June 28, 2002
Our nation is engulfed in flames.
Massive fires in the West have transformed trees and grass
into smoke and dust. The remnants of this terrible alchemy
blot the sun on earth, and illuminate the earth from space.
Helpless, exhausted men watch as a wall of flame burns on
an inexorable course. The untrammeled, all-encompassing force
of nature is completely unleashed, with no apparent end in
This act of God is mirrored in the actions of men. The temples
of wealth, the gilded corporate offices with the fountains
leaping into the air, are in flames. Their scorched earth
is a wake of bewildered investors and discarded employees,
covered in the ashes of their hopes and dreams.
No one was aware that there was a fire in the corporate suites,
because the sprinkler system was turned off, and those paid
to inspect the system had been paid to ignore it. As the fire
spread, a few at the top whispered an alarm to their friends,
who made good and fled. As the fire worsened, a few memos
were exchanged from one suite to another, and politely acknowledged.
When the building was engulfed, the employees hopped a one
way elevator to watch the blaze from the sidewalks, clutching
pictures and mementos barely snatched from the flames.
The chief fire inspector, Mr. Harvey Pitt, explained before
Congress that there were not enough investigators on his staff,
that he needed more resources, and that a new set of accounting
standards should be enacted. Meanwhile, as he fiddled, more
corporations were set ablaze, their CEOs escaping the upper
floors by parachuting instead of jumping.
The citizens, the investors, the pensioners, and the honest,
are astounded at those whose dishonesty and greed have crossed
from the logical to the insane. There seems to be little difference
between a person who sets a match to a forest, and a person
who sets a match to a stack of securities. Both have destroyed
a great, useful and precious thing, from personal and selfish
Comedians joke about burning money, but the securities flames
incinerate real wealth, in fact, the wealth of nations. The
capital markets of the United States are used as a secure
and reliable haven by investors the world over. What is the
implication for the world economy as our markets are reduced
to cinders? The sparks of our catastrophe have spread to other
nations, such that our Black Monday is Black Tuesday in Tokyo,
London, and beyond.
Our president visited the fires in the West, to declare a
disaster area. When will he address the corporate inferno,
and make a similar declaration?
I say that he is incapacitated in this regard, due to complicity,
past and present, in corporate fire setting. His own dumping
of shares on the eve of a disaster is widely known. His own
complicity with the fire setters at Enron is less widely known,
more widely suspected. Finally, that cabal in which his vice-president
is entrenched, the Haliburton Group, is involved in fire setting
where oil is both the tinder and the spark.
The only fire left to set is the one beneath the citizenry.
A new and focused outrage must be directed at those sworn
to represent our interests, and to protect the general welfare.
The charade of grandstanding and bickering which passes for
congressional inquiry must be replaced, with investigation
by the IRS and the Justice Department, with indictments and
open trials. The tax loopholes, which are as narrow as the
eye of a needle for the poor, but as wide as the road to perdition
for the rich, must be addressed immediately. Finally, we must
be citizens worthy of that title. We must watch our government,
hold it accountable, and replace those who fail us all.
I end with the words of Rage Against the Machine:
The world is my expense,
The cost of my desire,
The party blessed me with its future
And I protect it with fire.