Paul D. Miller on Tue, 31 Oct 2006 10:39:21 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> The 13 Scariest People in America

A reasonable look at some of the more colorful characters in rightwing
America. My favorite is Arizona's Joe Arpaio - who should probably be
voted a #1 reality TV show on youtube for "Prison Love" 'cause he's,
like, really into putting webcams in prisoners cells...


The Thirteen Worst People in America:

Scariest Cop: Joe Arpaio / Sheriff, Maricopa County, AZ

by Charles M. Young

A huge swath of Arizona that includes Phoenix, Tempe and Scottsdale,
Maricopa County attracts journalists and politicians from around
the world, all hoping to learn penal reform theory from Sheriff Joe
Arpaio, who opens his gates to everyone except reporters known to be
critical. He brags on the department website that he has "nothing to
hide and nothing to fear," and except for the occasional prisoner who
gets beaten to death (R.I.P. Scott Norberg), he probably doesn't have
anything to hide or to fear.

Most of the press considers him a colorful character who dresses his
inmates in pink underwear, feeds them $.45 meals and houses them in
tents where the temperature can exceed 140 degrees and the inmates
have to breath the stench from a nearby dump and animal crematorium. A
true pioneer of women's liberation, he has instituted chain gangs for
women as well as men. Both sexes must listen to patriotic songs, and
recordings of Arpaio reading self-help books throughout the day.

Although he forbids raunchy magazines (as well as coffee, cigarettes,
Kool-Aid and hot meals), his recent jailcam experiment, live Web
broadcasts of inmate life including toilet sessions, was a huge hit,
and was quickly linked to by porn sites around the world. When inmates
sued for invasion of privacy, Arpaio had to shut it down, but it was
a rare setback for "America's Toughest Sheriff," as he likes to bill
himself. Under a novel interpretation of the state's smuggling law,
his most recent stunt is arresting illegal immigrants and giving
them the pink-underwear-and-patriotic-song treatment. Having been
elected four times by America's scariest voters, Arpaio can (and does)
intimidate anyone who objects to his Guantanamo of the Sonora. Why
waste cruel and unusual punishment on mere Islamofascists when we've
got all these criminals on the border and a shredded Bill of Rights?
Welcome to the future of law enforcement.

Scariest Presidential Candidate: Sam Brownback / Senator (R-Kansas)

by Mary Reinholz

Once a moderate in the Bob Dole mold, Sen. Sam Brownback has morphed
into a zealous man of God intent on protecting millions of fetuses
from what he calls the yearly "holocaust" of abortion. Brownback
actually considers fetuses to be full-blown American citizens.

Just another religious nut stalking the corridors of power? Well, yes,
but this ambitious pol is the favored 2008 presidential candidate
of the radical right. Brownback seems hell-bent on establishing not
just faith-based initiatives, but "faith in politics" -- i.e., an
authoritarian Christian theocracy.

The man speaks softly but pushes the Passion of the Christ in the
culture wars, blasting gay marriage, porn, stem cell re-search and,
most recently, assisted suicide. One of Brown-back's glorious moments
came when he proposed introducing a bill in the Senate that would
compel pregnant women considering abortions to provide anesthetics for
their fetuses.

But no matter how over the top his political posturing, no one seems
to be laughing at Brownback's bid to succeed Bush -- certainly not the
influential Bible-thumpers supporting him like Pat Robertson and Chuck
Colson. Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania) sponsored Brownback's
conversion to Roman Catholicism in 2002, and he was later baptized in
a chapel run by the secretive lay society Opus Dei.

On the economic front, the pious Senator perceived no moral quandary
in accepting $42,000 from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Along
the way, Brownback apparently has had access to the deep pockets of
his wife, the former Mary Stauffer, whose family used to own a media

Brownback's 1995 bout with potentially fatal cancer intensified his
right-to-life ardor, but his religious beliefs didn't stop him from
living, until recently, in a $600-a-month apartment in a $1.1 million
Capitol Hill townhouse owned by members of Congress and subsidized by
a secretive religious organization, known variously as The Fellowship
and The Foundation and registered with the IRS as a church. Brownback
is a regular member of one of the group's "prayer cells."

Perhaps he prays for the Supreme Court to display the Ten Commandments
since the courts, believes Brownback, have overstretched "separation
of church and state" to mean "removal of church from state."

