Lost Alamos Revisited

Lame Duck Soup

The Marx Brothers shenanigans at Los Alamos look like a metaphor for Clinton’s lame-duck rule. Losing the hard drives containing the nation’s nuclear crown jewels and then finding them — like a lost pair of glasses propped behind a copy machine — is, to put it mildly, hard to believe. The incident recalled the 1996 reappearance of Hillary Clinton’s missing Rose Law Firm billing records, which had been subpoenaed two years previously and were thought to be lost. Inexplicably, they turned up on a table in the White House.

The latest episode climaxed over the weekend with agitated Energy Secretary Bill Richardson — his VP chances now hopelessly compromised as calls for his head rained down from Republicans — lecturing the public to let the FBI do its work.

Though it was an easy slam dunk, Shrub managed to miss the shot, wobbling in with a sound bite that “America’s nuclear security should not be a matter of lost and found.”

At least, the beleaguered Gore finally had enough sense to get rid of Tony Coehlo, the walking time bomb who chaired his campaign. An inflamed colon is the least of this poor guy’s worries. Coehlo is under investigation for what may turn out to be the misuse of government funds for a private project. You can bet the Democratic political pros in Washington breathed a sigh of relief at his exit.

But in Coehlo’s place Gore picked another loser in the form of William Daley, perhaps best remembered for collapsing at the press conference at which he was announced as commerce secretary. Gore’s choice of Daley infuriated adherents of Donna Brazile, who thought she ought to have run the operation, and anti-free trade labor union leaders. On Daley’s appointment last week, the AFL-CIO attacked him as being “squarely on the opposite side of working families.”

Nader Worth Millions

Capitalist Tools

Ralph Nader, who is enjoying a renaissance in the press — not all of it positive — is suing this week to get into the presidential debates. With the major media controlling access to the debates, demanding that each participant demonstrate 15 percent backing in national polls, both Nader (at about 6 percent) and Pat Buchanan currently are excluded.

At week’s end, Nader issued his financial statements, revealing that despite giving away 80 percent of his annual income, he’s worth $3.8 million. Of course, a veritable industry of public-interest groups has been launched from Nader’s speaking fees alone ($200,000 to $500,000 a year), and Nader has made shrewd investments in technology companies, such as Cisco. This occasioned comment because Nader projects have been key players in attacking the Microsoft monopoly, although supporting open-systems software that would make Web technology essentially free to everyone.

Meanwhile, as the consumer champion prepares to receive the Green Party coronation this week in Denver, some Greens already are quarreling over the choice of Native American Winona LaDuke as VP nominee. One wacky faction wants Georgia congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, a Democrat, to serve with Nader as “true partners for the highest executive offices” over two terms “with an exchange of office” after the first term.

In an interview, Nader said he was not aware of the idea. “We haven’t heard about it,” said a McKinney spokesman.

Bush Camp Snorts at Reports

Texas Snowman?

Oft-denied rumors that Texas governor George W. Bush was once a cokehead are certain to gain new currency following a report in London’s Sunday Times that Dubya was suspended from flying while he was a young National Guard pilot for failing to take a medical exam that included a drug test.

The Times said it had documents showing that Shrub was grounded for failing to “accomplish” an annual medical exam that would have included the test. The Bush campaign said the candidate had properly performed his duties and had not used drugs.

Earlier this year, the Boston Globe reported that there are no records to show that Bush even attended Guard training sessions from May 1972 to April 1973, and that in May 1973 officers at Ellington Air Force Base in Houston claimed that Bush hadn’t been there for a year.

The Cost of Corporate Incentives

Billion-Dollar Blackmail

While the fair-trade movement has been focusing on stopping the export of U.S. jobs to developing nations, big corporations have been playing another destructive game, pitting states within the U.S. against one another to reduce the cost of labor. According to an in-depth report in the Baltimore Sun, states are providing more than $3 billion each year in incentives to attract companies by doling out grants, tax cuts, and loans. So far, two-thirds of the states either have introduced incentive programs or expanded programs already on the books over the last two years. These deals often are outright scams. Firms cajole, then threaten to leave states when they never have any intention of moving.

As more has been learned about the terms of such incentives and their economic effects, the seeds of political revolt have taken root among unions, citizens’ groups, and state and local officials, creating an alliance that binds unionists with Libertarians and liberals like former Illinois governor Jim Edgar and members of the Fed. At the center of this network is Greg LeRoy, director of Good Jobs First, a national clearinghouse on job subsidies. In a recent study, he found that 26 cities, 16 states, and four counties have moved to attach standards aimed at preserving wages.

After a survey, Minnesota set up new reporting requirements in an effort to ferret out just how much money was being lost in corporate subsidies. In Maine, the most significant findings in a study are that two tax-subsidy programs totaling $25.6 million produced just 95 new jobs at a cost of $269,000 per job. On the other hand, Maine’s job-training programs, which cost $1.5 million, yielded 644 new jobs at a cost of $2300 per job. The findings spurred the creation of a new political coalition of gay, environmental, women’s, and community-activist groups called the Dirigo Alliance, which became the force behind five bills in the state legislature. These measures would require that workers in subsidized companies be paid base wages of from $8 to $12 an hour, be guaranteed health insurance plans under which at least 50 percent of the premiums are paid by the company, pension plans, and safe workplaces.

Waco Conspiracists Question Illnesses

Sick ‘Em

The Waco trial, which opened in Texas on Monday with survivors and relatives of the siege facing off against the government in a civil suit demanding damages of $675 million, may help sort out what really went down that February morning in 1993.

Last week, diehards were still reeling after Michael McNulty, whose drop-dead documentary forced the government to reopen the case under the supervision of special counsel (and former Republican senator) John Danforth, raised new questions about the mysterious circumstances under which three key witnesses in the Waco inquiry had fallen ill. It was McNulty who last year produced evidence that the FBI used explosives on the Branch Davidian compound, and his film shows what looks like troops maneuvering in attack formation behind a tank at the site.

With the Justice Department insisting that government agents didn’t fire into the compound, the key to unraveling what occurred may depend on an independent interpretation of the film, which was shot by a hovering government chopper. Central to this endeavor was Carlos Ghigliotti, a videotape analyst for the House Government Reform Committee who was discovered dead in his office in Laurel, Maryland, on April 28 [see Mondo Washington, June 13]. The coroner ruled that Ghigliotti died of natural causes, but friends and family say he was in good health and they are mystified at his sudden death just as the Waco investigation was coming to a head.

Now McNulty is raising more questions about a “curious string of coincidences” involving illnesses of important witnesses who, he says, all asked questions about the infrared film and all got sick in late March. Fred Ziegler, an infrared video expert, came down with a serious case of lead poisoning and was rushed to the hospital. About the same time, Dr. Edward B. Allard, the main infrared expert, suffered a stroke that nearly killed him. And finally Mac Cox, a solar geologist who claimed the flashes on the videos were not reflections of sunlight, was hospitalized with a serious renal infection.

Says McNulty: “It’s really strange that just these few men involved with this one narrow issue were stricken.”

Eat Me

It’s a real temptation for a teenage boy: Whether to opt for a hamburger or a girl. At least that’s the way Wendy’s sees things. According to the Washington Feminist Faxnet, a recent ad shows a boy sitting at a table with a burger in front of him and a girl by his side. The announcer asks, “A hamburger — or Heather?” The young man agonizes, and finally, of course, goes for the burger.

Additional reporting: Kate Cortesi