A wonderful 4th of July week of fun and relaxation at Edisto Beach, South Carolina with three generations of my family is over till next year but will be remembered with photos and videos of frolicking toddlers, seascapes and sunsets, and big fish that did not get away. This week we are greeted back into the "real world" with growing evidence that the biggest fish in politics may not get away in the mushrooming corporate governance scandals that are causing stocks to plummet.
President Bush traveled to Wall Street on Tuesday to talk tough about corporate executives' wrongdoing, but his remarks carried captions in the papers like, "Hard Talk, Softer Plans" and "More Bark Than Bite". Bush's words ring increasingly hollow as more facts emerge indicating he and Vice-President Cheney are "rogue models" for corrupt corporate governance because they used the same corporate accounting tricks that have recently rocked U.S. equity markets to unjustly enrich themselves as former top officials of Harken Energy and the Halliburton Co.
"A fish rots at the head" is a Chinese proverb that applies to the President
and Vice-President on the issue of corrupt corporate governance. Before
discussing Bush's corporate ethics of, "do as I say, not as I do", let me tell you more about real "family values" and our week at Edisto.
Besides enjoying playing on the beach with grandchildren, grandnieces and grandnephews, nieces and nephews, brothers, sisters-in-law, and my wife last week , we had a great time crabbing, fishing and reminiscing about our lives together and apart as families do. We seem to be making an effort at our week-at-the-beach to reconcile the inevitable differences and misunderstandings that arise in families because of things both large and small, like politics, religion and unintended insults.
Our Turnipseed family has a not-too-slight tendency to be emotionally sensitive. We took time at the beach, once again, to discuss and take consolation in the fact that our grandfather, who was known as "Big Daddy" to his family in rural Alabama, married his double-first cousin Mary, our
paternal grandmother. "Big Daddy" and his generation of Turnipseeds
already had a reputation for "wearing their feelings on their sleeves" as they say down South, so the marriage of "Big Daddy" to Mary further concentrated those sensitive genes. It is an interesting genetic excuse to exhibit our emotions more than we should.
We also watched some television, read the local papers and books at Edisto. Our two and a half year old granddaughter, Madeline and I particularly enjoyed watching Dorothy and Toto from Kansas, who were off to see the
Wizard, in the "Wizard of Oz". Madeline and I delighted in joining in with
Judy Garland in singing one of my all-time favorites, "Somewhere Over The Rainbow".
We read about the death of the great American pop singer, Rosemary Clooney, who was a big hit when I was a high school student in the early fifties. Her "Come-on-a-My-House" and renditions of "Tenderly" and "Hey There" were sung with an assuredness, empathy, and a warmth that was remarkable.
Then the "Splendid Splinter" Ted Williams, the greatest hitter and the greatest Red Sox ever, passed away at the age of 83. With a fabulous career interrupted twice by military service, Williams was a no-nonsense guy who was plainspoken with fans and sportswriters. In a bizarre family dispute, his son and daughter are now fighting over whether William's body should be frozen to preserve his DNA to create some more great left-handed hitters as his son prefers, or cremated as his daughter says is stipulated in Ted's will.
The other Williams in the news were the Williams sisters. They are the most powerful players in the history of women's tennis and "little sister" Serena defeated her older sister Venus in Wimbledon's championship match taking over the number one women's ranking. As with U.S. dominance in women's soccer, it is catch up time for the U.S. men in tennis.
U.S. dominance of the world's equity markets is also in jeopardy with the "Big Fish" in the White House and his Vice-President caught up in personal peccadilloes of a serious nature when they were corporate officials. Then they raised record amounts of corporate money to be elected to our nation's highest offices. Bush and Cheney's wheeling and dealing to get much richer as bigwigs at Harken Energy Corp. and Halliburton Co. makes their criticism of corrupt executives hypocritical.
Television ads are being run by a group in New York and Washington that say that Bush was an official at Harken Energy in Houston that used "Enron-styled accounting to hide losses" and that Cheney was chief executive of Halliburton in Dallas that engaged in more "Enron-styled accounting".
Bush, our first President to hold an MBA degree, was asked at a White House media briefing on Monday about details of his "cashing out" about $1,000,000 of Harken stock as a member of its audit committee in 1990. Bush referred to the "complicated transaction" and explained to reporters, "in the corporate world, sometimes things aren't exactly black and white when it comes to accounting practices...".
Judicial Watch, a conservative group, announced it was filing a shareholders' action against Cheney and Halliburton. Larry Klayman, their general counsel, said, "We're seeking actual and punitive damages for...securities fraud, for changing accounting practices and not advising the public of these changes." He added, "We're looking to hold Vice President Cheney and others accountable."
Republican Senator John McCain joined other Congressional leaders in calling for passage of legislation to force accounting firms to either do auditing or consulting, but not both, for the same corporation. McCain also demanded the resignation of Harvey Pitt as head of the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Nixing such needed reforms, "Big Fish" Bush blustered about restoring "corporate responsibility" to his corporate patrons on Wall Street.
As folks would say at Edisto, "Big Fish" Bush may be too rotten to clean.
Tom Turnipseed is an attorney, writer and civil rights activist in Columbia,
South Carolina. www.turnipseed.net