Scariest Judge: Edith Hollan Jones / Chief Justice of the U.S. Court
of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

by Paul Drexel

Imagine you're a woman working at a company where male colleagues
send you X-rated notes, hit on you, and repeatedly grab your breasts
-- even once pinch your butt with pliers. To Judge Edith Jones, such
depravity does not constitute grounds for a sexual harassment case,
though she conceded the facts. During arguments in the case the woman
brought against her employers (Waltman v. International Paper), Jones
purportedly commented that the behavior of the man who had pinched the
woman's breasts wasn't so objectionable since he later apologized.
And, added the judge, at least she hadn't been raped.

Such an injudicious temperament would be chilling in any courtroom,
but that it belongs to an Appeals Court Chief Justice -- and a woman
who has been on Dubya's shortlist for Supreme Court vacancies -- ought
to send up a red flag visible even to the color-blind. It once did,
when Bush The Elder bypassed Jones after critics successfully labeled
her "too extreme" for Supreme Court consideration and instead turned
to David Souter. While it's autre temps under Bush Junior, he seems to
have kept Daddy's old list; after Christian fundamentalists scuttled
the nomination of Harriet Miers, Jones could surface as the next Court
nominee -- especially if the President feels pressure to name a woman.
But to cast Jones -- who graduated from the University of Texas Law
School in 1974, and received her first appointment to the federal
bench (by Ronald Reagan) in 1985 -- as a more qualified Miers doesn't
do her justice; Judge Jones is no less a federalist than Clarence

Like Thomas, Jones likes to refer to the 18th century for guidance in
her judicial opinions. In a speech she gave to Harvard Law School's
branch of the right-wing Federalist Society, Jones neatly summed
up her backward-looking legal philosophy. "The first 100 years of
American lawyers were trained on Blackstone, who wrote that 'the
law of nature, dictated by God himself, is binding in all counties
and at all times; no human laws are of any validity if contrary to
this' ... The Framers created a government of limited power with
this understanding of the rule of law -- that it was dependent on
transcendent religious obligation."

Conservatives and corporations alike have a friend in Judge Jones. She
champions states' rights (except when it comes to Roe v. Wade). She
sees the field of employment discrimination litigation as ripe for
abuse by plaintiffs. She disdains criminal defendants and complains
that the "over-constitution-alization" of criminal-case procedures
tilts the system away from punishing the guilty in favor of applying
"fairness" to alleged lawbreakers.

Liberals have called Jones a "throwback to the Dark Ages," and
conservatives have called her "eminently qualified." Now that is

Scariest Opportunity Killer: Richard Berman / President, Berman and

by Tai Moses

Psst, buddy, want to put out a contract on a worthwhile idea?

Washington D.C. PR man Richard Berman specializes in creating
tax-exempt front groups -- ad-hoc "think tanks" that sound respectable
enough (The Center for Consumer Freedom, Center For Union Facts) but
in truth spread disinformation through ads, skewed studies and sham
Web sites on behalf of companies such as Philip Morris, Coca-Cola
and McDonald's. The Center has campaigned hard and dirty against the
Americans with

Disabilities Act (ramps are for pussies), no-smoking sections in 
restaurants, efforts to prevent mad cow disease, and campaigns to 
limit junk food consumption.

A native New Yorker who graduated from (no kidding) Transylvania
University in Kentucky, Berman reserves some of his nastiest tactics
for the hospitality industry's war against workers. Berman's
Employment Policies Institute (an intentional aping of the progressive
Economic Policy Institute), backed by the even more sinister-sounding
Outback Steakhouses Political Action Committee, among others, was
formed to defeat proposals to raise the federal minimum wage.
Restaurants are required by federal law to pay just $2.13 per hour
to employees who also earn tips and $5.15 per hour to other workers,
rates that have not been hiked since 1997.

Using a standard Berman ploy, the Employment Policies Institute
releases a flawed report that "proves" massive job loss will ensue if
the wage is raised. Next, Berman's "think tank," along with allied
trade groups such as the powerful U.S. Chamber of Commerce, peddles
the biased report to journalists, who quote the studies but frequently
neglect to mention Berman's ties to industry. Typical was a recent
Dayton Business Journal article about the bid to raise Ohio's minimum
wage. "A study by the Employment Policies Institute, a Washington,
D.C.-based conservative think tank," the paper reported, "says the
proposal could result in a double whammy for Ohio's economy. It
projects the state could take a $308 million hit as 12,000 jobs may be
lost while labor costs climb." Berman also runs and, Web sites that portray living-wage campaigns as union

Berman appoints himself executive director of his front groups, which
solicit generous "donations" from his clients. He then funnels the
dough back into his for-profit PR firm, Berman and Co., reportedly
raking in more than $10 million a year. Let's hope he eats at home.

