Monthly Archives: March 2004

Money Laundry-ing

AlterNet: Industrial Money Laundry-ing
On September 30, 2003, Richard T. Farmer, chairman of the Cincinnati-based Cintas Corp. � the largest industrial launderer in the country � co-hosted a $1.7 million fundraiser for President Bush.

On November 20, 2003, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released new draft regulations that, if adopted, will weaken federal safeguards for employees who handle poison-soaked “shop” towels. The new rule would exempt industrial laundries like Cintas “from federal hazardous and solid waste requirements for shop towels contaminated with toxic chemicals.”

This is no small exemption. Each year, 3.8 billion industrial shop towels, which are used to clean up toxic materials or spills in the workplace, or to wipe-down machinery, are sent to be cleaned.

The Bush Administration’s proposed rollback is particularly worrisome because Cintas has been found to have repeatedly violated worker safety and environmental protection standards.

“We were never told about all the chemicals we were forced to handle, and never really warned about the toxic dangers from these chemicals. The towels were often in plastic bags dripping with solvent. Our supervisors knew all about this,” says Mark Fragola, of New Haven, Conn., a former driver for Cintas Corp.

According to the EPA, the rule will also will lead to higher profits for Cintas. The EPA predicts “this proposal would… save affected facilities over $30 million per year.”

For the record, Cintas and Farmer, are already doing quite well. Cintas made $249.3 million in profits in fiscal year 2003 and Farmer is ranked by Forbes as the 140th wealthiest man in America with a net worth of $1.5 billion.

Farmer is a “Ranger,” meaning that he has personally raised more than $200,000 for the President’s re-election campaign. In addition, Farmer was instrumental in George W. Bush’s 2000 campaign. Not only was he was a “Pioneer” in 2000 (having pledged to raise $100,000), Farmer and his wife gave the second most of any family to the Republican Party in 2000.

Since the 2000 election cycle, Cintas and its employees have given almost $2.2 million to federal candidates and parties, with 100 percent of that money going to Republicans. So far this election cycle, in addition to Farmer, 15 Cintas executives have contributed to Bush, with eight of them giving the maximum $2,000 contribution.

Farmer told the Cincinnati Enquirer in 1997, “I don’t expect any special treatment when I give my money. All I want is decent government.”

What is “decent” government from Cintas Corp.’s point of view? It could be a government that rewrites environmental law to increase their profits, and one that gives them big government contracts. In addition to the EPA draft regulation, Cintas, as the nation’s largest launderer, would likely to have been in line to receive a contract for laundry services from the Department of Veterans Affairs if the VA had proceeded with plans to privatize laundry services at facilities around the U.S. Richard T. Farmer served on Bush’s Veterans Affairs transition team.

But the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents 600,000 federal workers, sent a cease-and-desist letter telling the VA that contracting out the services would be in violation of federal law.

Will Cintas get its way? They have a long history of bullying and silencing their opponents. The public comment period on the EPA rules is open until April 9. Sierra Club, United Students Against Sweatshops and UNITE have joined together to oppose the EPA proposal that helps Cintas Corporation at its workers’ expense. Cintas has sued UNITE for defamation, and sued a shareholder activist to silence his efforts to bring forth shareholder resolutions about Cintas’ labor conditions.

Stories like this that expose the connections between the private gains of corporate America with the political gains of elected officials are all too common in the nation’s capital, and in the Bush White House. Sadly, the health and safety of workers and the protection of our environment could become the casualties.

Speaking Out, but not to the comission

Neither Silent Nor a Public Witness (washingtonpost.com)
This week’s testimony and media blitz by former White House counterterrorism chief Richard A. Clarke has returned unwanted attention to his former boss, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.

The refusal by President Bush’s top security aide to testify publicly before the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks elicited rebukes by commission members as they held public hearings without her this week. Thomas H. Kean (R), the former New Jersey governor Bush named to be chairman of the commission, observed: “I think this administration shot itself in the foot by not letting her testify in public.”

At the same time, some of Rice’s rebuttals of Clarke’s broadside against Bush, which she delivered in a flurry of media interviews and statements rather than in testimony, contradicted other administration officials and her own previous statements.

Just keep on criticizing Clarke, guys…

MSNBC – Sales soar for bookby former terrorism adviser

NEW YORK – Sales keep soaring for �Against All Enemies,� the book by former counterterrorism adviser Richard A. Clarke that claims the Bush administration did not do enough to protect the country from attacks.

Just three days after publication, the book has gone into its fifth printing, with 500,000 copies in print, according to the Free Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. �Against All Enemies� ranked No. 1 on Amazon.com as of Thursday afternoon, and both superstores and independent retailers have reported nonstop demand.

