Admit it, you're wallowing in Enron. Aside from the fact that it wrecked a bunch of people's lives, it is a beautiful scandal. Naturally, there is a special Texas element of looniness. Our governor, Rick (Goodhair) Perry, appointed an Enron executive to the state's Public Utilities Commission last summer, the better to regulate energy companies. The very next day, Perry got a $25,000 contribution from Ken Lay, which would have raised questions except Gov. Perry cleared up the whole matter by explaining the contribution was "totally coincidental." This news relieved everybody and gave the governor a new nickname, Old Coincidence.
But then it turned out there had been a cover-up, literally, involving Perry's appointee. When Democrats asked for the public records on the new commissioner, they found a curious blank under the part about brushes with the law: It had been whited out. It was a sophisticated cover-up, but it came unraveled, and we learned the new commissioner had once shot a whooping crane under the impression that it was a goose and had to pay a $15,000 fine under the Endangered Species Act. Kind of thing that could happen to anyone. George W. Bush himself once shot a protected killdeer on the theory that it was a dove. Of course, the whooper is five feet tall, so there was a general sentiment that anyone who can't tell a whooper from a goose shouldn't be trying to regulate energy anyway, and the fellow resigned. Totally coincidentally, of course.
Like all historic events, the Enron scandal has already started to affect the language. The stick-up artist goes into the Jiffy Mart to pull a heist. He whips out his rod and says, "Put 'em up, this is an aggressive accounting practice."
I love the Enron scandal. Did you know that Enron's board of directors twice voted to suspend its own ethics code in order to create private partnerships? Wasn't that thoughtful of them? If they hadn't voted to suspend the ethics code, they would have been in violation of it. Why didn't we think of that?
The funniest line so far about Enron is, "This is not a political scandal." It was totally coincidental that they made all those political contributions. Disinterested public service was their only motive, putting high-quality people in public office. And they never got a thing for it. Not natural gas deregulation, or deregulation of the energy futures market when Wendy Gramm was chair of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, or a new chairman of the Federal Energy Commission, or calling off the pressure on off-shore banks, or exemption from oversight on derivatives, or government contracts, or having the governor of Texas (George W.) call the governor of Pennsylvania to report what a fine company Enron is during the fight over energy de-reg in that state, or pressure from Dick Cheney on India to ease up on the disastrous Enron investment there, or input into Bush's national energy policy, or hundreds of millions in tax rebates under the economic stimulus plan despite not having paid any taxes in four of the last five years. Enron hired James Baker, the former Secretary of State, to go to Kuwait to help drum up business there shortly after the Gulf War ended because it didn't want to have any political influence. It hired Ralph Reed and Bill Kristol and Lawrence Lindsey and lots of other people for the exact same reason. It was all totally coincidental.
Further comedy is to be found in the interviews with Enron's fired workers, who solemnly report they have been to the unemployment office to apply for the compensation to which they are entitled and the experience was "demeaning" or "humiliating." Some were even put on hold! As we say in Texas, no shit? What we have here is a case of professionals being treated exactly like workers. Gee, do you think that has any political implications? Enron is the gift that keeps on giving. Yes, there is joy in Mudville. Wallow away.
Molly Ivins, a syndicated columnist, writes monthly for The Progressive.