“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Thursday, June 13, 2002


The exchange between Annie Applebaum and the always odious Strobe Talbott in Slate is a little treasure trove of Clintonia -- remember that magic time when the White House was inviting crooked Chinese and Indonesian money into the coffers of the Democratic Party, while palling around with the Mafia, uh, I mean government of Boris Yeltsin and his shifty-fingered ilk?

Applebaum is less scoriating on this subject than I'd like her to be, but she does put the bite on Strobe's Gray Flannel trousers act. Here's a nice graf:

You are arguing, essentially, that in order to destroy something bad (communism), we had to let something less bad (oligarchic noncapitalism) grow in its place. Well, maybe we didn't have much influence over this change anyway (despite the fact that U.S. policy�and U.S. rhetoric�often implied that we did).

Yet you are also arguing that it was OK for us to give our tacit approval to this change because we got some political concessions in exchange. Here I disagree: I would argue that Russia made most of the political concessions (agreeing to NATO expansion, getting troops out of the Baltics) because it is weak and because it had no other choice, not because Yeltsin and Clinton were friends. We didn't have to look on, smiling, while a handful of people stole the Soviet Union's assets, and we didn't have to lend the Russian government the money that it was no longer able to collect in taxes and oil revenue.

To my mind, the crucial thing is to stop thinking about Russia as exceptional and to stop treating the country as if it were always a special case. In the 1990s, the IMF created special loans, just for Russia, with special rules�thanks, largely, to political pressure from the United States. Instead of that, we should offer Russia fair rules, free trade�that is, not make up reasons to exclude Russian products�and insist that Russia join the WTO on the same terms as anybody else. Loans to Russia should be made on the same terms that loans are made to Bolivia. Russia should be allowed to remain a member of the Council of Europe only if it abides by the Council of Europe's rules, which means no human rights abuses in Chechnya.

Strobey gets a bit ruffled by the barking and biting. He brings out, as our ace in the hole, Gore's friendship with Chermonydryn:

"Go back and take a look at the sections in the book (at the end of Chapter 2, for example) on what we did, through technical assistance and exchange programs, to promote civil society. This was also a major theme of the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission�which I believe would have accomplished a lot more if Chernomyrdin had lasted longer (but that gets me into the tricky territory of counterfactual history, and we've got our work cut out for us on the solid ground of the factual)."

Yes, I bet Chernoblyn wishes he'd lasted longer too -- he was making out like a bandit. Here's an old NYT story about Strobe's buddy:

"When the CIA uncovered what its analysts considered to be conclusive evidence of the personal corruption of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin of Russia in 1995, they sent it to the White House, expecting Clinton administration officials to be impressed with their work," reports James Risen of the New York Times. "Instead, when the secret CIA report on Chernomyrdin arrived in the office of Vice President Al Gore, it was rejected and sent back to the CIA with a barnyard epithet scrawled across its cover, according to several intelligence officials familiar with the incident."

"At CIA headquarters in Langley, Va.," Risen continues, "the message seemed clear: The vice president did not want to hear allegations that Chernomyrdin was corrupt and was not interested in further intelligence reports on the matter. As a result, CIA analysts say they are now censoring themselves. When, for instance, the agency found that it cost a German business executive $1 million just to get a meeting with Chernomyrdin to discuss deals in Russia, it decided not to circulate the report outside the CIA, officials said."

But Chernobobin found soul mates at the Clinton White House, no doubt about that. Here's a background report by Ann Williamson that goes back to the voucher program (a Bush senior era program that was sanctified by all the free enterprising poobahs, and that was evidently an invitation to corruption) and up to the stropping up of the always drunk Yeltsin as a viable candidate for capitan of the Titanic in 1995. Williamson includes such gloriously tawdry details of the Clinton Administration's dealings with Yeltsin as the Tyson factor:

"Following the Russian Communists� success in the December 1995 parliamentary elections, the Fund proceeded into even dodgier territory with the 1996 $10.2 billion loan, which came front-loaded with a billion dollars meant for Yeltsin�s re-election. Tape recordings of conversations between Mr. Clinton and Mr. Yeltsin made public demonstrate that in return longtime Clinton supporter and campaign donor Tyson Chicken�s exports to Russia � a $700 million annual business � were protected from a threatened 20 percent tariff increase."

In the words of my favorite punk Asian american duo, Cibo Matto:

I know my chicken...
Or -- I'm still glad I voted for Nader.

