Air Today . . . Gone Tomorrow Article

The Question the Dems Aren't Asking: The Bikini Bottom Interrogative
By Richard Oxman, Press Action, February 28, 2004

"They would never do that!" — SpongeBob SquarePants, in talking about the Krusty Krab patrons just before they hang him out to dry in a particularly chilling Bikini Bottom episode.

The Bush Administration killed more Americans in NYC immediately following the WTC retalliation* by Osama Bin Laden than the suicidal Saudis did on 9/11 up to the time both towers collapsed. No hyperbole here.

*You can substitute any word you like here, like offensive or attack, but I'm trying to set a tone of my own. I think that if — after reading this article — you can forgive Bush, you can forgive my potentially off-putting use of language above. A lot of people don't know that when the WTC towers went up in the 70s a hundred tons of asbestos fibers sprinkled the good citizens of NYC like snow on a Christmas morning, like crystals in a ball (circulating around trapped inanimate objects) ... like a sick version of WMD in action. Not covered live or otherwise on CNN or elsewhere, no.

I don't have the definitive stats in yet on the thousands of workers who labored on the skeletons of the rising towers, but I'd bet my first born that not one of them is alive today ... in any kind of healthy way.

WR Grace's Mono-Kote 3 fireproofing for the structures (and Macy's and the terminal at Newark Airport) — a problematic concoction of asbestos and cement — infused the linings of one tower up to the 40th floor, and all the way up to the 64th floor in the other building. The Mono-Kote 4, used elsewhere in the structures, was also contaminated with cancer-causing fibers.

Don't listen to Asbestos Magazine; in spite of asbestos being in "plumbing joints, insulating heating pipes, electric motors and emergency generators," your life doesn't depend on it. We could live without it.

EPA authorities relied on twenty-year-old technology — polarized-light microscopy — to analyze samples that were thought to be affecting the general public's health. But they put state-of-the-art transmission electron microscopy to work when it came to checking the dangers of their own offices in lower Manhattan ... before returning to work there. In fact, the EPA — and I'm not just talking about former NJ Governor Christine Todd Whitman here, agency boss at the time — is responsible for serious crimes respecting the poisoning of the population of NYC from September, 2001 to ... the present. All the colleagues who knew the truth that wasn't shared are guilty. And there were many. So much for no protection for whistleblowers anymore, or should I say "prosecution of" these days? Read 'em and weep, Karen Silkwood.

Thirty highly experienced teams — including 130 of the country's best scientists — were ready to risk their lives, and descend on NYC to help with the necessary analyses of the air that finally killed so many New Yorkers, but Richard Caspe, the deputy regional administrator for EPA and Joe LaForara, head of EPA's national emergency response team, said "fuck off." Yep, that's documented very clearly: a) they killed New Yorkers AND b) they said the f-word. Why aren't people outraged at at least one of those things?

Federal officials, media people et. al. were much more concerned with making sure that Wall Street opened than with informing the public, with saving the stock exchange, not lives. This they accomplished in spite of everyone being able to view videos nightly of offices and apartments — floors, walls and furniture — totally covered with deadly dust, fine fibers of fatality. Exactly the educated, aware and active populace we need for our democracy to function, yes? Joel Shufro, executive director of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, wasn't fooled, however. As a representative of over 250 unions, he noted, "they allowed thousands of people to be exposed to substances that haven't even all been identified, let alone quantified."

Does anyone remember exactly when those Broadway clowns did their dance on national tv ads — with the enthusiastic embrace of Rudy Giuliani — inviting tourists to return to NYC for fun and games? Never before did "front row seats" mean so much.

Senior poltical appointees in New York City, Albany, EPA, FEMA, OSHA and Health and Human Services are all complicit in the murder. Oh, ... exactly what word did you want to use here?

Please note that I've used the word "exactly" in each of the three paragraphs directly above this one. To beyond a hair, with measurement. To the letter of the law. From the Latin exigere, which got us to ... examine. But let's focus on the feds for now.

Apparently, everything was done to avoid giving aid and comfort to both Osama bin Laden and NYC's citizens. The White House Counsel on Environment Quality made certain that no threat or hazard was communicated in government news releases or elsewhere. Why does the movie Jaws come to mind? And where is Steven Speilberg when you really need him?

Forget about the cover-up, all the forms of duplicity, for the moment. Why didn't the EPA even test apartments and offices? Why were the places where people live, study and work not important to the feds? "That's just not our job, and we have no policies or procedures for doing that type of testing," said the spokeswoman for New York's EPA Region 2. Does this remind anyone of government agencies claiming that they weren't set up to prevent the domestic use of airlines for terrorism?

