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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of September 24 - 30, 2003

Opinion Column

More status, less shame

Commentary by Pat Murphy

The secret to Richard Grasso’s rise from clerk to New York Stock Exchange chairman wasn’t his backslapping collegiality.

No, Grasso earned his notorious accumulated $139.5 million compensation largely by appointing accommodating directors to reward him handsomely without questions and keeping his mouth shut while Wall Street heavy hitters engaged in the largest wave of fraud in U.S. financial history.

Grasso never uttered a peep to expose corporate biggies cooking company books and plundering hundreds of millions of dollars from shareholders and employees. Why rock the boat and lose out?

Indeed. It wasn’t Grasso’s NYSE but another regulator, the National Association of Securities Dealers, that sued Invemed Associates for overcharging customers on stock. Not coincidentally, Grasso crony and NYSE director Kenneth Langone, who sat on the compensation committee doling out Grasso’s kingly pay, ran Invemed.

For more uppercrust shamelessness, consider Dennis Kozlowski, indicted for siphoning $600 million out of Tyco. A videotape of Kozlowski’s $2 million birthday party on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia for his second wife (at company expense) included footage of an ice sculpture spewing vodka from its penis plus a cake shaped as a woman's breasts.

Then there’s "Kenny Boy" Lay, the Enron CEO and President Bush’s personal fund-raising chum, who dumped $100 million of his shares while telling employees to buy even as Enron headed for self-destruction.

Shamelessness comes in other forms—such as President Bush’s nomination of Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt as Environmental Protection Agency chief.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that $1 of every $10 collected by Leavitt in campaign funds over the years came from industries he would regulate at EPA. The Tribune also reported, "Utah is home to the nation's worst toxic polluter, Kennecott Utah Copper, as well as the former holder of that title, U.S. Magnesium. Its most populous county, Salt Lake, has the dubious distinction of being the nation's worst for toxic pollution, according to the EPA."

Rather than being offended by Leavitt’s dreary anti-environmental record, Bush persists, presumably to make sure EPA continues with a polluter-friendly captain at the helm.

Bank on this: if the EPA faces a onetime polluter donor out of Leavitt’s past, presidential Deceiver-in-Chief Karl Rove will concoct a twisted reason for winking at pollution and describe it as progress.

Finally, there’s the astonishing perfidy of David Neeleman, founder of the enormously successful bargain airline, JetBlue. Utterly numb to ethics, Neeleman shared private information involving a million of JetBlue’s passengers with a Pentagon consultant, which compared JetBlue records with passengers' Social Security numbers, occupations and family background to uncover potential terrorists—violating JetBlue’s own privacy policy.

Caught, Neeleman apologizes for betraying customer trust, pleading a blinding case of post-9/11 patriotic fervor and an "exceptional request from the Department of Defense."

What 12th century Saint Bernard of Clairvaux said is as true today: "Hell is full of good intentions or desires."

Better yet, 18th century author Samuel Johnson said: "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."




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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.