, on August 3rd, Scheer wrote his first Wen Ho Lee column which began with the following subtlety:
The 'Chinaman' did it. The diabolical Asian has long been a staple of American racism, and it's not surprising that the folks attempting to whip up a new red espionage scare would focus on Wen Ho Lee.
In making these bizarre accusations, Scheer was obviously aware that any such witch-hunt against Lee would have to have been orchestrated by Lee's prosecutors - Attorney General Janet Reno, FBI Director Louis Freeh and the local U.S. attorney on the case, who happened to be a former college roommate and close political friend of Bill Clinton himself. To make the persecution of Lee seamless, there would also have to be collusion on the part of Acting Deputy Attorney General for Civil Rights, Bill Lann Lee -- himself an American of Chinese lineage and a hyper-sensitive opponent of racial profiling.
All this did not cause Scheer a moment's second thoughts. Instead he just plucked a more suitable culprit out of his journalistic hat. Actually two: the Republican head of the bi-partisan nuclear secrets committee (to please radical fans) and the chief media rival to his own paper (to please editors at the Times). Wrote Scheer: "Facts evidently don't matter to those in Congress, led by Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Newport Beach), and in the media, where the august New York Times has acted as head cheerleader for those sounding the alarm of a Chinese nuclear threat."
The following day Congressman Cox responded. In a letter to the editor, he pointed out that the name Wen Ho Lee had actually not appeared in his Committee's report, and that "neither I nor any member of the Select Committee had even heard of Wen Ho Lee when we completed our report in January." Cox further pointed out that when Energy Secretary Bill Richardson actually fired Lee, calling him a man who had "massively violated our security system," Cox had issued a widely publicized statement criticizing the media's spotlight on Lee, and saying that it was wrong, without proof, "to juxtapose him with some of the most serious crimes that have ever been committed against our military secrets."
The fact that the man whom Scheer falsely accused of persecuting Lee had actually defended him, did not prevent Scheer from repeating the slander in a column the following month (September 14, 1999). "It's time to pronounce the Chinese nuclear weapons spy story a hoax," he repeated himself. Turning to the alleged witch-hunt of Lee, he said its rationale was provided by an investigation "led by an outraged Cox, who represents the more right-wing fringes of Southern California, eager to find a new evil empire as justification of a military buildup, once the staple of that region's economy."
In even more ungrammatical prose than usual, Scheer had managed to start a witch-hunt of his own, tarring Cox, a respected congressional leader, as a member of the farthest right fringe. Scheer's September 14th column, which was called "Time To Say Farewell to Spy Scandal," provoked a joint rebuttal from Cox and the ranking Democrat on the committee, Norm Dix, a liberal from Washington: "[Robert Scheer's] column asserted four main 'facts;'" their letter asserted, "each of them is false."
Five days before Scheer's column appeared, the National Intelligence Estimate, representing the consensus of the entire U.S. intelligence community, had been released. The estimate stated that China was ready to test a longer range, intercontinental missile than it previously had (this was one of the secrets that had been passed to the Chinese) which would be targeted primarily against the United States. This missile technology had been shared with Kim Il Sung's loony police state in North Korea. The letter also stated that the missile would be fitted with "smaller nuclear warheads - in part influenced by U.S. technology gained through espionage." It was the W-88 warhead, small enough to fit a missile, that Wen Ho Lee was suspected of stealing.
In the midst of Scheer's false claims and accusations (his articles continued into the following year), he got a break. On September 13, 2000, the government announced that it was dropping 58 of the 59 charges against Lee. President Clinton even volunteered an apology, as though some kind of injustice had been done. This didn't prevent him, however, from flying to New Mexico the very next week to raise campaign money for Lee's prosecutor. The New York Times also apologized. Janet Reno and Louis Freeh did not. Freeh told a congressional committee: "The Department of Justice and the FBI stand by each and every one of the 59 counts in the indictment of Dr. Lee. Each of those counts could be proved in December 1999 [when Lee was formally indicted], and each of them could be proven today."
I wrote a column about Freeh's statement for Salon ("Wen Ho Lee's Reckless Defenders," October 3, 2000). In the article, I recalled an episode that had taken place when Peter and I were running Ramparts, after we had fired Scheer, in the early Seventies. We were planning to publish an article by a defector from an American spy program and thus to break the same Espionage Act that Wen Ho Lee had violated in removing secret files from the Los Alamos Lab. In my column, I recalled how I had been advised by Charles Nesson, then as now a left-wing law professor at Harvard, on how to get away with the crime. Nesson advised us -- with a cynicism that I will never forget - that since we lived in a democracy, in order to prosecute us for treason the government would have to prove in open court that we had damaged national security. In other words, it would have to reveal to the court and to our country's enemies far more than it would be willing to reveal. Hence, if we had the nerve to do it, we would most likely get away with what we were planning, which was to print national secrets in the pages of our magazine.
I was sure that it was just this cynicism - use the privileges of American democracy to attack it - that lay behind the calculations of Wen Ho Lee's defense lawyers, and of course everything that Scheer wrote.
