Going the extra mile before you hit the ‘send’ key

Your final self-edit should hurt. If it doesn’t, you need to do one more.

The writers you admire, like great athletes, push themselves to the point of breaking. They don’t have to say “ouch” or wake up with cramping hamstrings the next morning, but they’re aware of the necessity for making themselves rewrite and rewrite and revise, at least one more time than they’d prefer to.

Going the extra mile before you hit the 'send' key

Going the extra mile before you hit the 'send' key

It’s this final, demonic, savage, self-punishing edit–the moments where you make yourself give your copy one more read for fat, sequential logic and perspective–that will set you apart from your colleagues. This is never fun, it always hurts, and it sometimes feels like a waste of time. If it doesn’t feel that way when you do your “final” self-edit, you should put your copy through one more round.

This one-more-check discipline starts out as a quest to shave fat off your copy–say, the last 5% of hidden fat. But the habit will evolve into a more sophisticated spirit, in which you also start to make your story leaner by making it more expressive and aggressive. You’ll find yourself using bolder approaches to say more in less space. You’ll give yourself permission to say things more directly, less elliptically, than you used to.

The fact that newspaper reporters have less space to work with because of budget cuts can be viewed as a tragedy. But it also forces us to confront a real-world truth: We run too many stories that have an obligatory feel, or too high a proportion of obligatory paragraphs. These stories and paragraphs aren’t important, and they aren’t interesting, and they suck away too much attention from stories that are–stories that, in some cases, should be even longer. This sense of obligation makes for a newspaper that lacks sufficient urgency, focus and directness. It feels self-conscious, stodgy, fat, middle-aged, cautious.

Our audience, meanwhile, has been going in exactly the opposite direction. It’s been educated by TV and movies (regretfully or not) to adjust to faster, more direct, more audacious forms of communication. It’s ready for a newspaper that expresses its intelligence directly, quickly, with a voice of decisiveness and authority and a love of pure storytelling.

It’s ready for this kind of voice:

FRESNO–In winter’s darkest months it hunkers down like a grumpy neighbor, an unyielding enigma wrapping cold arms around the San Joaquin Valley’s belly.

Tule fog is once again shrouding and shaping life in this vast land. Outsiders know it best through news reports of hundred-car pileups on the interstate. Lore has it the fog is a curse against the white man, the ghost of a lost lake drained by a century of agribusiness, but in fact it has been around long before a settler’s plow dug the valley’s first furrow.

An endless siege of valley fog can send the strong spinning into depression. It can put off the start of school in the morning and mask the movement of criminals at night. Golf dates fade away. Pesticides and pollutants find a ready harbor in the mists. Planes are delayed, workaday commutes become a nightmare. The National Weather Service office in Hanford is fittingly located on Foggy Bottom Road.

But the story of tule fog isn’t all gloom and doom.

The cold but frostless days and nights provided by tule fog prepare the Central Valley’s bounty of fruit and nut trees for springtime bloom. And some find solace from the hubbub of modern existence in the embracing mists. Tule fog makes life go slowly.

“There is a culture of the fog that people don’t often appreciate,” said David Mas Masumoto, an author and farmer, whose 80 acres of grapes, peaches and nectarines near Del Rey lie in the heart of the fog belt. “It creates a sense of solitude that makes you feel at one with the land.”

For those who don’t go slowly, the penalty is high.

On Jan. 3, a chain-reaction crash of 77 vehicles on fogbound California Highway 58 in Kern County left one person dead and 15 injured. A week later, tule fog contributed to six pileups on a Sacramento River bridge, killing two people and closing Interstate 5 for half a day.

Authorities have tried most everything–flashing lights to warn of fog, signs to help drivers gauge distance and urge slower speeds, pavement markers to signal looming stop signs, CHP-guided convoys down zero-visibility freeways. But the fog is never defeated for long.

Locals tell of driving with the window down, braving bitter cold to crane an ear for the sound of oncoming cars at intersections. Some grade the thickness of fog by how many telephone poles they can pick out in the gloaming. There are three-pole days, two-pole, one-pole. At zero, you’d best get off the road.

The truckers and farmers forced to ply the highways even in the thickest muck rue the outsiders who come speeding into the valley, into the thick of fog. Just ask the gang at Zingo’s Cafe…

That voice (it belongs to L.A. Times Sacramento Bureau reporter Eric Bailey) saves space by attacking the story–proclaiming it, not tiptoeing around it anecdotally. Imagine what a different newspaper yours would be if piece after piece came AT the story.