Scariest Proselytizer:: Rev. Rick Warren / Author of The Purpose Driven Life

by Greg Beato

It's not just Rev. Rick Warren's taste in casualwear that makes him
so frightening, but that's part of it. Warren, the author of The
Purpose Driven Life is a megalomaniac who disseminates his brand
of evangelical Protestantism with the tireless zeal that Ray Kroc
used to market Big Macs. His book has sold about 30 million copies
worldwide since 2002. Saddleback Church, which he founded in Lake
Forest, California in 1980, attracts more than 20,000 worshipers
each weekend. His "seeker-sensitive" approach to the Gospel courts
non-believers with rock music and other pop culture trappings. His
sermons soft-pedal sin in favor of strategies for dealing with stress
and marital discord.

A self-described "stealth evangelist" who believes in a "pluralistic
America," Warren peppers The Purpose Driven Life with quotes from the
very unholy likes of Anais Nin and Bertrand Russell. He champions
progressive causes such as ending global poverty and AIDS, and he
has teamed up with Bono and the U.N., to combat these scourges. Many
conservative evangelicals condemn him as a neo-liberal. Fortune
describes him as "secular America's favorite evangelical Christian."
Warren, 52, who has PowerPointed the way to salvation for President
Bush and Rupert Murdoch as well as Coca-Cola and Ford, says he's not
right-wing or left-wing but rather "for the whole bird."

And, in fact, this may be true, as long as that bird is heterosexual, 
anti-abortion, gay marriage, embryonic stem cell research, 
euthanasia, "the tyranny of activist judges," and is completely 
committed to Christ.

Do secular liberals who applaud and enable Warren know that he aims
to recruit "1 billion Christian foot soldiers" who are willing to do
"whatever it takes" to turn the entire planet into a purpose-driven
Kingdom of God? That his Purpose-Driven Ministries, he says, has
trained more than 400,000 ministers and priests in 162 countries?

Typically, demagogues who dream of making the whole world conform to
their single, uncompromising vision wear gaudy military uniforms that
give them an immediately threat-ening veneer. Rick Warren, on the
other hand, favors Hawaiian shirts decorated with large pineapples. Be
very afraid.

Scariest Snoop: Derek V. Smith / CEO, ChoicePoint

by Annalee Newitz

Derek V. Smith, CEO of the information broker ChoicePoint, spends
plenty of time at the Golf Club of Georgia not far from his home in
the Atlanta suburb of Roswell, where he lives with his wife Lisa and
their three kids. When Smith isn't being a regular suburban family guy
he's doing his bit to keep the whole country safe. How? By selling
your private data.

ChoicePoint makes its money by compiling, buying, and selling personal
information, including Social Security numbers, arrest records, credit
reports, purchase histories and DNA samples. Though the government
and law enforcement are big clients, they aren't the only customers
responsible for pushing ChoicePoint's revenue above $1 billion last
year. Smith sells your data to insurance companies and potential
employers doing background checks as well. Also, in a big "oops"
moment last year, he sold the personal data of 163,000 people to an
alleged crime ring. (The Federal Trade Commission subsequently fined
the company $15 million). You can't pay attention to things like
background checks on customers when you're stopping terrorism, OK?

And Smith, 51, aims to stop a lot of terrorism. He's the government's
go-to guy because ChoicePoint has worked out a neat end-run around
the legal limits placed on personal data law enforcement can collect
without a court order. For instance, instead of getting a judge's
permission to spy on every-body named Mahmoud in Atlanta, the feds
can just buy the records from ChoicePoint, including everything
from home addresses to their targets' preferred Safeway stores.
Plus, ChoicePoint is aggressively beefing up its vast data banks.
It absorbed Database Technologies, the very company that provided
the inaccurate felon voter list that prevented tens of thousands of
minorities from voting in Florida during the disputed 2000 election.
But don't worry. Your loss of privacy and anonymity is all part of
what it means to be free. "In a free society -- particularly in
today's society -- we do not always have the right to anonymity,"
explained a ChoicePoint news-letter. Don't you feel safer already?

Scariest Polluter: Don Blankenship / CEO of Massey Energy Co.

by David Roberts

America's most brutal environmental despoiler may be West Virginia's
Don Blankenship, CEO of Massey Energy Co., the nation's most
aggressive practitioner of mountaintop-removal mining. Massey uses
explosives to blow off ridge-tops in the southern Appalachians to
strip the coal from within the decapitated peak. Then Massey dumps
the "overburden" (everything that isn't coal) into the valleys and
hollows below. Some blast sites are "recovered" -- that is, hastily
filled with a layer of fast-growing grass -- but the destruction is so
profound that no forest will again take root.

