Howard WittOKC BOMBING: Congress left us high and dry, families sayMon Apr 18, 2005 01:26188.8.131.52
OKLAHOMA CITY 10 YEARS LATER Torment lingers in OK City
Congress left us high and dry, families say
By Howard Witt
Tribune senior correspondent
Published April 17, 2005
OKLAHOMA CITY -- What is the value of an American life claimed by terrorists? The answer, it turns out, depends on where and when you die.
Congress gave the families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks generous federal compensation payments. Most ended up millionaires.
Congress gave the families of victims of the April 19, 1995, Oklahoma City bombing a two-year reprieve on their federal income taxes. Some ended up losing their homes.
The families of victims of future terrorist attacks may get nothing at all.
For all the nation's focus on homeland security and the probability that the United States could someday be struck again by terrorists, the vexing question of what would happen afterward--whom the government should try to make whole--remains unasked.
And the lesson of Oklahoma City remains unlearned. ...
The site where the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building once stood was long ago covered over by a striking memorial. A modernistic--and blast-resistant--new federal building stands defiantly across the way. The scarred downtown has been sleekly remade.
But 10 years after the Oklahoma City bombing, which killed 168 people and injured 842 others, the shock waves are still radiating outward.
Families in poverty
Despite more than $40 million in donations that streamed into Oklahoma City in the days after the bombing to help the victims, more than 60 families of modest means were thrown into such poverty as a result of deaths or injuries that they must still rely on charities to meet their basic needs. Another 70 victims are still receiving psychiatric care.
Theirs are not the stories most likely to be heard this week as the nation momentarily returns its attention to this heartland city in solemn commemoration of the bombing. Instead, the ceremonies at the Oklahoma City National Memorial, titled a National Week of Hope, will focus on "stories of life moving forward."
It turns out, though, that while the Sept. 11 attacks were vastly more devastating in both human and economic terms, the Oklahoma City bombing was a more intimate crime. Officials here estimate that more than one-third of the 1 million people in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area knew someone who was killed or injured in the bombing.
The Oklahoma City attack also struck a more vulnerable population. While the World Trade Center towers in New York were gleaming icons of American prosperity occupied largely by office workers, executives and stockbrokers, the Murrah Federal Building was a dowdier destination, a place where workaday government employees served working-class constituents. ...
Sept. 11 compensation
In the weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, Congress swiftly approved a $7 billion compensation package for the victims, whose families received an average of $2.1 million each. But every time the issue of compensation for other terrorism victims has been raised since then, lawmakers have ducked.
In 2002 and 2003, Congress declined to reopen the question of compensating victims of past terrorist attacks such as the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, the 1998 bombings of two U.S. Embassies in Africa and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole.
Lawmakers have refused to provide any budget funding for a terror victims compensation fund that Congress itself voted to establish.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee conducted one hearing to examine a Bush administration proposal to set a standard compensation award for future victims of terrorism. Then it promptly dropped the matter.
Nor did Congress examine the critical conclusions of the man who oversaw the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund.
Kenneth Feinberg, the Washington, D.C., attorney who was the fund's special master and decided the amount of each multimillion-dollar award, questioned the fairness of Congress' instruction to replicate the tort system and base compensation on the lifetime earning potential of each victim. That decision ensured that the richest survivors received the most.
"The system . . . fuels divisiveness among the very people you're trying to help," Feinberg said. "The fireman's widow comes to me and says, `My husband died a hero, why am I getting a million dollars less than the banker who shoveled pencils for Enron on the 103rd floor?'
"I think that if you do it again," Feinberg added, "I would urge a flat payment."
Congress' decision to compensate the Sept. 11 families "set an incredible precedent that will be very powerful if a large event like this happens in the future," said Lloyd Dixon, an analyst at the RAND Institute for Civil Justice in Santa Monica, Calif., who conducted a study of Sept. 11 compensation issues. "But the bottom line is: There really isn't any ongoing strategy at this point of how we're going to deal with compensation if this happens again."