Imagine a newspaper full of stories that began like this:

Parents worry about their kids talking to strangers. They worry about the influence of violent movies, Marilyn Manson and the Internet. They worry about youth violence and crime. Then many of them get behind the wheel and put their children’s lives at risk.

About 160 children died in motor vehicle crashes in California last year, and three-fourths were victims of safety lapses, negligence and outright recklessness by the drivers-often their own parents-of the cars in which they were riding, according to a computer analysis of California Highway Patrol records.

An examination of statewide crash reports, from neighborhood streets to interstates, found that mothers and fathers frequently failed to take the basic precautions with their most precious cargo.

They did not buckle them in or, for small children, use child restraint seats. They let them ride in front seats, sometimes facing signs reading: ”WARNING! Children Can Be KILLED or INJURED by Passenger Air Bag.” They drove too fast, ran red lights and broke other traffic laws with youngsters in their cars.

Adult drivers walk away unhurt from many crashes while children suffer fatal or serious injuries…

Except, that wasn’t the way that story, published in my paper, actually started. There was one more paragraph on top. The real story began this way:

Osvaldo Rios was driving on the Long Beach Freeway with his 1-year-old daughter, Jessica, when he lost control of his Mercury Cougar and slammed into a big rig. Jessica, wearing a lap belt in the back seat but not strapped into a required child safety seat, died of head injuries when her side of the car took the brunt of the impact. The father told police he had removed the safety seat to make room for more passengers.

Parents worry about their kids….

Clearly a poignant illustration, but why put it on top when the combination of the next two graphs was so devastating and so direct? Why make the reader think this story is about Osvaldo Rios when he would not be mentioned again–and then only once–until the 29th paragraph of the story?

The actual first paragraph was an example of how we hedge our bets, how we sometimes seem afraid to say, on our own, what’s news–what’s reality, what’s important. When we begin doing that, we’ll save space. More importantly, we’ll gain more of the audience’s attention and hold it longer.

If we’re going to start a story with an example, or with a scene, it must connect directly to the guts of the story (See “Six Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Type that Anecdotal Lead,” posted July 9, 2001) and must be important enough for the writer to return to it.

The following story feels crisp, despite its complexity, because the writer does just that:

SANTA TERESA, N.M.-Plopped alone in the New Mexico desert, it seems an odd beginning for a new community-like a front door awaiting the rest of the house.

Yet this tiny border crossing, which opened permanently two years ago in a plain of yucca and wild rabbits, is at the heart of a lofty vision to create, from scratch, twin cities on either side of the U.S.-Mexico border.

If the designs of developers in both countries pan out, nearly half a million people someday will inhabit a new cross-border community of houses, shopping centers and industrial parks-all built around the promise of international trade through the new port of entry, which sits a wending, 25-minute drive from downtown El Paso, Texas.

The plans are perhaps the most dramatic example of efforts by communities across the U.S.-Mexico border to hitch economic development to new or expanded ports of entry at a time of exploding binational trade. Across the Southwest, at least 10 sites are being looked at for possible new ports for a variety of purposes, from easing truck congestion along busy trade routes to boosting cross-border tourism and shopping.

In Texas alone, two new international bridges opened this year and another is to open next year. A handful of others have received approval or are being reviewed by federal officials in Washington, D.C. and Mexico City. More modest proposals for ports of entry also are being pitched or examined in San Diego and Jacumba in California and San Luis, Arizona.

The pressure to punch new openings in the border comes as the U.S. government has bolstered barriers to bar illegal entries and drug trafficking along the frontier. In Jacumba, a remote eastern San Diego County town being studied for a possible port, the Border Patrol finished putting up a 10-foot steel border fence just three years ago.

The new and proposed ports are in large part a response to the rising flood of freight trucks shuttling goods-such as computer chips to Mexico and finished electronics back to the United States-that has created maddening backups at key crossing points…

The tightness is also forged by the lack of an obligatory quote. Reporter Ken Ellingwood’s own voice was stronger and more authoritative than any outside “expert.” The paragraphs build purposefully from that little border crossing in Santa Teresa, stretching the range of the story, combining detail and perspective. (Ken would return to the Santa Teresa port in the 13th graf to develop it further.) It would not be until the ninth graf that Ken would bring in an outside voice.

