"Recycled . . . Stuff"


In the long run, there’s no capitalism without conscience; there is no wealth without character.

George W. Bush, July 9, 2002

The first rule of American journalism is this: Nothing really happens until it happens in The New York Times. Jump up and down all you want, shout “Remember Harken Energy!” from Midland to Houston, from El Paso to Brownsville, but nothing packs quite the punch of a series of punchy Paul Krugman col-umns chastizing the First Book Cooker. Especially when they’re delivered on the eve of An Important Speech to Wall Street About Capitalism, Conscience, and Character.

“Given this history” Krugman wrote in the Times, referring to the short, happy history of George W. Bush and Harken Energy, “and an equally interesting history involving Dick Cheney’s tenure as C.E.O. of Halliburton, you could say that this administration is uniquely well qualified to chase after corporate evildoers. After all, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney have firsthand experience of the subject.”

We can quickly summarize Mr. Bush’s Important Wall Street Speech as follows: 1) It’s not a good idea to cook the books; 2) It’s not a good idea to lend enormous sums of money (an amount that might feed, clothe, and educate entire populations of what used to be known as “Developing Countries” and are now known as “Emerging Markets”) to your own executives; and 3) Let’s organize a task force. As to the President’s own history, our favorite sound bite comes from an all-too-rare White House press conference. The rules of accounting were “not always black and white,” the First MBA told us.

When pressed about that Harken stuff and that little SEC reporting delay that occurred twelve years ago, when his father was in the White House, the President said, “Recycled … .” And then he paused a bit. And searched–no, groped–for an appropriate euphemism. Finally, he came up with one: “Stuff.”

“Recycled stuff” is indeed a sorry euphemism for a sorry history. As Krugman also briefly mentioned in a recent column, the really fun stuff began after Bush cleaned up with Harken stock and invested the proceeds in the Texas Rangers. We know all about that story. In fact, we published it. “Stealing Home,” by Austin writer Robert Bryce appeared in the Observer on May 9, 1997. If you missed Bryce’s superb article on how the man who made a political career of preaching “free enterprise and less government” built his Arlington Ballpark on corporate welfare and eminent domain, look for it in your public library. Read it and weep. And then get good and mad about the “recycled stuff” that has been the history of this state and this nation for too long. –BB

P.S. The Observer has a whole archive of “recycled stuff” that needs to be posted to our website. We are also the owners of www.bushfiles.com, which, as several of our loyal readers have pointed out, is badly in need of updating. As a perpetually under-funded non-profit we’re struggling to find the time and resources to make all this great stuff available online. If this sounds like a pitch for funding, it is. You can help with your contributions, leads on technology grant funding, gift subscriptions to friends, and just by spreading the word. We always count on you and you always come through. Now help us reach beyond the choir.