Accounting, Just a Question, Misdirection
March 18, 2002
By Larry Martin
By spinning the war on terror into his personal security
blanket, and with the Enron investigations grinding away at
the pace of your average continental drift, the Chief Weasel
of the Republic managed to keep the world's largest political
scandal out of the headlines this week. Many liberals are
worried this means the varmint might escape the noose, but
I think this media slow-down is actually a good thing.
I am afraid if Enron gets too hot too fast we might be forced
to watch W. don his bomber jacket, sling an M-4 over his shoulder,
and personally lead a mock charge into the caves of Tora Bora
for the cameras. Talk about things you just don't want to
see in your lifetime; although it can be argued that a Bush
photo-op in Kandahar might be the only way to actually get
the press inside of Afghanistan.
If I had known the guy was going to start WWIII rather than
get busted for Enron, I'd have voted to let the matter go.
Not that our votes here in Florida count.
If you get depressed watching Pentagon press briefings on
CNN repeating, "We cannot comment on that at this time." -
and if hours of endless no-news updates are getting you down
- then pop a few more Prozac (the Breakfast of Champions)
and peek over at the business section in your local paper,
because the Masters of Spin are at it again - weaving their
webs for future conservative consumption.
According to the online edition of the LA Times (www.latimes.com)
accountants are apparently having a really hard time getting
the "books" straight these days due to the "tremendous increase
in regulations over the last few years". (February 24, 2002;
Accountants Can't Keep Up With Financial Complexity).
Q: Why is this important to us on the left?
A: Because, this is soon to become the new Republican battle
"It was the complexity of the laws that made criminals of
Damn us liberals for making rules.
The accounting industry is fighting back to polish it's tarnished
reputation because, as you may have read someplace, a large
"independent" accounting firm failed to notice that Enron
was not actually making a billion dollars a week - but rather
losing a billion dollars a week.
It's just a sign change. Plus to minus. Haven't you ever
accidentally done that in a math class? Give these guys a
However, a whistleblower (read: hysterical liberal) started
screaming about the books being cooked and the next thing
you know Enron is melting down faster than an ice cream cone
at the annual Chernobyl Summer Picnic.
Important safety tip boys and girls: oil and honesty don't
As soon as the news broke, Enron stock values disappeared
faster than minority names from the State of Florida's qualified
voter list; Enron exec's started cashing in their stocks and
investing heavily in Cayman Island real estate; employees
of Enron were introduced to what I call the " John Holmes"
treatment, and congress started their own version of Survivor
- Washington with the winners getting voted immunity and the
losers getting 3 to 5 for SEC violations. (The smart money
is on whoever hires Ollie North's old legal team.)
At the center of this storm we now find poor misunderstood
accountants. Well I, for one, am on their side. The fact is
that many accountants do have a hard time answering tough
accounting questions such as,
"How do I deduct the bribing of Bush officials if I paid
them off by hiring relatives or giving them insider stock
"Do I get some sort of discount if I pay you to keep more
than one set of books?"
"If a subpoena (X) leaves at 9 am from Washington DC via
fax and a plane (Y) leaves New York for the Cayman Islands
at 1 pm and flies 600 mph, will my plane cross into international
waters quickly enough to avoid being served?"
"Can accountants be legally compelled to testify?"
The only thing Enron did was shed light on what most insiders
already knew - Auditor is to securities fraud as Catholic
Church is to pedophile.
In an effort to fool investors and the IRS, greed-driven
companies create incredibly complex formulas to break the
rules; much like drug dealers changing a chemical component
so that they are not legally selling "cocaine". Of course,
at some point in time, it's just easier to pay the government
to look the other way. Which in America we euphemistically
call, "soft money campaign contributions".
Most other countries refer to this practice as "corruption".
The sad part about campaign finances is not just that our
lawmakers can be bought - it's that they can be bought so
cheaply. Of course Judas sold out for only 30 pieces of silver.
The lesson here is that honor is cheap if you know where to
look. Who you gonna call?
REG-BUSTERS. That's right, the best bribe for the buck. Conservatives
- the RIGHT party for the RIGHT price. For an amazingly low
down payment, the right-wing moral elite will make the public
believe that those stupid "regulations" are just there to
hurt businesses, mere technicalities that exist as a part
of our vast liberal conspiracy.
However, we on the left think that there are some really
good rules on the books. You know, rules like - for example
- you can't claim that your company is worth, say, 90 billion
dollars, when all you really own is a cocktail napkin with
Dick Cheney's phone number on it.
I mean, sure, that's probably worth several hundred million
depending on where you are in the election cycle, but to say
it's worth 90 billion is just plain wrong.
Call me a radical, but I think that's a pretty decent rule.
So, when the Elephants of Deregulation come crying at your
door telling you that all the little rules are making life
difficult on poor overworked accountants, here's the spin
We on the Left want to help poor beleaguered accountants.