The story ran on A-1 at 46 inches, and like many stories it didn’t start out that way. But its evolution– the combined product of editing and space limitations–is a lesson in how stories can be improved by circumstances that, to the writer, seem adverse.

Ken explains:

I’d be lying to say it was my plan to quote sparingly and rely more on my own authority in the story about the drive for new border crossings. The fact is, I originally ladled on quite a few quotes.

The first version of the story had 13 direct quotes over some 60 inches of copy. The piece grew a couple inches to answer initial editor queries, but all the quotes stayed. I even had a slot saved for comments by a Mexican developer who ultimately refused to talk.

My editor, Paul Feldman, then suggested trimming. We cut seven inches–lopping five quotes in the process–and filed the story at about 55. Some of the cuts were needed to make up for growth because we kept adding stuff.

I’m embarrassed to say how expendable many of these quotes were. I had several ”validation quotes”–comments from border scholars, an Arizona mayor, a Texas developer that, when we got down to it, served mainly to say, ”Yep, this story’s right, all right.”

The border story lost a few voices, but this was not a piece that developed characters or tracked a fight where you needed to hear directly from protagonists. I wouldn’t go slashing quotes from just any story. But the truth is, many in this story simply weren’t essential.

Then, once budgeted, the story sat, pitched for A-1 but bumped again and again over several weeks because of tight space. Though the story, then at 57”, was hardly a heavyweight by traditional Times standards, the news hole wasn’t accommodating it, plus map and charts.

Paul relayed orders from above: Lose another 10 inches. We both went over the story in search of trims. Two more quotes got axed. We dumped several grafs of scene description. Paul suggested some of the cuts and I found some. It didn’t take long to agree on them. Six quotes survived in the 46-inch final version.

The really painful cut, chopped during the first round, was a six-graf closing chunk about a needy New Mexico town seeking economic rescue by applying for its own border crossing. I thought it was poignant, with a plucky life-on-the-border quote from the mayor. Instead we ended the story with a businesslike comment from a Mexican border official. It was a needed viewpoint and couldn’t be chopped. But it lacked the emotional punch of the other finale.

Having ranted against an extra graf earlier, let’s now concede that sometimes an extra graf on top can tighten the focus and make the story more purposeful.

Read this story….

On Thursday, archaeologists hired by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will dig into a parking lot to locate portions of an historic adobe’s foundation. Historians believe the adobe is where an 1847 peace treaty was signed ending the Mexican-American War in California.

Three years ago, a different section of the foundation was uncovered during construction of the Red Line station in Universal City. That portion will soon be reexamined and documented, MTA officials said.

New research is already shaking up old theories about the adobe. Historians hired by the MTA believe it was probably built by 1795-much earlier than previously believed-as part of the Mission San Fernando’s holdings.

If it were still standing, the adobe would be next to Lankershim Boulevard in the shadow of Universal Studios.

For years, it was known as….

…and now consider how much better the story read with this featurized focusing graf on top:

Each time the city’s subway diggers carve into the earth at Campo de Cahuenga in Studio City, the past has a funny way of poking back.

On Thursday, archaeologists hired by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will dig into a parking lot to locate portions of an historic adobe’s foundation.

Historians believe…

Featurized leads that distill or humanize a new development are great if you get to the point quickly enough, as the previous example did. Too often, though, we lack discipline. If you listen closely enough as you read the next flawed example, you can hear the audience collectively demanding, after the third or fourth graf of the featurized treatment: What’s the story about?

Forty-four-year-old Carol Adkins sits in a Florida apartment, fed intravenously through a tube to her stomach. Sometimes she opens her eyes, or bats a balloon with a stick.

These days she communicates by blinking her eyes; one blink is yes. Two is no.

Her family clings stubbornly to the hope that her condition — her doctors say she is ”post comative”– will improve, but any progress will take years.

(This where I first started wondering what the story was about.)

It costs an estimated $30,000 a month in medical bills to keep her alive, her attorneys say. She is supposed to live another 30 years.

(Now I assume the story is a profile of Carol’s unfortunate state.)

Twenty two months after she was crushed in her rented car in a freak pile-up involving a city maintenance truck on the Hollywood freeway, Adkins’ attorneys said Monday they have reached a tentative $19 million settlement with the City of Los Angeles.

