“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

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Bullet we missed




The NYT has a piece on ex Senator Phil “I love a billionaire” Gramm, whose career in the Senate is an epic of corrupt practices and a vile ideology, which all resulted in the economy we know and love today. They even, as a sidenote, print the emails that the ever irrepressible Enron people were sending each other as Gramm was passing the Enron provision in the bill barring the regulators of commodity futures from even thinking about derivatives – a provision that allowed Enron to spiral into a gigantic fraud whose clawmarks can still be spotted in California. How Beautiful! And they print his remarks on the wonders and charms of subprime mortgages, which, in the grand forgettery of the rightwing spin machine, have been tossed aside for insane fantasies about Barney Frank. Gramm is the man who was within a whisker of being the secretary of the treasury.

LI has long considered Gramm among the vilest of the vile. Here’s what we wrote in 2001:

Friday, January 04, 2002
Dope

Some further comments on Senator Torricelli's Houdini like escape from prosecution seem called for.
The question on the mind of the spectator must be: why would the Repugs go along on this deal? After all, damn Senator T with the black spot and Senator Lott will once more be the majority leader, talked to, even, by tv reporters and such.

Well, let's speculate a little bit, children. When one of D.C.'s pirates is caught with his hand in the till, very often a delicate situation arises. Because so many other pirates on the ship have been quietly amassing as much loot as their natural greed allows them. It is a tradition that goes back to the Roman senate. So if Senator T.'s skin is graciously unflayed, one looks around for who else could be outrageously vulnerable to charges of pilfering. And the eye alights on a certain Texas senator, Phil Gramm. Phil and his wonderful and rich wife, Wendy, have made quite a killing in the past decade from their association with Enron corporation, of blessed memory. There's a Public Citizen release that counts the ways Enron loved the Gramms, and the Gramms loved Enron. Consider that Wendy, high spirited free marketer that she is, was appointed by Bushie the elder to head the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. This is a sad sack commission ostensibly armed to police the derivatives market -- but armed like a boyscout with a peashooter facing down the Nazi Wehrmacht. Even so, you never know when some nasty regulation will actually enforce transparency on futures or options trading, the biz Enron was massively in. So our heroine, Wendy, came to Enron's rescue by exempting trading in futures contracts by Enron, in 1993. It was one of her last acts as a truly altruistic public personality, because she then resigned her chairmanship and, five weeks later, took on an entrepeneurial role on the Enron board of directors. Now, reader, you are thinking that this is merely a coincidence; and besides, boards of directors are notoriously composed of crash test dummies, rubberstamping the decisions of the CEO. But our dear Wendy also served on the Enron Audit committee (this part of her story should be scored to that all time popular hit, "Three blind mice'). So double hitting for that innovator in spot prices in power for you and me, she made off with around a million five. Hey, I'm sure that Phil was uninfluenced by that chunk of change, but you know how a loving, christian couple, in the depth of the night, abed, sometimes talks about the meaning of it all, and our redeemer's beautiful life story, and wouldn't it be nice if some properly motivated senator snuck a provision onto some bill de-regulating the power commodity markets. Probably these sweet whispers were in vain, given Phil adamantine integrity, but maybe something, well, unconscious kicked in, cause golly, Phil did muscle in the bill Enron wanted. For good Laissez Faire reasons, no doubt.

Yes, the money rolls in, but Phil's ambitions no longer play out on the national level, and his mind has turned to contemplating the blank verse of The Prelude or something -- those sweet retirement thoughts. But still, with Enron falling apart this year with a speed and desperation much like that of the East German government in 1989, the Gramms probably also had some heart to hearts about those pesky laws constraining politicians from accepting bribes in too public and outrageous a fashion -- laws which, as we all know, are stronger in the spirit than the letter, but still... Maybe it is time to fold your tent and creep home, with the couple millions of Enron bucks under your belt or in your portfolio to watch over you in the golden years. This will no doubt be used by invidious nabobs of negativism to explain why Phil gave a press conference on September 2 announcing his retirement from the Senate, even though he had amassed a 4 million dollar reelection warchest.

Warms your heart, doesn't it, reader? And so maybe Senator T gets traded for Senator G. in the game. We are not of course suggesting anything so cynical went down in D.C. in reality. In reality, all Senatorial transactions are motivated by the unwavering patriotism of the members of that hallowed chamber. All Limited Inc is doing is, well, muddying the waters. Spewing negativism. Speculating, as is our wont, in an idle and destructive manner.


Here’s what we wrote in 2002:

Monday, October 07, 2002
Remora

Isn't this sweet? Outgoing senator Phil Gramm -- that's what all the news releases say -- is set to join UBS Warburg:



ABC News announces it in the easy tones that embody the flow of senatorial personage to business personage and back:

"Senator Phil Gramm will soon become vice chairman of UBS Warburg, the investment banking arm of Switzerland's biggest bank, UBS Warburg said on Monday.Gramm, who will take up the private sector post when his Senate term ends later this year, follows a well trodden path of key legislators who join top Wall Street firms. Gramm has been in Congress for 24 years, and co-authored far reaching legislation in 1999 that repealed a prohibition on companies offering banking, brokerage and insurance operations under one roof."

Curiously, nobody connects a few dots. So Limited Inc will take up the pencil. How about this?

1. Wendy Gramm serves on the board of Enron. Preceding this nice little sinecure, she sits on the Commodities and Futures Commission and gives Enron a nice little waiver to embark upon its energy trading business without any pesky federal regulation. After eight years and about 600 thousand dollars, Wendy, on the Accounting committee of the Enron board no less, is shocked, shocked to learn that the company has been looted as thoroughly as the Russian looted Berlin, circa 1945.

