Monday, December 17, 2012


Think Outside The Scraper Box!

10. Because The Worm Is Living With Shayna In The Trailer. Why call him The Worm and not The Wriggler or The Snake or The DigDug Creature or The Silverfish? Because he’s The Worm! And he’s living with Shayna in the trailer! So you fired up the Scraper Box (again) dammit!

9. Because Your Daddy Took Out His Scraper Box And Your Daddy’s Daddy Took Out His Scraper Box. There’s nothing so powerful as the notion of three generations taking out their Scraper Boxes, driving them around properly in the usual manner, returning them to a sensible storage area, and disembarking to the traditional welcome that one would receive, including a reasonable portion of suckling pig.

8. To Join The 1,000,000 Scraper Box March. What a spectacle! All them Scraper Boxes amidst the circular wavings of Patriotic Towels, amidst the droppings of Patriotic Confetti, amidst the Keynote Address by the ghost of Marlon Brando, and his Keynote Refrain: “The Hauling, The Hauling!”

7. Woke Up In The Middle Of The Night And Didn’t Know Where You Were. Nothing comforts a touch o’ the Nocturnal Paranoia more than a little trip on the Scraper Box, unless, that is, the Nocturnal Paranoia does not abate, and you were then a Paranoiac riding around on your Scraper Box at night.

6. To Show Someone Else A Good Time. Uh huh, okay, I see how you—wink! wink!— ‘took out the ol’ scraper box last night’, you ol’ devil you, you ol’ Casanova you, you ol’ PLAYA!

5. One Too Many Jokes That Began With A Boot Up Someone’s Butt. So, a patient appears in the Emergency Room, complaining of an “Inability to Void.” Upon further examination, the doctor discovers a boot lodged in the patient’s butt, and says, (Irish accent optional), Would that Inability to Void ‘ave anything to do with the boot stuck up your arse? Oh that, says the patient, Nah, that’s but a coincidence, been there for years, the boot. No, I really cannot void, I can’t!

4. The, Everything Happens For A Reason, Reason. Don’t know why you took out your Scraper Box? Many Americans cannot fathom the Action-Consequence Continuum, either, so let’s just say what they say—that Divinity wanted you to take out your Scraper Box, and anything that happens (e.g., happy or destructive) must be due to Divinity.

3. To Think Outside The Scraper Box. One always sits outside the Scraper Box, of course, but the real trick is to do some Deep Thinking while astraddle your Machinery.

2. The Economy Is Rebounding. The rebound will lead to Many Possible Americas, including DigDug Creatures, Breakfast Potatoes, and Obese Conservatism, thus choose the off-ramp for your Scraper Box judiciously.

1. Willard “Mitt” Romney Was Defeated. Good ol’ Mitt wouldn’t own a Scraper Box, unless Cadillac made one, and then I spoze he’d strap the dog to it, or drive it into an elevator, or buy 50 of them: two for each house. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


The horror! A rediscovered notepad.

The man who founded Arthur Andersen & Co. nearly a hundred years ago in Chicago, a young professor conveniently named Arthur Andersen, once refused a client’s plea to ‘cook the books’ during the client’s annual audit, even as Andersen was struggling to pay his employees. He famously proclaimed that “all the money in the city of Chicago” would not lead him to compromise his ideals, and the client, the owner of a railroad utility, fired him. The railroad company, as the story continues, failed, and in the wake of this double bankruptcy—both commercial and moral—the little accounting firm stood, vindicated, in the sturdy terrain of ethical principles. (Two heavy wooden doors, replicas of the firm’s original entrance-way, would become the company’s enduring trademark.) A partner rehearsed this ditty for me when I joined ‘Arthur’ in 1990 as an entry level research economist charged to support the firm’s growing practice in cross-border transactions. In short, my group would assist foreign multinational corporations—mostly Japanese and German—in dodging their fair share of U.S. tax. These corporations, from the lands of the former Axis Powers, did staggering American business in vehicles, machinery, electronics, and other goods, yet in many cases, paid little or no tax on their U.S. operations. Given the deep pockets of these clients, Arthur could out-muscle the understaffed Internal Revenue Service, which otherwise sought to collect. A two million dollar investment in hiring the heft of Arthur, for instance, would likely avoid a two billion dollar judgment, and in the end, fewer than all the Yen in the city of Tokyo and fewer than all the Deutschmarks in the city of Berlin could, indeed, purchase creative reporting from Arthur. Work-products were often tailored to please the client, and amid the firm’s break-neck sprint to amass billable hours, professional objectivity was discarded in the name of profits. Around the same time, the United States entered a fairly steep recession, one that underscored the decay of American manufacturing, and where U.S. manufacturers had shuttered their doors, Japanese and German companies in many industries prospered. To my knowledge, Arthur did not engage personnel in Tokyo or Berlin to assist American multinationals in avoiding their fare share of Japanese and German tax, or if it did, the firm derived little revenue from this activity. The idea of growth isn’t, by itself, corrupt, but growth uncoupled from the ‘local’ principles upon which Arthur Andersen & Co. was founded, did lead to systemic corruption. I sat at a cubicle for two years, researching and writing bits and pieces, occasionally directing small client engagements, leaving in 1992. Numerous scandals could have erupted in various corners of Arthur, and eventually, some court actions did materialize. One in particular, involving the audit of Waste Management, served to weaken the firm’s clean-cut aura, before another case, Enron, drew considerable attention and toppled both companies in 2002. Before the Enron debacle, the firm’s consulting wing severed itself from Arthur and became Accenture, a company that continues to thrive today. At its peak, Arthur had been the ‘Titanic’ of global auditing firms, with billions of dollars in annual revenue and a couple hundred thousand audit and consulting employees worldwide. In its greed, however, the firm misapplied its role as independent auditor and consultant, enabling other enterprises in their greed to shelter profits (among other scams). Ten years after Enron, many wealthy corporations—notably led by the financial services sector—continue to abuse their relationships with money . . . and the law. It’s easy to argue for oversight, and there should be oversight, of course, but on the other hand, the larger and wealthier and more arrogant the corporation, the more it comes to resemble a disease. After Arthur’s indictment in federal court, its worldwide practice buckled and perished in a matter of weeks, one client after another dumping its former auditors. I resigned from the firm for three reasons: a supervisor refused my petition for a reduction in overtime so I could care for a dying relative; the unethical commerce at play; and I accepted a small fellowship to write poetry. Ultimately, I, the little poet, endured.