(What? It’s about the settlement? Why did you mislead me like that?)

The payments will be made in cash in four installments–$11 million by the end of January, $3 million by July 31, 2000, $3 million in 2001, and $2 million in 2002.

The agreement has yet to be approved by the Los Angeles City Council. It is set to go before the Budget and Finance Committee Wednesday, and Senior Assistant City Atty. Dan Woodard said he hoped it would go before the City Council by the end of the week.

If approved, it will be the largest settlement ever reached with the victim of any personal injury case in city history, Woodard said.

There’s no reason to rewrite this top as a hard-news story, especially because the settlement hadn’t been approved yet, but isn’t there some compromise-you line editors and copy editors might want to try your hands at it-that could have merged the magnitude of the proposed settlement with the personal suffering? It’s unconscionable that the story didn’t tell you about the settlement until the fifth graf, let alone the significance of it until the eighth graf. The reader’s dilemma was shared by the copy desk faced when it wrote a headline. Its decision: “Record Settlement Near in Personal-Injury Case.” That’s flatter than the headline had to be, but it showed that the news had to be given equal billing with the poignancy. If you hate having that done to you as a reader, don’t do it to your audience.

The extra read helps refine the balance between your three primary variables: news, meaning and clarity.

The best news stories are often about new or complex or unexpected events–and that’s the problem. The writer and editor often try to cram more into the top than the story can withstand. Hence our sometimes-bulging sentences. So, in response, something gets pushed down, and then the story feels hollow, and the tradeoffs begin again.

What should get the most weight? First the news, then the meaning of the news. Let’s look at two rewrites.

FIRST VERSION:

Faced with a shortage of paramedics willing to work on ambulances, Los Angeles Fire Department officials plan to experiment with a new way to assign paramedics in the San Fernando Valley next year.

The lead is clear but it doesn’t tell you what the “experiment” is.

Fire Chief William Bamattre’s proposal would staff all advanced life-support ambulances with one paramedic and one firefighter trained as an emergency medical technician, splitting up the paramedic teams that now operate in pairs.

The second graf didn’t explain what an emergency medical technician is.

The shuffle will not only help bridge the shortfall, Bamattre said, it will avoid unpopular reassignments and cut response times–a politically explosive issue in the Valley.

Good perspective in the third graf.

Paramedics and firefighters oppose the idea, and contend it will hurt emergency medical care.

And while most big-city emergency medical service agencies in the nation–as well as those in every California county except Orange-use staffing systems similar to the one proposed for the Valley, many emergency medical experts and patient-care advocates side with the paramedics….

Lower down, this perspective appeared:

The controversy comes at a time when the Fire Department is called upon to save victims of car accidents, heart attacks and other medical emergencies far more than it’s summoned to battle blazes.

Today, nearly 80% of its calls are pleas for medical service…

FIRST REWRITE: This brought into the first graf the elimination of two-paramedic ambulance crews–it explained what the “experiment” was. But it was a hefty 34 words long and still left you guessing “compared to what?”

The Los Angeles Fire Department is preparing to test a controversial paramedic deployment plan in the San Fernando Valley that calls for eliminating two-paramedic ambulances, a move that critics say will compromise emergency care.

As opposed to the first version, it quickly explained what emergency medical technicia are:

Fire Chief William Bamattre wants to staff ambulances with one licensed paramedic and one emergency medical technician. Such technicians receive one-tenth the training of a paramedic. In the most serious emergencies, a second paramedic assigned to a fire truck will meet the ambulance at the scene, a so-called “one plus one” system.

Trouble is, it’s not until the next graf that you understand the “why” of the plan, which the first version caught in the first graf

The plan is designed to help alleviate a shortage of paramedics assigned to ambulance duty and will reduce average response time in the Valley by about 1 1/2 minutes, Bamattre said.

The firefighters union, two professional associations representing firefighters and paramedics, and many emergency care experts say the new deployment plan will hurt emergency services by doing away with the all-important “second pair of eyes” that they say is critical in the first minutes of emergency treatment….

SECOND REWRITE: Was there a way to come at the story more effectively–to get the sense of the change, the reason for the change and the criticism in the first graf? Remember our old, rarely used friend, Miss Two-Sentence Lead Paragraph? Let’s invite her to the dance, something neither version has done so far:

The Los Angeles Fire Department is preparing to break up its two-paramedic ambulance teams in the San Fernando Valley. Fire officials say the move will cut response times, but critics–including many paramedics–warn that the change will compromise emergency care.

