Saturday, January 31, 2004

Century Building 

a profile of the Century from the mid 90s

The Century/Syndicate Trust Buildings
911-915 Olive St.

The 10-story Century Building was built in 1896 for more than $1.3 million by the St. Louis architectural firm of Raeder, Coffin & Crocker. Its neighbor, the Syndicate Trust Building, was built between 1906 and 1907 from the architectural design of H.F. Roach.

Scruggs, Vandervoort and Barney, a now-defunct department store, occupied the first six floors of the Century. In 1912, the two build ings were adjoined, when the department store built a narrow addition in what had previously been an alley that separated the two buildings. The store went out of business in 1967.

Since then the building has went through numerous renovations. Its many tenants have included the architectural firm of Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum (HOK). Southwestern Bell Telephone leased ten floors of the building as recently as 1993. The current owner, the Clayton-based Conlon Group, purchased the building at about th at time. Conlon paid $625,000 for the property, which had been seized by federal banking regulators, after the previous owner had been found insolvent. Since Conlon acquired the Syndicate Trust, an attempt has been made to convert three of its floors into a parking garage. That plan ended earlier this year, when it was found to be structurally unfeasible. Conlon is now seeking a demolition permit.

The Old Post Office  

Steve Stogel's deal to rehab the Old Post Office and build a beautiful parking garage across the street from it

Off the top of my head: It appears Mr. Sogel, aka Stogel, has backed other projects that have bulldozed downtown landmarks in the past. He was involved the the Gateway Mall fiasco in the 1980s, which resulted in razing the Title Gurantee and a couple of other early 20th Century skyscrapers. The RFT under Ed Bishop, now editor of the St. Louis Journalism Review, made a crusade out trying to save the buildings. The new "Gateway Mall" also destroyed a decades-old, New Deal plan for a real mall, which was to extend up Market Street to Union Station.

More Random thoughts:

This week's Riverfront Times, cover story on the Old Post Office cites an earlier article by Elizabeth Vega about the imminent death of the Century building . The reference, of course, doesn't mention that the RFT fired Vega.

That's not germane to a downtown architecture story. Unlike scatter-branined bloggers, a reporter can't wander off on some unrelated tangent.

Randall Roberts' story is well researched and written. It's too bad his editor didn't take the same care with the cover this week. On the cover, Stogel's name is spelled S-O-G-E-L. Whoops! there I go, again. I've already pointed this out twice since Wednesday. Pouncing on the typo has brought accusations that I'm some kind of sadist. So I'm turning a new leaf: What's one missing letter in the larger sheme of things.

I'm about half way through the opus at this point, and Roberts' story, on the whole, seems "balanced," which isn't necessarily a good thing in what used to be considered an alternative newspaper. Alternative newspapers once-upon-a-time advocated progressive positions.

After a long, but well written intro, this week's cover story gives the critics of the Old Post Office boondoggle a few short paragraphs to give their positions and then allows Stogel to talk about his lofty ambitions for several column inches.

The story is heavy on the politics and business angles of the development deal, which is obviously required in such a complex issue. But the Century building, which will be demolished if Stogel gets his way, is dismissed as a "reclic" early on. If this description was tongue-in-cheek, I missed it.

Moreover, in the first half of the story, at least, there aren't any architects cited, unless I missed it. The story is about architecture isn't it? We ll, maybe not. It's really about greed. But neither the bricks and mortar or dollars and cents are brought to the fore.

In addition, preservationist Carolyn Toft doesn't get a word in until the last several graf in a story that's probably 5,000 or more words long.

In the "old" days, when the RFT shamelessly supported the preserving downtown architecture, the story would have probably lead with Toft (an over-used source) escorting the reporter around the block pointing out the integrity of all the buildings surrounding the Old Post Office -- which is self evident even to somebody like myself who knows little about architecture.

If Stogel and his ilk tear down the Century building and stick a parking garage across the street from the Old Post Office, they will rip the heart out of downtown. St. Louis isn't Chicago. The scale is much smaller. The blocks surrounding the Old Post Office are the only ones remaining downtown that give pedestrians a sense of being in a big city. It doesn't take a genius to figure this out, obviously.

The other thing that needs to be front loaded in the story is the cost of the proposed project and where the money is coming from. Roberts doesn't get around to that until about 1,000 or 1,500 words into the
story. Deep into the story, Roberts pegs the cost of the project at $73 million ($43 million minus the garage costs) and talks in general terms about "funding through tax credits." Sounds like a rip off, but not much else is mentioned about the tax credits.

The lead, as I see it, shows up about 3,000 words into the piece. It comes in the form of a quote by attorney Matt Ghio, who is suing Stogel and company on behalf of a downtown resident.

"They were having these meetings and not letting anybody in the community know about it."

So you write a short descriptive lead, using Toft or somebody as the source. Then quickly go to the nut graf, which is the closed door meetings and then stick the tax credit details in the next sentence. Bullet some other main points and then stick the rest of the details in the rear. What you get by structuring the story this way is -- news. It's punchy and it's got legs and the reader doesn't have to wade through 3,000 words to understand what the hell is really go on.

None of this is necessarily the fault of the reporter. This is the way that New Times, the owner of the RFT, wants stories like this reported and written. They want the stories looooong and unfocused. and New Times loathes the idea of being perceived as "politically correct." New Times also has an aversion to taking a solid editorial stand on anything. Finally, New Times is based in Phoenix, where they have no historic architecture. To paraphrase one wag's view of New Times: They don't give a rat's ass about no stinking old building. For that reason among many, it's surprising that Roberts and the RFT would even attempt to write anything about the subject. After all, writing about downtown architecture in the "New" RFT is like asking to be hit by a wrecking ball. Look what happened to Vega.

Reporter's Notebook, March 21, 1997 

Closing Arguments in the Rufus James Ervin Murder Trial

The four black women sat outside the courtroom on the corners of two bench opposite each other. The jury had just begun to deliberate. It was 10:48 a.m., when the judge sent them out. One sang a hymn and one prayed. When approached by a reporter, one of the women, the mother of defendant James Rufus Ervin declined comment.

Ervin is accused in the Sept. 1, 1994 killing of reclusive environmentalist Leland White of Reynolds County.

The trial was moved on a change of venue to Rolla in Phelps County.
Before the closing arguments that morning defense attorney Martin Hadigan of St. Louis chatted with the two young prosecutors of the case. The subject was basketball, specifically the NAACP finals. The date: March 21, 1997.

It had taken more than two and a half years for the case to finally come to trial.

The attorneys were a study in contrast. Hadigan, a veteran St. Louis criminal defense attorney, bald, peering over gold-rimmed reading glasses, chomping on an unlit, soggy cigar. He wore a checkered sports coat and looked as if he would be more comfortable at the race track.

The prosecutors were both young and handsome. Both dressed in dark suits. David Brown, the younger of the two gave the closing arguments. The other David Cosgrove summed the case up. The two are assistant attorney from the Missouri Attorney General’s office.

Seated in the gallery was Robert Johnson, the prosecuting attorney of Reynolds County who originally had the case. He wore a flag-decal on his lapel, corpulent, gray-haired, bi-focals.

Ervin’s family, the four women, sat to one side, a chorus of sirens.

Johnson asked Hadigan if he knew Ed Dowd. Hadigan replied he did. There was some confusion as to whether the two were discussing the junior or senior Dowd. Junior is now the U.S. attorney in St. Louis. The elder Dowd was also a lawyer, judge and politician in St. Louis.

The courthouse here in Phelps County, Rolla being the county seat, is brand spanking new. The old courthouse is next door. Across the street there is a log cabin museum and there is a railroad trestle that crosses the nearby tracks that appears to have been built in the nineteenth century.

The talk in the courtroom before the judge and jury enter returns to basketball. The folks in the back row are loud and boisterous and include a deputy sheriff.

Alp brand bottled water is on the both the defense and prosecution tables.
Johnson says the jury was selected from more 220 people. The first witness was called late on Tuesday. It is now Friday.

Ervin took the stand in his own defense on Thursday. Allowing the defendant in such a case to testify is unusual. Hadigan needs to be asked why he allowed this.

Carol Whitehead is the reporter for the Reynolds County Courier-Press who took copious notes during the entire trial.
he two sides were given 15 minutes to summarize and present final arguments. In advance of the mornings proceedings, Johnson had said it would be 40 minutes each.

Judge’s name?

The prosecution claimed that Ervin struck White repeatedly with a brick. He called Ervin a “cold-blooded” murderer who showed “no remorse.”

Brown further stated that Ervin’s testimony was bizarre. After the closing arguments Brown told me that Ervin had claimed on the stand that he knew how to give a tracheotomy and how to kill a man by cutting his throat, too.

Ervin testified he had a decade of time in the military, according to both Johnson and Brown.

The jury included five women, the members were white. Ervin is black.

A tape was played of Ervin confessing to the either Reynolds county deputies or was it Missouri Highway Patrol?

The prosecution also called on witness Lucius House, who was present on the night of the murder. House testified that he saw Ervin repeatedly strike White in the head with a brick. The state offered the brick as evidence. They claimed that White’s blood and hair were found on brick.
he tape includes Ervin’s voice saying, “I don’t know, I just remember doing it. .... Whatever it was I believe I did it. I’m not sure about how many times.”

The defense contended during the trial that the confession was coerced.

“I want to tell the truth.” “Nobody coerced me.”

White’s hair, urine and blood were sent to a lab for analysis. None of the participants including Ervin had their blood or urine tested.

House testified that Ervin said, “It’s mine, it’s mine, it’s mine.” There was no explanation as to what the alleged argument was about, according to alternate juror Marcel Dozier.

The defense claimed that House couldn’t have heard anything because he was 15 to 20 feet away from the trailer, had the windows rolled up, was seated in the back seat and had the car radio on.

House claims to have heard White saying, “Help me, help me, help me.”

The argument or assault went on about 10 minutes, according to House. Ervin was in the trailer a total of about 15 minutes. The trailer was then set on fire. Ervin claims there was an explosion. The state says there wasn’t. They say instead that the fire was started by a lantern.

The autopsy shows that White was cut 9 times in the throat. Eight of the cuts were superficial. The ninth severed the trachea. Afterwards White, stumbled outside the burning trailer followed by Ervin.

Ervin then hit White in the head with a brick when the old man was prone on the ground. According to House’s testimony, Ervin may have hit White as many as three or four time initially. Then after White cried to be finished off, he hit him an additional three or four times, according to the witness.

Ervin then enlisted others to help him drag the body into the fire. This came after their car got stuck on a rock in the driveway as they tried to make their escape. With the car disabled, the prosecution claims that Ervin decided to fabricate an alibi in which he claimed there was an explosion. Ervin then walked down the road to Mr. Cook’s house to report the incident. Umfleet is called, a Reynolds County deputy.

Witness Margaret Pinkley saw a fire on White’s property as she drove down the road on her way to work at approximately 3:30 a.m. Ervin didn’t walk to Cook’s residence until 6:25. The state claims that during the intervening hours Ervin and his accomplices tried to cover up the crime after the car became disabled. They pulled White’s body further into the fire and then tried to clean up some of the blood.

The autopsy was performed by Dr. Zaricor
The state claimed that Ervin acted with deliberation.

At this point in the prosecution’s closing argument, Ervin whispers to Hadigan. Three burly Phelps County deputies are seated nearby. One is exceptionally overweight.

David Brown repeats the fact that White’s facial bones had been severed from his skull from the impact of the brick


Hadigan uses a podium in his closing arguments.The device makes him look more like he’s preaching to the jury. And preach he does. His style contrasts with that of the prosecutors, who built rapport with the jury.

Hadigan says everybody in the room including himself, the jury the prosecutors and the judge suffer from “the fallacy of human impression.” He says people are unduly influenced by the media and form attitudes prematurely. He asks the jury to put those kinds of biases aside.

