Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Cheney as Businessman

Darth Veep
William Greider of The Nation magazine has a bit on Dick Cheney's time in “the real world” of business. For 5 years, he was CEO of Halliburton, before picking himself to rule the world.
When he left Halliburton in 2000 to become George W. Bush's running mate, the Republican ticket was touted as two tough-minded business executives running against wimpish politicians. "The American people should be pleased they have a vice presidential nominee who has been successful in business," Karen Hughes, Bush's then-communications director, enthused.
We remember. But…
A rather different story is told by a class-action investor lawsuit against Halliburton, recently revived after languishing for four years. It describes Cheney as not much different from other corporate titans ensnared by accusations of fraud. Brushing aside facts and subordinates' warnings, CEO Cheney made a series of daring but wrong decisions that were disastrous for the company. The managerial incompetence was compounded by fraudulent accounting gimmicks that concealed the company's true condition. Cheney, however, relentlessly issued bullish assurances, hiding the losses and pumping up the stock price.

Eventually, the truth caught up with the company —its stock tanked— but Cheney was already off to Washington, $40 million richer and running the country. He sold his shares at the top. HAL, the Halliburton stock symbol, began falling a few months after his resignation, from $53 to an eventual low of $8. By then Bush/Cheney were rolling out another bold venture — the invasion of Iraq.

A pity voters didn't know this side of the story back in 2000. Cheney's performance as CEO predicted his subsequent behavior as Veep: the willful ignorance and bullying manipulation of policy, the arrogance that led the country into deep trouble.
Unmitigated assholes. Those who voted for them have a lot to answer for.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Michael York, part deux

In my earlier post about actor Michael York, I said I'd just bought his memoir of making the fundamentalist Christian apocalytptic Omega Code movies. I wondered why he participated in them.

This was a failure of imagination on my part. I can't imagine helping the Crouch family, founders of Trinity Broadcasting Network, spew their hateful, bigotted, dysfunctional, antidemocratic, authoritarian mythologizing. But I'm not an actor.

Dispatches from Armageddon York did it, according to the book, because that's what he does for a living: act in movies. The movies come from all kinds of sources, and you never really know what's going to be great or terrible. York's been in more dogs than gems, and it sounds like the pay is the same either way.

York was probably attractive to the Trinity people because he's pretty straight: married 25 years (then) to the same woman and no drug or other classic Hollywood scandals to his name. He never hints in the book whether he himself has faith in Jesus Christ, though he had little in George W Bush. York simply comes across as quite a nice fellow. (Of course, this is from his point of view, but still.) And he's not a bad writer at all.

York shows us, probably inadvertently, little hypocrisies on the part of the religious extremists making the movie. I doubt he realized the significance of their gaudy wealth, religious media profiteering, or alcohol cultivation and consumption. These are small solaces, but I am being mean.

Despite his Oxford education, showy literacy, worldwide experience, and obvious intelligence, it would be churlish to expect York to consider the adverse social, political, and cultural consequences his collaboration with these angels of light would have. He's an actor, after all.

Friday, June 16, 2006


Several years ago I wanted to start a web site documenting the many pseudointellectuals who pronounce the plural of process as “prah-sess-eez”.

Terry Gross is one, by the way. So is the intolerable Ira Flatow of NPR's Science Friday, who did so just now. Actually, NPR is rife with Seezers, as they may be called.

The confusion in their conventional wisdom-besotted minds stems from contact with words like parenthesis and basis, which are in fact pronounced in the plural with the unusual “-eez” ending. But note that you don't tack the suffix onto the original word: you drop the original -is ending and substitute another — in LATIN.

In process, we make the plural by adding the English plural suffix to the unmolested base word, resulting in processes, like blesses or confesses and similarly pronounced.

If this abomination unto the Lord is committed in my presence, I cannot be held responsible for my actions.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Terry, Mary; they're contrary

Terry Gross (of NPR's Fresh Air) is no good at politcal interviews. Some malcontents have questioned whether she's good at any interviews, but I don't agree. Her political naivete leaves her pretty much incapable of asking anything worthwhile, asking questions everyone knows the guest's answers to and letting slide multiple opportunities for revelatory questions. Her movie stars and jazz musicians would not be able similarly to get away with all of their snow-job answers intact.

It's pretty obvious that she's unread in politics and has little interest in it. Yet she has everyday liberal assumptions that end up leading a charge against right-wing guests. It's absolutely painful to hear.

With a conservative politico, Gross's questions are like a frigid mother forcing herself to talk about sex with her twelve-year-old child. Awkward and embarrassed and full of disagreement, yet straining not to give offense, Gross's halting questions nevertheless always go straight to some hot-button opinion that she can't understand why her guests hold. No carressing of the guest, no establishment of rapport. Just the clumsy and ignorant, "Why did you feel that way?"

Today's interview with Mary Cheney was less strained that that with her mother Lynne Cheney, who left Gross impaled somewhere back in 1973. Both interviews were utterly agonizing and unenlightening.

Gross should bring in Dave Davies for these, as she does with sports figures.

[No links; no photos. Christ I hate blogging.]

Saturday, June 03, 2006


DC Comics new “52” magazine will feature the return of Batwoman — as a lipstick lesbian.

That's great.

Remember Rage and JT?

But as Peter Sagal (of NPR's Wait Wait Don't Tell Me) pointed out, it would be a far more radical innovation to have an ugly, overweight superhero.

And anyway, DC sued a Chelsea art gallery last year for making Batman and Robin's relationship explicit in trademark-infringing watercolor.