A consequence of that lead graf was making the concession to leave the EMR discussion for the second graf:

Fire Chief William Bamattre wants to staff ambulances with one licensed paramedic and one emergency medical technician. Such technicians receive one-tenth the training of a paramedic.

And then–higher than either of the first two versions, and using stronger perspective–an explanation of the issues that make the proposal more controversial than it might appear on the surface:

The controversy is rooted in a cultural change within the Fire Department. Although the department now handles more medical calls than fires, a growing number of paramedics prefer the less demanding regimen of fire companies.

RECOMMENDED READING: The stripped-down, disciplined clarity we’re after was on display in Bill Keller’s Jan. 26 op-ed piece in the New York Times, constructed as a Q-and-A on the Enron scandal. Next time you write a news story, or a news analysis, try to bring this kind of explanatory sensibility to it. Bill obviously enjoys more range, but there’s plenty to steal here. The questions are in bold-face for easier reading:

I saw this week that President Bush is “outraged” by the Enron scandal, and I know I should be too, but there’s a lot I still don’t get. For starters, what kind of company is Enron, exactly?

Enron is a new-economy company, a thinking-outside-the-box, paradigm-shifting, market-making company. In fact, it ranked as the most innovative company in America four years in a row, as judged by envious corporate peers in the annual Fortune magazine poll. It is also, at this point in time, a bankrupt company.

I meant, what does Enron do?

“Do?” Ah, a quaint old-economy question. You’re probably one of those people who like the new no-cell- phone cars on Amtrak. Enron does a lot of things, but mainly it buys and sells energy.

What’s so innovative about that?

When Enron got started, natural gas and electricity were produced, transmitted and sold by state-regulated monopolies. They were often plodding and inefficient. Enron used Wall Street magic to transform energy supplies into financial instruments that could be traded online like stocks and bonds. These contracts guaranteed customers a steady supply at a predictable price. This may be a good place to pause for an Enron Lesson. The company did stupid and venal things, but introducing the laws of supply and demand into the energy system was smart business and is, by and large, good for customers. One sad side effect of this scandal is that some good ideas may be discredited by association with Enron.

So where did Enron go wrong?

As often happens with buccaneering entrepreneurs, it got a case of hubris. It figured if it could trade energy, it could trade anything, anywhere, in the new virtual marketplace. Newsprint. Television advertising time. Insurance risk. High- speed data transmission. All of these were converted into contracts–called derivatives–that were sold to investors. Enron poured billions into these trading ventures, and some failed. It turned out Enron was good at inventing businesses, but terrible at the tedious work of running them, judging by some appalling internal management audits discovered by The Times’s Kurt Eichenwald. For a time, Enron swept its failures into creative hiding places, but ultimately the truth came out, confidence in the company collapsed and you now have a feeding frenzy.

How did it hide its mistakes?

To keep its mystique alive and its stock price growing, it set up partnerships where it could bury its losses, or generate imaginary revenues. Here’s one of the more audacious examples, pieced together by The Wall Street Journal: Enron invested a bunch of money in a joint venture with Blockbuster to rent out movies online. The deal flopped eight months later. But in the meantime Enron had secretly set up a partnership with a Canadian bank. The bank essentially lent Enron $115 million in exchange for Enron’s profits from the movie venture over its first 10 years. The Blockbuster deal never made a penny, but Enron counted the Canadian loan as a nice, fat profit.

Um, I’m not sure I follow that…

Neither did the Canadian bank, which now holds a lot of worthless Enron i.o.u.’s. Enron also seems to have baffled the accountants at Arthur Andersen, the bankers at J. P. Morgan, the Wall Street geniuses who touted Enron stock, and those C.E.O.’s who kept voting Kenneth Lay, now abruptly retired, the mastermind of the year. Also (with some exceptions) the business press.

Did Enron break the rules?

Whether it broke the law is yet to be determined. Various prosecutors are undoubtedly reviewing the statutes on accounting fraud, insider trading and illegal destruction of documents, among other crimes. But rules were for sissies. These were invincible innovators, who sneered at rules. In that respect, they were the quintessential 90′s company.

What’s that supposed to mean?