In areas where mountaintop removal is concentrated, the destruction
to water, air quality and property values is so extensive it all but
precludes the development of other industry. Coal has locked rural
West Virginia into a death spiral. Over 100 billion gallons of slurry
-- a toxic black sludge that results from coal being washed with
corrosive chemicals -- are stored often less than a mile from houses
and schools. The slurry seeps into groundwater and occasionally breaks
from behind earthen dams to flood towns below. Locals are regularly
showered with coal dust. The black, brackish public water is unfit for
consumption or even bathing. Illness is ubiquitous.

To Blankenship, the human and environmental cost be damned. That the
Appalachians are some of the world's oldest mountains and home to what
may be the greatest biodiversity of any temperate region in the world
seems of little relevance to Massey, and likewise Appalachian culture,
with families that date back seven or eight generations on the same
land, is being systematically purged from the landscape.

The son of a poor single mother raised in nearby Mingo County,
Blankenship ascended the corporate ladder at Massey, ruthlessly
suppressed mineworker unions (a mere 3% of Massey employees remain
unionized), bullied critics, and essentially underwrote at least one
state-wide election through a PAC called "And For the Sake of the
Kids." The group ran attack ads aimed at liberal Supreme Court Justice
Warren McGraw, who had the gall to rule against Massey in worker
compensation cases.

You'd think Blankenship would do better by his neighbors, though he
tries. Every year, in the manner of the Mafia under the late John
Gotti, Massey funds a lavish Christmas party in a small West Virginia
town. "Don" Blankenship arrives in a limo, puts on a Santa hat, and
passes out little gifts to the locals -- some of the same people whose
ancestral lands he is destroying, whose families he is impoverishing
and whose children he is sickening.

Scariest Scientist: Leon Kass / Member of The President's Council on

by Clive Thompson

The age of bioethics has given us a set of morally bedeviling
questions. What does it mean to clone a person? Is it okay to remove
stem cells from embryos? Unfortunately, it has also given us Leon
Kass -- for five years the chairman of the President's Council on
Bioethics, and thus the man responsible for telling George W. Bush
what to do about these thorny issues. Kass, a medical ethicist at
the University of Chicago, is a deeply intelligent, articulate, and
passionate guy, which wouldn't be a problem if his values weren't
lodged somewhere between Victorian England and medieval alchemy.
When it comes to complex ethical issues, he trusts "the wisdom of
repugnance": If it seems personally icky to him, it's got to be wrong.

What seems icky to Kass includes not just cloning and stem-cell
research, but virtually anything that disturbs the age-old role of
women as childbearing pods. Birth control? Homosexuality? Women
holding, y' know, jobs? You name it, Kass has railed against it.
In his loopy essay, "The End of Courtship," published in Public
Interest, he argues for the ideal woman being a gossamer creature of
"self-control, mani-fested not only in chastity but in decorous dress
and manner, speech and deed." Oh, and the irreligious? Don't trust
them with your car keys.

The use of embryos in science requires moral scrutiny. It does not
require being measured against a worldview so medieval it would have
embarrassed C.S. Lewis.

Last fall, Kass stepped down as chair. His legacy lives on, though,
not only because he remains an influential Council member with
a hotline to Bush, but because he stacked the organization with
like-minded clones and dismissed the only two who were vigorously
outspoken in favor of stem-cell research -- including Elizabeth
Blackburn, the only practicing stem-cell biologist of the lot. The
country urgently needs a big, sprawling debate on stem-cell research.
Kass has ensured it will be near-impossible to have one.

Scariest Drug Dealer: Billy Tauzin / CEO, Pharmaceutical Research and 
Manufacturers of America

by Sonia Shah

Former Congressman Billy Tauzin has never found it difficult to
switch sides. In 1995, after 15 years serving as one of Louisiana's
Democratic representative, the Cajun Charmer jumped ship for the GOP,
which soon in-stalled him as head of the powerful House Energy and
Commerce Committee. In 2001, with $218,000 from drug companies nestled
in his campaign coffers, Tauzin engineered the industry-friendly
Medicare drug benefit, which prohibits the government from using its
vast buying power to negotiate lower prices from drugmakers. Once
the bill passed in 2003 -- after some highly irregular late-night
arm twisting -- Tauzin soon bid adieu to Congress for a cushy, $2
million-a-year job as CEO of the industry's trade association, PhRMA.
There he clinks champagne glasses with the nation's top drug-makers,
wallowing in a decade-long, $320-billion windfall selling overpriced
drugs to Medicare patients.

