The Moment of Truth — January 26, 2002

For the Man Who Has Everything, Such a Deal

Hi, I’m mejeffdorchen, and welcome to the Moment of Truth, the not-for-profit prophet.

Did I not prophetically mention Edwin Arlington Robinson’s poem about the suicidal rich guy, Richard Corey, not just two weeks ago in We Have Always Depended on the Unkindness of Stranglers?

By all accounts, J.Clifford Baxter was a confident, happy-go-lucky fellow in his early forties. He was a man who had everything: a house, a wife and family, a Mercedes-Benz, a .38 caliber pistol, and a full head of hair. He even had a lot of money he hadn’t lost in the Enron collapse, thanks to inside knowledge he’d gained as a big executive at the energy broker. He had resigned from Enron late last spring having expressed unease with certain of Enron’s dealings, and that distinction recently earned him a subpoena to appear before a Senate committee investigating what is shaping up to be the most spectacular capitalist fiasco since 1929.

Wait, did I say he had everything? One thing Baxter didn’t have was a bodyguard. According to the New York Times, in a telephone conversation with a “former business associate” who had called in part to congratulate him for being named as one who had complained about Enron’s financial practices, Baxter had wept, and worried aloud that he might need to hire a bodyguard. “Everyone in the executive suite at Enron knew of his complaints,” the unnamed associate later recalled.

All the executives knew of his complaints, including, of course, the friends and supporters of Dick Cheney and George W. He’d been subpoenaed to appear before a Senate investigative committee to testify against those executives with friends in high places, and a House committee also had its eyes on him.

Why would he think he might need a bodyguard? You might say he needed a bodyguard like he needed a hole in his head. But that would be very insensitive of you, because he indeed DID get a hole in his head, a .38 caliber hole. The cops in Candyland or Sugarwater or wherever the hell he lived say it was suicide, but a judge has ordered an autopsy. Just cuz sometimes little paranoid suspicions turn out to be true. Ask Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman in All the President’s Men.

Or ask me! I’ll defend off-the-wall conspiracy theories. Here’s one: the military under Donald Bumstead and Admiral Stubblebottom purposely leaked those pictures of the — well, I’ll call them POWs for now — shackled to fences and kept in outdoor pens at Guatanamo. I mean, come on, who took those pictures, anyway? They sure are clear and beautiful. I’m sorry, I’m a little hard of hearing. Did you say that a press photographer, one of those guys that could barely get access to actions undertaken in a wide open desert war zone, one of those types whom Reagan kept from documenting his overthrow of the democratically elected Grenadan government, one of these guys somehow got access against the wishes of the Pentagon to a prison in a US military base in frickin’ Cuba? Okay, I just wanted to make sure that’s what you said.

Now why would they leak these pictures? Why would they want to invite complaints about violating the Geneva Conventions? Well, answer me this: why, before this, did the Bush administration start antagonizing Russia over the ABM treaty, or refuse to sign the Kyoto Treaty, or refuse to participate in that international racism conference in South Africa? Why didn’t they quickly get an official nod from the UN Security Council before bombing Afghanistan, a nod they would have gotten, beyond a shadow of a doubt? Why do they insist on inventing a new definition for their war captives in Guatanamo, instead of violating the Geneva Convention the old-fashioned way, behind closed doors?

I believe it’s to drive home the principle that the US is a special geopolitical entity, self-entitled to enforce, comply with or defy any international law it chooses, and to ignore or make a fuss about the violations of others as it sees fit. Now, I had a discussion with a friend of mine, a much more sober fellow than I — far too sober, in my opinion. Immoderately moderate in his distrust of the powers that am. He seems to require an overabundance of proof before accusing corporations and their client democracies of things like murder and idiotically evil manipulations of the mass media, and that’s probably a good way to be, at least in a local sense. I mean, he’d be reluctant to join a lynch mob, and how can that be bad?

I will say, though, that he’s the one who pointed out how weird it was that those pictures of the POWs in Guantanamo were so stunningly clear and ubiquitous in the first place.

But I’ve noticed that, as my friends age and mature and mellow in their world views, I remain young and vibrant and ready to believe that George W. snorted a couple grams and went down to Sugarpill, Texas personally to silence J. Clifford Baxter with his own .38.

J. Baxter got rained on with his own .38.

Or let’s say this: I wouldn’t be surprised if Bush did, and it sure would break up the monotony. I mean, do we really need another suicide in the wings of another presidential scandal? Oh, wait, it’s not quite presidential yet, is it?

Weird that a Lebanese Christian Militia leader who was ready to give testimony in a Belgian court about the massacre of Palestinian refugees in the early eighties, testimony that likely would have answered some of the questions Israeli leader Ariel Sharon refuses to answer in the very same court — weird that this witness in a scandal connected to one world leader gets blown up just a day or so before another witness in another scandal connected to another world leader gets a hole in his head.

Clearly whatever covert assassination company got the contract to do Sharon’s hit was having a two-for-one sale, and Sharon, being a Jew, and justly proud of getting such a service at 50% below retail, simply had to call up George W and share the great bargain with him.

Look, I’m not asking you to believe that someone would kill himself and several thousand civilians because he believed God would give him a hundred virgins to screw in Heaven. I’m just saying it’s possible that a few crooks, crooks whose consciences don’t seem to hinder their actions much, might specifically target one or two individuals in order to stay out of jail.

I’m not saying it’s a smart or logical strategy, by your or my standards. Crooks live in a whole different epistemological gestalt from you and me. But you gotta try to think like a crook sometimes, if you wanna understand current events. And the bigger the crook, the nuttier the thinking.

Or maybe I should put it this way: “The rich ARE different.”

That’s the watchword for this week from mejeffdorchen and the Moment of Truth.