Running the country like a business

      President Junior has kept at least one campaign promise. He said he'd run
 the country like a business, and that he has surely done. The Bush administration
 looks more like Enron or WorldCom everyday: all smoke and mirrors economic
 projections, make-believe accounting, bigshots cashing in while everybody else's
 savings vanish, and zero accountability. Do you reckon this is what they teach down
 at the University of Mississippi's WorldCom-funded Trent Lott Leadership Institute?
 Leadership, incidentally, must be THE cant phrase of the new century.)

      Anyway, it's the story of George W. Bush's life. Last week, with the stock market
 closing its worst two quarters in 30 years, and the dollar sinking on currency markets,
 nervous traders were starting to wonder if what billionaire investor George Soros called
 the "Bush factor - part dogma, part sheer incompetence”could throw the world economy
 into crisis. "I attribute it [the dollar's slide] to lack of confidence in the management of
 affairs by the United States," Soros said "its unilateralism, the pursuit of national self-interests
 and not living up to the responsibility of being the dominant financial power in the world,
 not taking care of the system."

      But hey, nobody's getting nekkid in the Oval Office, right? At least not that we
 know about. So desperate were GOP savants to distract attention from Bush's
 fecklessness that they added a touch of spice to the weekly Chicken Little terrorism alerts.
 Who taught corporate criminals to lie, cheat and steal? Rush Limbaugh led the pack, but
 Republican pundits were all over TV chat shows suggesting that the innocent lads and
 lasses of Wall Street were corrupted by Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. Rev. Jerry
 Fallwell, last seen blaming 9/11 on God's wrath toward homosexuals, gave his imprimatur
 to this novel rendering of Genesis on MSNBC's Hardball.

      Back before Bill and Monica discovered sex and invented sin, see, nobody ever heard
 of insider trading or cooking the books. Well, OK, nobody except George W. Bush. In 1990
 during Poppy Bush's presidency, Junior was investigated by the SEC for insider trading.
 Seems Bush dumped $848,560 worth of Harken Energy Corp. stock at $4 per share shortly
 before the company reported substantial losses that dropped its value to $1 per share
 basically what they're accusing Martha Stewart of doing. Except unlike the homemaking maven,
 Junior didn't merely have a friend on the inside. He was a member of Harken's board of directors,
 and served on its audit committee.

      Bush failed to report the transaction to SEC regulators until months after federal regulations
 required. He'd come by the stock in the first place when Harken acquired an indebted oil company
 he'd run into the ground largely, some thought, to add the Bush name to its corporate pedigree.
 Needless to say, the SEC probe went nowhere.

      Next Junior used the proceeds of the suspect Harken sale to buy a minority interest in the
 Texas Rangers, helped persuade voters to tax themselves for a showy new ballpark, greatly
 enhancing the team's value, then cashed out for roughly $12 million, a classic example of
 corporate socialism, Texas-style. All this has been reported by the Dallas Morning News,
 Joe Conason in Harper's, and the Center for Public Integrity, but the śmainstream
 Washington media appears reluctant to subject the Royal Family' s finances to vulgar scrutiny.

      Also attracting limited curiosity is Vice President Cheney's involvement in a reported
 $100 million worth of  "accounting irregularities" during his tenure as CEO at Halliburton,
 another Texas energy company. Halliburton's accountant was the Arthur Andersen firm of
 Enron fame.  Bush-appointed SEC chairman Harvey Pitts, a former Andersen attorney,
 won preferment by persuading the Republican congress to stifle Clinton administration reforms
 that would have made boardroom con games harder to run. He vows to "pull no punches"
 in the Halliburton probe.

      Assuming you've still got one, don't bet your 401K on it.

 Pledging Allegiance

      Sure, Senate candidate Mark Pryor's vow to protect schoolchildren''s to recite the
 Pledge of Allegiance was a tad disingenuous. Certainly he Arkansas Attorney General
 knows the difference between forcing tender young atheists to recite the phrase "under God,"
 and forbidding pious children from doing so.

      Even so, I'm glad he beat Sen. Tim Hutchinson to the punch. I believe what Thomas
 Jefferson believed: governments founded on religious dogma are the greatest source of
 organized evil in the world, their main function to provide divine sanction to slaughtering infidels.
 (That includes totalitarian regimes which deify Big Brother.) But two words in a  patriotic oath
 hardly constitutes an "establishment of religion."

      Democrats would be idiots to hand so easily demagogued an issue to Republicans just so
 some self-dramatizing village atheist can "protect" his eight year-old daughter from a theoretical
 threat she's too young to understand. He should try teaching her tolerance, a sense of  proportion,
 and the meaning of "with liberty and justice for all."

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