A friend tells us: I sent your post about bias in the press to a conservative friend of mine. He responded that Limited Inc was confusing the issue. And that Limited Inc was in the habit of confusing issues, because Limited Inc lacked a certain, necessary depth.

Now, there you go: my friend's friend has provided an explanation for a problem that has frankly puzzled us: why isn't Limited Inc exercizing world wide influence and being consulted by the powers of the Earth on a daily basis?

More specifically, this has made Limited Inc think about issues qua issues. As in, what are issues, and where do they come from?

The traditional political divisions are usually delineated by showing that, on a given array of issues, x will take this position and y will take that position. What Limited Inc is all about, gentle readers, is disputing the given-ness of the issues themselves. Their shape, their texture, their topical constitution, their implementation, their distribution... The issue machine, if you will. So that the issue of, say, bias in the media, which is usually a tug of war between people who say, hey, there is a liberal bias in the media and those who say hey, there isn't a liberal bias in the media, is recast in other terms: first, as the sociological donnee that any subculture exists and perseveres by enforcing a certain tone upon its members, and by, secondly, taking journalism as merely one of those subcultures, to be compared with the petroleum industry, or the car industry, etc. This way of treating the issue doesn't "solve' the problem of bias, but puts the explanation for bias, (and its inevitability) in terms of the historical determinants that have shaped the composition of those who work in journalism, or car design, or etc. That's a question for another day. We are seeing, in the spread of weblogs, a subculture form that is apparently tilted towards the right. I'm not sure that impression is true, but if it is, the question would be: is there a first mover advantage that would select more and more conservative webloggers? or have we not yet passed that threshhold? is the weblog subculture in a more amorpohous stage in which the population of webloggers is accumulating randomly?

But to return to the fascinating issue of the issue. To make the meta leap, the froggish jump.

The OED defines the primary meaning of issue to mean output of some sort, from the Latin, exire, a thing that goes out. An issue, in this sense, implies, first, a flow, and second, a place the flow comes to, stops at, or passes through. Issue in this sense is an egress, a child, or the expression of energy. I'm not sure how, exactly, this meaning became linked with the meaning of issue as a controversial notion. Here's how the OED defines this:

"A point on the decision of which something depends or is made to rest; a point or matter in contention between two parties; the point at which a matter becomes ripe for decision. Esp. in to put to ([]on, upon, an, the) issue and similar phrases: to bring to a point admitting of decision.

c1566 J. ALDAY tr. Boaystuau's Theat. World Biijb, The battel of this world is so perillous, the yssue so terrible and fearfull. 1613 SHAKES. Hen. VIII, V. i. 178 Now, While 'tis hot, Ile put it to the issue. 1656 BRAMHALL Replic. vi. 279 If he stand to this ground, there are no more controversies between him and me for the future but this one, what is the true Catholick Church, whether the Church of Rome..or the Church of the whole World, Roman, Grecian, Armenian, Abyssene, Russian, Protestant,..I desire no fairer issue between him and me. 1665 GLANVILL Def. Vain Dogm. 20, I am willing to put it upon the issue, whether it be so to any body else but this philosopher. 1748 RICHARDSON Clarissa I. iv. 25, I saw plainly that to have denied myself to his visits..was to bring forward some desperate issue between the two. 1863 TYNDALL Heat vi. 193 The problem I think is thus narrowed to the precise issue on which its solution depends. 1873 BURTON Hist. Scot. VI. lxxii. 290 Look at the issue between England and Scotland as it stood at the moment.

c. A matter or point which remains to be decided; a matter the decision of which involves important consequences.

1836 J. GILBERT Chr. Atonem. v. (1852) 145 Conferring the power of choice, and connecting that choice with most important issues. 1875 JOWETT Plato (ed. 2) III. 133 There is a mighty issue at stake..the good or evil of the human soul. 1898 Westm. Gaz. 22 July 3/2 �We want issues�. In the absence of issues politics become a question of self-interest..to manipulate the tariff for the benefit of trusts and manufacturers."

Limited inc doesn't want to engage in the Heideggerian folly of claiming that the semantic evolution of a term gives us the theodicy of the concept -- but we do think that there is a link between the term's emergence with a certain meaning and the historical situation in which that emergence occurs. Looking at the OED's citations, we notice that the evolution of "issue" is towards the problem/solution framework. An issue arises when there is a problem. Problems are formalized in science, and the OED's citations show that there is a back and forth between the "issue" as a description of a social problem and the 'issue" as a description of a scientific problem. The problem indicates a matter to be decided. So if one confuses an issue, one can: a, be confused about the problem that the issue is about, or that the issue indicates; or b, be confused about the correlating decisions that solve the problem. My friend's friend would probably add one more kind of confusion of issue, c, an intentional blurring of the scope of a problem for sophistical purposes.