No sympathy from Tauzin -- a cancer survivor himself -- for those
sickly senior citizens compelled to shuffle onto buses to Canada to
buy affordable medicines: according to Tauzin, these unfortunates are
no better than Al-Qaeda conspirators "opening our borders... to future
terrorist attacks."

Nexium, anyone?

     Sonia Shaw is author of "The Body Hunters: How the Drug Industry 
Tests Its Products on the World's Poorest Patients" (The New Press).

Scariest Academic: Kevin MacDonald / Professor of Psychology,
California State University at Long Beach

by Mark Potok and Heidi Beirich

Once Kevin MacDonald was a flower child, a peacenik, a man who
abandoned his Catholicism during the Vietnam era. Then it dawned on
him: There seemed to be an awful lot of Jews in the antiwar movement,
and it all went south from there. Today, the 62-year-old tenured
psychology professor is the man that hate groups hope will make
anti-Semitism respectable.

In a nasty series of weighty-sounding books like The Culture
of Critique: An Evolutionary Analysis of Jewish Involvement in
Twentieth-Century Intellectual and Political Movements (1998),
MacDonald, who received a Masters in evolutionary biology from
University of Connecticut, argues that Jews engage in a "group
evolutionary strategy" to weaken the "host societies" in which they
live. Jews, he says, have historically been in the minority, so
they've collectively decided to push multiculturalism, interracial
marriage, and socialism on Gentiles -- even as they hypocritically
pursue group cohesive-ness among themselves -- to destabilize society
and diminish threats to themselves.

This leads MacDonald to some remarkable conclusions; he blames the
deaths of "millions of people" on "the failure of Jewish assimilation
into European societies," and suggests that colleges restrict Jewish
admission and Jews be heavily taxed "to counter the Jewish advantage
in the possession of wealth." Such ideas have earned MacDonald scorn
from his academic colleagues (though tenure has insulated him, thus
far, from firing). Harvard's Steven Pinker, a respected psychology
professor, characterized MacDonald's work as failing "basic tests of
scientific credibility."

But MacDonald is an intellectual star of the radical right, and he
is cited by the likes of former Klan leader David Duke to justify
neo-Nazism. MacDonald sits on the advisory committee of the National
Policy Institute, a racist think tank striving to "elevate the
consciousness of whites." He also contributes regularly to The
Occidental Quarterly, a journal known for rants against (non-white)

In 2004, the journal gave MacDonald its $10,000 Jack London Literary
Prize, awarded to authors whose work "is intended to promote the
timeless values of Western civilization."

     Mark Potok and Heidi Beirich are the director and deputy director 
of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project.

Scariest Hidden Persuader: Michael J. Petruzzello / Managing Partner,
Qorvis Communications

by David Mark

By any reasonable standard, Saudi Arabia should be considered a
medieval, Taliban-esque dictatorship. The "kingdom" squelches women's
rights, promotes an extremist brand of Islamic religious law, fosters
anti-Semitism in its official press, and exports jihadist homicide
bombers against U.S. targets.

Yet the image the Saudis present to America is strikingly
different-one of a benign, religiously pious ally in the War on
Terror. The Bush family perpetrates that fraud, kissing up, literally,
to Saudi Arabia's oil-rich rulers. During his post-presidency, Bush 41
served as a well-compensated rainmaker for the Saudi-funded Carlyle
Group, and who can forget the spectacle of the normally macho Bush 43
strolling hand-in-hand with Crown Prince Abdullah during the despot's
2005 visit to the President's Texas ranch?

But the Bushes have had help creating this charade. Michael J.
Petruzzello, managing partner of the Saudis' PR firm, Qorvis
Communications, lobbies Congress on behalf of his client-state's
interests and tries to whitewash their public profile in the media.

It would not be a stretch to call the firm's remuneration legal blood
money, considering that 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers were
Saudis, as are many insurgents in Iraq.

Qorvis often uses surreptitious means to cover for the Saudi's
backward-looking regime. The Justice Department once investi-gated a
radio ad campaign Qorvis put together for a sham group whose spots
advocated a "fair plan" for a Middle East peace settlement, but really
talked up the Saudi government. The company has also offered to pay
academics and former diplomats handsomely to speak up on behalf of
Saudi interests.