What was the final count on those WTC bodies, anyway? Under 3,000? Well, way over 1,800 volunteers from the Southern Baptist Church, the Salvation Army and many other organizations weren't informed that state and federal asbestos-removal regulations require special respirators, full head-to-toe protective gear and disposal at authorized sites only ... as they labored 'round the clock, day after day, wearing only plain paper or cloth masks.

Hey, people! Are you gluttons for punishment? Cousins of SpongeBob, seeking to soak up the sadism, watching tv instead of taking in the sad saga of citizens asleep?

Contrary to what people were told, asbestos-related lung disease does not result "only from intense asbestos exposure experienced over a period of many years, primarily as a consequence of occupational exposures." Nope. Officials at CDC and the EPA both acknowledge that a single, heavy dose can do the trick. So what's heavy? Whereas people were disingenuously informed that they didn't have to be concerned about the traces flying about, the chrysolite asbestos in question totaled 10 billion fibers per gram. That's a fifth of a teaspoon. And that's not a trace. Not a trace of chrysolite, not a trace of accountability.

The federal government had the definitive take, all the damning details, courtesy of courageous scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey. No question. Let's see, maybe there's someone in Bikini Bottom we can blame.

They chose not to share the information. Does anyone remember talk about how the CIA and the FBI and other agencies didn't share information that might have prevented the WTC catastrophe? I mean, what happened to all of those parental injunctions the authorities must have heard as kindergartners?

The alphabet soup of heavy metals — some samples having pH levels comparable to drain cleaner — in the air, in the lungs of NYC citizens and tourists was caustic beyond belief. New Yorkers of any stripe didn't hear anything about this until February 10, 2002 when the St. Louis Post-Dispatch broke their story on fact that NYC was uninhabitable without a moon suit.

As late as Christmas 2002, the EPA was painting rosy pictures for the public (hiding the fact that "potential exposure levels in some dwellings were up to 150 times the level considered safe."), exacerbating the health problems for many, especially the very young, the elderly and those struggling with pulmonary disease. They did everything wrong for those folks except hand cigarettes.

Think about all those politically correct anti-secondary smoking, responsible citizens, if you will. And, for a moment, let yourself glean the meaning of those flowery articles festooned across the nation lauding those spirited kids who went right back into Ground Zero to show Osama that they weren't going to cave. Wouldn't hurt to contemplate Rudolph Giuliani as VP for Bush in 2002 either.

But this is not a Republican issue, is it? Dems are guilty as sin too. In the midst of all the shenanigans surrounding accusations of malfeasance, the demands for impeachment, the insistence upon investigations into the causes of 9/11, and the worn-out diatribes concerning WMDs, alleged and lied about ... we have proof of criminal negligence and much more. But what is the public doing about it? About the same that they did when the 2000 elections were stolen.

Can't quite figure out why people put any faith at all into the committees that are formed, the official reports that come down the pike periodically. I can figure out, however, what needs to be done. I urge everyone to spend more time on coming up with a decent way to take matters into their own hands starting today. That doesn't preclude participating in the electoral process, but our situation sure demands that we get busy being creative with new paradigms for protecting ourselves (without saluting the flag).

Nah, academics would rather ask me about my footnotes for this, and it's easier for activists to pretend that marches matter enough. And the lot of them are much more comfy nitpicking about the niceties of naughty, naughty Nightline-like scandals ... pretty much exclusively. Taking sides instead of taking groundbreaking, dangerous action. The kind of stuff that can no more be discussed via email than the evils of vermiculite can be detected with the naked eye.

My four-year-old, Marcel, just finished watching a SpongeBob SquarePants "Christmas" video. There's a sequence titled "Survival of the Idiots," I believe, which has our hero SB talking about all the "pesky particles" dropping from the sky at one point. Then, suddenly, the absorbent-yellow-porous one maniacally exclaims, "I've swallowed one, I've swallowed one!" After he calms down, I think he sees that there's no one to blame but himself. Seeing that he could have kept his mouth shut — and can in the future — enables him to go on with some measure of peace.

The one question my son has is "When is SpongeBob gonna get excited again?" He loves the frenetic stuff. The one question I have is the question the Democrats aren't raising, a question which you'd think would tilt the election their way: "Why didn't Bush warn the American people about the health hazards post-9/11?" Perhaps they have their disgusting reasons, but soak all that up, please.


Richard Oxman is a former Professor of Dramatic Art and Speech and ESL and Cinema History on the East Coast, which he will not return to in spite of the fact his daughter dwells in NYC. He can be reached at He humbly acknowledges his debt to Andrew Schneider and David McCumber, whose An Air That Kills delineates the above, in creating this article.

This article contains copyrighted material, the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. I am making such material available in my efforts to advance understanding of democracy, economic, environmental, human rights, political, scientific, and social justice issues, among others. I believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material in this article is distributed without profit for research and educational purposes.

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