The company embodied the get-obscenely-rich-quick cult that grew up around the intersection of digital technology, deregulation and globalization. It rode the zeitgeist of speed, hype, novelty and swagger. Petroleum was hopelessly uncool; derivatives were hot. Companies were advised to unload the baggage of hard assets, like factories or oilfields, which hold you back in the digital long jump, and concentrate on buzz and brand. Accountants who tried to impose the traditional discipline of the balance sheet were dismissed as “bean-counters,” stuck in the old metrics. Wall Street looked to new metrics, new ways of measuring the intangible genius of innovation, and the most important metrics were the daily flickers of your stock price. Above all, everyone was looking for the killer app.

“Killer app?”

You are clueless. The killer application was the world-beating opportunity. (Mr. Lay called that Blockbuster deal “the killer app for the entertainment industry.”) As often as not, the killer app was not a new product or service, but a beautiful loophole. In the new- economy best seller “Unleashing the Killer App,” the first example is a guy who realizes that gas stations in Germany are exempt from the country’s rigid early-closing laws for most stores. Voila! German gas stations become virtual shopping malls. By the way, in the 90′s, expressions like “killer app” were widely believed to have an aphrodisiac effect.

So it was about sex, after all?

Oh, absolutely. Wall Street was the new Hollywood, risk was the new testosterone, Lou Dobbs was Leonardo DiCaprio. Accountants called themselves consultants and bought Miata convertibles. And how cool was Enron? About two years ago a Fortune magazine writer likened utilities and energy companies to “a bunch of old fogies and their wives shuffling around halfheartedly to the not-so-stirring sounds of Guy Lombardo. . . . Suddenly young Elvis comes crashing through the skylight.” In this metaphor, the guy in the skin-tight gold-lamé suit was Enron. The writer left out the part where Elvis eats himself to death.

That reminds me, is it true what they say about the name “Enron”?

Mr. Lay wanted to call it Enteron, until they realized that was a biology term for the digestive tract. In hindsight, Enteron seems right for a company of such ungoverned appetites. Though I prefer my wife’s name for the company: End Run.

Did Enron buy political influence?

Please. That’s not the way things work in Washington. Enron bought access. Money just got it in the door to make its case. (The case it made probably went something like this: If the government does things Enron’s way a lot of people will get very rich and they will be very, very grateful to the wise leaders who made it all possible.) If you’re asking whether the Bush administration did favors for Enron, sure it did – and so, by the way, did the Clinton administration, and both parties in Congress. Attention has focused on a number of fascinating loopholes lawmakers and regulators secretly customized for Enron. But –and here’s another Enron Lesson–most of what Washington contributed to the glory of Enron it did in plain sight. Politicians demonized government regulation, and methodically dismantled the safeguards set up in previous downturns to protect little investors. They promoted the cult of stock-market speculation, even calling for Social Security funds to be fed to Wall Street. They cut taxes and all but stopped auditing tax returns. I’d say Enron’s campaign donations, about $6 million over the past dozen years, paid off better than most of its other investments.

Isn’t that what free markets are all about–getting government out of the way?

Yes and no. Free-marketers believe in reducing regulation. Enron believed in reducing regulation of Enron. Enron was perfectly capable of lobbying for the federal government to take over the electric power grid from the states–hardly a free-market position, but one that would have made life easier for Enron. It lobbied for tighter regulation of air pollution, because it had figured a way to make money trading emission credits. And at the end Enron sure seemed to be fishing for a bailout. More important, a central tenet of capitalism is that people who run companies are subject to the discipline of the marketplace, as meted out by the shareholders. That can’t work if the shareholders are lied to about the condition of the company. Another Enron Lesson: The louder someone yells “free markets!” the closer you want to look at his files (assuming they have not been shredded).

But the administration didn’t bail out Enron at the end, right?

No, the administration declined to climb aboard that sinking ship. A final Enron Lesson: When business and politics meet, Kenny Boy, it’s not a relationship, it’s a transaction.

What happens now?

A witch hunt, of course. In the end, with any luck, Congress will stop some of the money sloshing around the political system, and restore a bit of law and order to the wild frontier. But first, a few burnings at the stake. My wise friend Floyd Norris says there’s a basic law of the market: When you get rich, it’s because you’re smart. When you get poor, it’s because somebody cheated you. Just as Enron embodied the stock-market delirium on the way up, it will, now that the euphoria is over, be the scapegoat for all those smooth talkers who convinced us dummies that we could be rich.