Laura Stone (stoney321) wrote,
Laura Stone
stoney321

"Big Love," Mormon Polygamy, and Enron - WAIT! Don't scroll!

You're scrolling aren't you? Not even going to try- Oh. Hey. Good morning! Day 7 of my Avoiding Reality Tour. Watched HBO polygamy satire last night, had to chew on it for a while before I decided that the whole point of the show isn't to normalize polygamy, or garner sympathy for plygs, but to make the Bill Paxton family seem normal, and just as soon as you get caught up in the soap opera element, BAM. Little visit down to Colorado City/Hilldale. Oh, excuse me. "Juniper Creek." (link to last week's discussion about this topic, and where I stand.)

Harry Dean Stanton is playing a caricature of Warren Jeffs' father, Rulon Jeffs. Don't know who he is? He's the guy running the show. Oh, and his son Warren (who is now in charge as Rulon is dead) is on the FBI's most wanted list and currently hiding out in Eldorado, TX with about 50 wives, their kids, and guys with guns. They can't be touched yet because they are just "practicing their religion." That, by the way, is how these people have gotten away with marrying their preteen and 13 year old daughters to old men for property gain, "spiritual gain," etc for over a century. Religion. By the way, Jeffs has his own wikipedia page. (*cough* if you read that link, did you catch how the women are "invited" into heaven by their righteous husbands?)

I was glad to hear Paxton (who I can just NOT get behind seeing naked all the time. Argh! It's Bill "game over, man!" Paxton!) tell his dad he hated him for running him off at 14. Yep. All boys - with the exception of possibly the Prophet's boys - are run out of town. Don't need the competition. Or they're killed if they get too vocal about things. There's a quiet little problem in Utah with gay male prostitution. Guess where these boys come from? And the sad thing is, so many of them have been so deeply indoctrinated in all the religious hullabaloo, they'd go back in a heartbeat.

Another little detail that was meaningless to most people, I suspect, but was my first clue as to what the writers were REALLY going for, was the "prophet's" son doing the books. The header? United Eternal Brotherhood - UEB, a bastardization of UEP, which is the financial system for the plygs. And which owns EVERYTHING. Every house, every business, every blade of grass that any polygamist member lives on. And if you don't tow the line? Meaning, question how things are done, fight an arrangement be it marriage or business, well, the bank just revokes your "ownership." And you are out. As in, step over the town line and it'll be the last thing you do. They are violent people, and I was glad to see them hint at this on the show.

In other words, I'm still watching. Still trying to make sure they aren't glamorizing or normalizing this lifestyle, because it is NOT the same thing as a group of adults living in California or Canada or New York who are going to make group living a go. This is a Higher Calling from God, and even Bill Paxton's character on the show is In Charge. Anyone else noticing that? Okay.

*************



ENRON

Watched a FANTASTIC documentary on the Enron scandal - calling that a scandal is like calling Katrina "some pretty bad wind." ENRON: The Smartest Guys In The Room was the film, and should be required viewing for the bare minimum of every citizen of Texas and California. Oh holy hell I want to throttle these guys. Have you been avoiding learning about this because of the crazy numbers and finance is boring? THAT IS WHY THEY GOT AWAY WITH SO MUCH.

I'll sum it up like this: Ken Lay, who incidentally is a Close Personal Friend of the Bushes - documented, started up an energy company in the 80s. In Houston. Oil brokerage. So, they own the pipelines, the barrels, and they sell it, right? Right. Ken Lay, with the help of his close political buddies, gets deregulation on energy snowballing. In a nutshell, the government isn't watching prices any more.

How this affects YOU. Remember the crazy gas spikes after Katrina? How about after Sept. 11? If gas was regulated, the prices per barrel would have been frozen. Gas would have been the same price. Can anyone tell me what business (albeit an unsuccessful businessman) George W was in prior to robbing the presidency? Yeah. OIL. So Ken Lay has a real taste for money and prestige. Enron is a mover and a shaker on Wall Street. He hires a guy named Jeff Skilling who is going to bring a new type of accounting to Enron. AHEM. Oh, holy shit I hate this man. Skilling brings to the company something called Mark to Market. Lemme 'splain in simple terms.

I have a diamond in my hand. I bought it for 1000 dollars. Now, I know that Jimmy and his diamond are stuck in traffic. And Peter and his diamond are stranded without a running car. But Mary is here and desperate, so she'll by my diamond for TWO thousand. Now, we haven't made the deal yet, I just know this. I also know that I sabotaged Peter's car, and gave Jimmy bad directions to strand him, but WHATEVER, PEOPLE. This is CAPITALISM. So. I know Mary is going to buy for 2000. What I really want, is for my dad the banker to give me 30,000. But I need 2000 in collateral to get it. So I call him and say I will have 2000 in the future, go ahead and give me the 30,000. And he does. And all of his banker friends do, as well.

So Enron claimed to have sold all of these diamonds, you see. But were just getting checks hand over fist from banks. And some of the executives were funneling that money into... gambling. And trips. And homes. And who knows what else. So Skilling and Fatow (the CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER, for god's sake) made up all of these bogus companies and bogus business deals to make it look to the world like Enron is kicking ass! Look at all of these business deals coming down the pike! We, as in Citibank and Deutsche Bank and Merril Lynch - who have people on the indictment, I thank you - should give HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS to them to keep making MORE money! And they did. And Enron execs used THAT money to patch up the holes in their books and faked numbers and shuffled debt around.