Let's simplify matters:
1. Money you make goes into the bank. That's called a deposit.
2. Money you spend comes out of the bank. That's called a
3. At the end of the month, you add up all the deposits and
subtract all the withdrawals. If you have a positive number
- that is a profit. If you have a negative number - that is
4. Accounts must report what those numbers are without changing
Anything else is called "creative accounting" and is a no-no.
Call me a radical, but I think that might be another pretty
Just A Question
I read in December that the war was over in Afghanistan and
we had won. So why is it that in March I see headlines that
say, "Deadliest fighting yet"? - Just a question.
Bush and Company have mastered the fine art of misdirection
so well that lately they are starting to make David Copperfield
look like a guy who does "pick-a-card-any-card" routines.
Their latest feat of prestidigitation, about to unfold in
front of your eyes, is a masterpiece of the black arts. I
hate to reveal the ending before the show starts, but then,
that's why I get the big bucks.
You know the newest highly publicized Grand Illusion? In
it, the G.A.O. sues Dick Cheney (the man who ran on a platform
of a more open and honest government) because Dick is apparently
hiding his own backroom deals with energy billionaires like
Enron. Well, it's all smoke and mirrors folks. Let me tell
you how it ends.
Cheney will LOSE to the G.A.O. and be forced to turn over
You heard it here first.
Yes, I know Bush got a former Clinton hater and prosecutor
to be the judge in the case. Yes, I know Cheney met with Kenny-Boy
and other energy moguls and they are arguably the worst of
the soft money whores. but Cheney will lose the "good fight"
and be forced to turn over the notes in the end.
Why? Several reasons:
1. Most people think that a G.A.O. victory will give Democrats
a stumping point - but that is the beauty of this misdirection.
Turning over the notes will only show that the Starr Inquisition
was truly "right" when they subpoenaed all the "Hillary-gate"
and other Clinton files.
2. It will also "prove" to the masses that the justice system
is "fair and equal" and not "pro-Republican".
3. It will show that Dick is not above the law. Mostly, though
it will misdirect our attention to a complete non-issue because.
4. THERE IS NOTHING AT ALL IN THOSE FILES THAT WILL HURT
DICK, THE WARTS, OR ANYONE ELSE IN COMPOUND W.
Come on folks, Dick has held those notes for a year now -
one set of notes - by the time we get to look at them they'll
read like a four-line quatrain from a Nostradamus prediction.
Energy leaders breaking bread Environmental concerns shared
and echoed Honest men with hard choices I sipped a diet coke
purchased with my own money and listened quietly
You got a better chance of finding Nixon's 18 minutes of
missing dialog hidden in the elastic lining of Jimmy Hoffa's
last pair of boxer shorts than you have of these notes revealing
any dirt on the Dickster. Dick is holding on to nothing. He
is a master magician directing all the attention he possibly
can to that empty hand.
When it is pried open before a breathless audience - McCavity
will not be there.
I think whoever pushes this into public view is going to
end up looking like Geraldo opening Al Capone's secret vault
on live TV. The nothingness will be unbearable. The more the
left screams that there is something in his clinched fist.
the more we will look like fools and the more Cheney will
look like a man of principle who stood up for his convictions
but obeyed the law after it was "clarified".
"Note-gate" all started before Enron or 9/11. It was just
a power play to see how far the G.A.O. would bend and how
much the Bush boys could get away with. If they lost or were
forced to show their hand, it would reveal nothing and would
be a small ripple in the waters. Now everybody and their dog
is trying to connect the dots from Enron to the big prize
and what was only a dime store novelty gag has taken on the
size and dimensions of a Lance Burton special.
So what can we do?
Democrats should refute Cheney's claims of privacy issues
"These are public officials - meeting with the heads of publicly
held companies to discuss public policy. Republicans wanted
to know all about Clinton's sex life; all we Democrats want
to know is what you are doing with our money."
We need to start distancing ourselves from this being an
Enron bombshell, and start defining what our victory conditions
are. Look, we can always claim to be shocked - SHOCKED - if
the notes reveal anything of substance, but I just don't see
Keep your eyes open and don't look directly at the magicians
lest you become blinded by the glitter and flash paper.
Like a political tag-team version of Seigfried and Roy -
Bush and Cheney are working in tandem. The notes are a non-issue.
While we are watching Dick's hands, the Enron dancers are
doing their number, Battle Hymn of the Republic is blaring
on the speakers, and W. is making bombs appear over small
third world countries - unnoticed in the shadows - personal
freedom is vanishing on the other side of the stage.
It may be sickening to think about - but even Houdini would
have been impressed.
Larry Martin is the founder of "Conservative Republicans Are
Perfect" (C.R.A.P) a religious, right wing think tank. Mr.
Martin's hobbies include racial profiling, trips to the Cayman
Islands to visit friends and making large donations to conservative
causes. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org