The Common Good

Enron and the bottom line

Sojomail - March 6, 2002



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 Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k
     *Bring your soul out of hiding

 B a t t e r i e s   N o t   I n c l u d e d
     *Enron execs should receive their just due

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *"An angel of light in every nook...."

 F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
     *Ed Spivey reports...Dateline: Washington, D.C.

 B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
     *Survey results: Religion by the ages

 B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
     *Report from the World Social Forum

 C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *Dragonfly: Interview with Kevin Costner

 P o l i t i c a l l y   C o n n e c t
     *Congressman's "prayer for America": Don't give freedoms away

 T e c h   E t h i x
     *What would Jesus surf?

 S o j o C i r c l e s
     *A meeting of faiths

 B o o m e r a n g
     *SojoMail readers hit reply


Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k

Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.

                      - Zora Neale Hurston


B a t t e r i e s   N o t   I n c l u d e d
Enron execs should receive their just due

by David Batstone

As losses started piling up at Enron, company executives
set up off-balance-sheet financing vehicles to hide the
evidence. In essence, new companies were formed that
took on Enron debt, leaving Enron's credit ratings
healthy so that it could obtain the cash and credit
crucial to running its commodities business. Enron
executives were generously compensated for the additional
load of running these spin-off business units, of course.
Often we have heard it said that desperation fuels
creativity. Desperately locked into a lowly seven-digit
compensation package, Enron execs rewarded themselves a
parallel seven-digit package for the same day's work.
Bravo to "Business 2.0" magazine for recognizing this
entrepreneurial genius, heralding the company even after all
its sins had come to light: "The company may be doomed, but
the innovations Enron pioneered are likely to endure."

Thousands of Enron employees lament that they will not
be so lucky to see their retirement savings endure. Enron
made its 401(k) matching contribution in company stock.
When the share price was rising like a rocket, the match
was treated like manna from heaven. And like the children
of Israel, the employees greedily grabbed up more manna
than was wise. They had other investment choices,
including a safe money market fund. But few could pass
up the quick road to instant wealth.

If only they had the instincts of Enron chair Kenneth Lay,
who unloaded $23 million worth of his company's stock
shortly before Enron's troubles came to light. Then again,
Enron employees were led to believe that the company was
flying high. Heck, even the Astros' new baseball stadium -
which critics say delivers its own less-than-legitimate
home runs - had adopted the company name.

Ever the humble one, Lay claims he had no idea that
Enron's finances were as unstable as a house of cards.
In any case, the Enron workers could have quit and gone to
work for Texaco or Trans World Airlines. Oops! I guess
those companies also failed when their executives mismanaged
operations yet made fortunes for doing so. But you get the

Put simply, Enron executives aren't getting their due.
They pushed the dream of corporate America to the limit
and deserve everything now coming their way.


The longer version of this column appears in the March-
April edition of Sojourners magazine. To read more, go to:


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S o u l   W o r k s
Beech Mast

by Tom O'Malley

The husks are all
empty; their crisp
shells crackle
under my foot. Through
wide-yawned casing,
their kernels
have all escaped:
each shell a tomb
the God has left.
Look - an angel
of light in every
nook - no flesh and
no death.
  Who was it
stole the body?
And who can guard
a tomb like this?

"Beech Mast" by Tom O'Malley, in "From Journey
Backward." To learn more, go to:

Come to the Table 

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Featured sections with questions and resources from the 
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"Violence is Against My Religion" 
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F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
Dateline: Washington, D.C.

by Ed Spivey

Those of you in the hinterlands - when you're not taking
care of your hinter - are probably wondering what life
is like now in Washington, D.C....

The other night, after dropping off my daughter and a
friend at a local theater (where, I assume, they had
planned to meditate on our national crisis), I was
stopped at a military roadblock and asked where I was
coming from. I thought it rather an odd question, but I
patiently explained that the roots of my beliefs were
first forged in the Southern Baptist church of my youth,
but how lately I have been incorporating the liturgical
rituals of Catholicism, thus deepening my.... "Move on,"
he interrupted, and rather brusquely, I might add. I
briefly considered giving him a good talking to, but I
demurred, if that's the word I¹m looking for, after
seeing his largish sidearm and the similarly accessorized
personnel behind him.

Security is so tight here that if Jesus himself returned
in all his glory, he wouldn't get very far (since he's
of Middle Eastern descent). His legions of angels - with
lyre and harp - would have to wait around in the parking
lot until officials finally released him, after realizing
he has a Hispanic name.