In my article for Salon, I even included some sentences about a Scheer column on Lee. Because I was convinced that Scheer's motivation in defending Lee and the Chinese Communists was a bedrock of conviction that had not really changed in forty years, I put in the following sentence: "While we were divulging the secrets of America's electronic intelligence agency in the pages of Ramparts, Scheer was joining the Red Sun Rising Commune [in Berkeley] and becoming an acolyte of North Korean dictator Kim Il-Sung."
This sentence did not appear in the Salon article, however. A Salon editor had called Scheer before publication to ask him if the statement about his dalliance with Kim Il Sung was true. He said flatly that it was not. Even though I pointed out that I had already printed these facts in Radical Son without contradiction from Scheer, and pressed for a change in the text that was already on-line, the editor remained adamant. Scheer had categorically denied that he was ever a supporter of Kim Il Sung, she said. Unless I had sourced proof to the contrary, they would not take my word against his.
I knew that I was right. When I called my old Ramparts co-editor Peter Collier, he reminded me that Scheer had taken a delegation from the Red Family Commune to visit Ramparts editor and Black Panther Minister of Information, Eldridge Cleaver, who was a fugitive in North Korea, having ambushed two San Francisco police officers and fled the country in 1968. The Red Family was a "guerrilla foco" that Scheer and Tom Hayden had formed. A member of the Scheer delegation, named Jan Austin, was a copy editor at Ramparts and she came back with glowing tales about North Korean Communism and Kim Il Sung's "Palace of the Children," and the gourmet spreads the government had laid out for them. Subsequently, a carton of the "Collected News Conferences of Kim Il Sung" had arrived, by mail, in the Ramparts office and Peter and I had amused ourselves by opening one volume which began with a question to Kim, and was followed with a 300-page answer.
Thirty years is a long time, however, and even though I was familiar with Scheer's brazenness, I could not help but be shaken by the absolute character of his denial to Salon. Maybe Jan Austin's opinions were hers and hers alone. Thirty years is a long time, so what was at stake? What would Scheer have to hide but the embarrassment of youth? I let the incident pass.
A few months later, however, I had cause to mention Scheer in another Salon column, this one about the nomination of John Ashcroft for Attorney General. ("First Blood: The Fight Over Bush's Cabinet," January 8, 2001).
Scheer had attacked Ashcroft and since the nominee's past political opinions were an issue for his attackers, I thought it appropriate to bring up the political lineage of one of them as well. Again my text was challenged by a Salon editor, and under his pressure, I again agreed to drop my reference to Scheer's infatuation with Kim. But I was still sure that my memory was correct.
Then a funny thing happened. Peter had become the publisher of Encounter Books, and a week ago he sent me the manuscript of one of his upcoming titles. The book was Commies: The Old Left, The New Left and the Leftover Left, which is the autobiography of another old friend Ronald Radosh. I had not discussed these Salon incidents with Radosh, because he had been an East coast radical, and I had no reason to think he had spent time with Scheer in his Red Family days. But last week, when Peter asked me to read the manuscript of Commies, I came across the following passage:
At the time [circa 1969], my friend Louis Menashe and I had a regular radio program on the Pacifica Network, a weekly political discussion show in which we interviewed Movement figures and engaged in political and theoretic discussion. Since Scheer was still considered an important figure on the Left…I got out my trusty, top-of-the-line SONY that WBAI had recommended we purchase, and began the interview. Scheer, however, said that he would talk on the record about only one topic - the only topic that mattered - the realization of the socialist utopia in Kim Il Sung's North Korea.
For over two hours, Scheer talked and talked about the paradise he had seen during a recent visit to North Korea, about the greatness of Kim Il Sung, about the correct nature of his so-called juche ideology - evidently a word embodying Kim's redefinition of Marxism-Leninism in building Communism against all obstacles and with the entire world in opposition… At one point, I asked him incredulously: "Bob, do you really believe this crap?" Scheer responded with complete earnestness that he did - that Kim had charted out a path that other nations could and should take as an example of the art of the possible….[Finally], the interminable interview ended, leaving me recalling Woody Allen's famous words to Annie Hall's demented brother: "I have to go now. I'm due back on planet earth."
Posted by: Anonymous
Re: The Truth Begins To Come Out - 07/17/02 09:52 AM
Originally posted by Steve Miller:
With what would you replace it?[/b]
The question you raise, Steve, implies that we need to junk our capitalistic system and go to another one altogether. We have seen that capitalism as a basis for an economic system can be a good one. But capitalism should be just a tool for a higher good. It should not be seen as a good in itself.
Shantinik is correct when he speaks of the religion of the marketplace. Too many people treat the marketplace like a religion -- it should be always free and unfettered, it should never be questioned, it is the be-all and end-all of all problems. There should be a wall of separation between the market and the government. We see this even on this Board. Indeed, watch the responses to this post.
You asked what we would replace our system with? Here is my list. To achieve it does not require a scrapping of what we now have. It simply requires a different set of values than this country has developed over the last 20-25 years.