Limited Inc's inclination is to say this: the motivation for delineating the issues as they are delineated among the governing classes should be looked at with maximum suspicion. This approach is naturally disconcerting if your politics is about viewing the divisions within the governing class (the liberal vs. conservative divide) as the defining political division. We are trying, in our humble way, to re-draw the problem set, which puts us outside of that kind of politics, even if our sympathies are to one tendency within it. This sometimes makes our points seem tendentious or extra-political. Alas, that's the price we have to pay. And so... at least for this year, it looks like the world leaders aren't going to be turning to us for political advise. But what can we say? such is the burden of greatness.

Wednesday, June 12, 2002


Because LI has spurned the water of life, and is one of those unfortunates who will be processed on the left hand of our Lord transiting to the eternal gnashing of teeth that reportedly awaits our type, one would think that the abuse being hurled at the Catholic Church by a press that is normally servile to religious groups to a point of intellectual abasement that is hard to stomach would warm our hearts. Well, it doesn't.

Sunday, I was listening to a NPR interview with Alan Cooperman, who with Lena H. Sun wrote a Sunday article for the Washington Post , Hundreds Of Priests Removed Since '60s:
Survey Shows Scope Wider Than Disclosed

The intro grafs tell the story:

"The Roman Catholic Church has removed 218 priests from their positions this year because of allegations of child sexual abuse, but at least 34 known offenders remain in church jobs, according to a survey of Catholic dioceses across the United States by The Washington Post.

The survey also found that at least 850 U.S. priests have been accused of sexual misconduct with minors since the early 1960s, and that more than 350 of them were removed from ministry before this year."

In the interview on NPR, Limited Inc believes that Alan Cooperman said (we don't have a transcript) that in his research, which took in a forty year period, about 1 percent of the priesthood had probably been involved in some kind of sexual misconduct.

What the interviewer never asked, what no paper is asking, is how this compares with Protestant denominations, or with the secular equivalents of pastoral care: psycho-therapy, self-realization groups, etc. Now, LI's wild guess is that the Catholic church is well within the norm. That is, given the opportunity for sexual misconduct (a term that is pretty opaque) among a group of people who have to do with counseling, "spiritual" advice giving, and other activities that involve a traffic in what Freud called transference, and given the personality types attracted to the role of "helper," a good one percent will use their positions to have sex. However, there's no investigation of Baptist churches, or New Agey groups in Sedona, or of Freudian psycho-analysts, in the papers.

So where's the beef, the j'accuse here? It is this: the more the media piles on the Catholic church, the more the images begin to resonate with the anti-Catholic propoganda endemic in in protestant Europe and protestant America in the nineteenth century. Limited Inc has begun thinking of the Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk, a book that was published in the 1830s. That was a decade in which Irish immigration began to bring out anxieties among the Protestant establishment. Two convents were actually attacked, one in Massachussetts, one in South Carolina. Maria Monk alleged that she was unwillingly immured in a convent in Montreal, in which the nuns were treated as sexual tools of priests, who would periodically cull and kill the infants that were the tragic fruit of said priests' lust. In other words, the psycho-pathology of millienarianism, as described by Cohn in The Pursuit of the Millenium. He goes back to classical sources, finding Latin anti-Christian texts that describe the sect as one promoting incest and extreme promiscuity, with baby sacrifices and the whole lot. This constellation of elements pops up again and again in Western history, now directed at the jews, now directed at some cult. In the case of Maria Monk, there was an amusing afterwords to her confessions -- a falling out among her 'ghost-writers." It is as if the authors of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion had wanted a piece of the copyright action. The story is told in this essay by Ruth Hughes:

The first thing you have to understand about the Awful Disclosures is that they are not true. The second thing you have to understand is that Maria Monk had very little to do with writing it. Her story is a pathetic one, just not the one she would have you believe. Maria Monk was born to a Protestant family in St. Johns, Quebec in 1816 or 1817. In an affidavit written after the scandal of the Awful Disclosures broke, Maria Monk's mother described her as an uncontrollable child, a fact she attributed to a brain injury suffered when Maria was little more than a toddler: a slate pencil was rammed into her ear, penetrating her skull. From that time on, according to her mother's testimony, Maria was uncontrollable and subject to wild fantasies. Her only known contact with a Catholic institution was as an inmate of the Magdalene asylum in Montreal. When it was discovered that she had become pregnant while resident in the asylum, she was asked to remove herself from that institution. It was then, aged eighteen and pregnant, that she met William K. Hoyte, head of the Canadian Benevolent Society, an organization that combined Protestant missionary work with ardent anti-Catholic activism. Hoyte took Monk as his mistress, and together they traveled to New York. At this late date, we will never know how much of the story originated with Monk's disordered imagination and how much of it was created by the opportunistic Hoyte. Hoyte called upon his fellow nativists, Rev. J. J. Slocum, Rev. George Bourne, Theodore Dwight, and others; collectively they wrote the Awful Disclosures. Maria Monk is believed to have contributed details of the city of Montreal and of the practices she observed in the Magdalene asylum. This much is known because shortly after the publication of the Awful Disclosures, the cabal began to fight amongst themselves over the profits, and several suits and counter-suits were initiated in the New York courts: Slocum was the principal author, Hoyte and Bourne were major contributors, and the others mostly just offered suggestions. Slocum and Maria Monk banded together in suing the others and their publishing house, Harper and Brothers. Maria Monk then left Hoyte to became the companion of Slocum. Monk was still under-age, and Slocum was appointed her guardian.

The first edition of the Awful Disclosures carries the imprint of Howe and Bates. If you look to find other titles put out by that publishing house, you won't find much. Howe and Bates were employees of Harper and Brothers. Harper was worried that their Catholic customers would desert them if they published Maria Monk's book, but they could not deny themselves what looked to be a lucrative enterprise. They created the dummy publishing house of Howe and Bates to insulate themselves from any fallout. Interestingly, the only other work I have found with the imprint of Howe and Bates is a refutation of Monk's claims.

LI's point, dear reader, isn't that the accusations of pedophilia in any given case against a priest are untrue -- rather, the point is that the systematic accusation against the Catholic church is beginning to assume a form that seems to be all too consonant with the elements that have legitimated persecution in other eras. And it isn't as if these elements aren't always underfoot in the Barbaric Yawp we call the U.S.A. -- remember the Satanic Ritual Abuse hysteria of the early 90s.

Monday, June 10, 2002



Limited Inc was thinking that the big story today - which is, of course, Britney Spears new CD, and how it compares with the great works of the past -- was something we should get right on. We should jump on this with both feet, Jim. We should make our own preferences -- for Britney's Blue period, and her experiments in dissonance and the atonal register when she was going out with that N Sync guy -- crystal clear. Of course, we were heavily sedated when these and other thoughts raced through our head...

Instead, we are going to address a less serious issue -- that of liberal bias in the press and the entertainment industry. Housesitting over the weekend, we finally had a chance to take in the O'Reilly report. The report -- we kid you not -- was a shocking expose of LEFT WING BIAS IN THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY! Roll over Walter Winchell, and tell Estelle Parsons the news... Uh, right, where were we? Oh yes, O'Reilly's shocking scoop.

What makes this scoop particularly delicious -- and it is made in a number of venues about the NYT, or news organizations in general -- is that it is always denied, with a sort of prim huffiness, by press guys and gals. And then there's always Eric Alterman to tell us, hey, how about all those right wing bigmouths on Fox TV.

Well, why is it that nobody makes a big deal of, say, the rightwing bias of oil executives? Or how about the male-military bias of car designers (find me a woman who has any sayso in designing an American car, and I will admit, then, that finally, finally, feminism has broken through). In fact, since Comte was a pup, we've all gotten hip to a social fact: in all subcultures, there will be a certain commonality of ideas -- a certain tone that constrains which ideas are expressed. This makes for group cohesion, and for tacit rules that allow expelling members from the group -- and what is the point of a group if you can't expel members? Etc., etc. Anyway, to continue this boring presentation of platitudes, such constraints will act to select people for membership in those subcultures. Try being a born again Christian in the New York Times -- or try being a radical feminist lesbian in Exxon. I am pretty confident that the culture that writes the news in BigMedia, as well as the culture of Hollywood performers (not producers, or owners, or distributors of films) would turn out to be slightly to the left if one polled them about 'social' attitudes. Economic attitudes are a different matter. In the same way, I am pretty confident that the same poll would skew right for Oil Company execs. Now, I have never been sure what the point of this is -- are the O'Reilly's of the world really calling for ideological quotas? I think that might be a good idea, actually. Mixing in a few Florida Christians among the Hollywood set, or watching movies that indicate that God would really, really like those Jewish people to sort of consider taking Jesus Christ into their hearts as their lord and savior, right after wiping out this next set of dusky colored people with 666 tatooed on their foreheads, would be more than offset by El Paso Oil being represented by Sandra Bernhardt in some Senate hearing about the manipulation of power prices. And wouldn't it be nice if GM were forced to recruit for their designers at Ms. Magazine, instead of among retired defense industry apparatchiks?

