Why aren't some of the folks at
Halliburton Co. going to jail?
Halliburton is an oil services
behemoth that shares responsibility for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill
that permanently damaged the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
Yesterday Halliburton agreed to pay
a $200,000 fine for destroying incriminating evidence during the investigation
that followed the spill—you remember that one, criminal negligence by
Halliburton and BP dumped about 5,000,000 barrels of oil into the gulf after
their rig burned and sank, killing 11 men. It seems that on two occasions, Halliburton
managers directed engineers to "get rid of" test results that showed the
company's actions in an unfavorable light.
Not much of a penalty, I'd
say….last year Halliburton made $4,430,000,000 in profits, so the fine amounts
to about half of one-hundredth of one percent of the money the company took to
the bank in 2012. In other words, for every $22,150 of profits last year, Halliburton
paid $1 toward the penalty.
Does anyone in an executive suite
at Halliburton think this penalty is anything but a teeny weeny fine and a
great big relief? The company's stock popped up almost 5% when the market opened
Here's an update on the effects of
the Deepwater oil spill:
Last January a NASA physicist reported "a dearth of marine life" within a
30-50 mile radius of the former rig site off the Louisiana coast.
Other scientists have noted that as
much as one-third of the spilled oil is still in the Gulf waters or on the
bottom, still poisoning the entire food chain.
Long-term environmental and human
health dangers could persist for generations.
"Generations" means your great-grandchildren,
and mine, could be dealing with the harmful effects of the Deepwater spill.
Yesterday, a U.S. Attorney in New
York wrapped up a six-year investigation and charged SAC Capital Advisors with
four counts of securities fraud and one count of wire fraud.
In plain English, the feds are
going after SAC Capital Advisors for illegal insider trading.
Here's part of the indictment: "…for insider trading offenses committed by
numerous employees and made possible by institutional practices that encouraged
the widespread solicitation and use of illegal inside information. Unlawful
conduct by individual employees and an institutional indifference to that
unlawful conduct resulted in insider trading that was substantial, pervasive
and on a scale without known precedent in the hedge fund industry."
In plain English,
the folks at SAC Capital knew they were breaking the law, everybody was doing
it, they were doing it big-time, and they were screwing lots of investors like
you and me.
What's the big deal, you ask?
Doesn't "almost everybody" on Wall Street engage in insider trading
when they think they can get away with it?
Yeah, that's the big deal. There
are plenty of repeat offenders on Wall Street. The news report about the SAC
Capital indictment also mentioned that government watchdogs have charged about
80 firms and individuals with insider trading since 2009, and 73 of those
defendants were convicted. My guess is the other 7 defendants got lucky and
My other guess is that for every
person or brokerage that gets caught doing insider trading, there are dozens or
hundreds more that don't get caught, and make millions by fleecing other investors.
Our U.S. senators are launching a
shameful stunt: they're promising each other 50 years of secrecy about their
personal proposals for tax reform, that is, changing or eliminating income tax credits
Senators Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and
Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) cooked up this juicy charade as a way of enticing their
fellow senators to make initial suggestions for the Senate Finance
Committee's current work on preparing "reform" of the U.S. income tax
Seems too many senators don't want
to go on the record right up front with their personal choices about which
credits and deductions should be cut, i.e. which special interest group they
plan to ignore in the tax reform process.
This is shameful political
chicanery. If any tax reform legislation is ever brought to a vote, the
Senators are going to have to cast their votes openly to decide which tax
avoidance provisions will be altered or dropped.
Who do they think they're fooling
with this "50-years of secrecy" dodge?
Why do we keep re-electing these
people who act with such disdain for our best interests and our intelligence?
Creator of crime fiction and that
ace crimestopper, Sherlock Holmes
I'm re-reading some of Doyle's
"Sherlock Holmes" adventures, including several that are new to me….yes,
yes, of course I read "The Five Orange Pips" again, doesn't everyone?
This time I tried "The
Adventure of Lady Frances Carfax" and "The Adventure of the Sussex
Vampire" and a few others.
Basil Rathbone as Holmes
I first read some of the exploits of
Sherlock Holmes when I was too young to be entertained by anything but the
action. With that constraint, "The Hound of the Baskervilles" was
somewhat boring, and "The Adventure of the Six Napoleons" was simply
pedestrian. The Complete Sherlock Holmes
languished on my "To Read" list for years.