So, while it looked like Enron was a 90 BILLION dollar company, they were 30 BILLION dollars IN DEBT. Read that again. And the thing is? Those bankers KNEW this. They KNEW. Which is why a few of them are going to jail. And Arthur Anderson? One of the most respected American businesses for accounting? Gone in a month. Because a few of its execs were in cahoots. All of THOSE people without jobs.

Which leads us to California. And why every citizen of that state should want to punch Ken Lay and co. in the balls. ENRON is why you had rolling blackouts, as I'm sure you all know. They had better lawyers than you. They had guys that did nothing but pour over your lousy deregulation laws (guess who helped push those through? Yep - Dubya.) and find loopholes so they could buy up your energy plants. And here's the thing: California produces enough electricity to power itself and two other states, besides. There was NO REASON for Cal. to be without power. Except that when the energy traders (the deregulation of electricity meant that killowatts - what powers your lightbulb, or the unit of measure for your lightbulb) could be bought and sold like pork bellies. Like orange juice. But it SHOULDN'T and I tell you why: peoples lives do not depend on orange juice. But someone on a respirator damn sure depends on energy. Thanks, Reagan and Bushes!

So the energy traders would see that prices were normalizing (this is all a part of day trading, a part of my former career I am GLAD to see gone - holy fucking STRESS) and would call the energy plants and tell them to SHUT DOWN. Now, the price of a killowatt goes from 15 dollars to ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS. Because people need their damn fridges to work, obviously. Their computers. Their MEDICAL EQUIPMENT. And the best thing is, all of these traders phone conversations were recorded. Laughing about Grandma Millie having to use candles. Praising the grass fires engulfing land and forcing people to need their A/Cs. Mother fuckers. Unconscionable mother fuckers.

And who is the brain child in all of this? Lay. Fastow. Skilling. The CEOs. The CFOs. The COOs. The Vice-Presidents making their balance sheets. The executives who quietly cashed HUNDREDS of MILLIONS of dollars in stock and "retired" like Lou Pei, now the largest landowner in Colorado. And while they are cashing their stock in, because they KNOW they have a house of cards and the table is riddled with holes, they are placating the poor admins, the day to day workers who just have a job, and telling them to keep buying stock. Keep investing - put in the MAX! - in your 401K. We are Strong. We are Mighty.

And it all collapsed. And folks who had busted their asses at a thankless desk job, shit, even the goddamned JANITORS, thinking they were going to have a great retirement because they were lucky to scrub the toilet of Kenneth Lay! They got nothing. They got a check for 4500 dollars and a police escort. Don't come back. You have thirty minutes to grab your stuff. Pensions that should have been worth $250,000 were only 12 dollars. 12 dollars.

And why? How is that possible? Can't they sue Lay and Skilling and Barker - oh, whoops! He committed suicide. Blew his brains out in his Mercedes. No, that doesn't stink of duplicity or involvement. These guys - most likely popping antacids every five minutes - believed their OWN shit. Believed they had 90 BILLION dollars. The Feds froze their assets, and that money is being used to give those 4500 checks to the employees. Because THAT IS ALL THAT IS LEFT. They blew it. They didn't have much to begin with and what they had, they blew it on material goods. Expensive trips. Cars. Dinners. A billion dollars sunk into India for a power plant when the Indians couldn't afford to BUY the power, so... It was built and abandoned. Same thing in South America. And a lot was all tied up in stock with the execs, and what they couldn't cash out, is worthless. $115 at its height, pennies at its fall.

Andy Fastow, the CFO, has already been convicted and will serve 10 years in a Fed. Prison for testifying against the others. The whistle blower? A mid-level VP (those of you in big companies know there's such a thing) WOMAN who came across some numbers that didn't add up. Good for her. Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling are on trial right now in the good state of Texas. They made the mistake of shitting where they eat, and we won't let them forget it. EVERYONE here has either a relative, friend or worked themselves for Enron at some point. The company was ginormous. Huge campuses in Houston, with satellite offices all over the state. Texans don't truck with getting fucked over. Even the Neo-Cons here are out for blood, (cough - except DeLay because he's an idiot-cough) because to stand against the tidal wave of rage is suicide.

My only hope is that the Bush family is implicated further in this scandal. They profited so much from the early oil days and shady dealings of Enron. Still do! And W REFUSED to get involved in California's rolling blackouts and raping of their energy (Bush is president at this time, in case you don't remember) because "it's not a government issue." Beg to differ, asshole, but the DEREGULATION was done BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.

Can only stress again: either read the book (written by a female reporter from one of the business magazines that started to question Skilling's business practices and got blackballed as a result), or watch the doc. It's Farenheit 9/11 level informative. Absolutely fascinating. Don't let the number terminology scare you off. That's why people like these jackasses are able to get away with it: middle America doesn't take the time to figure out what's going on. We've become lazy and complacent and they'll do it again. The crazy thing is, the numbers-issues AREN'T complicated, which is why it's astounding to me that they got away with it for so long.

How long would YOUR bank or landlord let you get away without paying the bills?

But seriously, I'm not angry today, so don't reply with "breathe" or anything like that. I will look at you askance. Heh. Now I wait for the fog to lift so I can go exercise...

[ETA]: Oooh! poshcat sent me an ecard that made me laugh! YES! I WILL HAVE A HAPPY SUNNY DAY. (I seriously love the animation, Posh. Keeeyoot.)
Tags: big love, enron, mormons, polygamy
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