Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Mike's Story Part 60 - Gold

   Anyone who was following Mike back in the FTW days knows that as soon as he got his inheritance, he would buy some gold.
   He did - $20,000 worth, and arranged to have it shipped to the apartment.
   Precious metals dealers are not fools - nowhere in their return address will you find the word "gold," "silver," or the chemical symbols thereof or anything else that might give the mailman ideas. 
   The gold didn't arrive.
   I checked downstairs.  There was a cabinet where packages too large for the mailbox were placed to await pickup by the intended tenant.  The doorman wrote the appropriate apartment numbers on a whiteboard on the door of the cabinet and when a tenant retrieved his or her package, he or she erased the apartment number.  Nice, clean, simple... as long as everyone was honest. 
   The system had always worked; no one was interested in anyone else's package.  I did once lose some dry-cleaning (from a different cabinet) but I placed a MISSING ad with a hand-drawn picture of the pants (which was no help) and got them back.
   Fortunately, however, it turned out there was more to the system than we tenants knew.
   The doorman also kept a book of which apartments had received packages on which day so the day Mike's gold arrived, the building knew which other tenants were likely to have gone to the cabinet.  I believe that when possible, the doorman also noted what time we picked up our packages.  
   Mike called the police to open an investigation.
   A couple of mornings later, he was at the computer when the doorbell rang.
   I answered it.
   A scrawny man stood holding a large package, the size that might be used for a shirt.
   He spoke rapidly, saying his name (which I remember) and mumbling a convoluted story about not realizing he had the wrong package.  He handed me the unopened package, then turned and dashed up the stairwell immediately to the right rather than walking to the elevator.
   I took the package and closed the door.
   Mike leapt up.  "You didn't ask him why he kept it for so many days!  You didn't ask him anything!" he cried.
   "I didn't want to let on that we were suspicious," I answered.  "So go ask him yourself."
   "No - you have to ask at the time.  It's too late."
   When he described the incident to a friend by email he wrote, "Jenna didn't think to ask."  This, despite my having explained that quite the contrary, I'd thought but decided against it.  Anyway, he was sitting less than ten feet away; why didn't he get up and ask?  I'm not the one who was valedictorian for three classes at the LAPD.
   But once again, he more than compensated.
   I was working on an investigation of the White House Council on Environmental Quality in relation to the environmental catastrophe which followed in the wake of 9/11.  My fellow activists and I, in occasional coordination with the offices of Congressman Jerrold Nadler or Senator Hillary Clinton, (we were looser cannons than some Congressional offices might have liked) had focused our attentions on the EPA which had lied, dragged their heels, tested with antiquated equipment that found 1/9 the asbestos revealed by independent contractors and engaged in a host of other obfuscatory tactics covered in The Moron's Guide to Global Collapse and elsewhere.
   It was acknowledged that the White House Council on Environmental Quality had edited at least one of EPA's press releases, turning cautionary statements about asbestos into reassurances.  And Hillary Clinton duly called to account the Chairman of the Council, James Connaughton (later collaborating with him to create the World Trade Center Expert Technical Review Panel which met for over a year, with nothing to show for it in the end) but the Council had otherwise been given a pass.
   But who were they?  How did their mandate differ from that of the EPA?  etc.
   In the course of answering these questions, I stumbled on an article (which is no longer on the net) about Sidley Austin, Connaughton's former law firm, and their actions on 9/11.  It seemed that the law firm had its offices in the World Trade Center.  They also had a number of partners who'd served in the Bush White House; in fact there was something of a revolving door between the two institutions.  And on September 1, 2001, they had doubled their insurance.
   I'd been careful in the article, Conflict of Interest, a 9/11 Windfall and the White House Council on Environmental Quality, (which was inexplicably later removed from the FTW homepage,) as I was in speeches, not to go overboard so as to avoid that tedious term, "hysterical mother," which had first been hurled in my direction in relation to the air quality downtown; later in relation to Peak Oil. 
   Mike read the article excitedly.  But when he reached the revelation about the insurance he cried, "You've buried the lead!"
   That was useful - to know that in toning down the excitement of the find, I'd gone too far.
   He finished the article.  Then, as he got up to go watch a tv show in the bedroom he said, "I would have been proud to have done that article myself."

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