Today's Blogs

Lay Me Down

Bloggers are reacting to the death of Enron baddie Ken Lay and fretting about North Korea’s missile tests.

Lay me down: Former Enron CEO Kenneth Lay, 64, died of a heart attack Wednesday at his Aspen home. He was convicted in May on six counts of fraud and conspiracy in the wake of the accounting scandal that brought down his company, and he faced a prison sentence that likely would have carried through to the end of his natural life. Cyberspace is glum about this anti-climatic checkout.

Mustang Bobby at the South Floridian Bark Bark Woof Woof is downright kittenish in his satisfaction: “I’m sorry for his family’s loss; I’m sure it was a shock. But I have a feeling a lot of his former employees and pensioners won’t be shedding too many tears. I leave the poetic justice for others to ponder.”

And there are plenty of others, starting from the left end of the spectrum. Delilah Boyd basks in the schadenfreude: “[M]y biggest problem today is figuring out which of Ken’s 4 or 5 Aspen vacation home addresses is the correct one to give the florist.”

Wes at Walk in Brain is pissed: “I hope that Herculean efforts were used to try to save him, because the thought of Ken Lay not serving one second of the time due him makes my blood boil. Personally, I believe he should be buried in a prison cemetery. And of course, this has to be a relief to Bush, because now he doesn’t have to think about pardoning Kenny Boy.”

Ian Welsch at The Agonist wishes Lay’s “soul” well, but can’t resist: “[L]et’s get real here—he was either astonishingly incompetent, or he was a crook who damn near bankrupted California with illegal price fixing, and left thousands of employees broke and without a pension.” But law professor Larry Ribstein at Ideoblog hopes a “reevaluation” of Lay’s crimes can commence: “[A]nybody who thinks that he deserved to spend the rest of his life in jail is either a fool, a politician or a journalist. Whatever he did, he most assuredly did not cause hundreds of millions in market losses under any realistic accounting. What caused those losses was the market’s over-enthusiasm perhaps aided by the machinations of others at Enron who will get off much more lightly than Lay. Lay’s guilt went no further than delaying the day of reckoning.”

Conservative “Reader_Iam” at Done With Mirrors is surprised at his own grief: “I’m not understanding exactly why this news makes me feel sort of sad and pensive; I certainly have never felt any compassion whatsoever for Lay, and I was completely outraged by the fraud he and his colleagues perpetrated and utterly disgusted at how their actions impacted the retirement security of thousands and thousands of people. Yet still, sort of sad and pensive is what I feel.”

Costa Tsiokos at general interest media blog Population Statistic can’t handle the banal truth: “I hate to sound coldly skeptical, but this thing looks fishy from the get-go. There’s been no hint of ill health from Lay during the unfolding Enron scandal and his subsequent trial. Now, when he’s been convicted and awaiting final sentencing in October, he checks out? Not to mention that such death announcements typically aren’t made public until much later than the actual passing—often as much as a day later.”

TDavid at the online curiosity shoppe asks, “[W]ill his assets be sold off to pay these fines or will the debts die with him?” David Weigel at Hit and Run, the blogging arm of libertarian Reason, finds manna in a Houston Chronicle obit: ” ‘Lay took a job in Houston in 1965 as a senior economist at Humble Oil … ’ Those early lessons really stuck, huh?”

New York media snark rag Gawker gets the last word: “Jeffrey Skilling just released a statement saying that Lay ‘is just fine, and still a great investment.’ “

Read more about Ken Lay’s demise. Read  Slate’s archive of articles about Lay.

The rockets’ red glare: The U.N. Security Council met in emergency session Wednesday in response to North Korea testing seven missiles, including a Taepodong II said to be capable of hitting the United States. Though North Korea’s rehearsal in ballistic warfare was an all-around failure (the Taepodong splashed down into the Sea of Japan less than a minute into its flight), world governments are anxious about the country’s next move, especially in light of its advanced nuclear program.

Yi Sun Shin, who writes about Korean and East Asian affairs at Yeohaeng Ilgia, calls the missile test a “catastrophic failure” and wonders where such a pathetic muscle flex leaves Kim Jong-il: “Sure, Pyongyang may do better next time, but it has shown that this version was not ready to get off the ground (there were reports a while back of a failed ground test of the engine as well, so apparently they were aware of the potential risks). At least in the near term, Pyongyang has played its hand and lost.”

Liberal hawk Tim Saler at No End But Victory, a blog dedicated to “winning the war on terror,” takes Sen. Joe Biden to task for calling Kim’s regime a paper tiger: “North Korea isn’t a child seeking attention; North Korea is a country seeking to frighten its neighbors into providing favorable terms that will deter aggression against North Korea itself and perhaps provide domestic advantages as well.”

International politics professor Daniel  W. Drezner suspects “that the South Koreans—who have been in denial about North Korea for some time—will find a way to rationalize the DPRK’s behavior, and that the Chinese won’t be that perturbed. The fact that financial markets are reacting to the test by selling off yen suggests that they are ratcheting up the probability of something bad happening.”

Read more about North Korea’s missile launches.