Hadigan continues: “James is presumed innocent unless found otherwise by credible evidence.

He then uses a track star analogy. And says the state must jump all those hurdles for Ervin to be found guilt.

He says the burden of proof rests with the state. He refers to “reasonable doubt.”

Then he talks about the non-physical evidence, all of which he says does not show “deliberation” on the part of the defendant. He’s trying to get a second-degree charge rather than murder one, which could call for the death penalty. Johnson, the county prosecutor, is going to ask for the death penalty if the verdict is murder one. He says and the reporter, too, that while in jail in Phelps county, Ervin attacked a guard and gave him brain damage. That evidence may be introduced if the verdict is murder one.

Hadigan defends Ervin by saying he didn’t flee the scene, that he reported the incident to Cook.

Testimony of Umfleet is referred to.
Also that of fire marshal Johnson. Johnson supposedly gave a technical definition of an explosion was while on the stand.

Hadigan dismisses all that and says none of it shows “deliberation.’

The fact that deputy Davis collected the clothes of the suspects is mentioned.

The four are: Ervin, House, McAllister and Henry Cook.

He hammers at Lucius House’s testimony claiming that it is unreliable because House was drunk, had testified that he had drank three half pints of vodka before arriving at White’s place. That he sobered up enough to recall what happened during the critical 15 minutes was incredible, according to Hadigan.

Hadigan argued that the windows in the car were rolled up.

He also questioned the veracity of House’s testimony based on the fact that House alluded to there being only one house trailer on the premises when there were actually two, according to other witnesses.

“There is no evidence that it was plotted,” said Hadigan.
Where is the deliberation, asked Hadigan of the jury. “There is none, (only) panic.”

He asked the all-white jury to consider the impossible task of thinking what it might be like for a black man to be in this situation. To be interrogated in a rural sheriff’s department . The jury doesn’t look at all like they’re buying the racism argument.

Hadigan says the first interview with Ervin at the sheriff’s department was not taped. They elicited confessions from the other suspects and let Ervin sweat.

The second interview was not videotaped. There is no written confession, according Hadigan.

Henry, Lucius and Keith plead to lesser charges.

It’s six in the evening before the interrogators get around to talking to Ervin. They started with the others at 8 or 9 in the morning.

Initially, James denies the crime, but later acknowledges it.

He says he did exactly what he was instructed to do. {In the confession or the crime}

Hadigan claimed Sgt. Watson led Ervin in his questioning, basically showing him how to answer the right way. “james, isn’t this how it happened.”
Hadigan takes exception to the order of the state’s theory: throat, head, burns.

Cosgrove rebuts: claims Ervin acted in with cool deliberation.he defines that as being deliberation which can only take a moment to conjure up.

A train passes, briefly interrupting the judge’s final instructions to the jury. He then releases the alternates.

Johnson says Ervin talked on the stand about his military background as a medic. Mentions IRR ?

10 years of service. rifleman, said he knew how to kill a man.

Another Attempt 

The Life and Death of Leland White: Take Two
copyright 2004 by C.D. Stelzer
A more recent attempt to write about White's murder. I stay a cabin in Reynolds County owned by friends, who had also received letters from him.

Few offici al records remain of Leland R.W hite. There are, of course, the crime photos taken by the police, and the autopsy notes. Aside from that, his physical description is limited to driver’s license information and descriptions of those who knew him. It is ha rd to say, though, whether anyon e really knew White. He had few friends. No one knew him better perhaps than the man convicted of murdering him. And that is why he makes such an intriguing yet damning figure to write about. He is everyman. The only thin g separating Leland from billions of humans who have lived, died and been forgotten, are his letters. He wrote incessantly to strangers and acquaintances. He wrote to public officials, editors and reporters.

And he wrote to me.

The missives arrived o n bits of paper in his uneven scr awl or tapped out on one of his manual typewriters. They were written by candle.light or the glow of a kerosene lantern. He lived only a few miles from here, as the crow flies; a few hills and hollows away from this cabi n.

Leland has been dead for seven years. Somehow it doesn’t seem that long. Life here in Reynolds County goes on much as it always has. Each season bringing joys and sorrows to life among a people accustomed to a natural rhythm unlike that of the outside world. It is the insular quality of this place that makes White’s murder seem more unusual than if his slaying would have occurred in St. Louis, little more than a two-hour drive north. But St. Louis, however close in actual mileage, may as well be separ ated by a vast gulf. Reynolds Coun ty is an isle, an ancient, isolated land, where cultural changes come about slowly like the ebb and flow of a sluggish tide.

Nature is never so languid . Storms pass through here moving quickly across the summits and t hrough the valleys, knocking out el ectricity as they go. Today’s torrential rains have moved eastward, but in their wake, the few residents scattered along Route J have been cast into darkness. So it is that I find myself writing by candlelight as Lelan d did. I call him Leland though we n ever met. But I have come to know much about his life by investigating his death.

Leland’s story, parts of it anyway, are well discerned like the nearby highway lit by a Hunter’s moon. But traveling down other tangen ts of his existence is like walking a t dusk along a logging road that disappears into a tangled thicket.

Outside an owl hoots and headlights from a distant car can be seen driving down the gravel road by the river. I am by myself, the storm having place d me temporarily in similar circumstan ces to those Leland experienced nightly. Alone in his trailer, writing down his thoughts for himself and others; reaching out through the written word. Those words are hy his life and death remain in the memories of at least a few of us. Sometimes late a t night by email or telephone, we speculate about what happened that terrible night. More confounding are the inexplicable events leading up to that time. They will likely always remain a mystery. As time passes, me mories fade, people die or move away, and their own personal tragedies come to the fore. Everyday life goes on, and the details of Leland’s life and death seem inconsequential in the larger scheme of things.

An Untold Story 

The Life and Death of Leland White
copyright 2004 by C.D. Stelzer

The picture postcard arrived at Lester’s Place from Japan. At least, that’s how Graham Lester remembers it. Lester is the proprietor of the combination liquor store, restaurant and convenience mart out on Highway 21. One of his ancestors founded Lesterville, but nobody makes too big a deal out of it. Lots of folks hereabouts have generations of kin buried in Ozark graveyards. It’s almost taken for granted like an early spring flood on the nearby Bla c k River.

But it’s not so common to receive foreign correspondence in Lesterville, Mo. Then again, Leland R. White was not an average Reynolds County resident. Late in life, and for unknown reasons, White had decided to volunteer to teach Navy officers aboard ship a few years ago, around the time of the Gulf War. He made the transition from village eccentric to college-level instructor and back again with what would seem an unnatural ease. It was enough raise questions in the minds of those who picked him up as he wandered the county roads with his two mongeral dogs. As peculiar as White appeared to be, no one doubted his intelligence, and he made no secret of his academic creditials.

White often signed his name with a PhD behind it. The former Arkansas State University faculty member had a doctorate in history from Mizzou, and he didn’t mind saying as much, or perhaps more accurately, writing as much. For the most part, that’s what the 67-year-old recluse did. He was a true man of letters. He sent them to acquaintances for he had few if any friends. He also wrote prolifically to newspaper editors, elected officials and government bureaucrats. The letters covered a wide array of subjects, which tended to fall into two areas of interest: local environmental issues and conspiracy theories.

The retired professor scrawled some missives by hand and tapped out others on his old manual typewriter. He often composed the handwritten correspondence down at Lester’s Place, whereas the typewritten screeds were likely the product of late night sessions conducted under the glow of a kerosene lamp in his trailer. The trailer was located on White’s small parcel of scrub oak and rock, a mile or so outside Lesterville.

Beginning in late 1992, White began sending a series of communiques to the Riverfront Times. The letters fell into my hands because they pertained to a story I had written on Gunther Russbacher, a convicted con man who claimed to be a CIA operative with inside knowledge of the Iran-Contra scandal. White’s meanadering messages seemed disjointed or even incoherent and his handwriting was barely legible. For this reason, I failed to contact him and discarded all but one of his letters.

White died violently not long after he first tried to contact me.

The man charged with his murder is still awaiting trial in Phelps County (Rufus James Ervin has since been convicted and is on Missouri's death row) on a change of venue. After the slaying, my editor asked me to look into the case. For the first week or so, I didn’t realize that the murder victim and the man who wrote to me were the same person. Once that became clear, I developed an obsession with gathering information on White.

In the intervening years, since the crime has occurred, nothing further has been reported. White’s death is a tragedy, of course, but it is also remains a mystery.

Global International Airways 

Global was a CIA-controlled air cargo company out of Kansas City in the 1970s, which was operated by Iranian Farhad Azima. Azima also was tied to the Indian Springs Savings & Loan of suburban KC with St. Louis mob lawyer Morris Shenker. After Global folded, Azima went down to David Koresh turf -- Waco, Texas -- and started another CIA-front airline, Buffalo Airways. Here's a New York Times abstract that gives a puzzling glimpse at Global's operations:

July 12, 1979, Thursday

SECTION: Page 14, Column 6

Tunisian Government impounds American cargo plane it says was chartered by Palestine Liberation Organization, unloads 50 tons of arms, then releases aircraft. Says plane later left for Amsterdam. Spokesman for Global International Airways, Kansas City, Mo, which owns plane, says it left Beirut, Lebanon, carrying medical supplies for Nicaragua..

Today's Word Puzzle 

Courtesy of Danny Casolaro's notes

10th of October arranged
Paris meeting

2 weeks ago -- on a Friday afternoon
St. Louis, Mo. -- Robert Gates
Take it easy -- we'll help
Israeli counterpart
try to speak to Cardeon and try


73 corps. Kelly's in 813

early 1980s
Carribean arms
pat of the orginal New junta ouster
all 4 are [unredable]

unreadable, possibly Steryh (?)
tied to] Cardeon

Bull [both tied to Earl Bryan]
Earl Bryan -- Paraguay
Cardeon had a plant in Paraguay
"We were able to convince Strassner."
Strassner -- Brazil some problems

In Banks We Trust 

Before Banca Nationale del Lavoro, Bank of Commerce and Credit International, and Nugan Hand Bank scandals, there was Castle Bank of the Bahamas, a CIA conduit, which was started up by OSS veteran Paul Helliwell. Investors in the bank included Hugh Hefner of Playboy; Robert Guccione, publisher of Penthouse, Chiang Kai-shek's daughter and Credence Clearwater Revival. Other investors in Castle were Moe Dalitz, Morris Kleinman and Sam Tucker of the Cleveland mob. Dalitz and company founded Las Vegas, opening the Desert Inn in the 1940s. Among Dalitz's partner's in Vegas and San Diego was Irwin Molasky, cousin of Allan Molasky. Readers of Media Mayhem may remember that Allan Molasky's son, Mark, was convicted in the early 1980s in St. Louis County for child molestion. Mark's grandfather Willie Molasky was once the top illegal gambling czar in St. Louis and a business partner of Moe Annenberg and Al Capone's Chicago outfit. When Mark Molasky got in trouble Irwin Molasky -- the business partner of Moe Dalitz -- helped bailed him out to the tune of $100,000. The CIA's earlier Nassau-based financial institution, from which Castle evolved, was Mercantile Bank & Trust. It is unknown whether the off-shore bank was associated with St. Louis' Meranctile Bank.

Source: In Banks We Trust by Penny Lenroux

Silence by Edgar Lee Masters 

I learned this poem from the same 9th grade poetry anthology. Paul Simon also used this as the inspiration for his song the Sounds of Silence. Maybe we had the same American lit text book. Edgar Lee Masters is best known for his 1915 book of poems, Spoon River Anthology, which was first published in St. Louis in Reedy's Mirror. A bronze bust of William Marion Reedy sits on a pedestal at the entrance of the Grand Hall at the downtown library, opposite Mark Twain's bust. In the early part of the 20th Century, Reedy, a St. Louis newspaperman, published the Mirror, a nationally-recognized literary and current events magazine. Often I touch Reedy's bronze nose, when I go to the big library downtown.