2. But as that looting is drawing near its close, certain high up personages in Enron have not wholly given up the idea that, in the last moment, they can lick the spoons. Greg Whalley, among this seedy crew, is operating, supposedly, as Enron's President. It is his decision to reach in the piggy bank and award compensatory amounts up to a million dollars a piece for the people who are sitting at Enron's energy trading desk -- which, you'll remember, was made possible by Wendy Gramm's fortuitous waiver. He justifies these awards by going on about necessary personel, and the need to keep them from jumping ship. Of course, he doesn't allude to the vulgar fact that the energy trading desk has been losing money hand over fist. Or that the compensation comes directly out of the hide of the older workers in the gas pipes division -- yokels all.

"A top Enron executive wrongfully allowed employees who stayed with the company to cash deferred-compensation claims worth at least $32 million, while denying similar payments to former employees, legal experts say. And the experts said one-time Enron Chief Operating Officer Greg Whalley may well be personally liable for the payments distributed in October and November. A lawyer for Whalley recently told the Chronicle that his client had allowed dozens of company executives to cash out their deferred-compensation plans because they were still "providing value" to Enron. But retirees and other ex-employees who sought to cash out at the same time, or earlier, did not get approval."

3. Well, what is a hardworking president to do? Got to keep the energy section going until you can sell it, and yourself with it, to some lucky company. And guess who that company is, sweethearts? Why it is UBS Warburg: here's the announcement, dated February of this year, in Computerworld.

"A wholly owned subsidiary of London-based UBS Warburg, which is itself the investment banking subsidiary of Swiss bank UBS AG, the re-formed energy exchange has acquired Enron's gas and power trading IT infrastructure, its intellectual property and 625 of its former employees (see story).

"When the sale was finalized [Feb. 8], those people became UBSWenergy employees," said company spokeswoman Jennifer Walker. Most notable in the group is former Enron President and Chief Operating Officer Greg Whalley, who rose to that position in August after former Enron President Jeff Skillings left unexpectedly."

4. And so now Senator Gramm, the honorable Senator Gramm, who seems to have slipped through this awful mess that must have, just must have been caused by government regulation (ask the guys who write the editorials for the Wall Street Journal) with his wonderful wife Wendy by his side, unbowed by her experience and comforted, perhaps, by that half a mil she earned for two weeks work a year, is headed, by coincidence, for the refuge of the high end final Enron looters. Quelle coincidence! Not that we are accusing anybody of striking a deal, especially not good old dirty fingered, corrupt, cheating, lying, stealing, black hearted, selfish, conniving, worthless Phil Gramm -- as we like to call him, jokingly, in Texas. We simply think that it is, indeed, a small world after all, and one in which Phil simply keeps running into people he's helped out, and who want to help him out in turn.

6 comments:

northanger said...

AQ 270 = CHAIYYA CHAIYYA = THE ENRON EFFECT [+][+] = BAD CREDIT RATING = BRASSCLAW ORCS = CHINCHON (CARD GAME) (AQ-212 TXINTXON) = COIN OF THE REALM = DATA INTEGRITY = DE GROENE STRAAL = EXCHANGE PLEDGES = FALA DOS ARXINAS = FATIGUE CRACKING = OMEGA ALGORITHM = THE OPEN SECRET = TOOL-ANALYSIS = ZERO-SUM GAMES.

AQ 1467 = CRACKING HYDROCARBONS IS WHEN YOU BREAK LONG CHAIN HYDROCARBONS UP INTO SHORT ONES = MESSRS MOONY, WORMTAIL, PADFOOT AND PRONGS ARE PROUD TO PRESENT THE MARAUDERS MAP.

AQ 683 = I SOLEMNLY SWEAR THAT I AM UP TO NO GOOD = WALL STREET: HOW IT WORKS AND FOR WHOM (Doug Henwood) = ABSTRACT ASSEMBLAGES OF DESIRE IN MATTER = MILLIONS OF INSTRUCTIONS PER SECOND = TELLURO-CONSPIRACY TOWARDS THE SUN = TEN PLANKS OF THE COMMUNIST MANIFESTO.

AQ 286 = SOCIALIZED RISK (Determined to close the door on any future regulation of the emerging market of derivatives and swaps, he helped pushed through legislation that accomplished that goal. Created to help companies and investors limit risk, swaps are contracts that typically work like a form of insurance ... “By and large, credit-default swaps have distributed the risks” • The event risk embedded in bonds and other credit assets was very difficult to reduce prior to the evolution of credit default swaps. In the brief decade since their inception, credit default swaps have become not only a tool that effectively hedges event risk but also a flexible portfolio management tool that far exceeds that single benefitSelling intangible ideas to tangible donors).

roger said...

I want to sell intangible ideas, too! Not tangible ones. Tangible ones tend to order out for pizza and run up my long distance phone bill. Plus, they are always locking the bathroom door - what are they doing in there? I knock and knock.

northanger said...

maybe they're slashing their wrists. really roger, can't you change the topic? it's very depressing.

roger said...

North - hey, I thought I was getting somewhere! Don't worry, I am soon going to get on to love. Maybe sooner than later, if I'm losing you...

northanger said...

let's try this again. you seem to be enjoying this discussion of suicide. relishing the thought. that's kinda disturbing.

northanger said...

Gramm's exclusive, not inclusive. the only thing on his pedestal is The American Investor & everything revolves around that. which makes me wonder if there's something.... Copernicum about Gramm's pov. but i'm really unclear about the problems with Copernicanism. this seems pertinent: Galileo proclaimed, through his mouthpiece Salviati, that he could 'never sufficiently admire the outstanding acumen' of those early advocates of Copernicanism who, 'through sheer force of intellect' - that is, without even the benefit of a telescope to confirm the theory observationally - 'had done such violence to their own senses as to prefer what reason told them over that which sensible experience plainly showed them to the contrary'.