Thursday, December 19, 2002

The elephants in India have apparently gotten into the habit of raiding villages for booze. Skippy the Bush Kangaroo suggests that that's not so different from the rampaging elephants down in Washington. But while the pundits on safari set their sights on Trent Lott, let's not lose sight of the rest of the herd. If you aren't following along, I give you:
  • John Snow, corporate welfare queen. It seems that Dubya decided to replace his last treasury secretary with a former CEO whose major achievements were getting favors from the government, and who didn't show much aptitude for running the business; in fact, he was initially hired as a lobbyist, and had the company maintain a golf course near D.C., well used for discreet meetings with his friends in government, as a strategic asset.

    As a businessman, however, Snow was mostly a bust. He successfully lobbied to have CSX gain a huge chunk of Conrail but then botched the execution of the merger. He also managed to have Washington block a merger of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. and Canadian National Railway Co. and forestalled efforts by freight customers to obtain better bargaining terms. But all that didn't translate into much for shareholders. In the past decade, CSX's stock is off 17 percent while the S&P 500 is up 111 percent. Snow is leaving the company with more debt than it has had at any time in the past seven years. Today CSX has difficulty generating sufficient cash to meet all its obligations. And this is the man President Bush has hired to manage the nation's debt? As Jesse Eisinger sharply notes in today's Wall Street Journal: "Mr. Snow is clearly a guy who understands deficit spending."

    Such a change from Paul O'Neill.

    Joe Conason has more, including Snow's peculiar compensation package, which was set up to reward him for leaving the company to "an appointment to public office".

  • Possible Lott successor Bill Frist, widely touted as the Senate's only doctor. But he might be better known as the elephant who raided the hospitals; his more relevant medical ties are to the family business, the Columbia/HCA hospital chain, which could almost be described as the Enron of health care --- they grew like topsy on acquisitions fueled by shady business practices, with a healthy dose of fraud, some of which directly compromised patient care. For which they've been assessed $1.7 billion in fines, and counting. Then they went bust.

    Frist is also rumored to have had a role in giving Eli Lilly the get-out-of-lawsuits-free card which somehow wound up in the Homeland Security bill.

    (To be fair, Frist's partisans could argue that he wasn't directly involved very much in running Columbia. But here in Massachusetts, we're looking a little more skeptically at arguments like that these days; Billy Bulger, current President of the University of Massachusetts, and for years a State House political kingpin, routinely denied any connection to the activities of his brother, the notorious gangster Whitey Bulger, right up until a Congressional committee showed up to put him under oath. Then he took the fifth.

  • And of course, as long as we're talking about civil rights, let's not forget the guy who told Southern Partisan magazine that

    You've got a heritage of ... defending Southern patriots like Lee, Jackson, and Davis. Traditionalists must do more. I've got to do more. We've all got to stand up and speak in this respect, or else we'll be taught that these people were giving their lives, subscribing their sacred fortunes and their honor to some perverted agenda.

    (Ain't it peculiar how "sacred" drifts from "honor" over to "fortunes" in Ashcroft's paraphrase of the Declaration of Independence?) In case you've forgotten what agenda Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis subscribed to, here it is, described in the widely quoted "Cornerstone speech" by CSA Vice President Alexander Stephens before the war:

    Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea [to racial equality]; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery -- subordination to the superior race -- is his natural and normal condition. [Applause.] This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science. It has been so even amongst us. Many who hear me, perhaps, can recollect well, that this truth was not generally admitted, even within their day. The errors of the past generation still clung to many as late as twenty years ago. Those at the North, who still cling to these errors, with a zeal above knowledge, we justly denominate fanatics.

    And in case you thought that the war was about "State's Rights" and not slavery, you should know that an early, strong support for that account of the conflict was the same Alexander Stephens, in a book he wrote after the war, when slavery had been discredited.

    Ashcroft's quote is a lot more explicit and inflammatory than the remarks that got Lott into trouble. But it's not the only inflammatory remark in the interview; on the previous page, he makes a point of noting that "... many Americans believe that providing an abortion is a crime against humanity".

Now, where the heck is the wildlife patrol?


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