I've been to the cemetery in Petersburg, Ill. more than once, which the Illinois poet was thought to have used as a model for the graveyard setting in Spoon River Anthology. Maste's book was one of the few poetry collections to hit the bestseller's list in American literary history. It was so p opular that it led to the exumation and reburial of one of the few real people who Master's wrote poems about in the collection, Anne Rutledge, Abe Lincoln's girlfriend. After the book came out, the town folk in Petersburg paid to have Rutledge's body dug up in Kentucky and shipped back to Illinois to be buried at the "Spoon River" cemetery. They were hoping that the cemetery would become a roadside atttraction.

Also worth noting, my friend Paul Boeger sang in a band in the early 1970s called Spoon River.

Silence is a lesser-known poem by Masters. I dedicate the second stanza of this verse to KMOX's Charles Brennan, who is under the misguided assumption that the U.S. has the "moral authority" to wage wars across the globe. Charlie, maybe you should consider going over to Baghdad to fight the good fight and get your leg blown off.

by Edgar Lee Masters

I have known the silence of the stars and of the sea,
And the silence of the city when it pauses,
And the silence of a man and a maid,
And th e silence of the sick
When their eyes roam about the room.
And I ask: For the depths
Of what use is language?
A beast of the field moans a few times
When death takes its young.
And we are voiceless in the presence of realities -
We cannot speak.

A c urious boy asks an old soldier
Sitting in front of the grocery store,
"How did you lose your leg?"
And the old soldier is struck with silence,
Or his mind flies away
Because he cannot concentrate it on Gettysburg,
It comes back jocosely
And he says, "A be ar bit it off."
And the boy wonders, while the old soldier
Dumbly, feebly lives over
The flashes of guns, the thunder of cannon,
The shrieks of the slain,
And himself lying on the ground,
And the hospital surgeons, the knives,
And the long days in bed.
But if he could describe it all
He would be an artist.
But if he were an artist there would be deeper wounds
Which he could not describe.

There is the silence of a great hatred,
And the silence of a great love,
And the silence of an embittered friendship.
There is the silence of a spiritual crisis,
Through which your soul, exquisitely tortured,
Comes with visions not to be uttered into a realm of higher life.
There is the silence of defeat.
There is the silence of those unjustly punished
And the silence of the dying whose hand
Suddenly grips yours.
There is the silence between father and son,
When the father cannot explain his life,
Even though he be misunderstood for it.

There is the silence that comes between husband and wife.
There is the silence of th ose who have failed;
And the vast silence that covers
Broken nations and vanquished leaders.
There is the silence of Lincoln,
Thinking of the poverty of his youth.
And the silence of Napoleon
After Waterloo.
And the silence of Jeanne d'Arc
Saying amid the flames, "Blessed Jesus" -
Revealing in two words all sorrows, all hope.
And there is the silence of age,
Too full of wisdom for the tongue to utter it
In words intelligible to those who have not lived
The great range of life.

And there is the silence of the dead.
If we who are in life cannot speak
Of profound experiences,
Why do you marvel that the dead
Do not tell you of death?
Their silence shall be interpreted
As we approach them.

My Tribute to Al Kerth 

I first read this poem in a 9th Grade poetry anthology at Southwest High School in 1965. Paul Simon ripped it off around the same time and turned it into a song. The poem is better. Richard Cory may have suffered from bi-polar disorder like Al Kerth, but I sense they both had deeper problems.

Richard Cory
By Edwin Arlington Robinson

Whenever Richard Cory went downtown,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
"Good-morning," and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich - yes, richer than a king -
And admirably schooled in every grace;
In fine we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

- Edwin Arlington Robinson -
" The Children Of The Night "

Nothing New Under the Sun 

From Lincoln Steffens' The Shamelessness of St. Louis, McLure's magazine, March 2003:

"...St. Louis is unmoved and unashamed. St. Louis seems to be something new in the history of the government of the people, by the rascals, for the rich. ..."

Tabscott on Kerth 

In September of last year, while I pondered weak and weary over many a volume of forgotten lore, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, ran a three-part opus lauding the late Alfred Kerth III, PR man extraordinare. The lede graf of the "tribute" series, c ited developer Steve Stogel as Kerth's best friend. Most St. Louisans probably never heard of either of these gentlemen. (The Riverfront Times misspelled Stogel's name on the cover of this week's issue.) In the past, Kerth and Stogel have cut deals for the local political/corporate power structure that brought them both wealth, if not fame. Many of the deals involved using public tax dollars to subsidize private gain. It's still the same Shame of the Cities that muckracker Lincoln Steffens wrote about in McClur e's magazine a century ago. But Kerth biographer, Richard Weiss, an editor at the Post, doesn't see the world as Steffens did. Nor, evidentally, has Weiss bothered to read the Post-Dispatch platform lately. Inste ad, Weiss views life from the same vantage point as Kerth did. They lived in the same tony subdivision near Wydownand Big Bend Boulevard.

So it must have come as a shock to Weiss when his next door neighbor blew his brains out with a shotgun in his o ffice. He was so grieved it took a year for him to pull together his glowing tribute to the public relations man who helped orchestrate the public financing of the downtown football stadium. Of course, the average Post reader would have no way of knowing that Kerth and Weiss traveled in the same high circles. Weiss' profile paints a picture of a man who befriended all St. Louisans through his selfless efforts to promote the city.

Others see Kerth's career as less than altruistic. Here's an exce rpt of a commentary by the Rev. Robert Tabscott on Kerth that appeared in the September 2003 issue of the St. Louis Journalism Review

"... He was young, tall, glib and cushioned from worry by the muffling security of weatlh and the coddling of r ich and positioned providers who used him as he drew on them to do their private bidding and help his own public image. Al Kerth did not invent himself -- he was the creation of others and his rise was meteoric with wonderful perks. He had a blank check f rom the Danforth Foundation for his schemes, the ear of Civic Progress execs, while drawing a hefty salary to support his growing appetites. ... All of us are the less in the death of Al Kerth, but only those who drink from the privelged cup are in mourni ng. The rest of us tasted reality long before Kerth put himself away."

Amen, Rev.

Friday, January 30, 2004

Today's Word Puzzle 

courtesy of the Casolaro crypt

The Company / Fresno, CA
East St. Louis
Dr. Earl Bryan
Andrew Thornton
Bradley Bryant

Bob Nichols
may have purchased Tisoft

George Pender/ Bob Nichols went into see Reagan

Jack Nard
Jeny Seeper

ad agency
Thomas Ferguson
Lyman or Lynn Franks

50,000 -100,000
soy-bean based formula
1992 requirements fatty acids
paying permatutions (sp?)
as opposed to breast feeding

Pete Max
703-459-8210 Woodstock
703-665-6455 Winchester
642-9531 Terry Miller home

Starting Points  

Well, the obvious place to start figuring out what the hell's been going on the last few years is Houston, the Bush family's home town.

Other starting points would be to figure out the Bin Laden family's corporate structure. Mike Ward of the Austin American-Statesmen reported in November 2001 that the Bin Ladens controlled a corporation named Socrates Ltd. Is that British? Maybe registered in the Caymans? Also Ward cites these Bin Laden owned corporations registered in the Netherland Antilles: HGA I nvestments and Binco Investments. And, of course, there's always the Carlyle Group.

I'm taking a break, my Internet connection keeps failing. Good luck on your mission.

Bin Laden, the Phillipines and Oklahoma City 

An excerpt from Others Unknown: The Oklahoma City Bombing Case and Conspiracy by Stephen Jones (Timothy McVeigh's attorney) and Peter Israel -- 1998 (way before 9/11):

"...Bin Laden, with his brother-in-law, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, had been anmed by U.S. authorities in February 1995 as among the 172 unindicted co-conspirators in the World Trade Center bombing (indeed, the architect of the bombing was captured in a Bin Laden-financed guesthouse, and Bin Laden and Khalifa were known to have close ties to Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman, the blind Muslim cleric convicted in the (first) World Trade Center case, so it is not beyond comprehension to imagine Bin Laden being involved with an attack against Americans on American soil. The New York Times noted when writing about the East African bombings, Bin Laden "has publicly threatened to strike at American throughout the world.

"And Bin Laden visited the Phillipines in early 1998, around the same time as a man from America whose name was Terry Nichols. ..."

(Terry Nichols was Timothy's McVeigh's partner in the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City. In his book, Jones, McVeigh's attorney, alleges that Nichols went to the Phillipines to confer with Abu Sayyah terrorists, who are allies of Bin Laden's Al Qeada organization.)

Another Clue for ADD-Impaired Internet Surfers 

Mike Ward's story, which appeared in the Nov. 9, 2001 edition of the Austin American-Statesmen, cites a Bin Laden Phillipine conncetion:

"... In 1998, Osama's brother-in-law was accused of helping finance the
Philippine fundamentalist group Abu Sayyaf in an aborted plot to assassinate Pope John Paul II during his visit to the island nation three years earlier. Sad al-Sharif, another brother-in-law, has been suspected of having financial connections with al Qaeda. ..."

Zeroing In on the Cover Up 

For those with Internet-related ADD, let's break it down:

The story from the Austin American Stateman points a finger at John Ashcroft --

" ... Public access to business registration, aviation and other federal records that might have provided more detail about the Binladen family's Texas connections has been restricted by various federal agencies at the direction of Attorney General John Ashcroft, in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. ..."

The Bin Ladens of Texas 

Excerpted from a story by Mike Ward of the Austin American Statesman, Nov. 9, 2001

Had it not been played out in the Middle East, the Binladen family story could have been pure Texas -- a business dynasty linked to power, politics and big money. Besides its business ties to the Lone Star state, the family acquired holdings that range from waterfront condos in Boston to property in California to holdings in medical research firms and a U.S. private investment firm to which former President Bush serves as an adviser. The family's high-level connections were longstanding and well-known: The former president visited the Binladen family in Saudi Arabia in 1998 and 2000.

The current President Bush and Salem Binladen happen to have a common
business associate in Texas: James Bath, a Houston entrepreneur who once was in the Texas Air National Guard with George W. Bush.

At one point, Salem oversaw a $92 million contract in Texas to outfit the "head of state" Boeing 747 for the Saudi royal family, with whom the Binladens were close. He designated Bath as his business representative in Houston -- where Salem's holdings came to include the single-runway Houston Gulf Airport.

The Binladen family profile in Texas drew little attention until 1992, when federal authorities investigated allegations that Bath may have illegally lobbied for Saudi interests in the United States. The inquiry ended without any charges.

In sworn depositions, Bath said he represented four prominent Saudis as a trustee and would use his name on their investments. In return, he said, he received a 5 percent stake in their deals.

One of the Saudis was Salem Binladen, according to court documents widely reported in newspapers at the time.

Bath has repeatedly declined to discuss his business interests.

In the early 1980s, Bath was a $50,000, 5 percent investor in two limited oil exploration partnerships controlled by George W. Bush. Bush's oil exploration firm eventually evolved into Dallas-based Harken Energy, which was granted lucrative offshore drilling rights off the coast of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf.

The partnerships were known as Arbusto, for "bush" in Spanish.

While Bath has remained mum about his business affairs, a White House
spokesman reiterated last week what Bush said years ago when the issue came up as he prepared to run for president: The investment money was Bath's, not Binladen's.

Throughout Salem Binladen's dealings in Texas, he cloaked himself in third parties and offshore companies that gave few clues to his identity. The Kingsland house was owned by Socrates Ltd., a firm in Florida where Salem and at least one other brother had homes. It was sold in 1990 after Salem Binladen's death. Other Texas investments were listed in the names of trustees, not Salem. The Houston airport is owned by two obscure offshore companies headquartered in the Netherlands Antilles, HGA Investments and
Binco Investments.