Now I am an older, more aesthetic
fancier of the agile mind and the haughty generosity and the dimensioned
humanity of Sherlock Holmes. Time after time, Holmes austerely allows Lestrade
to claim a vaunted reputation that is too often boosted by the singular and
covert prowess of Holmes himself. Holmes always takes the opportunity to be
genteelly solicitous to the frightened widow. Despite his loveless
bachelorhood, he is charmed by young lovers and easily condones their righteous
excesses. He can be excited by discovery, and clap at each revelation, with the
innocence of a child.
Jeremy Brett as Holmes
And yet, the fabulous boarder at
221B Baker Street has no fear of the nastiest brute….Holmes will leap—leap!—onto
the back of an escaping felon….he will defy the powerful and the villainous
alike, in defense of the letter of the law and in obedience to humane justice….
Overheard recently at about 30 fathoms deep off the coast at Laguna Beach:
Whale mom: "Billy, where have you been? You're late!"
Billy: "I went on a people watching swim with Tara and Josh -- we had to go far."
Whale mom: "See any?"
Billy: "Oh yeah, there was one of those boats with two hulls, bunch of people, too, it was neat!"
Whale mom: "Any big ones?"
Billy: "Yeah, couple, wow! We spotted three babies, too!"
Whale mom: "What did they look like?"
Billy: "Couldn't really see their faces, they were all wearing hats or those dark circles over their eyes, and most of them were holding those shiny things up in front of their faces every time they spotted me, and then right away the whole boat got real noisy, you know, those propeller things, and it just moved off fast and disappeared."
Whale mom: "Well, maybe you'll see more next time...."
You know the Kenny Rogers song, "The Gambler," it's all about risk taking and how you should "...know when to walk away and know when to run."
Knowing when to walk away, to avoid a disaster or a squabble, is an all-purpose skill, a disposition really, a frame of mind too easy to abandon....
Admonitions for patience and prudence -- among the better parts of valor -- are as old as the hills.
For example, Abe Lincoln's early political career gave him many chances to step back from a conflict that he might have won, perhaps easily, a conflict that offered him no lasting benefit even in victory, or gave promise of ill favor as a future consequence.
John Hay and John Nicolay, Lincoln's presidential secretaries and later his biographers, recorded an anecdote expressing Lincoln's lifelong preferred reaction to conflict and political horsetrading:
"No man (who is) resolved to make the most of himself can spare time for personal contention...(give up) larger things to which you can show no more than equal right...Better give your path to a dog than be bitten by him in contesting for the right. Even killing the dog would not cure the bite."
Of course, Lincoln was a steadfast advocate and practitioner of doing the right thing, in compelling circumstances, regardless of personal cost.
He also believed, as Hay and Nicolay recalled, that "habitual peaceableness involved no lack of dignity."
Talk back when your pre-verbal child babbles at you -- that sweet, burbling little girl is talking to you, but you can't yet understand what she's saying.
Linguist Deborah Fallows (July/August 2013 issue of The Atlantic) reports on a decade of compelling research that shows the lifelong benefits of talking TO and WITH your kids, even when they're too young to talk back.
You know this is true. It's intuitive.
Let the children hear new words and inflected meanings and syntax when they're most open to learning them. One researcher says it with bare truth: "You can only do one thing at a time: talk to the baby or talk on the phone." Stash your iPhone! Here come the kids!
At the edge of the pool, he launches his small body forward in space, ignorant of gravity, heedless of the deep water, the elemental danger....
He plunges in, smiling!
He rises, gulping air, laughing, in his father's arms.
He cannot know what a father may fear....
He cannot know that Daddy lurches with instinct frenzy to retrieve him every time he jumps....
He cannot know that Dad's proud shouts of approval mask the silent, primal imperative to shout "Careful!"
He cannot know that a father's love drives the ritual: to teach jumping, to expose the mysteries of submergence, to stand chest-deep in the pool and urge a beloved son to risk his life with every leap.
He cannot know that, at some future time, when the time is right, he himself will ignore his guardian duty, and eagerly, with a smile, beckon to his own beautiful child to make the first intrepid leap.
