Daily Archives: July 19, 2004

Edmonds Suit Dismissed

Sibel Edmonds, the translator who was fired by the FBI after criticizing its nepotism and incompetence, brought suit to get her job back. It was dismissed without a hearing. Dig the reason:

[A] federal judge tossed out her case, not on its merits but on the grounds that hearing her claims might expose government secrets and damage national security. That keeps under wraps the inspector general’s report that investigated Edmonds’ allegations.U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, a Bush appointee, said he couldn’t explain himself further because the explanation itself might expose sensitive secrets. He did say that he’d accepted Attorney General John Ashcroft’s explanation that the suit could “expose intelligence-gathering methods and disrupt diplomatic relations with foreign governments.” The Boston Globe reported that Ashcroft ordered material in the case retroactively classified.

Edmonds must feel a bit like Alice at the tea party, where justice is not being served, and where a secret is a secret but why it’s a secret or who says it’s a secret is a secret, and we can’t tell you why because it’s a secret.

Welcome to your US Govt in action–Down the Rabbit Hole, with Dick Cheney as the Queen of Hearts (‘Off with their fucking heads!’), W as The Mad Hatter, and featuring John ‘Dormouse’ Ashcroft.

What a crew.

Please Don’t Vote

I’ve said this before but it bears repeating: one of the neatest features about the Seattle Post-Intelligencer is its willingness to give ordinary citizens space on its Op-Ed page. This generosity has led to some surprising, informative, and entertaining pieces. This one, by Neal Starkman, is amusing while making some very good points that bear thinking about.

I would like to urge some of you not to vote. You know who you are: You really don’t know much about the politicians or the issues but feel an obligation to choose one or the other. Or you’ve decided how you’re going to vote, but you’ve used rather — how shall I put this? — unsophisticated rationales for your decisions. “He stands for strength.” “She has a really nice smile.” “I haven’t heard anything about that initiative, so it must not be any good.” “God guided me.”No, voting isn’t for everyone, and I really think it’s better if some of you sit this one out. Be proud of your spectator status. Don’t be misled by otherwise well-meaning people who give voice to the following platitudes:

It’s your patriotic duty to vote. No, actually it isn’t. It may be your patriotic duty to be an informed voter, but that’s different from merely voting. Are you going to tell me that the world was a better place because in 1933 Germans exercised their patriotic duty to vote for Adolf Hitler? It’s not voting that makes the world safer; it’s whom and what we vote for.

It’s what democracy is all about. Democracy isn’t about voting; it’s about having the right to vote. Big difference. I would never say that you, you, or you shouldn’t have the right to vote. You have every right; you should just recognize when to exercise that right and when not to.

You know, come to think of it, there are a few people I’d like to urge not to vote, too….

Where Greed Leads: Lodi’s Rip-Off

Lodi, California had a water pollution problem so severe that ‘the state’s Department of Toxic Substances Control had listed the heart of Lodi as a hazardous waste site’. The perps were known–‘ Two drycleaners, a manufacturer and the city’s own aging, leaky sewer lines’–and a deal had been struck to apportion responsibility: if the firms would pay to clean up the land, the city would pay to clean up the water. So far so good.

Actually, so far not good. The real problem wasn’t the pollution, it was in the word ‘pay’. Lodi is a conservative, Republican, anti-govt, anti-tax town proud of its ‘frugality’. It didn’t want to pay. The City Council knew that if it raised its tax rate to pay for the clean-up, it would be thrown out of office in the next election and be replaced by even harder-line tax-cutting radcons. Lodi was so cheap, it preferred poisoning itself slowly to paying a few extra $$ a year on their water bill–which had been a mere $10/month for years.

So when a high-priced corporate attorney suggested a legal scam to get outside insurers to pay for the clean-up instead, the Council jumped on his plan with both feet. Except for Susan Hitchcock, ‘who was derided by colleagues and threatened with censure when she was the only city official to oppose the plan.’

‘The plan’ was a complicated swindle that involved blackmailing the city’s insurance carriers with endless lawsuits and legal delays, tying them up in court for years until they agreed to settle even though the city had never bought insurance from them that covered this situation (it would have been ‘too expensive’). But the plan needed financing to cover legal costs until such time as the insurance companies paid up. Since going to the taxpayers was off the table, the lawyer who suggested the swindle, Michael C Donovan, went to Wall Street and brought in Lehman Bros.

The plan went like this: The city would borrow $16 million from Lehman at 25% interest to finance a barrage of lawsuits. Donovan and his firm would pursue the suits, billing at rates of up to $425 an hour. Courts would shift all the costs to insurance companies. In the end, Lodi would clean up the problem without having to pay for it.

Get out your calculator and figure 25% on $$16MIL$$–Lehman Bros had poached the Lodi City Council like they were eggs. Susan Hitchcock:

“Boy, were we duped. The more I learn, the more I realize it was about greed. There is no free lunch, and everyone knows that.”