"The only thing we knew was that the owner was a Saudi family living in
London," said Linda Howard, with the Texas Department of Transportation
division that oversees airports. But Helen Paige, the manager of the
airport, confirmed that the Binladen family still owns the landing field.

"It was put in a trust for his children after (Salem) died," she said.

Public access to business registration, aviation and other federal records that might have provided more detail about the Binladen family's Texas connections has been restricted by various federal agencies at the direction of Attorney General John Ashcroft, in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

For years the family has been one of the world's best-connected power
players, successful at linking the Muslim and Western worlds. By the time Salem took over the family businesses, he was close friends with King Saud. He also helped the king's sons get started in business -- a good bet to keep the clan close to the Saudi throne for years to come.

Brewton Sandbagged by the Simon & Shuster, Too 

"... After encountering with the management of the Houston Post, Pete Brewton struck a book deal with Simon & Shuster, the the publisher tried to delay the release of Brewton's expose until after the 1992 presidential election. Instead of succumbing to Simon & Shuster's mandate, Brewton opted to have a much smaller publishing house release the book. Consequently, the book didn't get noticed much. Here's what Brewton has to say about Simon & Shuster:

"One of George Bush's closest friends, withg whom he started Zapata Petroleum back in the 1950s, is Hugh Liedetke, the chairman of Pennzoil. Liedtke is mentioned in this book, in connection with a Houston bank. Liedtke is also a mmeber of the board of directors of Paramount Communications, the parent company of Simon & Shuster.

"Paramount Communications is the successor company to the giant conglomerate Gulf + Western. One of Gulf + Western's original foundersa was Houston businessman John Duncan. Duncan and his brother Charles, the former Secretary of Energy and before that Deputy Secretary of Defense in the Carter administration, were involved in the family's business, Duncan Coffee Co., which was merged with Coca-Cola.Charles subsequently became president of Coca-Cola, the company which later would buy 700,000 acres in Belize with none other than (Bush crony) Walter Mischer.

"When Charles was nominated to be Secretary of Energy, he was introduced to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources by Mischer's good friend Sen. Lloyd Bentsen. And John and Charles are involved in an number of investments and business ventures with Mischer's close associate Jack Trotter and Trotter's wife. Trotter is alos a name partner in the Washington, D.C. lobbyist and law firm of McClure & Trotter, one of whose clients is Coca-Cola.

"Such relationships do not prove conspiracy."

Did you follow that? Any questions?

The Houston Post's Law Firm 

In 1988-89 former Houston Post reporter Pete Brewton wrote a series of articles that drew connections among various players in the Savings & Loan scam. Brewton reported that the Bush family, the CIA and the Mafia were all involved in the looting. The Houston Post delayed in publishing the stories for nearly a year. When they did finally run, some of the most revealing information was cut out. One of the main figures that was cut out of the stories was Houston developer Walter Mischer, a crony of the Bushes. So Brewton wrote a book, The Mafia, CIA and George Bush, which was published in 1992. Brewton discovered about the foot-dragging and censorship at the Houston Post originated at the paper's law firm, which had conflicts of interest:

"...That's when I began looking in earnest for conflicts of interest at Fulbright & Jaworski with our savings and loan stories. Here is what I found:

1. As previously mentioned, Fulbright & Jaworski allegedly laundered money for the CIA through the M.D. Anderson Foundation.
2. The Washington office of Fulbright & Jaworski had represented the (mobster)Herman. K. Beebe-financed, CIA-connected Palmer National Bank in a securities offering....
3. The Washington office of Fulbright & Jaworski was a client of William Casey when he was in private practice before heading the CIA.
4. Fulbright & Jaworksi helped handle a real estate deal in the mid-1970s involving Herman K. Beebe, Sr., Richard Rossmiller and Surety Savings.
5. Fulbright & Jaworski represented the campaign of County Judge Jon Linsay in an effort to retrieve some interest earned on deposits that the FDIC was unwilling to pay to the campaign.
6. Fulbright & Jaworski had represented one of Howard Pulver's companies in a lawsuit. ...
7. And finally, there were the conflicts involving Mischer. First, Wallingforth (the Fulbright & Jaworski lawyer who represented the Houston Post is good friends and a golf partner with Mischer's personal attorney and close friend, Tom Alexander. Every time I would press Wallingford about running the Mischer stories, he would say something like, "Wait until I retire," or "You know we can't run that," or something similar. He would try to make a joke about it or blow it off; but he alwyas seemed worried about how running these stories would affect him personally.

Blowing Smoke in the Girl's Room 

Far from the fray of the newsroom down at 900 N. Tucker, the brain trust is weighing the situation. The two editors scratch their chins and puff on their pipes, the aromatic tobacco smoke wafting in the air of the conference room.

"What about these far-ou t claims that this Stelzer character is making?" asks Soeteber.

"He's a nut case," says Bertelson, blowing smoke. "The Houston Post would have been all over the Bush-Bin Laden story a decade ago, if there was any substance to it. It would be a waste of time for us to look into it. Besides, Schneider and Sorkin are busy investigating the weather. Besides, the boys over at Lewis Rice say that it would not be in the stockholders' best interest for us to pursue the story."

"Shall we go to lunch now?" asks Soetber

White v Bath 

Below is the 1992 ruling by the Texas Appeals Court that threw Charles "Bill" White's case out of court. The panel of judges ruled that White's 10,000 documents were inadmissible because he was tardy in filing them. The jargon-ladened judgment is about a procedural technicality having to do with the discovery process. White had sued a Dubya's crony Jim Bath, a CIA asset. Smart money says the judges from the district level to the U.S. Supreme Court -- which refused to hear the case -- were pals of Bush Sr. The lingering question is what evidence was tossed out by the stacked court system? Has anybody at the Post-Dispatch considered sending a reporter down to Houston on a red-eye Peanut Special to check this? Has one phone call been made to White's former lawyer? Has White been c ontacted? Do I have to go down to Harris County Courthouse myself on my own dime? The Post has the resources to pursue this story, but I suspect it lacks the will.

CHARLES (BILL) WHITE, Appellant V. JAMES R. BATH, Appellee
NO. B14-91-00260-CV

825 S.W.2d 227; 19 9 2 Tex. App. LEXIS 423

February 20, 1992, Rendered February 20, 1992, Filed

SUBSEQUENT HISTORY: [**1] Appellant's Motion for Rehearing Overruled
March 26, 1992.

PRIOR HISTORY: On Appeal from the 281st District Court. Harris County,
Texas. Trial Court C ause No. 86-42551. Louis M. Moore, Judge.


COUNSEL: W. Briscoe Swan of Houston, for appellant.
Kem T. Frost of Houston.

JUDGES: Panel consists of Justices Pressler, Junell and Ellis.


    [*228] OPINION
 This is a suit for dissolution of a partnership and claims for
damages. After reviewing the decision of a special master, the trial court struck appellant's pleadings a nd rendere d a default judgment for appellee. The basis for the court's decision was abuse of the discovery process by the appellant. We affirm.

In 1980, White, appellant, and Bath, appellee, formed a partnership
for participation in real estate transac ti ons. Indi vidual joint ventures were formed for each real estate project; however all ventures were governed by a Master Partnership Agreement. White and Bath had joint management and control of the partnership, but White was in charge of the day-to-da y o peration o f the partnership. The relationship between the partners began to deteriorate, and in September of 1986, Bath sued White [**2] for recision or dissolution of the partnership and for damages. In February of 1987, White counter-claimed asse rtin g several c laims against Bath.

In September of 1987, Bath made an initial request for production. Bath eventually made many oral and written requests for production. White produced [*229] certain documents sporadically and promised full compliance. Th is was never done. Bath filed two motions to compel and/or for sanctions. After each motion, White promised to comply with the discovery requests if Bath would forego any court action on these motions. White failed to keep his promises, and Bath fi led a third motio n to compel and/or for sanctions.
The trial court set a hearing for February 20, 1989. At this hearing, White's attorney stated
to the court that all requested documents in White's possession had been produced or did not exist. This c ame as a surprise t o Bath because White had led him to believe that other documents did exist and would be forthcoming. Because of theoverabundance of discovery problems in the case, the trial court appointed a special master to oversee all discovery disputes between the p arties. The trial court gave the master full power to hear [**3] discovery requests and determin if any discovery abuses existed. On March 3, 1989, the master held a conference. At this conference it became clear that White had not produc ed all of the requested documents. The master ordered White to produce all of the requested documents and warned the parties that any abuse of the discovery process would be dealt with harshly through sanctions. For approximately seven mont hs, the mas ter conferred wi th the parties and monitored the discovery process. After the master had ordered White to produce, White executed an affidavit swearing that all requested documents in his possession had been produced or did not exist. Howeve r, after exe cution of this af fidavit, White produced over ten thousand other documents. This prompted Bath to supplement his third motion for sanctions.

After this motion was brought to the master's attention, the master conducted a full investigation of White's a lleged discovery a buses. The master requested both sides to submit affidavits and written arguments in response to the pending motion for sanctions. After considering all of the submitted evidence, the master issued a final ruling on Octob er 6, 1989. In the ruling, the [* *4] master struck White's pleadings including White's general denial, affirmative defenses and counterclaims. The master further ordered White to pay $ 5,000 to Bath as compensation for attorney's fees and costs incurred due to
White's sanctionable conduct. The ruling was based on numerous discovery violations which occurred over an extended period of time.

After the master issued the ruling, White filed a motion asking the trial court to review the matter de novo and set aside the master's findings.

A hearing was held on October 19, 1989, before the trial court. At the hearing the trial court castigated White for failure to cooperate in the discovery process. The trial court deferred ruling until a full hearing was conducted. An evidentiary hearing on White's motion to set aside the master's findings began on June 18, 1990, and was completed on July 2, 1990. The parties were allowed to present evidence, call witnesses, cross-examine the other side's witnesses an d present arguments to the court. After considering the evidence and arguments of counsel, the trial court adopted and affirmed the master's findings in their entirety. The court struck White's pleadings, entered a default [**5] judgment in favor of Bath and awarded Bath attorney's fees, costs, and the $ 5,000 that had been awarded by the master. White appeals the decision of the trial court.

In his first point of error appellant alleges the trial court abused its discretion in striking his pleadings and entering a default judgment fo r Bath based on Bath's motions for sanctions.

A trial court may sanction any party who perpetrates discovery abuses. TEX. R. CIV. P. 215. It is within the trial court's discretion to impose discovery sanctions and any sanction imposed will be set aside on appeal only upon a showing that the trial court clearly abused its discretion. Bodnow Corp. v. City of Hondo, 721 S.W.2d 839, 840 (Tex. 1986). Further, the trial court is given the broadest discretion in imposing s uch sanctions and in choosing the a ppropriate sanctions. Downer v. Aquamarine Operators, Inc., 701 S.W.2d 238, 241 (Tex. 1985), cert. denied, 476 U.S. 1159, [*230] 90 L. Ed. 2d 721, 106 S.
Ct. 2279 (1986); Tate v. Commodore County Mut. Ins. Co., 76 7 S.W.2d 219 (Tex. App.--Dallas 1989, writ denied). The trial court is not limited to considering only the specific violation for which sanctions [**6] are finally imposed, but may consider everything that has occurred during the history of the litigat ion. Downer, 7 01 S.W.2d at 241. The test for abuse of discretion is whether the court acted without reference to any guiding rules and principles. In other words, the test is whether the trial court acted arbitrarily or unreasonably. Id. at 242. The f act that an app ellate court may have decided the matter
differently is insufficient to show a clear abuse of discretion. Id. A trial court abuses its discretion when the sanctions imposed do not further one of the purposes that discovery sanctions were intended to fur ther: (1) to secure br oad compliance with the discovery rules; (2) to deter other litigants from violating the discovery rules; and (3) to punish parties who violate the discovery rules. Bodnow Corp., 721 S.W.2d at 840. If the sanction satisfies one of these purposes, the tr ial court has not abused its discretion. Garcia Distrib., Inc. v. Fedders Air Conditioning, USA, Inc., 773 S.W.2d 802, 806-807 (Tex. App.--San Antonio 1989, writ denied).

