First Enron, Now End Run?

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Oct. 29 2006 5:48 AM

First Enron, Now End Run?

The New York Times leads with corporations and Bush administration officials lining up for an easing of some business regulations put in place post-Enron. The Washington Post has a poll on Maryland's gubernatorial and Senate races in its lead spot, but strips a piece across the top questioning whether Iraq has reached a "tipping point" this month. The Los Angeles Times takes a look at boy-genius Karl Rove marshaling federal resources as part of his super-duper plan to save Republicans in the upcoming elections for its top nonlocal story.

Certain details of the NYT's lead have been previously reported, but the story illustrates just how much steam efforts to lighten corporations' regulatory burdens have gained. Industry groups with close ties to the Bush administration have been working on proposals that would be put forward soon after the November elections.  Why so soon after the elections? * Because, the Times says, it's "as far away as possible from the 2008 elections." The proposals may also, where possible, come in the form of rule changes instead of legislation to avoid that messy lawmaking process that has served our country so poorly.

The Sarbanes-Oxley law put in place after Enron's collapse is among the targets. Corporate-types have long argued that some of the requirements are too burdensome and costly. Treasury Secretary (and former Goldman Sachs chairman) Henry Paulson recently criticized aspects of Sarbanes-Oxley as well, saying they're too restrictive.

Another proposal would "emphasize" that prosecutors charge only individuals instead of corporations or accounting firms as a whole. The paper cites the case of Arthur Andersen, which shut down after being charged. Some warn such actions do too much harm to competition in the marketplace.

The story has the usual he said-she said, with several experts pointing out that scaling back regulations would be a mistake. But what it lacks is a good analysis of Sarbanes-Oxley's effect on business and the economy. While it may be tempting to toss this all off as the Bush administration seeking to help out buddies in the business world, there's a lot more at stake here.

The Post's Iraq front pager, while a solid story otherwise, unfortunately asks whether a "tipping point" has been reached. The writers were apparently unaware that a tipping point was reached long ago on use of the phrase tipping point

The paper focuses on two events. From a political standpoint, it highlights comments from Republican Sen. John Warner saying things don't look good. The WP notes that this freed other Republicans to begin breaking with the administration on Iraq.

Militarily, the Post says, "the key moment was the realization by top commanders in mid-October that sending 12,000 U.S. troops back into Baghdad did not have the calming effect that had been hoped for."

The best Iraq piece of the day, however, comes from the Post's Anthony Shadid. He visits Baghdad again after covering mayhem elsewhere and offers his own take on whether, in fact, Iraq is engaged in civil war: "Civil war was perhaps too easy a term, a little too tidy."  

With elections around the corner, the papers are stuffed with politics. The LAT's front breaks down Karl Rove's "11th hour plan to win." He has sought to, when possible, channel federal dollars into districts where Republican incumbents could use some help—and then see to it that the incumbent gets credit. That's not entirely new, but the story details how Rove has sought to inject politics into policy in a brazen way. He or members of his staff have met with Cabinet agency officials and dropped not-so-subtle hints—including using PowerPoint presentations—about races in battleground states, the paper says.

The NYT's Alessandra Stanley offers her critique of the season's political ads, focusing on the trend of injecting humor into TV spots. She notes the influence of Jon Stewart and YouTube and highlights a few examples, including one mock anti-Ned Lamont ad that accuses him of being a bad coffee maker and having a messy desk.

By the way, the NYT endorsed Lamont today over Joe Lieberman, as it did in the Democratic primary.

Apart from politics, the NYT fronts a bleak feature on child labor in Africa, explaining how kids in the central and western regions of the continent are sold to fishermen and farmers to work. The story describes how some are beaten regularly and the long, grueling hours they work. Several children are interviewed, including one as young as 6, and their tales are heartbreaking. A photo of the 6-year-old bailing water out of a fishing boat—his job—is on the paper's front page. There's also an audio feature on the website.

The LAT notes proposed changes in citizenship policies, pointing out a possible doubling of application fees and a potential mandatory online process that critics say will prevent many immigrants from applying. There would also be a simple form to fill out when registering for an online account—only 19 pages long.

Be sure not to miss the NYT's front pager on condoms and foreign aid, which includes this description: "Inside a modern, low-slung building owned by Alatech Healthcare, ingenious contraptions almost as long as a football field repeatedly dip 16,000 phallic-shaped bulbs into vats of latex, with the capacity to turn out a billion condoms a year." Whew.

For those who care, Michael Lewis may or may not be previewing his next book in the NYT's Play magazine with a profile of Bill Parcells, while the WP warns Google that teenagers are fickle.

And former Celtics coach Red Auerbach is dead. He is believed to have lit a stogie just before entering the Pearly Gates.

Correction, Oct. 30: This "Today's Papers" originally asked, regarding corporations' desire to change regulatory rules, "Why so soon after the new Congress takes office?" However, since the Congress will not be sworn in until January, we have made a clarifying adjustment. (Return to the corrected sentence.)

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