So, let me dream a little, but dream of the doable, not the undoable.
A system in which the common good is a higher value than the individual good.
A system that recognizes materialism is not a value, but a curse.
A system in which corporations place a higher value on individual initiative than they do on uniformity.
A system in which maintaining the environment is considered a higher good than making money.
A system where providing employment for all who wish to work is a higher good than showing a profit or having lower taxes.
A system in which long term growth and strength of a business enterprise is considered a higher good than a quick increase in the value of stock.
A system in which providing decent medical care is considered a higher good than lack of regulation or higher profits.
A system which economically supports the idea that a human being is considered successful by how he lives his life not by what he owns.
A system in which the average employee's salary/wages rise as fast as the executive's compensation packages.
A system that recognizes that a finanially strong company is a win/win situation, not a zero sum game and thus one in which labor and management cooperate to the benefit of a company, not fight over who gets what.
A system in which the policy makers do not have to cater to those providing campaign funds but can cater to the common good.
A system in which children are educated to be complete whole, thinking human beings, not educated to be a tool for corporate use.
A system in which those gifted in the arts and in science as viewed as beneficial as those gifted in sports and entertainment.
A system in which honesty is valued higher than corporate profits.
A system which recognizes that the damage and harm done to this society by white collar crime is worse than the damage done by drug users stealing a TV for their next fix and punishes accordingly.
A system which does not use our military to advance corporate interests but rather to simply defend our country.
A system which recognizes that the United States can raise the standard of living for the entire world without subjugating it to the worst of our materialistic values or the worst of our political system.
A system which recognizes the massive eeconomic benefit of solving the horrendous horrors going on in Africa and the rest of third world because of AIDS, malnutrition, lack of sanitation and that works to solve these problems.
It really is just a change in values. People hold Lyndon Johnson's Great Society in contempt and derision. Perhaps he went about it in the wrong way (although I think it was the corporate and military desire to fight in Viet Nam that destroyed his other programs, not systemic problems in the programs themselves). Even if they were the wrong programs, the social and political values his programs exhibited were what this country needs. If we could return to those values -- and figure out a way to incorporate them in our system, we would be far better off than we are now.
Posted by: Derick
Re: The Truth Begins To Come Out - 07/17/02 12:48 PM
Ok, I'll tell you what I think...
The investigation into President Bush's business dealing was performed by people who worked for his father. That is not, in my estimation, a fair and impartial investigation. The investigation should be reopened. I'm also TICKED big time that President Bush got one of those "special people" low-interest loans. The same loans he now wants banned.
Cheney's refusal to turn over documentation in the interest of national security is b*llsh*t. All documentation should be turned over, at the very least, to a special panel that would not reveal whatever "classified"
information they supposedly contain.
I'm 100% with the president on the War on Terror, I am not completely with him on many other issues. To be perfectly candid, Democrats, Republicans, liberals and conservatives, all have their heads up their butts. Every once in a while they come up for air and have a lucid thought. Bush is thinking clearly on the War on Terror. He is NOT thinking correctly on corporate reform. I'll tell you who is thinking clearly, Congressman Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Now I'm going to beat-up the conservatives... Last night I heard Sean Hannity smack down Congressman Sanders on statements he made regarding cleaning up corporate America. Sanders said that more money has been lost in the American economy by corporate executives axing American workers and sending jobs to Mexico, India, China, etc... than by Enron, Worldcom, scandals. Hannity immediately came back, almost word for word, with a statement made by a forum member. Hannity said something to the effect of "You want to put more rules and regulations on the wealth makers of America when we have the greatest free-market economy in the world?"
Sure, it's very easy for Mr. 'I don't have, need or want a brain' Hannity to sit there with his cushy job and $4,000,000 a year salary and say "lay off workers, who cares?". Sanders, however, is out there and knows the devastation caused by job losses and benefit/ pension cuts. Sanders is a good American. Hannity is a rich jackass who doesn't give a sh*t about anyone but himself.
And before this gets the hair on anyone's neck up, I don't care how much Hannity makes. That's not the point. The point is that he is aloof and doesn't want to see the reality of life outside his gated community.
One last point I'll smack the Republicans for... why were they so quick to jump on the "we need new laws" bandwagon to prevent corporate corruption when there are already laws in place? If they simply enforced the already existing laws, we'd have a special CEO jail that serves tea at 4 and finest Beluga Caviar.
It astonishes me how the same people who say that hate crime laws are unnecessary because we already have laws in place, can do a 180 and propose laws on top of laws for corporate executives. I mean it's fine by me, but I'm all for watching CEO's pound out license plates, but I'm also for hate crime laws.
Back to Hannity, a true capitalist pig. How anyone could find it perfectly acceptable for corporate executives to line their pockets after laying off American workers and sending their jobs to Mexico/wherever is beyond me. And how ANYONE can defend this, and it has been defended on this forum, is beyond me. President's Clinton lies and promiscuity pales in comparison.