In this case, the record is replete wi th evidence of Wh ite's failure to comply with the discovery rules. This [**7] is borne out by the fact that the trial court felt it necessary to appoint a special master to handle the discovery problems. White would state to the trial court that everyit em had been produ ced, and then would prod uce more documents. After the master was appointed, at cost to both parties, and ordered White to produce all requested documents, White executed a sworn affidavit to the master stating that all documents had bee n produced, then later produced over ten th ousand more documents. White also failed to appear for a scheduled deposition as ordered, even though he did appear later. The abuses committed by White were not
isolated; White's conduct persisted over a two-ye ar period of time. The record contains no i ndication that the master or the trial court was arbitrary or capricious in their actions. In fact, it appears to this court that White was given numerous chances to correct his discovery abuses before the sanct ions were imposed. Thus, we hold the trial court did not abuse its discretion in imposing the sanctions. Appellant's first point of error is overruled. In points of error two, three, four, five, six, seven and ten, appellant cites no authority in support of the [**8] a rguments that appear under these points. Nor does appellant argue that there is no authority to be found in Texas law as to these points. In fact, it is generous to say that these seven points contain arguments. For the most part the scant discussion u nder these seven points of error consists of conclusory statements and questions. Point of error seven contains absolutely no argument and no authority; the point is merely stated in the heading. Points of error must be supported by ar gument and authorit ies, and if not so supporte d the points are waived. Trenholm v. Ratcliff, 646 S.W.2d 927, 934 (Tex. 1983); King v. Graham Holding Co., Inc., 762 S.W.2d 296, 298 (Tex. App.--Houston [14th Dist.] 1988, no writ); Bayliss v. Cernock, 773 S.W.2d 384, 387 (Tex. App.--Houston [14th Dist.] 1989, writ denied). Appellant's second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and tenth points of error are overruled.

In his eighth point of error appellant contends the trial court
erred in overruling his objection to an answer given by Bath's couns el concerning statements made by White during White's deposition. White's counsel objected on the grounds that such testimony violated the best [**9] evidence rule.

During the hearing held on June 18, 1990, Bath's counsel, K em Frost, testified concernin g what White had said at his deposition. White's attorney objected citing the best evidence rule. The trial court determined that Ms.Frost should be allowed to paraphrase what occurred at the deposition since she was the one examining White at the deposi tion. The court informed White's counsel that if he believed Ms. Frost's testimony to be inaccurate, he [*231] could bring it to the court's attention. White's counsel responded:

I have no problem with that procedure, Your Honor, except that that is going to require me to offer Mr. White's deposition in this hearing. I don't have its here with me, but I will have to offer it.
The court informed White's counsel that he would allow the deposition to be offered. Ms. Frost then continued her testimony, ma king further statements about what White had said at his deposition. There were no further objections by White's counsel, nor did he ever offer the deposition into evidence. It is clear that White has w aived any error con cerning this testimony. White's c ounsel agreed that Ms. Frost could summarize White's deposition testimony. [**10]

Even if the objection was not waived, the best evidence rule is inapplicable in this case. The best evidence rule pr ovides that the only competent evidence to prove the c ontents of a document is the document itself. Aetna Ins. Co. v. Klein, 160 Tex. 61, 325 S.W.2d 376 (1959); Prudential Ins Co. of America, Inc. v. Black, 572 S.W.2d 379, 380 (Tex. Civ. App.--Houston [14th Dist.] 1978, no writ). Al this court has previously held, the key phrase is "to prove the contents," because only when one seeks to prove the contents of a document that the best evidence rule applies. Black, 572 S.W.2d at 380. When the document and its contents ar e only collaterally related to the issues in the case the best evidence rule does not apply. Id. Here, the deposition and its contents were only collaterally related to the controlling issue of whether White had violated the discovery rules. The aim was n ot to prove the contents of the deposition,
but rather to determine whether any discovery abuses had occurred.

Therefore, the best evidence rule was not applicable. Appellant's eighth point of error is overruled. In point of error nine appellant alleges trial court erred in sustaining [**11] Bath's objection to testimony by White's former counsel that there was an agreement between counsel to hold discovery in abeyance. Bath's counsel objected stating that TEX. R. Civ. P. 11 p revented testimony regarding any alleged agreement. TEX. R. Civ. P. 11 provides:

Unless otherwise provided in these rules, no agreement between attorneys or parties touching any suit pending will be enforced unless it be in writing, signed and filed w ith the papers as part of the record, or unless it be made in open court and entered of record.

It is undisputed that the alleged agreement failed to comply with the requirements of Rule 11. The rationale behind the rule is that oral agreements concerning suits are very liabl e to be misconstrued, forgotten and to beget misunderstandings and controversies. Kennedy v. Hyde, 682 S.W.2d 525, 529 (Tex. 1984). Since the requirements of Rule 11 were not met, any agreement regarding an abeyance of discovery is unenforceable, and any evidence that such an agreement existed is also inadmissible. Evidence regarding the existence of such an agreement would be as contested as the terms of the agreement itself.

Therefore, admitting evidence that one [**12] party believed such an
agreement existed would defeat the purpose of Rule 11 as surely as enforcement of the terms of the agreement would. Beyond all of this, even if such an agreement did exist and White knew about it, it still would have become painf ully clear to him that the agreeme nt was no longer in effect when Bath's attorneys began making demands for compliance and motions for sanctions; and the existence of
the alleged agreement is no evidence of good faith on the pa rt of White. Appellant's ninth point of error is without merit and is overruled. The judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

William E. Junell

Judgment rende red and Opinion filed February 20, 1992.

Panel consists of Justices Pressler, Junell and Ellis.

Publish - TEX. R. APP. P. 90.

Bush and the Bin Ladens 

In the late 1970s, George W. Bush was a business partner of James R. Bath. Bath, in turn, was a business partner Bill White. Bill White and Bath had a falling out, and White sued Bath. The case went to the Texas Supreme Court, which ruled that the 10,000 documents that White submitted to the court had not been provided in a timely manner or in accordance with judicial guidelines. White's case was thrown out of state court and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review it. Among other things White alleged t hat Bath was recruited as a CIA asset by George H.W. Bush, the current president's father. Bath was recently interviewed on radio. Here' part of the transcript:


Well, I l e arned that there was a relationship between the Saudi Royals and the politicians here in the United States and that Bath was helping to protect the Saudi Royal Family by training some of the Saudi Nationals who were at our Air Force base as being trai n e d as pilots. We had a Prince who was the first foreign National to fly on the first US Space Shuttle. We had other foreign Nationals too. Jim was functioning as an intermediary between the Bushes and the Saudi Royal Family.


Well, Jim explained that in the early seventies when he served in the Texas Air National Guard that George Bush Junior, our current President had co me on board along with some other Politicians’ children. This is during the Vietnam War era and they became drinking buddies and good friends. And then in nineteen seventy-six when, when W’s father became CIA Director and the CIA was trying to privatize som e o f their
subsidiaries, their air affiliates, etc.; that Jim was actually recommended to the CIA Director, George Senior by W. And that’s when the relationship got established.


That’s correct."He spent probably ninety-five percent of his time, I’d call it hand-holding the Arabs. He bought a bank for them. He bought an airport for them."


Right. That link had already been established and Jim was actually in an operational mode. He spent probably ninety-five percent of his time, I’d call it han d-ho l di ng th e Arabs. He bought a bank for them. He bought an airport for them. He started an airline for them among other ventures in Houston, Texas and was, the nominee or the front man for their ownership of these various entities. He would sp end n inety-nine perce n t of his time dealing with their interests while I was relegated to running our real estate development company.


W ell th ey ha d a large presence here because of the oil interest. And they had banking interests by virtue of Bush Senior’s association with First International Bank which subsequently became Air First. And also John Connolly who was a former Democrat who turned Repub li ca n and work ed in the Nixon Administration with Bush he ran First Citi-Bank.

We also had James Baker and Baker, the Baker and Bott’s Law Firm, so you basically had a confluence of political interests that were friendly to the Saudi Roy al Fami ly doin g b usi ness in Hou ston.
[read more]

Thursday, January 29, 2004

A Question from the Son of A United Auto Worker, Sailor 

"... In case you don't understand just how bizarre the media's silence is regarding the Bush-bin Laden connections, lets draw an anology to how the press or Congress may have handled something like this if the same shoe had been on Clinton's foot. if, aft er the terrorist attack on the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, it was revealed that President Bill Clinton and his family had financial dealings with Timothy McVeigh's family, what do you think the Republican Pary and the media would have done with tha t one? Do you think at least a couple of questions might have been asked, like, "What is THAT all about?" Be honest, you know the answer. They would have asked more than a couple of questions. They would have skinned Clinton alive and thrown what was left of his carcass in Gitmo. ..." -- from Dude, Where's My Country? by Michael Moore

Media Mayhem's Literary Quiz 

Q.What is the full title of Kurt Vonnegutt's most famous novel?

A. Slaughterhouse-Five
The Children's
A Duty-Dance With Death
Kurt Vonnegutt
A Fourth-Generation German-American
Now Living In Easy Circumstances
on Cape Cod
[And Smokeing Too Much],
Who, as an American Infantry Scout
Hors De Combat,
As A Prisoner Of War,
Witnessed The Fire-Bombing
Of Dresden Germany,
"The Florence of the Elbe,"
A Long Time Ago,
And Survived To Tell The Tale,
This Is A Novel
Somewhat In the Telegraphic Schitzophrenic
Manner of Tales
Of The Planet Tralfamadore,
Where The Flying Saucers
Come From.

The Sages of Donnybrook 

Ignoring my own stated platform of forgetting Donnybrook, let's examine's tonight program.

Bush is Balless
Bill McClellan said that George W. Bush responded to the 9/11 attack and the "terrorist" threat with valor.

Bill, that's bit of h istorical revisionism on your part, ain't it?

Bush fled to Louisiana and then Nebraska before returning to Washington. He has the largest Air Force in the world at his disposal. He didn't act with bravery, he acted with cowardice. He's supposed to be the

Moreover, Bush is known to have done business with Bin Laden's brother in the past and his father supplied Saddam Hussein's regime with arms. He's a traitor just like Michael Moore says he is. Try reading Moore's latest book, Dude, Where's my Country?, which is a good primer for political dummies such as yourself.

Saint Raymond
Ray Hartmann said that Shell Oil Co. is setting the wrong precedent for firing an employee for a minor infraction."They're sending a m essage to the people who work at Shell that this is the kind of compassion we have."

Ray, the guy to whom you sold your newspaper -- for millions of dollars -- is the worst newspaper owner in the United States. Mike Lacey, the executive editor of New Times Inc., has an abysmal labor record. He fires people abruptly and without reason. Your entire editorial staff has left the Riverfront Times since you sold the paper.

On a related note, under your ownership, you paid your freelancers next to no thing, while you amassed a fortune. You've been living off the labor of others your entire life.

Kerry's No Commie
Sen. John Kerry claims to represent the working class, but is far richer than President George W. Bush. His est i mat ed w or th is $675 million. Kerry supports rolling back the tax cuts on the rich, which is a no brainer, really. Donnybrook conservatives questioned his integrity on this issue. Ray Hartmann's defense: "He's not calling for socialism."