The lingering equity questions have embittered many Oklahoma City families, who wonder why Congress left them to rely on charities or struggle with insurance claims. A few attempts by Oklahoma City families to file liability lawsuits--against the government and the manufacturer of the fertilizer used in the bomb--were dismissed before they ever got to trial.
"`You don't count,'" is how Randy Ledger, an Oklahoma City survivor, says he and other victims of the attack interpreted the snub from Congress. "`You're just a bunch of redneck hicks down in Oklahoma.'"
Ledger, 48, a custodian in the Murrah building, suffered multiple skull fractures, brain damage and hearing loss, and has two chunks of glass embedded so near his spine that surgeons are reluctant to operate. Other shards periodically still work their way out through his skin.
After 10 years, he is still battling the federal Department of Labor over a worker's compensation claim.
"There's just a lot of plain anger," Ledger said, "because we got shafted."
Not the same
The Oklahoma City bombing was no Sept. 11, of course. The singular horror of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and a collective national desire to respond were among the principal motives cited by lawmakers as they sped the victim compensation package through Congress.
"Vengeful philanthropy" is the description Feinberg used to describe the compensation package.
"I completely agree with the victims in Oklahoma City, or the USS Cole, or the Kenya bombing: `Why not us?'" Feinberg said. "If you're looking at the victims, I don't know why not you. If you're looking at the impact of the tragedy on the American psyche, I think 9/11 stands in a very unique category with Pearl Harbor, the American Civil War and the assassination of President Kennedy."
There was also an urgent economic imperative: The nation's troubled airline industry faced collapse under the potential weight of thousands of Sept. 11 lawsuits. Congress averted that crisis by offering victims generous compensation in exchange for their surrendering the right to sue the airlines. ...
The Oklahoma City victims also lost out in Congress for reasons that had more to do with their political naivete and lack of clout than the merits of their claims.
Frank Keating, the former governor of Oklahoma, said victims of the Murrah building bombing did not think to seek federal compensation at the time of their loss. "It just never was a subject of discussion in the immediate aftermath of the bombing to make victims rich," Keating said.
Feinberg believes Oklahomans suffered because of their essential prairie stoicism--the same "Oklahoma spirit" for which they were lauded in the aftermath of the bombing, when Oklahomans demonstrated extraordinary decency, humility and bootstrap resiliency.
"I really do think that the character of Oklahoma is different than the character of New York," Feinberg said. "New Yorkers are in your face. We want compensation for something that wasn't our fault. But Oklahomans thought, `Hey, we run risks for the last hundred years out here. There's always something. Life is filled with misfortune.'"
Lobbying for equal treatment
Kathleen Treanor was one victim who didn't accept her fate. Treanor lost her 4-year-old daughter, Ashley, and both of her in-laws, who had taken the child with them on what was to have been an ordinary visit to the Social Security office inside the Murrah building.
After the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund was created, Treanor, 41, formed a group called Fairness for OKC to lobby for equal treatment for Oklahoma City families.
"Why did they single out one terrorism event and not take care of all terrorism events?" Treanor said. "Honestly, if you think about it, isn't the United States more culpable for the homegrown terrorists than for the outside terrorists?"
But Treanor got nowhere. Her calls to the offices of Oklahoma's senators and representatives were shunted off to junior aides. The news media failed to notice.
And when she signed up with a lawyer from St. Louis who came calling, promising to pull strings in Washington in exchange for 25 percent of any compensation Oklahoma City families might receive, it was the coup de grace. Skirmishing over the fees for the trial lawyers eventually scuttled Senate discussions of compensation for Oklahoma City victims, and the matter died.
The St. Louis lawyer, Charles Polk, was indicted last month on 23 federal counts of bank fraud, money laundering, tax evasion and theft from his legal clients. The charges include Polk's Oklahoma City scheme.