Everyone but the rest of the Council, it seems. The result of their paticipation in this scheme was predictable.

Today, the strategy is a shambles, picked apart by state and federal courts and condemned by a federal judge as “environmental litigation for profit.”Donovan has been fired, along with the Lodi city attorney who pushed the plan. Lodi has sued Lehman, alleging the deal was illegal. Lehman has countersued to collect its debt — roughly $25 million to date, city officials say — pitting some of the country’s biggest law firms against a city that once made national news for banning silly string from its downtown parade.

Lodi’s financial future is in question. Interest is accumulating at $325,000 a month. The pollution has spread. And criminal investigations are underway.

This is a cautionary tale. The anti-tax brigade is willing to poison you tomorrow to keep a few bucks in their pockets today. They’re willing to sign onto complicated fraud schemes, engage in legal blackmail, and mortgage the city–your city–to big corporate bankers rather than spend a dime of their own to clean up a mess they helped make. They acknowledge no–NO–responsibility to the society which nurtured them, and no call that society might have on their purses, however legitimate. They would rather watch you die–that’s a price they’re willing to pay.

But you go ahead and vote for them again. Vote for the fantasy, vote for their charm and ‘optimism’. Vote for how good they look on tv and how easy they make everything sound. After all, life is just a reality tv show, and if yours gets cancelled, why, there’ll be another along in a minute to take its place.

Omnium Interviewed!

Yes, we said it and we meant it. We were interviewed! We feel like we have arrived. We feel like celebrities. We feel plural.

Jamison of BiteSoundBite is interested in bloggers and why they do this (I told him it was ego but he’s looking for a more complicated answer) so he’s decided to interview a blogger-a-week until he can at least answer the question without rolling his eyes and gagging. For some warped reason probably best kept to himself, he decided to start with us. We could have told him he was wasting his time but we didn’t want to spoil the fun. And we never have been able to resist talking about ourselfs. So we did it.

Jamison asked some excellent questions, we have to give him that, which we then expounded on at inexcusable length with marginal coherence and an almost impossibly complete absence of chromosomal integrity. Among other things, he asked about blogging itself–

BSB: Do you have many unfinished drafts that just sit on blogger unpublished, or do you pretty much hit the “send” button for everything you write?Mick: …I’ve read that other bloggers do drafts and I guess it’s a good thing but I don’t see the point. By the time you get back to it somebody else has already said it, probably better than you did, and everybody else has moved on. Blogging moves as fast as the news, for better or worse–and, like marriage, it’s both. As David Neiwert said, one of the great strengths of blogs is their ability to jump on an issue, spread it around, correct mis-statements or lies almost as soon as they’re told, and track the tale as it makes the rounds. They’re less successful at long, thoughtful, magazine-style essays.

–familial relationships–

BSB: Do you tell your friends and family about your blog?Mick: …[M]y friends tend not to be as politically radical as I am. This is a conservative part of MA. I didn’t used to worry about spouting off now and then and neither did they, but Bush’s quasi-election polarized people here just like it did everywhere else and politics got to be a dangerous subject….In the interest of keeping them as friends, I agreed to keep politics out of the discussion. Actually, given everything that’s happened, I may need to test them again; their attitudes may be changing.

–the ‘larger purpose of blogs’–

BSB: You…[call] attention to other bloggers that you enjoy…. [I]s there a larger purpose to this?Mick: …I’m not really sure yet…I’m in the process of figuring it out…

–and our almost pathological distaste for Tom DeLay and Grover Norquist.

BSB: …You’ve called Tom DeLay a cockroach and Grover Norquist a toad. Why these two in particular and not, say Bush, Ashcroft, Wolfowitz or a host of others?Mick: …They are both pompous, arrogant, primordially self-centered, elitist ambulance-chasers who have shamelessly crow-barred their way to power using nothing but extortion, bribery, threats, and blackmail. They don’t have a single redeeming quality or selfless act between them, and either of them would call down a nuclear holocaust if they thought it would advance them one small step personally. They recognize no limitations or restrictions on either their monumental greed or their slimy, inhuman, criminal tactics. ‘Might Makes Right’ is their Golden Rule. They’re miniature Hitlers–and I mean that literally, not figuratively: at root, they are autocratic, dictatorial types who would ‘cleanse’ the earth of their enemies, real and imagined, by whatever means necessary, given half a chance. Delay would have run a crematorium without a qualm; Norquist would have planted himself in the central warehouse to weigh and count the gold teeth shipped from the ovens and been proud of his work even as he stole half of everything that came in and put it in a numbered Swiss bank account….Maybe DeLay is nice to his family, but I doubt it. Maybe Norquist gave a homeless man on the street a quarter once, but I’d want to see the videotape….Does that answer your question?

In short, we covered a lot of ground, mostly with mud and string cheese, and brought terminal opacity to an otherwise crystalline topic. We were brilliant.

Jamison was good, too.