Su pe r Bo wl Pi ck
Ray Hartmann picks Anheuser-Busch as the winner. That's a sure bet. As Donnybrook host Martin Duggan pointed out, A-B will spend more than $10 million on advertising during the game. Annually, A-B spends more on advertising than i t does labor c osts. Meanwhile, back at the brewery, in the past five years, the beer company has busted all of its unions.

Moral Authority? Your Mama!
When Hartmann indirectly brought up the flawed unilateral foreign policy strateg y o f the Bush B und, KMOX talk show host Charles Brennan argued that the U.S. had more "moral authority" than other nations. On this issue, I find myself unabashedly in Hartmann's camp. "Moral authority?" What a bunch of bullshit. Bush has no morals. His grandfather traded with the Nazis. And Wendy, honey, Bush Sr. armed Saddam Hussein with the gas that he used against the Kurds. It's in the Bush family's genes.

Moreover, the U.S. has supported tyrants across the globe and been an imperialist powe r s ince the Spanish-American War. Read your history. It's no secret except for those who choose to live life with their eyes closed. Do we really need to go through the litany? Iran, Iraq, Guatemala, Chile, Vietnam, Nicaragua, El Salvador. The list is lo ng. I'm sure I left out a few dozen. Brennan displayed a complete ignorance of American foreign policy over the last century. Dropping bombs on civilians in Hiroshima and Dresden was real moral. And that was the "Good War," Charlie.

Lady in Red 

Putting her best leg forward, St. Louis Post-Dispatch editor Ellen Soetber told the nation on the PBS News Hour tonight that Missourians aren't even aware that there's a presidential primary next week.

The New Times Way: Kicking People When They're Down 

In 1999, I was working on a story related to Prop B, the conceal and carry law, when James Duffy was shot. Duffy was then the young Calendar editor at the Riverfront Times. He had been visiting his mother, who lives in LaFayette Square, one night. When he left her house, an assailant approached him and demanded his money. Duffy didn't understand what the man was demanding of him at first. The gunman reacted by shooting Duffy in the leg. Duffy was seriously wounded and almost died. He was off work for about six weeks. Everybody on the RFT's staff was glad to see him return that spring. But shortly after he returned, New Times decided to fire Duffy for unknown reasons. Maybe his hospitalization cost the company too much or raised its insurance rates. That's the thing, when somebody gets fired at the RFT nobody ever knows why. The thing that was unusual about Duffy's case is that he was told in advance that he was going to be fired. New Times almost always fires employees without warning. But Duffy was told that he was going to be fired and then asked to train his replacement, which is what he did. James Duffy trained the current Calendar editor Byron Kerman for a month or so and then he was fired. The last time I saw Duffy was about a year after his termination. He was drinking over at Riddle's wine bar across the street from the newspaper office. He told me he had moved to Chicago and was working as some kind of debt collector. His innocence and idealism were gone and he expressed bitterness toward the way he had been treated. Why wouldn't he?

The Buck Stops Where? 

Developer Steve Stogel's name is spelled wrong on the cover of this week's Riverfront Times. The RFT spelled Stogel's name S-O-G-E-L, without the T. Is this just a typo or an indication of sloppy editing? Who's to blame? As I've already explained, New Times, the owner of the RFT, has a top-down management style that places all the burden on its reporters. But there's no way that the misspelling on the cover is the reporter's fault. The copy editor should have caught the error or the proofreader or the art director. None of them did. But the ultimate responsibility lies with the editor, Tom Finkel. I've been accused of taking joy from pointing out this error. In reality, this kind of sloppiness, at the newspaper that I helped build, makes me sick. There's no excuse for it. Five sets of eyes scanned that cover and none of them caught the mistake. What else are they overlooking?

9/11: The Florida Connection 

The Company has been running covert ops in Florida since before the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of the early 1960s. Journalist Daniel Hopsicker takes a look at what was going down in Venice, Fla, prior to the 9/11 attacks, concluding that "the CIA was not just aware that hundreds of Arab air flight students had began pouring into Southwest Florida in 1999, but was running the operation." [read more]

Today's Word Puzzle 

Culled from the notes of the late Danny Casolaro

Fuel Air Explosive

Rex Ramsey

Charles H. Carter
St. Louis Mo.
Federal Records Center
314 425-5761

Charles H. Carter and Peggy
703 253-5605
six years retired

Mario Renda
Lompoc (f ederal prison?)

Bill Weeks -- CIA

Maheu of 1st International
Bob Nichols
MCA Records

Jason code name for Philip Arthur Thompson, jail
Patrick Moriarty

Iraqi pipeline in Wedtech

Peter Zikoskey

Not in the Post's Backyard 

I am listening to Andrew Schneider as I type. He is being interviewed by Diane Rehm on NPR. Schneider is the co-author of a new book, An Air That Kills: How the Asbestos Poisoning of Libby, Montana Uncovered a National Scandal.

Schneider, a former reporter for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, wrote the expose with his colleague David McCumber. He is now in charge of investigative projects at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The book takes a hard look at the dirty business of asbestos mining and manufacturing the business of W.R. Grace & Co.

As the title of the book suggests, Schneider and McCumber start out by explaining the deadly results of asbestos exposure to miners in the small Montana town of Libby.

Early in the interview, Schneider lauded his new editor Ellen Soeteber of the Post. Schneider said that Soeteber and the Post were not averse to undercovering similar hazards in the paper's own backyard. But that remains to be seen.

When I was a reporter at the Riverfront Times, I heard my editor expla in the reporting methods of the Post-Dispatch repeatedly. Safir Ahmed knew how the Post operated because before he became the editor of the RFT he was a Post reporter for seven years. Ahmed's tenure at the Post included a stint on the environmental beat.

The view expressed by Ahmed is the opposite of how Scheider described the Post's dedication to hard reporting in its own backyard., According to Ahmed, the Post is much more likely to repor t on a national environmental issue than problems that are going on right under its nose. Ahmed described it as a series on concentric circles; the further away from 900 North Tucker Blvd., the more hard-hitting the Post reporting will be.

Over a decade of environmental reporting for the RFT, I came to understand that what Ahmed said about the Post was true. The issues that the Post skirted included dioxin, PCBs, nuclear waste, lead mining, forest resourses and flood plain development.

Readers of the Post-Dispatch are much more likely to be provided with detailed reports on pollution in the Gulf of Mexico than they are nuclear contamination in Hematite, Mo. or dioxin contamination in Sauget, Ill. During the 1990s, I routinely beat the Post on numerous environmental stories -- in my spare time. The main reason was because the Post doesn't want to rile up the local power structure. The Post doesn't want to offend Monsanto, Solutia, Mallinkrodt, Doe Run, Anheuser-Busch or any number of other companies located in the St. Louis area. It's that simple.

For Scheider to kiss his editor's ass on national radio may help his employment security, but not much else. Where's the investigative series exposing environmental hazards in the St. Louis area, Schneider? I don't see any.

Crowd Control 

The man with the sandwich board held the hand of a small child, as they walked gingerly over the icy surface of the Forest Park Community College parking lot. He appeared to be in his 50s. The child was probably no more than five or six. The sign he had draped over his ample torso spoke to the future. It was a message for Sen. John Kerry, "the next president." The message pleaded with Kerry not to start anymore undeclared wars. No more Koreas, Vietnams or Iraqs. But the TV cameras didn't focus on the man's sign because he was turned away at the door the college cafeteria, where Kerry chose to speak yesterday.

The community college campus on Oakland Avenue had more than one venue for the campaign stop. Kerry's campaign could have held the rally at Mild red Bastion Theater or the college gymnasium, either location could have accomodated the crowd. Instead, Kerry's campaign chose to stage the event in the school's cafeteria, the smallest of the three spaces. By holding the rally in the cafeteria, the Ker ry campaign gave the perception of a packed house for the national news last night, which which broadcast the rally live last night. Reporters and camera crews for CNN, CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox all passed through the press entrance without a hitch. Behind him on the dais, were former Democratic office holders, who looked cadaver-like in the glard of the TV camera lights. Kerry gave his stump speech, chastizing President Bush for "playing dress up" on an aircraft carrier last year, when he wrongly heralded the end of the Iraqi war. The crowd cheered. In a TV interview after his speech, Kerry said that Bush had orchestrated the aircraft landing to launch his re-election campaign. The Bush campaign, said Kerry, owed U.S. taxpayers $1 million for the political stunt.

Outside the building, a man with a sandwich board, holding the hand of small child, walked across the snow-packed parking lot in the cold of a January night.

Size Matters 

Sen. John Kerry is taller than former Gov. Howard Dean, and, therefore, perceived as more presidential.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

RFT Fucks Up on the Cover 

The Riverfront Times misspelled the name of developer Steve Stogel on this week's cover. The RFT spelled Stogel's name S-O-G-E-L, forgetting the T. The story by Randall Roberts is about Stogel's redevelopments plans for the Old Post Office downtown.

Stogel's name is spelled right in the text of the story, but on the cover, in 18 or 24 point type, his name is misspelled. This is a reporter's worst nightmare, of course. The story can be 100 percent accurate other than the spelling error, but that doesn't matter. Readers will doubt the rest of the story because the name is spelled wrong. Brown can be spelled with an E on the end. Smith can be spelled with a Y in the middle. A reporter must always triple check name spelling, because above all else that error will be recognized.

I've already misspelled or misidentified a couple of Post reporters names on this blog. And I have nobody to blame but myself. Getting the names wrong casts doubt on everything else I write on Media Mayhem.

Part of my problem is that I don't take this blog seriously enough. But if I don't take it seriously, nobody else will, either. The RFT's mistake, however, is less understandable. Editors are supposed to catch these kinds of errors.

Steve Stogel is not an unfamiliar name to anybody who has been a reporter in St. Louis for any length of time. As a developer and planner, his influence dates back all the way the days of Mayor Vince Schoemehl. The RFT has reported on Stogel's power plays in the past. But obviously the RFT doesn't have an experienced staff anymore. The veterans have either quit or been fired.

The glaring mistake on the cover of this week's RFT had to pass by many sets of eyes: reporter Randall Roberts, editor Tom Finkel, copy editor Brooke Foster, proofreader Scott Bailey and art director Tom Carlson.

Unfortunately,the person who will ultimately be blamed is Roberts, the reporter. This is because in the New Times regime the fault is always passed down to the person at the bottom of the food chain. The reporter is expected to vigilently check everything. At New Times newspapers, the reporter often comes up with the headline and subhead. The reporter is also expected to write the cutlines for photos. And the reporter is supposed to catch any mistakes that editors may have inserted into the story, including the cover. Seriously, the reporter is expected to catch the mistakes of the editors. News Times is the world turned upside down. Believe it.

Phil Spills His Guts: Project X, Danger Man and Echoes in the Garbage Can 

An interview with former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Phil Linsalata, who covered the Inslaw case at the same time as the late Danny Casolaro.


I finished working on it exclusively in May or June, in May I would say of 1991. I started working on it fulltime, exclusively, late November or December. But I had worked on it parttime from the early fall of 1990. And I was tangentially aware of it from the summer or spring of 1990. And my involvement came through Bill Hamilton, who wrote to the Post-Dispatch confidential memos. And the Post had always written about Inslaw. Our Washington bureau expressed an interest. We treated it at a lawsuit. One with some color and interest [phone rings]

Well, Jeanette, Jennifer is just getting out of the shower. Were you wanting to play with her this morning? ...

Hamilton reported to us in a memo shortly after he had a telephone conversation with a guy named Michael Riconisc uito. The Riconiscuito scenario was that the software, the Inslaw software, had been traded internationally in turn for various favors. One of those favors involved the delayed release of the hostages. [Linsaslata expresses amazement].

How to get a reporters attention. So we said internally at the Post and we said if we can get Michael Riconiscuito, we gotta get MR.