Some $18 million of all the charitable funds donated to Oklahoma City victims remain, including enough money to fulfill a promise to provide a college education for each of the 219 children who lost one or both parents in the bombing.
Most of the rest was distributed directly to bombing victims like the Hearn family, whose cases were assessed by a committee of charities that weighed each individual request for help.
Early on, local officials responsible for distributing the funds made a strategic--and controversial--decision not to try to compensate every victim individually. Instead, the goal was to provide temporary assistance to get those most severely stricken back on their feet and hold the rest of the money in trust for longer-term medical and psychological needs.
But choosing that approach over lump-sum distributions meant that bombing victims with some means had to rely on their own resources to get by, a decision that angered many.
"The perception of people unfortunately is that you need to give people money and that money will make them feel better," said Nancy Anthony, executive director of the Oklahoma City Community Foundation, the city's umbrella charity.
"Well, it probably does make them feel better. But heroin makes them feel better for a short time too. . . . But it's the services that really help them go forward. That's what we really focused on: What services do we need to put in place for people to help them begin to turn their lives around and go forward?"
Oklahoma bombing vs. Sept 11
Although the Oklahoma City and Sept. 11 terrorist attacks both had devastating effects on their communities and the nation, victims' compensation was handled very differently in each case.
Oklahoma City bombing .... number killed: 168.....average fed.comp. per family: $10,000 (income tax relief)
Sept. 11..........number killed: 2,973......average fed. comp. per family: 2.1 million (cash payment from $7 billion Victim Compensation fund)
About the writer
A decade ago, Howard Witt, now the Tribune's Southwest bureau chief, covered the Oklahoma City bombing. Over the past year, he has returned to the city repeatedly to examine the long-term fallout from the tragedy. Previously, Witt was the Tribune's chief diplomatic correspondent based in Washington. He has also been stationed in Toronto, Johannesburg and Moscow as a Tribune foreign correspondent and in Los Angeles as bureau chief. He joined the Tribune as an intern in 1982. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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The following .pdf documents were sent to APFN
to upload for Public viewing, Compliments of
MR. HARMON L. TAYLOR
P O BOX 516104
DALLAS, TX 75251
Phone: (214) 361-0401
Fax: (214) 361-0306
State Bar of Texas
Notation for the following document:
It may make perfect, intuitive sense why Lappin is the Defendant.
It may not be quite so clear why the State AG is also named, and as a
Necessary Party. It's in the pleadings, but let me address that here,
Land ownership in the "constitutional Government" depends upon a couple
of things, both of which are found in Article I, section 8, clause 17.
First, there must be evidence of transfer of title to the property, such
as by a Deed, and secondly, there must be Consent by the State
Legislature of the State in which the property is found.
For the Murrah Building, neither of these forms of evidence of ownership
in the "constitutional Government" have ever shown up; not in the deed
records, not in the legislative records, not in either trial (McVeigh or
Nichols). Therefore, it is safe to conclude that these documents don't
exist regarding the Murrah Building.
Conclusion: The land on which stood the Murrah Building was never owned
by the "constitutional Government."
If the distinction between the "federal government" and the
"constitutional Government" is a topic for which additional information
would be helpful, I can also send my "Dissertations on Definitions" page
from legalreality.com, which explores, in some detail, what the term
"federal" means. In sum, "federal" means "federal." It doesn't mean
"national." It most certainly doesn't mean "constitutional." "Federal"
has everything to do with private obligations and nothing to do with the
Constitution. The "federal government" does not arise from the
Constitution, which also means that the Constitution is not the language
by which we can limit the "federal government."
The fact that the Murrah Building and that property are characterized,
and properly so, as a "federal enclave" is the confession that it is, in
fact, private property.
Apply this line of thought one more time. As it turns out, the property
on which sits the "United States" Penitentiary in Terre Haute also has a
flagrant problem with title, from the point of view of the Constitution.
Thanks to excellent and very much appreciated assistance in Indiana, we
were able to locate a deed transferring t
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