To read Ed Spivey's entire column as it appeared in the
January/February issue of Sojourners magazine, go to:


B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
Survey results: religion by the ages

U.S. religious groups in 2001 with the greatest
concentration of adults 18-29 years old:

Muslim/Islamic              58%
Buddhist                    56%
No religion                 35%
Evangelical Christian       35%
Mormon                      29%

U.S. religious groups in 2001 with the greatest
concentration of adults 65 and older:

Congregational/UCC          35%
Presbyterian                29%
Jewish                      28%
Episcopalian/Angl.          28%

*Source: American Religious Identification Survey, Graduate
Center of the City University of New York and USA Today


B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
Report from the World Social Forum

by Scott Wright

For the second time in as many years, Porto Alegre,
Brazil was the site of a remarkable convergence of
grassroots organizations from around the world. For
four days, 50,000 people and 5,000 grassroots organizations
from 130 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas
met at the World Social Forum.

What was impressive about the [gathering] was the opportunity
for the principal victims of globalization ­- peasants,
workers, indigenous, women and children -­ to make their
case before an assembly of peers. One striking example of
this was the International People's Tribunal on the Debt, ­
an effort of movements to cancel the debt led by Jubilee
South. I had an opportunity to meet the presiding judge of
this tribunal, Dumisa Ntsebeza, the South African judge
who presided over the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
to address the crimes committed by the South African
government under apartheid. Over a period of two days, an
array of witnesses, primarily African and indigenous women,
put the entire debt of the global South on trial, charging
the World Bank, the IMF, and the G-7 nations with using debt
to extract wealth, resources, interest, and trade policies
favorable to the global North.

The eloquence of the women's testimonies clearly challenged
the Washington consensus, which declares that poor nations
must pay their debts.... "The poor bear the burden of the
debt," said a woman from Uganda. "Interest on the debt
spends money that could be spent on health and education.
Women also suffer cutbacks in the public sector. We the
women of Africa call for total debt cancellation." "We
identify with all the sufferings caused by the external
debt," an indigenous woman from Ecuador declared. "For
500 years they have violated our cultures. We have not
benefited in any way. They owe us." In fact, the findings
of the tribunal were that the North owes a historical,
social, and environmental debt to the peoples of the global


C u l t u r e   W a t c h
Dragonfly: An interview with Kevin Costner

by Holly McClure

One of the more pleasurable and interesting aspects of
being a movie critic is the chance to interview not only
the stars, but the talent behind a film. I was thrilled
beyond words with the opportunity to interview Kevin
Costner, an actor I've watched from the beginning of his
career. Even though he's had his share of bad scripts,
I still enjoy what he brings to each of his roles.
In the case of Dragonfly, Kevin's character goes through
an amazing journey that involves faith, so I took advantage
of the chance to ask this Hollywood star a couple of
spiritual questions that I doubt many interviewers have

To read the interview, go to:


P o l i t i c a l l y   C o n n e c t
Congressman's "prayer for America":
Don't give freedoms away

A speech by U.S. Congressman Dennis Kucinich:

"Let us pray that our nation will remember that the unfolding
of the promise of democracy in our nation paralleled
the striving for civil rights. That is why we must challenge
the rationale of the Patriot Act. We must ask why should
America put aside guarantees of constitutional justice?"

To read the entire speech, go to:


T e c h   E t h i x
What would Jesus surf?

by Farhad Manjoo
The Catholic church gives its blessings to the Internet,
saying it's a "marvelous technological tool." But it also
says that the "ideology of radical libertarianism is both
mistaken and harmful." To read more, go to:,1284,50757,00.html?tw=wn20020301


S o j o C i r c l e s
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groups are meeting to share their faith and to support
one another in a time of uncertainty. New groups are
forming in the following locations:

Lewisburg, PA. A. Robert Walker:
San Diego, CA. Joel Ramos:
Las Cruces, NM. Pat Morrison:

For a complete listing of SojoCircles, see
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B o o m e r a n g

Former SojoMail reader Joel Johnson writes:

Please take my name off your ridiculous list. You people
do not understand that government will never be effective
in reducing poverty. The more the government takes from its
people, the less it can receive. Ending poverty is not a
role of our federal government, it is yours and mine. So,
every day I go to work. Every day, my friends also go
to work. As my children grow, they too will go to work.
So do not come to me with thoughts of taking from us to
give it to them. Welfare, although it is needed in a few
cases, was never intended to be a life-long means of
survival. And yes, they too should have to go to work!


