Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Mike's Story Part 34: Hash Browns

By Jenna Orkin    

   Someone asked an intelligent question about the last post:  Did the prospective buyer just want to shut Mike up?   Of course, we don't know other people's motives but in terms of investigative journalism, shutting Mike up by that time was supererogatory.  He understood that that was the condition on which he'd be allowed to survive in the U.S. and he accepted it; that was why he was selling the website in the first place.  For all the speaking out he did after 2006 in the movie Collapse or the Vice series or on Facebook, he was reiterating already known facts or connecting them in a way that revealed underlying trends which was one of his greatest gifts.  But, as he put it, "9/11 is so dead."  The window of opportunity to act on the information he and others had exposed with respect to that disaster, and all that it implied, had shut with the 2004 election.  The one in '08 just sealed the deal.   On to today's post:

    The Village Voice called for the second time about a prospective article on Senator Schumer's response, or lack thereof, to the environmental disaster of 9/11.
   "I have two questions," said the writer, Kristin Lombardi.  "First of all, do you have [an activist]'s contact information?"
   "Let me look it up," I answered.  "Meanwhile, ask me the second question."

   "Do you think I'm being unfair to Schumer? Some of the other activists are saying that."
   "I told you they would."
   "Yes, you did."
   "It's complicated. Hillary could have and should have done a lot more, a lot sooner.  I called her about the barge at Stuyvesant [the waste transfer station directly outside my son's school where tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of tons of toxic debris was brought in violation of state and federal law] and so did the Stuyvesant Parents' Association.  Her office said, 'That's a local issue.'  You didn't hear a peep out of her until February when it started to become accepted that the environment was a major problem.  She could have prevented some of this tragedy. Instead, she just opted to count the bodies."
   "But still, she's done a lot more than Schumer."
   "Right, when it was politically expedient, when the wind was already changing."

   "Why are the activists telling me to go easy on him?"
   I said something to the effect of, "Because they're clinging to the thread of hope that playing nicely will get them somewhere."  
   I told Lombardi to talk to Chief Investigator for the EPA Ombudsman, Hugh Kaufman, about how Schumer's wife, Iris Weinshall, was herself implicated in the environmental fallout from 9/11:  She ran the city's Department of Transportation which placed the waste transfer barge at Stuyvesant's doorstep.  But lest anyone accuse the Schumer-Weinshalls of hypocrisy, their own daughter was also a student at the school at the time.  
   Afterwards Mike, who'd heard the conversation from the computer desk, said,
"Boy, as a journalist, I'd think you're the real deal... and when you're passionate, you're scary."  That was gratifying.
   Three months after the article came out, Lombardi was fired.  The Huffington Post later reported on the irony of her winning a prize for her article, Death By Dust, on the environmental aftermath of 9/11.

   "I have a lot of reading to do," Mike said in anticipation of his upcoming trip to Bellevue, "on bi-polar. By the time I go in, I'll be able to tell the doctors things."
   "I hope you're not going to be one of those patients who hide behind intellectual understanding in order to avoid being honest with themselves, which is the real work of therapy."

   "No," he answered, a little sheepishly. But he was a quick study: "That's why I'm not going to do any reading."
   A day or two later, we were in the Happy Days diner where Mike was having ham, eggs and hash browns with Worcestershire sauce. After all the alien culture in his life recently, including Brooklyn, he craved familiar food.

   He mused on a notice we could post on the blog: "I'm a mental case who just got out of Bellevue. Anyone want to read what I have to say about the state of the world? Please send donations."

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