AOL news flash just hit the front page: "1 Dead, 20 Firefighters Hurt
in NYC Apartment Fire." The opening sentence says that already one
person has perished and as many as 20 firefighters have been injured in
the effort to put out the blaze.
An acquaintance spends his summers, working for the federal government,
fighting western forest fires. For days and weeks on end, with the
ambient temps reaching to 100 and above, he tramps with gear in hand and
a pack on his back up hills and down the steepest of ravines to
confront the earth-scorching blazes.
The other day, as response to the union protesters in Madison,
Wisconsin, Rush Limbaugh called the gathered "bottom feeders." His
acrimonious, disparaging diatribe against the 30,000 who had gathered to
challenge the state's Republican governor and legislature's gang-up to
gut the government employee unions were echoed by Sean Hannity, Michelle
Malkin, Glenn Beck and others on media's far right.
Remember 9-11? Rushing up flight after flight of stairs, all with no
regard for personal safety, all to try to save as many as possible . . .
remember them? And the weeks spent in toxin-laden hell at Ground Zero,
trying to rescue whomever might yet be rescuable, and to remove the
bodies of those who had been buried, just so the families might have
some measure of closure and the dead a decent burial . . . remember
them? Remember the proudly waved American flags and the FDNY shirts and
such that made all of us proudly behind the FDNY heroes . . . remember
Although Governor Walker has tried to split the ranks by exempting from
his kill-the-unions bill firefighters and the police, the firefighters
and police unions stood shoulder to shoulder with the teachers and the
other government employees unions. "Greedy"? "Bottom feeders"? That's
what they've become today. Even the governor's supporters, organized and
bussed in by the Koch brothers, everyday workers who should be able to
sympathize with the protestors called the protesters names and hoisted
signs labeling them as "Greedy" and "Lazy." The Republican foot-soldiers
harangued the protesters . . . because ostensibly they did not work for
Hmm. "Greedy"? "Bottom feeders"? Really? I wonder, who those supporting
the governor and the legislature will call, should their heart some
evening feel it's exploding in their chest, or if their house begins to
go up in flames, or if they spot a prowler outside? The greedy bottom
And why those greedy bottom feeders need a union. A true story.
In the early spring of 1977 there were no computers, no Internet, no
cell phones. If there were even fax machines, I'd never seen one. But it
was in that spring when, with my business major degree in hand, I had
an opportunity that seemed too good to pass up. I'd had some hands-on
experience working in consumer finance, but none where the real money
was: real estate lending.
Security Pacific Bank, one of the majors at the time in California was
willing to take a chance on me. Rather than jump right in, however, I
was to get my feet wet in one of their tiny branch operations in Los
Altos, handling junior trust deed loans.
After a few weeks, the office manager directed me to call in the
application to the area VP, for his approval. The manager stood over me
as I placed the loan application call. The applicants wanted the money
to open their own deli. The VP took down the information, then asked me
concerning the experience they'd had in the business. He was
particularly curious concerning the wife's qualifications.
Not able to find the answer on the application in front of me, I
put the VP on temporary hold while I asked the manager about it. The
wife had worked at Jack-In-The-Box for a time was all I could see. The
manager told me to tell the VP she'd been a buyer for the franchise. I
did as I had been instructed, though I felt completely uncomfortable
An hour later I stepped out of the office, went to a public pay phone
and placed the call to the VP. I explained that the only on-paper
experience the wife had had was as a hamburger-flipper, that the manager
had firmly directed me to describe her as a "buyer," and that I wanted
no part of the mischief I felt the manager was engaging.
A few days later the VP showed up at our office. He examined the
original paperwork. He interrogated the manager at length. He then
further interrogated me. That afternoon, before leaving, the VP fired
the manager, and finished by thanking me for bringing the matter to his
Two weeks later, I was fired. It was my attitude which he'd been getting
reports on since the day I'd been hired: not a "team player."
* * *
Throughout the past dozen years, from time to time reports have made
their way to the public about the incredible fraud that had been part
and parcel of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as running
rampant through a defense department that was impossible to audit.
Similar stories of corruption surfaced concerning Katrina, concerning
the mining industry, concerning the finance industry. The wink-and-nod
stuff about government contractors, those hired to oversee their
operations, and how stabbed-in-the-back whistle-blowers are dealt with.
Or, is the better word, "dispatched"?