Brand-new building, trashed.
OK, it was an old building, but the refurbishments had just gotten finished. It was so much nicer than our old place over Haymarket. But that’s where I was today, double-crammed into a cube with a co-worker and my laptop.
Over the weekend, one of the riots downtown hit the Post Office/Courthouse building where EPA’s moving in. From what I’ve heard, it started with a couple of government mercenaries trying to round up some folks handing out ‘seditious literature’ in the Downtown Crossing or State Street subways stops (depends on who you ask). Supposedly one of the thugs threatened to throw one of the leafleting kids in front of a train. Some of the gang-bangery locals didn’t take kindly and the whole thing turned into underground brawl.
By the time the thugs tried to fall back to the nearest government owned building, it was a mob.
Beats me how a mob of inner-city kids managed to get past and through a bunch of (supposedly) trained soldier-types defending a 1930s stone monolith of a building. But they did. The whole first floor was trashed, including the library and new Public Relations Center. The second floor fared a little better if only because the Records Center hadn’t moved over yet. The IT department wasn’t trashed, it was stripped bare. Even the new plantings on the green roof above the third floor got tossed down into the street.
Where my office is, up in the tower part, was left OK, but the whole place is a combo disaster-area/crime-scene now.
Of course I didn’t know any of this until I showed-up for work because there was no phone service in the whole city. I think our Continuity of Operations Plan needs some work.
Moving Day for EPA today. Or at least my division.
The building we’ve been in for almost 10 years above the Haymarket T stop was sold a few years back to some developers. The profit in high-rise parking garages (with federal offices on top) just isn’t as much as it was back in the ’70s when the place was built. Instead, they are going to tear it down and build a mixed-use high-rise. Current plans are for shops on the bottom, semi-retail offices (jewelers and lawyers) on the next few floors, a few floors of office space in the middle, and luxury condos on top. As a Bostonian I’m happy to see a little more life being brought back into the whole Scollay Sq./Government Center/Haymarket area. The place (along with the West End) was really pretty devestated by the ‘urban renewal’ of the ’70s.
Now EPA is moving into a beautiful 1930’s building at Post Office Square. The Post Office has left the building, but it is still government-owned. Several of the old corridors and 2-storey court-rooms (it was also a Federal Courthouse) are being preserved instead of becoming solely cubicle-land. Alas, I do not rank an office in the new set-up (my ‘bad attitude’ of late may have had some bearing on that).
Also new, EPA has finally implemented ‘smart-card’ federal IDs. Instead of just RFID tags in plastic like at the old building, the new card encodes all kinds of personal information including my fingerprints. The up-side is that I can now (in theory) use this card to access any federal building that my background check level approves (not TOP SECRET or anything). The down-side is that I have to guard this thing with my life since they REALLY don’t want to issue new ones and a crook who could crack it would have everything he needs to make my life a living hell.
The whole smart-card thing started after 9/11. It got a big push when DHS tried to standardize state drivers licenses – the idea being if the Feds could push the technology, the states would join on, didn’t really work out that way. The final push to get all the systems in place has been big since the Halloween attacks. We got a whole long lecture about how this ”enhances our security’ with the recent bombings at the embassies in Latin America and Europe as examples.
Better security at federal buildings makes sense. But I have to admit, I keep expecting to come around a corner in the new building to see Big Brother staring down at me.
Living on the border between Cambridge and Somerville means that sometimes you get a front-row seat to watch the class, socio-economic, and cultural divisions in the Boston area try and sort themselves out. We were in one of the many little brunch cafes around here when a discussion at one table spread into an argument involving about half the place. The subject was the DHS and FBI announcements that they had foiled terrorist attacks on a bunch of Mississippi River bridges.
A couple of college kids were being loud about how the announcement was a scam. By their measure, DHS has a whole slew of these scenarios on a shelf in a bunker in DC, and anytime people start asking too many questions, they announce “another close call.” Several of the blue-collar folks (including the waitress) took exception to this. Another table full of late-twenties yuppies came to the kids’ defense, saying they may be wrong, but they have the right and good reason to be paranoid. An old boomer hippie piped-up to say he believes the government, they’ll prevent attacks on Iowa but won’t prevent them in New York…nobody in New York voted for them. A couple of guys (I think they run the pizza parlor next door) stood up at this, not red-faced, but full-on pale in the face. Seems one of them lost a cousin in NYC during the Halloween attacks.
Neve and I were looking out the route to the back door when the cook came out, big guy with a grease-stained apron and a fry-pan in his hands. He slammed the pan down on a table (scattering an omelet, a bagel, and several mugs of coffee) and bellowed. “You people can’t keep civil, I don’t have to feed you. Get out! All of you!”
The shock alone was enough to break things up.
On the walk home we noticed someone had spray-painted “Traitors” across an older Children of Liberty New England flag graffito on the bike path. I guess the counter-revolution has started too.
Well, there goes the trip this weekend.
Paul went down to D.C. this morning… no, yesterday morning, for a meeting. He went on the Acela and planned to be back at about 8 o’clock last night.
Well, here it is three a.m. and he’s still not home. Why not? Because Bush is blowing smoke up our collective ass in an attempt to bolster Thompson.
Okay, there’s a lot of supposition there, but still… we’ve been bumped to an “Orange Alert” again. Oooh, spooky, scary, be afraid of the terrorists. I’m just shocked, shocked, that the NSA has heard “increased chatter” over the past week or so. You could not come up with a better method to push national security to the forefront of our minds and two weeks before the election, too.
Anyway, Paul’s train was late arriving, late boarding, late leaving, and I just got a text message from him, still in New Jersey somewhere. Poor man. Usually I wait up for him, but I’ve pretty much hit my wakefulness limit.
I’m jsut so sick of the administration’s use of terror to bludgeon the citizens.