A Texas congressman seems to have forgotten that Congress should be
working on ways to boost growth in our national economy and help create jobs
for millions of Americans who want to work.
Instead, Rep. Steve Stockman (R) is pushing a bill that would deny
federal education funds to school districts that forbid "harmless
expressions of childhood play" like using a finger and thumb as a
Stockman's bill is a transparent and silly attempt to support gun
advocacy. I'm trying to avoid sputtering as I write this….
I think schools should protect our children from bad people with guns.
I think the "zero tolerance" policies sometimes go too far…suspending
a first-grader for raising his thumb and pointing his forefinger is, in
general, not in the "real smart thing to do" category.
But Stockman crossed over into La-La Land with his goofy bill that
plays to the gun "base."
Here's a sample: Stockman's bill would block federal funding to a
school district that sanctions students for "brandishing a pastry or other
food which is partially consumed in such a way that the remnant resembles a
Read it again, slowly….yup, it really says "brandishing a
Stockman heard about a second-grader in Maryland who was suspended after he
chewed on a Pop Tart to make it look sort of like a gun….
OK, this is my candidate for Goofy Idea
Of The Month:
The Oregon legislature has passed,
and Gov. John Kitzhaber is poised to sign, a bill that tells the state's Higher
Education Coordinating Commission to figure out how to collect college tuition
from students AFTER they graduate.
Two education policy wonks, Audrey
Peck and John Burbank, thought this one up: for example, students would
complete college without paying tuition, and then would pay a percentage of
their annual income for 25 years to cover the cost, i.e. graduates would pay 4%
of their income for 25 years.
I think this is nuts. Obviously
different students with different income streams would end up paying different
amounts for the same education. No guarantee that the students collectively
would actually pay back all of the tuition they deferred. Some students would die
before completing their payments. How to enforce the future payments? Would Oregon
try to garnish the wages of graduates who move to another state? Wow. I think this
idea is goofy.
The main objection: this plan does
nothing to address the issues of why college costs so much, and why the cost of
attending college keeps rising faster than inflation.
Deferring payment for college way into
the future is a pretty transparent way of more or less guaranteeing that someone
else is ultimately going to pay for it.
College isn't free. Let's not do goofy
stuff that suggests anyone can "go to college for free now, and pay
Barnes & Noble Saddlery and Horseshoe Nail Purveyors
announced today that they are abandoning sales of the new "automobile tyre."
This failed "new technology" venture was pushed strongly by CEO Wm.
Lynch, who is leaving the company. A Barnes & Noble spokesperson said
B&N will henceforth concentrate on its established and well-respected core
business of "providing for all the needs of those who travel,
News item on July 9, 2013:
Barnes & Noble Books Stores announced that CEO William Lynch has "resigned," effective
immediately. Lynch was responsible for pushing Barnes & Noble into the new
"e-reader" technology with the Nook reader, which has been a big
loser for B&N. Leonard Riggio, founder of B&N, has resumed leadership
of the company. It is well known that Riggio's vision for B&N is to focus
on its 675 established and well-respected bricks-and-mortar book stores, and
avoid the competitive fight for e-book readers.
“Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a
Pico Iyer (b. 1957)
British novelist and essayist
I had not heard of Pico Iyer
previously, he seems to be a man for all seasons, one of his earliest works is Video Night in Kathmandu: And Other
Reports from the Not-so-Far East (1988).
I think I'll check him out.
His comment on writing is
intriguing to me, although I tend to think of writing as a conversation with
myself that is exposed to the view of strangers, who may, on occasion, like it
even more than I do, or not, as the case may be.
Gallup says about 2 out of 3
Americans would not want their children to "go into politics as a life's
work." Also, the polling organization reports, that sentiment has been
pretty much unchanged during the last 20 years.
Well, no surprise, right? Think of
all the politicians you know, respect and love…
Congress is currently getting
something like a 14% approval rating…who are the 14% who think the folks in
Washington are doing a good job?
For that matter, who are the 1 out of
3 Americans who WOULD like a son or daughter to go into politics?
I think politics SHOULD be a noble
It's not. I don't expect it will be.
In politics, there is too much
reward for the wrong kind of motivation.
Every elected representative should
be limited to one brief term.
And come to think of it, who are
the people who keep re-electing the incumbents?