Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Ken Lay, RIP

Ken Lay died this morning of an apparent heart attack. No doubt the conspiracy mills are going full speed, alleging that in some untoward manner, possibly for the benefit of specified or unspecified rich and powerful movers-and-shakers, Mr. Lay cheated the jailer. No evidence of such skullduggery has so far surfaced, and such speculation in the absence of evidence is yet another proof of the usefulness of emotion in allowing people to assume the existence of whatever facts happen to fit their own world-view.

A jury said Mr. Lay committed felonies, and we must respect their verdict. I’m no expert on Enron, and have not followed it as closely as some, but whatever the jury thought, I’m just as convinced that Mr. Lay met his end certain, in his own mind, that he was innocent of any crimes. For myself, whatever the relationship of his actions to the criminal statutes, and whether or not he was, morally speaking, aware of wrongdoing: Ken Lay was the captain of the ship, the man in charge, and he bore some culpability for what happened simply by virtue of his position.

In the last days of his life, Mr. Lay undoubtedly thought, probably in the wee-small hours of the night – on all he had done and seen in this life: from poverty growing up in Tyrone, Missouri; to the salad days of Enron – the days of money and power and being the toast of Houston, and considered for the cabinet; on to the familiar story of Enron’s death spiral; and then to his perp-walk and conviction.

Surely, with the day for his sentencing and incarceration drawing ever nearer, Lay thought long on the ruin of his company, and that of so many, many people who believed in him, and in Enron; and on the approaching ignominy of spending the remainder of his life in jail -- to say nothing of the impending financial ruin of his family. No conspiracy was necessary: I imagine all of that would be quite enough to kill Ken Lay. The heart attack that officially supplied the period was possibly redundant, and probably a kindness.

Now, that whole matter is forever between him and God, and Mr. Lay’s family will have to deal with the remaining earthly ramifications of the life of Ken Lay. RIP.

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