So that December, God it was awful. It was cold and miserable. I landed in Washington (D.C.) on a Sunday. The decision was the s tarting point of the story was Bill Hamilton's files. So Bill graciously agreed to allow me to have space in Inslaw's offices and to have access to his files. I spent a week there. ... By Monday morning I had strep throat. I called my doctor back here. He phoned a prescription for pennicillan ...

Anyway, I spent a week there. It wasn't my first trip to Washington, but it was the starting point. It was the true starting gun of our intensive investigation. So I read a lot of files.

[good quot e] I copied somewhere in the order of 12,000 pages of documents. There was a copy place downstairs from Bill's building around the corner. We would send a carter up, you know, with a dolley, carried the documents out by the dolleyful. And I had t shlep th em back to St. Louis tipping the cabbies and the porters heavily all the way. [laughs].

I got them back and organized them and came to an understanding of the lawsuit, because that was public record and that was where the allegations of a preconce ived and premeditated attempt to steal Bill Hamilton's software was documented. The record of that lawsuit is rich. And I believe it leaves no doubt. The court also found little doubt that there was an effort, a preconceived effort, to steal that software. So the next question is why.

The theory had always been that the software was worth a lot of money. The Justice Department contract to automate its case files was a very lucrative contract originally estimated at $10 million. Quite conceivably in the end worth more.

Now what was worth $10 million?

The Justice Department was letting contracts to automate, to computer automate, its casework loads. You can well image the volume of information.

So that seems motive enought to try an d lift the software, try to come to understand it, so that meanwhile, what appeared to be happening was people inside the Justice Department were driving a wedge between the Hamilton's and the contract officer, well, the contract officer himself perhap s w as driving the wedge. But between the buyer and the provider of this software the relationship was deterioating rapidly, jepardizing the relationship, jeopardizing the contract. This stuff was worth that much money, because that's what it would cost t o develop software of that sophistication, test it, get it up and running, pay all the labor and provide a reasonable margin of profit, whoever did all of this. Not by any stretch a fat margin of profit.

What happened was the relationship deteriora ted, payments were stopped and so on and so forth. On one hand, you've got a bit of software, very sophisticated case tracking software that the government wants and wants it through a transaction that ultimately would be worth $10 million plus to whoever pro vides it. Not net but gross. Then on the other hand you've got the Justice Department, at least people within the Justice Department, apparently working very hard to disrupt the relationship between the provider and the buyer.

At the same time, and this is really key, a representative of a corporation owned by Earl W. Brian, Dr. Earl W. Brian, approached Hamilton with an unfriendly takeover. A hostile takeover. A threat actually is the right word. Of course at the time Hamilton had noted that this guy (what guy?) was connected to Earl Brian. He didn't know who Earl Brian was, what Hadron was or anything. So he rebuffed it, he said forget it. I'm going to work this out.

Time goes by, and in hindsight there is a body of evidence that sugg ests that perhaps Earl Brian's corporation was interested in becoming the provider to the Justice Department. There is no argument even on Earl Brian's part, people would not dispute, that he had a longstanding relationship with certain members of what was kn own at that time as Ronald Reagan's kitchen cabinet. Earl Brian goes all the way back to the California days of Ronald Reagan.

All that seems pretty neat, really no lose ends, nice little conspiracy theory there, kind of a contract screw job that w ouldn't really startle any well-weathered reporters who were used to looking the Reagan operation. Reagan had a lot of indictments in his staff. You add them all up there was quite a handful of people who wound up indicted, perhaps more than any ot her president. ...

Then you get Michael Riconiscuito saying that Earl Brian was an operative and that he traded the software for goods and services and one of the things that he got in return for the software was the delay of the release of the host ages.

When you were Washington, were you already aware of Riconiscuito's allegations?

Yes. I was courting Riconiscuito from Washington. Every sophisticated way. For example, you could not reach him by telephone. You had to reach him through an interm ediary or you had to reach himby mail. so I would send him federal express mail in tamper-proof envelopes.

There is a kind of envelope that's a really cool envelope. You open it. There is a clear window on the flap of the envelope. When you open it, a coloring is torn off, it's like a clear film, is torn off of this clear window. So you can send that to somebody and they can receive it and know. It's the high-tech equivalent of ceiling wax.

I was sending him these letters, real shor t letter s, where every word was chosen with great care, because I wanted to catch that fish. And Michael responded and we developed a reportoire. Well, that week was also when I first met Danny Casolaro. Although, I may have been introduced to him before, briefly at a hearing.

[This all is in December 1990] I was courting Riconiscuito first with correspondence here and when I went to Washington and I continued by fax, if something came for me in the office I would find out about it. So I was sendin g him stu ff there. And it worked out pretty well.

I got him on the phone -- bang. I need to sort of put the story on hold for a minute, because at the same time I met Danny Casolaro.

Danny had been a little bit, had wanted Riconiscuito, ever ybody want ed Riconiscuito, he was hot property. There were maybe half a dozen or twelve, I don't have any real way of counting, but my gut feeling is that there were somewhere between a half dozen and twelve journalists in the world who really want Ricon isciuto for the same reason, who thought that Riconiscuito like, who was that guy's name in Washington, the guy who went to trial for lying and was acquitted for lying in Denver, I'll get his name in a minute, but who wanted Riconiscuito as a source. Dann y I think k new what I was doing, I think Danny always knew what I was doing because Hamilton always knew what I was doing, because Hamilton always knew what I was doing. To the extent that after a while that becaem a bit of a problem.

[sighs] The single bigges t problem with this story is something ... echoes in the garbage can, that's the best.

I know I've been there, I feel like I'm down at the bottom of it.

So you want control. You need to control the flow of information so you can isolate the good from the crap. So Michael I knew had [sighs] he knew what I was doing, he would call me and we would talk.

[sudden shift back to Casolaro] We talked a little bit in Washington that week. We went out for some beers.



You said Michael.

I'm sorry. Danny Casolaro and I went out in Washington. We met each other, kind of liked each other, drank some beers and stayed out for a little while [got drunk with him]. Hit it off. He's a nice guy.

And, you know, laughed about some of the pain-in-the-ass elements of working on this kind of stuff and also kind of danced around each other a little bit trying to figure out what we were doing. You know the way that goes.

After that, we talked very regu larly. Sometimes we would talk to compare notes and sometimes we would talk to give each other moral support. So that sort of sets that relationship in motion.

Then we go back to December. The Casolaro relationship is in motion. The relationship wi th Hamilton is happening, the files are in hand from the court case, and Michael Riconiscuito is live. So I come back and I begin reading the files, working the files. And talking to people, calling up virtually every one that Bill Hamilton has ever talked to. Trying to get out ahead in terms of the learning curve, trying to get even ahead of Bill on the learning curve.

But Riconiscuito began calling me at very odd times of the night like what would be 11 o'clock his time, 12 o'clock his time and we would talk sometimes for hours. To the extent that I would sit at this machine and type whatever he would say. He would just ramble and ramble and ramble in a way that left me convinced that the guy had a very unique metabolism.

What do you mean by that?

You answer that question.

On speed or just natural?

[snickers] So I've met people like that before and some of them were under the influence of drugs and some of them weren't. I have no idea. But, man, all I know i s once he got st arted, it was like a wind up toy. He would go just go until he bounced into the wall, then he would go over there until he hit that wall, then he'd come back.

He'd bounce over decades and decades of time so that it was virtually im possible to under stand what he was saying at that time. So the technique was to try to very faithfully and accurately write down or record everything he said so that you could go back later and figure out later what the hell he was talking about. The goo d news is you coul d. You could go back over the stuff and you could look things up in various places and you could plug it all together and then sometimes eventually he'd even send you dopies of letters and correspondence and stuff....

Danny was wo rking the same grou nd. I don't know if he was, he was getting some of the stuff from Bill and maybe some of the stuff from Michael, some he was getting from Michael and from other places as well.

And then I think it's time to introduce a new chara cter. Now we're in the early spring or late winter of 1991. It's time to introduce Ari-Ben Menashe. Who I got hold of coming up out of the blue.

Yeah, Ari did time on a, no he didn't do time, he was in jail for a year, MCC, Metro Corrections Center in Florida. [sighs again] He [sighs again] was charged with trying to sell two C-130s to undercover U.S. officers. The charge related to those planes being, ... strategic weapons. I don't want to use the word stragetic because that means nuclear. But bei ng militarily signif icant weapons. You're not supposed to do that. It was an arms export violation, but it had to do with, it was an arms trading violation, but it had to do with specifically with not selling two C-130s, but selling two anythings that were security risks, where there was for example if there had been high-tech avionics on the plane. Then that would have been secured military material [coding sensitive material here?].

He thought he was selling it to a couple of mercenaries. But he was. This guy was an Isreali arms trader for a long long time.

Who caught him was it the Customs or FBI?

Feds. It's all in the record. ... He comes to the Post-Dispatch ...

He comes to the Post-Dispatch, so he's in St. Louis?

Yeah, We brought him to St. Louis, did we bring him to St. Louis? No, we didn't fly him to St. Louis. We told him we would like to talk to him and he said OK. Then he came to St. Louis.

The guy is just a great character. If I ever write a novel, I'm going to fashion somebody after him. He's rich. He had a girlfriend. She had a sleek car. He had a cellular phone.

And he looks all disheveled and wrinkled, he wears these beat up corduroys and a wrinkled shirt. And his hair is all touseled. And he speaks very good English, with a heavy accent. And what he is is an Iraqi born Jew who was raised in Isreal. He's a higly intelligent individual -- dangerously intelligent -- and also a lot of fun. He has a great love of life. But he came to us and he said I'll tell you my story. But you gotta give it back to me as a book. And you gotta give me 20 grand. Twenty grand is the number I remember now.

We, of course, said, Ari, we very much would like to do your story. Oh, Oh, Oh, there's more. And he wanted to be put up in a hot el, with desk security and parking. And have 20 grand and then he would tell us the story.

Well, thank you Ari, we said. But surely you realize the constraints upon us as journalists. We would like to do that, surely we could a fford to it, but you realize that we had purchased the story and would draw into question the validity of the things that you tell us.

So I went and I got an apartment in the same building as Ari's and hung out in Lexington for weeks [laughing]. Wi th a laptop computer, because he wouldn't let me use a tape recorder. And I took down Ari's life story, which I did. I gotta tell you, I never got bored. I would listen for hours and hours. We went through 15 years of Israeli history and Ari-Ben Menashe's. And if even a part of what he was telling me was true, then ...

But there's a problem. Ari-Ben Menashe, like Michael Riconiscuito sensed that or knew that Inslaw and the software were inextricably intertwined. No, let me start over again. Thought that my perception I had to have, I had to see that software as a part of this whole thing. Because I came to him through Bill Hamilton, although very indirectly.

They both knew that their value in the marketplace was by virtue of some professed kn owledge of the October Surprise and they knew that Bill Hamilton was the conduit for the spreading of their values in that regard. So in other words, both of these guys had something in common. They both new that the country was hot or would be hot and th at Phil Linsalata was hot for a story about the October Surprise. And they knew that Bill Hamilton and I were both ways of tickling the much bigger media beasts out there regarding this issue. I mean I don't know if that was there intent or not, but I su spect that it was and it worked.

And I treated these guys very seriously, very professionally. And worked real hard to learn what they had to offer. And to check and cross check what they had to say. Have you read the piece in Esquire.(Oct. 91?) T here's a fatal flaw in that. And I have not discussed this with any other journalists outside of my office. But in my opinion, the flaw in that piece, and I would say that that flaw has been repeated numerous times, is that Richard Babyon is used as a con firming source for Ari-Ben Menashe.

Echoes in the garbage can. Ari-Ben Menashe and Richard Babyon were in close communication from the time that Babayon was arrested in the spring of 1991. He was arrested in Florida. The minute he made it to jail th ese two guys who happe ned to be classmates in elementary school in Tehran, I think, I don't know. I remember looking at their pictures together in Harry's yearbook.