The defense of focusing on the media or entertainment -- a last ditch defense, I think, and barely worth mentioning, as indeed this whole issue is barely worth mentioning -- is that ideology counts more, in these industries, than it does in energy or building cars. But you have merely to say that sentence to see that it is self-refuting. The decision to make a decent, low priced, low emission automobile is most definitely ideological -- it is about, among other things, how one wants to operate within a whole industrial system that has concretized other decisions about social action. It has to do with whether the corporation is more responsible to its stakeholders or its shareholders. There's nothing more ideological than that.

Sunday, June 09, 2002


LI has been crawling out from under our rock and re-connecting with the ten chapters of a crime novel we wrote a couple of years ago. Our inspiration, at the time, was Leonardo Sciascia, the great Italian writer. If you haven't read any of Sciascia's toothpick slim, extremely disorienting novels, let's just say they are not by any means your usual entertainment.

Crime, for Sciascia, is the surface unfolding of an event that, correctly interpreted, can represent the matrix of hidden power relationships. Sciascia's investigators require a hermaneutics of governance as the necessary supplement to the labor of deduction. Now, since the former is a rare thing, his investigators have a tendency to fail. In Sciascia's world, the criminal doesn't explain the crime, even if you catch him: the criminal is a merely the last instance of a chain that extends down, down in the dark. Sciascia's detectives are undone through their naive trust in the detective's unalterable standard, the correspondance theory of truth. That trust makes them vulnerable to the powers that might or might not have condoned the crime, and that might or might not see the advantage in the catching of its perpetrators. The detective, in other words, sees the crime as a problem to be solved, while the powers that be (legitimate and illegitimate) see it as a solution to be manipulated -- a warning, a riddence of an obstacle, a reward, and always, no matter on what side, as a small way of spreading the nihilistic rumor that the dominant power -- the bureaucracy, the Mafia, the party, the church, the cliches of the media - is, eventually, irresistible.

Sciascia, I suppose it goes without saying, was Sicilian. If you come across his small, excoriating book on the Moro affair -- an excellent example of a Sciascian crime that actually happened -- grab it and read it. Aldo Moro was kidnapped and executed by the Red Brigades, but according to Sciascia, that is only one face of the crime. The other face of this crime was the opportunity, given to Moro's many enemies, to dispose of the man. So both in the suddenly relentless attitude of the state (which, in the Moro case, presented itself as incapable of dealing with criminals -- a noticeable change from the posture of the Christian Democrats when it came to dealing with, say, the Mafia, and a change even from previous dealings with the Red Brigades) and the disjunction of that attitude from the actual police work (which was comically inept even by Italian standards), we have a social phenomenon in which the approach to it that is framed by the idea of finding who did it obscures the more socially charged question of who benefited from it.

For a completely clueless account of the Moro case, by the way, there's an essay by Richard Drake in the New Criterion that is a classic expression of what you might call the logical positivism of the detective. The notion is, briefly, that all crimes are atomic instances that do not add up to a higher level of crime. The conventional conspiracy theorist believes that it is from the higher level of crime that the atomic instances derive. And the Sciascian theory is that atomic instances of crime create a higher level of criminal opportunity from which to retrospectively make use of crime. Uses are many, but from the Sciascian p.o.v., the interesting thing is how the investigation of crime, which is after all monopolized by the state, is pulled into the system of crime. This is the truth encoded in the detective genre, with its free agents -- its detectives -- operating outside the police monopoly; although only Sciascia, as far as I know, takes the Sherlock Holmes genre a step further by turning the detective's mistrust onto the very act of detecting.

Which gets us -- by a leap -- to Marxypoo, as he was known to his friends.