Rev. Roger Wolsey writes from Leon, Iowa:

An open letter to President Bush
February 26, 2002 

As a taxpayer, and as a fellow United Methodist, I urge
you to repent from your current intentions to further
criminalize and stigmatize our nation's poor.

I agree that adults who are physically and psychologically
able to work should work as much as they can if they
are receiving public assistance.  However, I serve as
the senior pastor of four rural congregations in the
poorest county in the state of Iowa, and I can tell you
from experience that there are in fact many citizens
who are simply too physically or psychologically
handicapped to secure and maintain employment.

Unless employers provide a living wage to their workers,
forcing people to obtain work does nothing to eliminate
poverty or homelessness - it merely creates a population
of "working poor." They may be employed, but they are not
"gainfully employed." And unless child care assistance is
available, parents will be torn between working and caring
for their young. Furthermore, we are currently experiencing
an economic recession. Layoffs are occurring weekly and
hiring is at a standstill. Now is certainly not the time
to mandate states to have 70% of the people receiving
public assistance be employed.

And finally, it is frankly unconscionable to clamp down
on public aide to the poorest among us, while offering
mammoth tax cuts and dramatically more sizeable fiscal
welfare to corporate farms and large corporations. Indeed,
it is sinful. I'd like to refer you to the United Methodist
Social Principles and our Book of Resolutions to learn our
Church's stance on these matters; I'd like to suggest that
you see what the prophets Amos, Isaiah, and Jeremiah had
to say on these matters; but mostly, during this Lenten
season, I'd like to invite you to spend some time in prayer
with our Gracious God and be open to whatever transformations
God may have in store for you and your leadership of our
nation. "And when you refused to help the least of these, My
brothers, you were refusing help to Me!" (Matthew 25:31)


Jack Kaufman writes from Milwaukee, Wisconsin:

Eric Swartzendruber's satistics quoting HIV/AIDS cases in
Ethiopia [SojoMail 2-27-02] are totally erroneous and
misleading. My review of World Health Organization 1999
tables on the numbers of cases in Ethiopia is as follows:

Total HIV positive                              3,000,000
All adults (15-49)                              2,850,000
Women (15-49)                                   1,600,000
Children                                          150,000
AIDS deaths                                       280,000
Orphaned children from AIDS deaths              1,200,000

Although tuberculosis, along with malaria and malnutrition,
are severe problems in Ethiopia, HIV/AIDS is devastating.
What is Swartzendruber's agenda?


Rev. David Kashangaki, CSC, writes from Jinja, Uganda:

I have to agree that there are as equally devastating health
issues facing Africa as AIDS that if tackled would bring
some relief to the suffering poor of Africa. It really is
sad to think that all Congress can try to put aside for
help to fight AIDS in Africa is $1.3 billion, and even this
amount still has not been agreed upon in the Senate. It is
shocking how much the unwinnable fight against terrorism
has managed to get allocated an extra $48 billion, when every day
human life gets a measly $1.3 billion. It would make so much
more sense to help improve health facilities across the
continent, ensure adequate supplies of essential drugs that
don't fall into the hands of those just out for profit,
and help programs of health education get firmly established
in the remotest areas of the continent. It really is amazing
in how many places there are no basic health standards at
all. Let's try and get Congress to act on realities.


Episcopal priest John Goddard writes:

Re: 95 theses for the church after 9/11

I am very disappointed in your pointing your readers to
this group. The Vineyard Church is basically just another
fundamentalist group. Nowhere in the 95 so-called theses
is there any mention of living and respecting our brothers
and sisters of other faiths. I think it is explained easily,
because the fundamentalist are the Christian version of
the Taliban. Women are put down, and they are right and
everyone that disagrees is wrong.

I have never seen this kind of thinking in Sojourners.


Ron McCreary writes from Jacksonville, Florida:

I must disagree with Amrita Burdick's thoughts in a
recent Boomerang. Burdick says, "It troubles me that among
those who believe in one God - of whatever faith - there
are always some who try to say that those who worship
God in another faith aren't worshipping the same god!
That is, of course by definition, impossible."

No, it's not. Much depends on the attributes of the god
one worships, whether or not one is a monotheist. I think
it's clear that Islam doesn't claim the same attributes of
the one god as a Christianity that claims that the one god
became incarnate.

I think we're on much better ground noticing how different
our gods are, and sticking up for our own while
respectfully listening to others, than trying to pretend
they're all alike when clearly they're not.


Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of
views. The views expressed are not necessarily
those of Sojourners. Want to make your voice
heard? Send Boomerang e-mails to the editor:



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