And he got caught in Florida for a con job. And I immediately ran back and did all the checks on him, you know. He had a big thick file at the Miami Herald.

Were you down there, too?

I almost went down there and talked to them but I got beat by a hair. What happened was this was a very frustrating moment. Frontline was producing a piece ... and they got there just before I did and a deputy sat in and listened and afterwards nobody else got to see Babyon.

Where was he being held at?

He was in West Palm Beach or someplace like that. I don't know. I've g ot to check my details, because I haven't reviewed my notes for at least six months. But he was down there in some affluent jail in Florida and I was wiring this, I was working through some contacts I had down there at the beginning. ...

[Linsalata says he was denied access to Babyon by "some bozo, third in command of the jail" for reasons of "national security."

We had our lawyers working on it. So I just didn't go down. Meanwhile, I'm going off on 17 different leads and tangents, chasing people down. Robert Booth Nichols, Bob Bickel, just dozens of them. People's whose names never have been in print even to this day, who would still be phenomenal sources, if you wanted to run [inaudible]. And in fact what happened was in a very short amount time, af ter talking to Ari-Ben Menashe, I began reporting on the story that was not specifically about the October Surprise, but was about Iran-contra and international arms trading and the October Surprsise -- and that's a lot. [laughs]

It's hard to ge t a grasp on it.

Well, it wasn't so much hard to get, what you have to do, what had to do and what you have to do, what anybody that is working on this has to do is put some parameters on it and say this is my focus. And I say that both on the record and I say that as friendly advice. for somebody that is about to sit down and try and deal with some of this stuff.

Essentially, what happens with this is that it begins to take you. And you begin to follow it and you lose control. Traditionally, when you're working on a story, you say this is what I need to do and you can almost outline what you do before you set out to do it. ...

What you're doing is you're following something, you're grabbing it and you're saying I don't know where to pl ug this. I don't know w here this fits. Because you don't know what actually happened. First of all, you don't know how much of what your're told is actually true. How much of it is some self-serving lie being given to you by somebody with a vested intere st. Secondly, if it is true, you're not sure exactly how it fits any with all the other components, which you've got, which also could be lies. ...

But what you wind up doing is extracting and cutting out the stuff that you're not absolutely sure of and that turned out to be the purest form of reporting. And it winds up being very gratifying because you put another brick in the wall that can be used by other journalists who are working on the same stuff. And it's a real brick. This is a tangible bri ck. We can measure it. W e can see what it's made of. ...

[Put the other stuff aside] and you stick to the record. You stick to what you got in the court record. There are certain other advantages, like you don't get sued. Because one story I wrote is virtually identical t o the one I read in Esquire -- they're still defending a multi-million dollar law suit, not I, because I do not quote Ari-Ben Menashe outside the four corners of his affidavit that was filed in court. What he said outside the aff idavit was not very differ ent from what he said outside, but by sticking within the four corners of that document I was libel proof. That guy Felix or whoever his name was didn't do that. ... [says he brought this up to his editors that this was more than enough reason for his sal ary -- no libel suit.

So I got all of this stuff from Ari-Ben Menashe and I put it all together and I said what do I have? Let me get the name of this one guy [going into database on his computer.]

When you called me up and said you wanted to talk about Riconiscuito. These files [pointing to computer screen] are all, like all these Mike files, Michael, Michael, Michael filed with a date, those are just interviews with Michael Riconiscuito. One after the other. And then we ran out of Michaels so we went to Recon.

RFT You talked to him?

Oh, yeha. The guy's a wacko [whispering].
Here's his phone number, this is Thomas Dunn (sp?) 201-794-7136.

He's whose lawyer, Riconiscuito's?

No, Ari-Ben Me nashe's on the arms trading charge. ... I'm not finding this one guy I want to find for you.

[I go to the bathroom.]

[whispering to himself] Shit, it must be over two hours now. [whistles softly]. [Yawns].

So anyway, we wrapped it up and decided to get out. The reason we decided to get out was because we asked ourselves whether or not we were ever going to be able to prove whether or not George Bush was involved in the October Surprise and the answer came back that no we weren't. We looked at everything we had. We looked at every thing that we had and decided we weren't going to be able to proove on the record that George Bush was either present in Paris in October of 1980 or otherwise orchestrating or had knowledge of the October Surprise conspiracy.

Now I could go on talk ing forever about why we reached that conclusion.

When you say we, who else.

My editors.

The editor who was overseeing this was?

Dick Weil, great guy. Patient and supportive. What it boiled down to was t here was no independent corrab oration to what everybody was telling us in terms of [clears throat] George Bush's particular involvement. Now if you want to put together a piece the way Frontline did, then you can weave enough innuendo and enough suggestion to pretty clearly leave peop le with the belief, but I don't do the stuff that way and get it into the Post-Dispatch ... I'm not critical of that approach, I'm not claiming higher ground, I think there is room in the world for all kinds of journalism, but that wasn't what we set out to do.

I still think that an international team of journalists still could have cracked this story. But I think that you would have needed an absolutely top notch teams in Iran, Isreal, Germany, France, the United S tates and maybe Spain and Englan d. The thing is you would have been able to prove that the United States was in a constitutional crisis. Because really what you're talking about was whether or not some people who were not in office had gone and conducted international diplomacy with a f oreign nation to subvert the power of the United States government. Political candidates subverting the authority of the ...

If you want to get into what is wrong with journalism, it's because we operate as independ ent competitive ... that we are so likely to join together in an international effort or in any cooperative effort. In fact, one of the reasons Frontline did so well was because they forged an unofficial alliance with the Financial Times of London and Der Spiegal, which is an excellent ne ws weekly in Germany. That relationship served them beautifully.

Meanwhile, Danny Casolaro would call me up and he'd say how you doin' with Michael Riconiscuito, did you talk to so and so. Did he talk about the Cab azons or did he talk about Bob Nichols or did he talk about Peter Zokovsky.

Who is he by the way?

He's an old guy in California who was involved, let's see what Mr. Zokovosky calls himself.

Was that connected to the Cabazon?

This g uy is connected to a lot more than Cabazon. [Reading from interview with Zokovsky on his computer] `My forte is weapons.' He's a guy in California who just knows a lot of stuff. Knows a lot of the individuals who were involved in this, who were tantential ly involved.

So anyway, Casolaro would ask me this and ask me that, and I would ask him some questions. And we wouldn't really swap any real information. I think ultimately what our relationship boiled down to was, we would compare notes and see whe ther or not a given source had shut down on both of us. Or whether he had shut down on just one of us. And we would give each other moral support.

So that's about as far as I want to go without specific questions.

I've been down to IRE at Col umbia, they have Casolaro's files down there now. Probably spent eight hours looking at this stuff. I got some of his handwritten notes. One of them has your name on it. I don't know if you've seen it before [shows page to Linsalata]. I was just wondering if there was any kind of order to this, and how you would interpret what that means. ... You've met with Hayes haven't you?

That was the first guy to get to me. I went to see Hayes before I went to Washington.

Alright, here's what this is about. First, you've got to underst and one thing about Danny Casolaro.

See, I probably understand him, I think, maybe more than you do, I don't know. You know, I'm probably coming more from a similar approach to this than you are as a professional. He was interested in possibly doing a novel.

He wasn't sure whether he wanted it to be a novel. But ... I know a lot of freelancers including Sy Hersh. But check this out, OK. This is a classic Danny Casolaro page, because I know everything, well I don't know about this, but I know e verything from here down. And I can tell you that there is a lot of unrelated stuff here in that if he took these notes and he put them away and he came back to them six months later you might not be able to differenti ate between stuff.

Danny Casolaro had no organization, none. Didn't have it on paper, he didn't have anything organized physcically, and he didn't have it organized in his mind, and I can say that with certainty. He was a very smart guy, but he was absolutely not organized.

And if you are trying to research something that is as deep and as complicated as the October Surprise or any other affair, lots of players and lots of opponents, then organization is more than vanity, it's more than cosme tics, organization is essential, and Danny Casolaro did not have that tool in his toolbox.

That said, he was a very smart guy. What this page is about, Alexander Morehead is a name that was raised repeatedly by Charles Hayes, I can't give you a two-paragraph thumb-nail sketch of it [phone rings again]. But this is a name that continued to come up of somebody who would be a good source and had a role

In October Surprise? Is he English?

Yeah, I think that he is British and I think that I don't know exactly, you asked role in what, I don't remember. But I do remember clearly that he was a Hayes name. Absolutely, clearly. And Hayes used to talk a lot about MI-5. Talk about a lot of different people being associated with MI-5.

This i s important stuff. If the issue is po litical corruption, if the issue is whether or not political leaders are involved in illegal activities it would follow that there are assassinations and there have been assassinations (by) promoters of political corr uption in the United States and the hi story of the world. Whether Danny Casolaro is one of those instances, I don't know. But it seems to me as journalists what we need to do is strike at the heart of that corruption. And I don't know whether or not trying to prove what happened to Danny Casolaro does that. Strikes at the heart of that.

I don't think you can prove it one way or another. What fascinates me is the volume of information, however disorganized it may be, and that he had his hands on and that he was interested in and it seems almost more relevant now than ...
a couple of years ago.

Well, Ok, but let me try to put that in a little context. [sighs]. When I looked through those files, ...

That's something I wanted to ask you abou t, I don't want to distract your though t, but I want to ask you who was there, what other journalists ...

When I went through those files, they were in Nightline's offices. Nightline is really a fine organization in that the peopl e who work there are really smart. And t here was almost nothing in Casolaro's files that could not be understood or grasped by me or by the people at Nightline between us. If they didn't recognize it and said hey, what's this? ... And there were a couple of others there, too.

So in that regard, yes, there, was a lot of stuff in Casolaro's files, but what Danny had done was connect with a bunch of sources and a bunch of journalists who would give him bits and pieces of information. And he would scribble them down on a piece of p aper. But he never fully understood very many of those individual pieces of information. He never, for example, would be able to tell the story of a given check. If somebody represented to him what a check was, th is check represented some kind of a paymen t that they were involved in and had knowledge with. He might believe that. When in reality, that check had been floating for four years and had been evidence in some kind of Iran-Contra. It's entire history, the paper trail behind that check, had been fu lly documented by major league journalists. So it looks like a whole hell of a lot and if Danny had taken one component of what he was working on and done a full dress job on it and then moved on to the next and the next then there would have been comprehensive files, segregated into topic areas, indexed, perhaps cross-indexed and that stuff would have worked.

But what we saw when we looked through his files were bits and pieces of information that could n ot be interwoven outside of Danny's mind. I'm not suggesting Danny was crazy. What I'm saying is the interrelationship of those components didn't exist, hadn't been developed to the point of being solid enough to sell as a book. Not even to the point of b eing publishable, but to being saleable as a proposal.

I read his proposal and he didn't appear to be a very good writer.

There were probably 25 or 30 different versions of the proposal.

Who was there, who looked at the notes?

(Davi d) Corn. Project X from Nightline.

Is that a joke?

It is no more a joke than calling someone the H Team or the ...


I don't think they would ever admit to calling themselves that.

I don't know why not, I would [both laughin g].

Well, you know, I don't think it w ould play real well.

You're the second person who has told me this. The guy down at, Andy Scott, at IRE.

Yeah, that's their inside name. You could probably get their office by calling Nightline and asking for Project X.

You mean there are still people involved in it.

Yeah, it's their international shit department. BNL, you know, whenever the shit hits the fan and it involves some kind of bizarre international stuff it goes up there. But they do a good fuckin' job of it. They really do. And they log their calls. They got maybe half a dozen people up there cramped into these little offices.

Who saw his papers other than you and Project X?
David Corn, two other people, I can't remember...

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