�It�s the publishing phenomenon of the year,� Gabriel Voiles, a manager at Coliseum Books in New York, said Thursday. �We cannot keep it in stock for more than two hours at a time.�

Thanks to Bush admin attacks, Clarke is #1 on Amazon

USATODAY.com – Anti-Bush books continue to sell
Newsmaking allegations, White House rebuttals and a ready audience for anti-Bush books have helped make Richard A. Clarke’s Against All Enemies a big best seller, publishing officials say.

Against All Enemies, released Monday, had an announced first printing of 300,000 copies and an additional 100,000 already have been ordered, according to the Free Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.

“It’s blowing out at our stores,” says Bob Wietrak, a vice president of merchandising at Barnes & Noble, Inc. “There has been phenomenal publicity. The book has been talked about on every talk show and every news show you can think of. Also, he’s an authority. He was there.”
Wietrak says the White House criticisms have only helped the book. Against All Enemies was ranked No. 1 on Amazon.com’s list of best sellers as of Tuesday afternoon and has raised sales for other works attacking Bush, including Kevin Phillips’ American Dynasty and Ron Suskind’s The Price of Loyalty, a collaboration with former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill.

Interview with Helen Thomas

WorkingForChange-A legacy of truth

“We’ve always been manipulated and managed, back to when I began with Kennedy and certainly before, but never to this extent… The secrecy in this administration has reached the highest levels. That’s never been seen before. Everybody has to be on board with this president. Nobody plays devil’s advocate… There is no search for answers in this President.”

“We are truly, truly being denied the information we should have. 9-11 gave it greater impetus. 9-11 instilled in everyone that we have to be patriotic.

“You get out of that by demanding answers: What is terrorism? What is terror? Why did the President try to kill two investigations of 9-11?… If you can’t get to the root of a problem, how can you solve it? There aren’t enough guns in the world to kill hatred.

“How can you want to be a war president? No past president, not even Eisenhower, wanted to be known as a war president.”

“He won’t call on me, and I’m in the back row now so I’m ignored… They don’t like my questions. That’s okay, just so somebody asks them, but they just don’t want me to ask questions… If I was a favored columnist, I’m sure I’d be in the front row again. But I have the prerogative of asking the questions, I do try. “I do think all of us [in the press] have laid down on the job early on [after 9-11]. Some of us are coming out of a coma. But nobody’s being challenging enough. We are adversarial, we aren’t there to worship at anybody’s shrine. We’re there for accountability.”
What, after all these years, keeps her going? “Outrage,” she promptly ssys. “And interest in the world, and knowing that I’m lucky to be alive.

“Maybe we can leave a legacy of truth.” She pauses. “Maybe.”

Apology noted

Assessing the Blame for 9/11

he seminal moment of this week’s hearings on 9/11 surely came yesterday when Richard Clarke, the former antiterrorism chief in the Bush and Clinton administrations, opened his testimony by apologizing to the families whose loved ones died in the terror attacks. The government, Mr. Clarke said, had failed them, “and I failed you.” He added, “We tried hard, but that doesn’t matter because we failed.” It suddenly seemed that after the billions of words uttered about that terrible day, Mr. Clarke had found the ones that still needed saying.
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Thanks to Clarke for saying what no one in this administration has been man enough to say – we’re sorry. For that alone, he deserves a lot of recognition.

Eternal Sunshine

“How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot!
The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d;
Labour and rest, that equal periods keep;
“Obedient slumbers that can wake and weep;”
Desires compos’d, affections ever ev’n,
Tears that delight, and sighs that waft to Heav’n.
Grace shines around her with serenest beams,
And whisp’ring angels prompt her golden dreams.
For her th’ unfading rose of Eden blooms,
And wings of seraphs shed divine perfumes,
For her the Spouse prepares the bridal ring,
For her white virgins hymeneals sing,
To sounds of heav’nly harps she dies away,
And melts in visions of eternal day. ”

Eloisa to Abelard, Alexander Pope

Went to see Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind this evening. Highly recommended… a wonderful film about the desire we all have at one time or another to try to get someone out of our mind, and the hazards of doing so. Having been erased from a few people’s memories, I hope they will see this movie, and perhaps remember that along with all the things you might want to forget about someone, there are many things you will also want to remember. If you just throw out an entire relationship, you lose all the good stuff, too. And unlike in the movies, there isn’t always the opportunity to start fresh. Well worth a viewing, and a lot of thought.

