Back in early 2001 we experienced a terrible energy crisis in California — rolling blackouts, outrageous electrical bills, and the bankruptcy of Pacific Gas and Electric. An excellent episode of Frontline, Blackout examined the issues and included interviews with many folks at Enron, including Ken Lay. At the time of the crisis, I recall the White House refused to provide any federal support, saying it was California's problem and responsibility (a 21st-century 'state's rights' I suppose).
Jump ahead to the present day. Enron CFO Andrew Fastow has been arrested by the FBI on variety of charges, including, "fraud, money laundering and conspiring to inflate the company's profits and enrich himself at the company's expense." Vice President Dick Cheney continues to refuse to turn over records to the General Accounting Office regarding the development of the administration's energy policy last year (whose task force met with Enron executives six times).
When the Enron news first broke, I thought for sure there'd be big discussions here in California, at least as it related to the energy debacle. But there was nothing. Then I thought, "Shrewd, they're waiting until closer to the election, when they'll pull out the big guns." But elections are little more than a month away, and I'm not hearing anything. Is there no story here? Or are we waiting until it all comes out in the Enron trials? And where's the outrage — not only did Enron employees lose their savings when their stock tanked, millions of Californians and California businesses paid exorbitant prices for electricity while energy company fat cats made millions. These fat cats also broke the law and had close (and secret) contact and influence with the highest ranking members of our executive branch. Something seems fishy to me. So where's the story? Am I missing something? Or am I looking for conspiracy where none exists?
9 thoughts on “Where do stories go?”
I couldn’t agree with you more, Meg. American journalism has lost its purpose. They do little analysis and little investigation because both cost a lot more than regurgitating press releases and press conferences. People aren’t outraged about California because most of the rest of the country hates California and there are so many things to be outraged about. We just don’t know how to categorize the outrage anymore. We are distracted by salacious tales of a woman beating her daughter in a parking lot (as though thousands of children aren’t beaten within an inch of their lives each day). Those stories make it because they have a tape to play over and over again. There is no good visual complement to the Enron story other than testifying executives and perp walks. The press doesn’t trust that Americans will understand energy trading and finance. It is an insult to us. But most of us deserve it for not taking politics seriously to begin with. I’m only sorry there haven’t been more comments on your website regarding this post.
Meg, Ken, I’m in the same boat as you guys. Sadly, I have no doubt that there were serious crimes commited during the California energy crisis. Frankly, I thought there was something criminal going on at the time, but the rest of the country was having too much fun using it as another excuse to take a stab at those nutty Californians to prompt any real investigation.
I care about this. I don’t watch the news or read many newspapers because they’re so full of pointless crap and rarely go deep enough into a story I really care about. And, as a typically busy person with a full-time job and husband and mortgage, where else can I go if the media doesn’t provide it?
The situation doubly frustrates me because it brings to light not only the corruption of our political and business leaders but also the irrelevance of our media outlets.
The Enron/California also has impacted many other people in ways that nobody really knows about. For example, my father works for a very small (about 20 people) materials testing company outside of Tulsa. They had won a contract to do a lot of work (about $1 million) for an energy company in California, as they were going to do some building of new plants, etc. However, this company included Enron as one of their major investors. During the fallout, their credit got taken away, and they no longer had any money to build new plants. Therefore, the contract was worthless, and my father’s company lost the business. The scope of this whole debacle reaches very far. Thank you for not forgetting about it.
Of course it isn’t news. Did anyone have hot sex with an intern? Well then, we don’t want to hear about it. Besides, it is *wrong* to speak badly of our executive branch.
As a Federal employee who has had the pleasure of dealing with Enron lawyers on a semi-frequent basis, I’d have to say that you’re right. There is a story. But as others have already pointed out, the media is treading a fine line between expecting us all to be halfwits who don’t care that the economy is suffering outside of the stock market, and bloodthirsty warmongers.
And would you believe their lawyers hate returning my phone calls?
If the energy crisis has abated in California, it sure doesn’t show that in the monthly bill. We still get charged about 90% more than a year ago, and we’re using less energy.
I’ve made a point of covering this and other issues (like ‘the war on terrorism’) for any of those you’d like to check out MindBlogging:
take care all and keep supporting the blog community!
During the California electricity crisis, I was going around saying Enron wasn’t getting any attention because they had the President in their corner. Nobody wanted to hear it because it sounded like a conspiracy theory. Now the press has spent a little time sniffing around the edges of the issue, but still nobody wants to hear it because the President is attempting to conduct a war, and it’s not politically correct to question a president at war. When will it be time? Probably never, at this point.
It always upsets me when the world socialist party does a better job of reporting the news than most everyone else.
This will get your goat: “California being California, its miseries generated national headlines, which now are Exhibit A for those seeking to turn back the clock on electricity competition across the board.”
Heh, dropped my links:
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