These efforts have proved a tough sell for Qorvis' own staff. In
December 2002 three firm partners quit amid what The New York Times
called "a deep discomfort in representing the government of Saudi
Arabia against accusations that Saudi leaders have turned a blind eye
to terrorism."

Qorvis continues to shill on behalf of the Saudi monarchy. O'Dwyer's
Newsletter reported that the Saudis paid the firm $3.6 million during
the six-month period ending in March 2006. In return, Qorvis set up
a "listening tour" for Ambassador Prince Turki Al-Faisal. The firm
also helped get editorial board meetings for the Ambassador with the
Los Angeles Times, CNN and the New York Times. Those contacts put the
Saudis in a position to propagandize on behalf of Hezbollah during its
summer attacks on Israeli civilian targets.

     David Mark is author of "Going Dirty: The Art of Negative
Campaigning" (Rowman & Littlefield).

Scariest Billionaire: Richard Mellon Scaife/Oil and Banking Heir

by Dave Lindorff

You might not expect that a hard-drinking dilettante who was expelled
from Yale for rolling a beer keg down a flight of stairs and breaking
a classmate's leg would become the paymaster of the resurgent
American right. But Richard Mellon Scaife, heir to the Mellon
fortune, has invested roughly $700 million over the past four decades
into grubstaking and then backing various right-wing outfits. His
foundations support the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise
Institute and the Center for Immigration Studies, an organization that
Right Web noted has been critiqued "as being part of a network of
anti-immigrant groups that cater to a white supremacist constituency."

Not content to just pay for dubious think-tanks and propaganda
operations, Scaife also dabbles in journalism -- he owns the
right-wing Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and shelled out some $2.3 million
to American Spectator to investigate and slime Bill and Hillary
Clinton during the '90s.

In the post-9/11 period, Scaife, 74, remains active, funding the
latest chapter of the right's "culture war." For instance, he
bankrolls youthful-leftist-turned-loony-rightist-geezer David
Horowitz's campaign to get states to pass "academic bill of rights"
legislation. (To date, Scaife's foundations have given Horowitz about
$7 million, or roughly half of Horowitz's op-eration's total budget.)
Says Public Eye's Chip Berlet, "With-out Scaife... Horowitz would
just be one of those guys in rags ranting on the sidewalk." Horowitz
and Scaife lobby for laws that would allow conservative students
to sue their professors for alleged "political" grading and for
"indoctrinating" them with leftist ideology.

It's perhaps appropriate that one of the radical right's major sugar
daddies is himself not known as much of a thinker. When Scaife sat on
the board that oversees the U.S. Information Agency, colleagues say
he had little to contribute. James Whelan, who edited one of Scaife's
newspapers once said, "My sense of Dick is that there was not a depth
of conviction about the causes he supported. They were rather strongly
felt prejudices, which is ... not the same as conviction."

     Dave Lindorff is the co-author of "The Case for Impeachment: The
Legal Argument for Removing President George W. Bush from Office" (St.
Martin's Press)

Worst Insurer: Edward M. Liddy / CEO, Allstate

by Michael Tisserand

Your federal government made levees out of tissue paper. What's a New
Orleans home-owner to do? If you're one of 30,000 policy-holders in
coastal Louisiana "protected" by Allstate, you thank your stars that
you kept up premiums and you ring up your adjuster. Enter Allstate
CEO Edward Liddy. As New Orleans tallied its dead and missing, Liddy
faced an even greater horror: a third-quarter loss for 2005. His
sinister solution? Effectively black-mail his customers by threatening
to cancel policies unless the state of Louisiana allows Allstate to
drop basic hurricane coverage, and then try his hand at a little
strong-arming by notifying storm-shocked homeowners they're going to
be jettisoned unless they also buy Allstate's auto insurance. Those
macabre maneuvers, plus a hefty rate increase, put Allstate back in
the black by the end of the year. (Dubbed a "shareholder-friendly"
CEO, Liddy was compensated more than $11 million in the year following
Hurricane Katrina). Now, 60-year-old Liddy has announced that he will
step down as CEO at the end of the year but remain as the company's
chairman. Liddy will be succeeded by his No. 2 man Thomas Wilson,
whom he has undoubtedly trained to stretch out the "Good Hands" and
throttle more desperate victims.

     Michael Tisserand is the author of "Sugarcane Academy: How a New
Orleans Teacher and his Storm-shocked Students Created a School to
Remember" (Harcourt).

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