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I Know Nothing!
February 12, 2002
by Paul Winkelmann

We are only into the first few days of the Enron hearings and judging by the testimony, it's really no wonder that Enron tanked.

We've had numerous Enron execs paraded before the various investigating committees and, aside from a couple of whistle-blowers, all we've gotten out of this bunch is a hard fought battle to see which MBA graduate can demonstrate the highest degree of job related ignorance.

So far, their testimony, at least the testimony of those who were brave enough (some might say stupid enough) to renounce their 5th amendment rights, would lead us to believe that the country's 7th largest corporation was run by a collection of self-proclaimed idiots.

Sounds a lot like the pResident's budget office (I'll save that diatribe for another day).

Sure, the Enron big-wigs were able to tell us all about "pro forma reporting", "hedging", and "special purpose entities". But when it came down to a simple explanation as to why nobody knew where all the fucking money was going, suddenly they were about as business savvy as grammar-school girls selling lemonade on a street corner.

Nobody in this company knew anything. Nobody saw anything. Nobody did anything.

Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) almost hit the mark when he called this the "Sgt. Shultz Defense." It's too bad Markey chose to further sully the reputation of German P.O.W. camp guards by throwing them in with the likes of Jeffrey Skilling and Kenneth Lay.

It would have been more appropriate had Markey invoked the character of Sgt. Bilko. After all, Shultz was a lovable and harmless bumbler who really didn't have a clue what was going on. Where as Bilko was a clever schemer who plotted and carried out his intricate cons to near pin-point perfection.

And Sgt. Bilko was an American. An American who was always pulling his 3-Card Monty on other Americans. Shultz, to the best of my recollection, never intentionally screwed his fellow Germans.

I suspect there are those of you who would still lay claim that Skilling's portrayal is closer to that of Shultz, especially when coupled with George II's striking similarity to Stalag 13's Col. Klink. We can argue all day long about the on-screen chemistry between Bush's Klink and Skilling's Shultz but Sgt. Bilko is the guy who really fits the profile.

Not to mention that casting the pResident as Klink is sure to offend a profession that would forever be unfairly associated with the Bush administration. Namely, Nazi lapdogs. They could, justifiably, sue for defamation of character.

I know it's true that Bush, like Klink, is only following orders from higher up and is, like Klink, adamant that every uncooperative American should be quarantined behind a fenced off security zone. Yes, Klink too stood on the side those fighting to rid world of midgets, Gypsies, Medicare recipients and anyone else not born of the proper lineage.

And it does goes without saying that Bush, like Col. Klink and all his fellow Aryans, would stand to benefit immensely if a self-appointed dictator could successfully overthrow the government of the United States and its citizens.

But that is where the similarities end. I've never even seen Bush wear a monocle.

With that aside, I'm going to stick with my first instincts and characterize Skilling, Lay, et al, as a gang of cagey, although slightly more insidious, Sgt. Bilkos. And if I may say so, Rep. Markey, I believe you owe Sgt. Shultz an apology.

What role does Congress play in all this? Congress is going to run around like one of Bilko's suspicious but ever-oafish superior officers. Perpetually one-step behind Bilko, rarely catching him with his hand in the cookie jar. And if, by chance, they do, they're always more than willing to look the other way, for the right price.

So don't be too shocked when Lay and his Sgt. Bilko co-stars don't spend one night in the brig and they get to keep all their hard earned residuals. What should surprise you is if there isn't another prime-time airing of a very similar sit-com. With all new special guest stars from the studio stables of __________ (name your favorite campaign sponsor).

Word is, the Oval Office has been holding non-stop auditions for those roles. Two corporate casting couches, no waiting.

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