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August 10, 2004, 2:50 P.M.

Vice President Cheney's company, Halliburton, has been fined $7.5 million for defrauding its shareholders. The SEC charges stem from changes to accounting methods by Halliburton which were not in and of themselves illegal. The net effect, however, was to allow Halliburton to represent much higher earnings than its original accounting method whould have shown. The change was made at a time when Halliburton stock was falling in value and threatening Halliburton’s merger with Dresser Industries. In other words, Halliburton used accounting magic to make its earnings look better than they were in order to shore up its merger plan and to make its stock look better. The problem, of course, was that none of this was disclosed, as required by SEC rules, to shareholders.

Now I say Vice President Cheney’s company because he was still in charge of hte company when this took place. He was the CEO and his salary and bonus were tied to company profeits. The Vice President has not denied involvement or knowledge in or support for the scheme.

We wrote about Halliburton’s accounting practices in the context of federal lawsuits filed against the company back in April 2003. Despite all of these problems, the Vice President’s company is currently making millions of dollars servicing U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan under no bid contracts. We have also previously written about these contracts and the fact that the company was found to be gouging the government (surprise) and providing lousy service, to boot.

Where is the mainstream media on this? Where is the Kerry campaign? Hello, is anybody out there?

August 10, 2004, 2:05 P.M.

My first recollection of being a fan of professional sports centered around the Green Bay Packers of the 1960s: the Lombardi years. For someone who had no family or regional loyalty (my dad was not a fan and I lived halfway between New York and Philadelphia) it was easy to be swept up in the exploits of the Packers. That is, until the ascension of the Purple People Eaters. Jim Marshall. Alan Page. Gary Larsen. Karl Eller. They made me a Vikings fan, and I remain one to this day. No Doomsday Defense or Steel Curtain or America’s Team could ever replace the PPE. They were simply great.

Karl Eller, the defensive end, was inducted into the Hall of Fame this past weekend with John Ellway and Bob Brown. This honor came way too late as Ellers’ statistics commended that he be inducted in his first year of eligibility. He was a six-time Pro Bowl player, a member of the All Decade team for the 1970s and a five time finalist in Hall of Fame voting.

Ellers’ passion for football is matched by his passionate belief in the ability of young African American men to attain the goals and dreams of their forefathers and to rise above the gang violence, crime and senseless killing that defines the lives of many more young men than actually make their mark in professional sports. At his induction, Eller took the opportunity to speak to young Americans of African decent, rather than about his own exploits. Surely he must be a little bitter about how long he has had to wait for this honor that truly belongs to him, but none of that came out. Instead, this once feared giant (6'6", 247 lb. defensive end was giant in the 1970s) of the gridiron instead chose to give a message of hope.

He spoke of personal responsibility, of bloodshed and of the conditions in which most young men find themselves. He also spoke of the need for education, for self-discipline, and for a change in the way society and the media portray blacks. Eller said that he has not given up on those young men and on his hope that they will honor their forefathers in the fight for equality and true freedom.

Eller has always been outspoken and perhaps that is why it has taken too many years for him to be recognized. He is, however, a true role model in every sense of the word. Every kid who wants to play defensive end should study him. Every kid who wants to rise to the pinnacle of honor, dignity and respect should emulate him. Everyone who wants the world to be a better place should listen to him. Karl Eller inspired me 30 years ago and he inspires me now. That’s what being a Hall of Famer is all about.

August 9, 2004, 9:05 P.M.

"Gone to Meddlin'" Both Presidential candidates made headlines this weekend for the churches they visited. President Bush attended the wedding of his nephew, George P. Bush (are there enough George Bushes yet?) in Kennebunkport. Candidate Kerry attended mass at a Catholic church in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and a native American powwow in Gallup, New Mexico.

Of course the attendance of the Kerry family at mass drew headlines because some Catholic clerics have vowed to deny Kerry the sacrament of communion because of his stand on abortion. He was given the sacrament this Sunday. At the Episcopal service attended by the Bush family, including both Presidents, guest preacher Martin Luther Agnew (boy, could we write a column on that combination of names!) extolled the congregation to "sell your possessions and give alms." Agnew preached that "I'm convinced that what we keep owns us and what we give up sets us free." I'm sure that message was taken to heart by the wealthy congregants of Kennebunkport, including the President.

What is disturbing about this Presidential campaign is the use of religion by the campaigns. The President's ads appeal directly in an unveiled way to Christians and all of the talk of "family and faith" is directed at motivating voters to support the President because of his religious beliefs. The ads specifically talk of the virtues of "family, faith and sacrifice" in making that appeal. Kerry ads speaking of "hope" for the future are more thinly veiled, but offer no less of a moralistic, religious undertow.

This type of non-issue oriented appeal to voters is precisely in keeping with my thoughts about the campaign being watered down to avoid offending the small group of undecided voters who will decide this year's election. Obviously, either candidate could be more direct in using the issue of religion, but it is a two-edged sword that one must be prudent in wielding. On one hand, the President may use his religious conviction to point up his moral compass, but his fundamentalist beliefs and his reliance on religion as a guiding principal in a secular society surely does not play well. Kerry can point to his religious experiences to highlight his faith without appearing constrained in his decision making by the tenets of any particular faith. Kerry needs to avoid engaging in a "who is more religious" type of debate because it is really irrelevant and it puts him on the President's turf.

The Bush campaign has gone to extraordinary lengths to involve religious leaders in his campaign. He went to the Vatican asking for pressure on American Catholic leaders that were not actively supporting him or condemning Kerry and he has certainly been pandering to the fundamentalist Christian community. Bush wants religious leaders to campaign from the pulpit. He wants them to preach a "social gospel" in support of his Presidency. Indeed, his stand on social issues like non-traditional marriage and on virtually every other social issue is rooted in Christian religious doctrine.

Apparently there are no Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, agnostic, Wiccan or atheist swing voters. Likewise, we apparently don't care that our message may color the perception of our country, and our motives, in the eyes of the world community. It certainly does not help to raise our stock in the Mideast. When we start talking about values in the context of a particular religious doctrine, to the exclusion of others, our government looks like it is unconstitutionally favoring one religion over another. What is perhaps worse is that it makes our military exploits look like the religious crusade that General Jerry Boykin professes it to be.

The use of religion and of religious leaders to further political aims and goals is wrong. The basic concepts of honesty, decency, fidelity and respect are basic tenets underlying all of the world's religions. To place these moral concepts in religious trappings is where the line gets crossed. To use religious leaders and the pulpit to combine a religious and political message violates the separation of church and state. In the vernacular of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, it's when preachers have gone from "preachin'" to "meddlin'."


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