“For thee the fates, severely kind, ordain
A cool suspense from pleasure and from pain;
Thy life a long, dead calm of fix’d repose;
No pulse that riots, and no blood that glows.
Still as the sea, ere winds were taught to blow,
Or moving spirit bade the waters flow;
Soft as the slumbers of a saint forgiv’n,
And mild as opening gleams of promis’d heav’n. ”

“From the full choir when loud Hosannas rise,
And swell the pomp of dreadful sacrifice,
Amid that scene if some relenting eye
Glance on the stone where our cold relics lie,
Devotion’s self shall steal a thought from Heav’n,
One human tear shall drop and be forgiv’n.
And sure, if fate some future bard shall join
In sad similitude of griefs to mine,
Condemn’d whole years in absence to deplore,
And image charms he must behold no more;
Such if there be, who loves so long, so well;
Let him our sad, our tender story tell;
The well-sung woes will soothe my pensive ghost;
He best can paint ’em, who shall feel ’em most. ”

My pity to those who cannot hear the loud Hossanas – even of unrequited, forgotten love.

Clarke responds to White House attacks

Salon.com News | Richard Clarke terrorizes the White House
You said on “60 Minutes” that you expected “their dogs” to be set on you when your book was published, but did you think that the attacks would be so personal?

Oh yeah, absolutely, for two reasons. For one, the Bush White House assumes that everyone who works for them is part of a personal loyalty network, rather than part of the government. And that their first loyalty is to Bush rather than to the people. When you cross that line or violate that trust, they get very upset. That’s the first reason. But the second reason is that I think they’re trying to bait me — and people who agree with me — into talking about all the trivial little things that they are raising, rather than talking about the big issues in the book.

Why did you write the book now? That’s a question they raise. Did it occur to you that this would be an election year and it would be especially controversial because of that, and that these commission hearings were coming up?

I wanted the book to come out much earlier, but the White House has a policy of reviewing the text of all books written by former White House personnel — to review them for security reasons. And they actually took a very long time to do that. This book could have come out much earlier. It’s the White House that decided when it would be published, not me. I turned it in toward the end of last year, and even though there was nothing in it that was not already obviously unclassified, they took a very, very long time.

Were you seeking to make a political impact, in the way that the White House spokesmen have accused you of trying to do?

I was seeking to create a debate about how we should have, in the past, and how we should, in the future, deal with the war on terrorism. When they say it’s an election year, and therefore you’re creating not just a debate but a political debate, what are they suggesting? That I should have waited until November to publish it, waited until after the election? I don’t see why we have to delay that debate, just because there’s an election.

Vice President Cheney told Rush Limbaugh that you were not “in the loop,” and that you’re angry because you were passed over by Condi Rice for greater authority. And in fact you were dropped from Cabinet-level position to something less than that. How do you respond to what the Vice President said?

The vice president is becoming an attack dog, on a personal level, which should be beneath him but evidently is not.

I was in the same meetings that Dick Cheney was in, during the days after 9/11. Condi Rice and Dick Cheney appointed me as co-chairman of the interagency committee called the “Campaign Committee” — the “campaign” being the war on terrorism. So I was co-chairing the interagency process to fight the war on terrorism after 9/11. I don’t think I was “out of the loop.”
The vice president commented that there was “no great success in dealing with terrorists” during the 1990s, when you were serving under President Clinton. He asked, “What were they doing?”

It’s possible that the vice president has spent so little time studying the terrorist phenomenon that he doesn’t know about the successes in the 1990s. There were many. The Clinton administration stopped Iraqi terrorism against the United States, through military intervention. It stopped Iranian terrorism against the United States, through covert action. It stopped the al-Qaida attempt to have a dominant influence in Bosnia. It stopped the terrorist attacks at the millennium. It stopped many other terrorist attacks, including on the U.S. embassy in Albania. And it began a lethal covert action program against al-Qaida; it also launched military strikes against al-Qaida. Maybe the vice president was so busy running Halliburton at the time that he didn’t notice.

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Good for Clarke. It’s about time people of his stature spoke up about what’s really going on. Wish there were more people in the administration who were loyal to their country, instead of to the Bush elite.

The Perfect Storm – oil prices and the global economy

Guardian Unlimited | Guardian daily comment | The perfect storm that’s about to hit
The average nationwide price of a gallon of gasoline in America reached a record high of $1.77 this month. The steady spike in prices has left analysts wondering if this is a harbinger of even more dramatic increases as motorists head into the spring and summer months. Get ready for what might become the economy’s version of the perfect storm later this summer. The devastation could quickly spread to the UK and the rest of the world, with dire consequences for the global economy.

Of course, this must be Clinton and Kerry’s fault – not like Bush’s friendly treatment of the oil industry and their record profits have a thing to do with it…