Now that Marx has been freed from his ism, we are able to understand his virtues without falling under the spell of his vices. Well, okay, maybe we aren't - the troubling ism is still out there, even with the economic theory shot full of holes and debunked from Vladivostock to Budapest -- but we should be. In any case, one of his virtues, which prefigured a whole style of journalism we are now familiar with from such writers as Joan Didion, or Norman Mailer, was the inquisitor's gaze he cast upon the common document, the everyday news story, the faits divers. He had what you might call the longitudinal vision -- the ability to collate distant facts, or forgotten incidences, and apply them with devastating effect to the story at hand. His third chapter on the Civil War in France is an excellent example of what I mean. Here he is, uncovering, beneath the most resplendent virtues, the most egregious deviants.:

"Shortly after the conclusion of the armistice, M. Milliere, one of the representatives of Paris to the National Assembly, now shot by express orders of Jules Favre, published a series of authentic legal documents in proof that Jules Favre, living in concubinage with the wife of a drunken resident at Algiers, had, by a most daring concoction of forgeries, spread over many years, contrived to grasp, in the name of the children of his adultery, a large succession, which made him a rich man, and that, in a lawsuit undertaken by the legitimate heirs, he only escaped exposure by the connivance of the Bonapartist tribunals. As these dry legal documents were not to be got rid of by any amount of rhetorical horse-power, Jules Favre, for the first time in his life, held his tongue, quietly awaiting the outbreak of the civil war, in order, then, frantically to denounce the people of Paris as a band of escaped convicts in utter revolt against family, religion, order, and property. This same forger had hardly got into power, after September 4, when he sympathetically let loose upon society Pic and Taillefer, convicted, even under the empire, of forgery in the scandalous affair of "Etendard". One of these men, taillefer, having dared to return to Paris under the Commune, was at once reinstated in prison; and then Jules Favre exclaimed, from the tribune of the National Assembly, that Paris was setting free all her jailbirds!"

Mr. K.M. then goes on to probe the less reputable side of other ticket-of-leave men, as he describes them, as they saved France from the dangers of the Paris Commune. Marx, as we know, was absolutely wrong about the proletariat -- it turned out they were not history's favorite class, especially when they were represented by the class that claimed they were history's favored class. But Marx might have been right about the Lumpenproletariat. Their upward social mobility, tracked ironically in the 10th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, and probed more gravely in the above mentioned piece, showed more than Marx knew. The ticket of leave man's century was about to dawn. The amazing thing about Stalin and Hitler is that these men, and the men around them, were all, recognizably, petty criminals: blackmailers, rapists, thieves. I mean literally: Stalin was an armed robber, Hitler was a petty blackmailer, and such as Beria were, without exageration, rapists. We were reminded of Marx's words by an article in the NYT today concerning one of Limited Inc's favorite topics, CEO compensation packages. With the foresight that characterizes today's ticket-of-leave man, many CEO's negotiate a package in which dismissal or (heavens!) the withdrawl of remuneration is not to be effected by such petty events as, say, conviction for felony:

"There may be only one type of job in which somebody can commit a felony and, after being fired as a result, still receive a severance package worth many years of salary. The job is chief executive of a large corporation."

Journalist David Leonhardt does not, of course, infuse his story with the vinegar that was Marx's stock in trade, but he does have some interesting antecdotes:

"Some contracts have gone so far as to restrict the kind of felony convictions that permit companies to deny executives a severance payment. At Fortune Brands, the maker of Jim Beam bourbon, Master Lock and other consumer products, for example, a felony must result in personal enrichment for Norman H. Wesley, the chief executive, at the expense of the company.At J. C. Penney, a felony conviction would cost Allen I. Questrom his severance only if it involved "theft or moral turpitude." And before LG&E Energy, based in Louisville, Ky., was acquired by a British power company in 2000, it exempted its chief from good-cause dismissal for any felonies "arising from an environmental violation."

"More broadly, executives have asked companies to remove contract clauses that could deny them severance payments, also known as golden parachutes, if they fail to perform their duties. In a sign of how much influence executives have gained over their own compensation, many companies have complied, inserting clauses that restrict dismissible offenses to deliberate misbehavior. "The scope of what constitutes cause has gotten narrower over the last 10 years," said Robert J. Stucker, a lawyer in Chicago who has represented Leo F. Mullin of Delta Air Lines, Robert L. Nardelli of Home Depot and other chief executives during contract negotiations."

Ah -- doesn't it make you want to celebrate the foresight of the Captain of Industry? In the old days, they hightailed it out of town after looting the till -- now they put the right to loot the till in the contract.
And they say there is no progress....