John Wayne is the Duke. Elvis is the King.

John Wayne's Holster: September 2006
John Wayne's Holster
Visit my main blog at Monkey Wrench Revival. Visit my birdwatching blog at The Birding Nerd.

Friday, September 15, 2006

What's Lurking Behind Armitage's Lame Admission?


No, that's not Lex Luther. It's Dick Armitage



Bob Novak is angry! Well, actually, Bob Novak is always angry, but this time he seems to have a legitimate reason.

Recently, former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage admitted that he was the source who revealed the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame to Novak in 2003.

I am sure most readers with a pulse are familiar with the Plame case, so I will not go into detail on the subject here.

Following the publication of Novak’s article (July 14, 2003), a federal investigation was launched to see who was responsible to exposing Plame’s identify as a CIA agent to the public. The left was pointing their fingers at high profile targets in the Bush administration in an attempt to out the culprit. In the process, many have had their reputation raked over the coals, in particular, Presidential advisor Karl Rove.

One has to wonder why Armitage did not step forward sooner and fess up. After all, he claims that the revelation was inadvertent. And if Plame was not in fact a covert agent, the "accidental" revelation would most likely not have risen to the level of a punishable offense.

So why the silence? According to Armitage, Fitzgerald "asked me not to discuss [it], and I honored his request."

Wait a minute! Something sounds fishy here.

Several months elapsed between Novak's article and Fitzgerald's request of silence. Armitage could have pulled the rug out from under the whole investigation before it even got started if he had just stepped forward then. I wonder who kept him back? Fitzgerald is probably wondering too.

According to most accounts, Fitzgerald knew from almost the very beginning that Armitage was the source of the leak. Yet, he allowed Karl Rove, Dick Cheney and Scooter Libbey, and others, to be flogged in the court of public opinion.

Why?

To the casual views, it appears as if Fitzgerald was not actually conducting a bona fide investigation, but rather, was setting up a perjury trap – hoping to snare someone from the Bush administration. Maybe even the President himself. At least, that is what Ann Coulter would have you believe. Well, maybe she is right - at least partially.

While I can not rule out the perjury trap idea, it seems to me that there is something more to this. While not driectly saying so, Novak's recent venting in his syndicated columns (1, 2) seems to suggest that there is. Novak claims that Armitage is being misleading when he states that disclosure of Plame's identity was inadvertent.

Novak states:
First, Armitage did not, as he now indicates, merely pass on something he had heard and that he ‘‘thought’’ might be so. Rather, he identified to me the CIA division where Mrs. Wilson worked, and said flatly that she recommended the mission to Niger by her husband, former Amb. Joseph Wilson.

Second, Armitage did not slip me this information as idle chitchat, as he now suggests. He made clear he considered it especially suited for my column.

Novak continues:
Armitage’s silence the next 2 years caused intense pain for his colleagues in government and enabled partisan Democrats in Congress to falsely accuse Rove of being my primary source. When Armitage now says he was mute because of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s request, that does not explain his silence three months between his claimed first realization that he was the source and Fitzgerald’s appointment on Dec. 30. Armitage’s tardy self-disclosure is tainted because it is deceptive.

When one takes all these facts into consideration, it seems that there is indeed something more to this whole investigation, other than being a perjury trap. It seems that Armitage was put up to the task of leaking the information to Novak.

The question that remains is obvious. And it is probably what Fitzgerald was after. And that question is this:

Who put Armitage up to this?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Corporate Executives Are Pillaging Their Companies


Cartoon by Cagle



CEOs and other corporate executives are taking their companies to the cleaners and ripping off share-holders!

The median base salary of CEOs in the US is about $650,000.00. And that figure doesn’t include all the bonuses and perks.

If you throw in the annual bonus, the median salary increases to almost $950.000.00.

Tack on the benefits, and you are looking at a figure over $1.1M!

And that is the median! The top 20% of CEOs get $1.5 to $2.0 million or more!

The other executives (CFO, COO, etc) are making similar salaries.

And in many cases, their companies are loosing money while the executive parking lot is lined with BMWs and Mercedes-Benz’s.

Now if that enough…. These figures do not even include their stock options! That is where the execs stand to make a killing! According to a 2004 Congressional Study, the average executive compensation (salary, bonuses, benefits, stock options, and other perks) was $9.6 million. All of this comes at the expense of the little people – the stock holders and employees.

And in taking profits on stock options – the execs in many companies cheat!

Many companies offer stock options to their executives. But what many people do not realize is that the corporate executives are cheating the system to essentially steal money from their companies – and thus from the stock holders and employees. People like you and me!

How do they do it? Stock options essentially allow the holder to buy shares in a company at a fixed price. In order to lock-in their profits, the date at which the options are awarded to the executives (but not the regular employees) can be back-dated to precede a rally in the stock price, thus guaranteeing the holder of profits.

It is like that scene from Back to the Future when Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) brings a sports almanac from the 80s back to the 50s. Biff Henderson (his nemesis) steals the almanac with the goal of betting on games which he knows the outcome in advance.

Most people call that stealing! But in the corporate world, it is just the way that the corporate top dogs conduct business.

Back-dating is not the only problem! The corporate execs also engage in practices colloquially known as “spring-loading” and “bullet-dodging”, two nuances on the back-dating scheme. With these shady practices, the grant dates of stock options are set to precede corporate announcements of good news, or to follow announcements of bad news. In both cases, it is done in anticipation of a rally in the share price. Again, the executives are locking in their profits, i.e., stealing.

I don’t know about you, but to me these crooked practices smack of insider trading.

But there is potentially some good news on the horizon. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, has scheduled a hearing on these abuses in executive compensation. Hopefully, something can be done to right this injustice. The hearing will air live on C-SPAN.

I will keep you posted on developments.