The Angry Cyclist

A fleeting grasp of civil, well reasoned discourse.
This blog will comment on topics of interest like politics, business, taxation, the War with Islam / Islamofascists, road cycling, football, and others.


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Wednesday, August 27, 2003
 
The Polish Olympics?

Hey, I'm just asking (bottom of page):

Backwards cycling record attempt fails

An attempt to break the World Record for riding backwards [sitting on the stem] for an hour has failed. 52 Dutchman Pieter de Hart attempted the feat on Monday in Millbrook, Great Britain, however he was only able to cover 27.1 kilometres. This was better than his previous mark of 26.95 kilometres (set in 2002), but not enough to beat the current record. De Hart blamed the strength of the wind for his failure, and doesn't know whether he'll try again in the near future.


 
A Nation Of Wimps

Young adults of America, show some fucking backbone, please!

You can go home again


Why would you want to?

A rise in 'boomerang children' delays empty nesting for many

By Johnny Diaz, Globe Staff, 8/24/2003

The first time Margo Anderson moved back home to the parental nest was a rough draft for the second.


Margo's a two-time loser. At least she has the routine down by now.

After she graduated from Hamilton College in upstate New York in 2000, she moved back to Dorchester's Lower Mills neighborhood because "I didn't have any money."


When I was 21, neither did I. What's her excuse?

She eventually saved some, landed a job as a bank analyst and found an apartment and a roommate in Newton.


She's broke but somehow found an apartment in Newton? Something isn't right here.

Now, as she prepares for law school this month, Anderson decided to return to her old Lower Mills home to save some dough.


Lower Mills - Almost Milton.

"I didn't want to be in debt any more than I needed to be," said Anderson, who is 24.


So get another job, skinflint.

Like Anderson, many young adults are learning another lesson in their post-college years: Getting on in life can mean taking a U-turn -- and flocking back home.


I suppose I'm different. I'd rather poke sharp sticks in my eyes and disinfect them with rock salt than admit defeat move back home.

A stingy job market, high housing costs, and college debt have forced many 20-somethings to discover that returning home, at least temporarily, is a necessity when their ideal straightforward plans take a sudden turn.


You could have written that sentence back in 1987, too.

Some of their independence is curtailed. Home-cooked meals replace all-night parties. I-won't-be-home-tonight notes dot the refrigerator. No overnight guests allowed.


There's a price for freedom some people just don't want to pay.

As their college counterparts prepare to head back to school in a few weeks, some of these out-of-work or debt-burdened graduates are finding that returning home might actually be good for them. They avoid latching onto public assistance during jobless stretches. They gain maturity. They hold out for jobs that are more meaningful to them. They save money.


Back in my day, we used to walk to school barefoot in the snow, both ways uphill, as well as pay rent to your folks. When you're thirteen. Gives you a whole different set of priorities then. These spoiled kids don't have an appreciation of the bad, old days.

"The second time around is definitely better," Anderson says of life with parents, "because they aren't trying to keep track of me as much. Now they go to bed."


No, they're just older and there's less fight in them.

But it's a lifestyle change for empty-nesters as their homes fill up again with their adult offspring. That can mean a change in family dynamics, household expenses, and dashed plans for that spare room. In Anderson's case, her parents had already converted her bedroom, and she found herself in the spare basement room once used by her grandmother.


Sucks to be you, Margo.

Sociologists have referred to Anderson and other returning adult children as "boomerang children."

"For the better part of human history, children stayed closer to their parents or to their parents' house. They didn't move out until they were financially stable," said Daniel Monti, a Boston University sociologist. "Children living at home into their young adulthood used to be more commonplace than it is today. So part of what we see going on is simply a reversion to the way life used to be."


Yeah, like I was the bedrock of 'financial stability' just out of college. God, what a bunch of pussies.

It has been happening in the past 20 years, as the number of adult children living at home has increased steadily, according to the US Census Bureau.

In 1980, 10.5 percent of all 25- to 34-year-old men lived at home. Three years ago, 12.9 percent did.

Women of the same demographic showed a parallel rise: from 7.0 percent living at home in 1980 to 8.3 percent in 2000. For men between ages 18 to 24, 54.3 percent lived with parents in 1980 while 57.1 percent did in 2000.


It's practically an epidemic!

Just last month, Maynard-based MonsterTrak.com's "Living at Home" informal online survey reported 64 percent of college graduates who answered say they plan to live at home with their parents. Another recent MonsterTrak check found that 53 percent of college seniors who responded didn't expect to find job offers when they graduated last May, compared with just 23 percent when the same question was asked two years earlier.


Excuses, excuses...

Taking a page from the you-can-go-home-again theme, a NBC show debuting this fall, called "Happy Family," will feature adult children moving back in with their would-be empty-nester parents.


Reliving the nightmare on prime-time TV. That show will last a half season, at best.

Despite what had increasingly become a social taboo in American culture, moving back home or staying there after college has been common among some immigrant groups, including many Latinos and Haitians.


Ten or more per apartment.

"The son or daughter helps the parents by contributing with their individual incomes. More recent arrivals will stay longer at home because of the financial pressures and stresses of keeping a household together," said Monti, of Boston University, adding that being on your own can be an expensive endeavor regardless of ethnicity or race.


Brilliant deduction, Sherlock!

"You have kids who are making it but for whom living independently is prohibitively expensive. The kid comes back and lives at home and replenishes their financial reserves and moves out more successfully and more efficiently as a solitary person. In a particular place like Boston, which is so expensive, you will see this happening a lot."


Some people, on the other hand, move to Boston to get away from the parental units.

`I felt like a teenager'

Just ask Sarah Northrup, who has put on a good face each time she has used her going-back-home card since she graduated from Boston College three years ago.

After moving home from school for a year, she then rented an apartment in Waltham for about $900 and later shared a Brighton three-bedroom with two roommates for $733 each earlier this year. She was hoping to move in with her boyfriend when his lease was up, but he lost his job and moved back to his parents' house in Milton.

Stuck with heavy credit card debt, Northrup, 24, did the same four months ago, returning to her parents' house in Newton.


'Stuck with heavy credit card debt'. Whose fault is that, Sarah?

"Every once in a while, it's sort of embarrassing to say `Yeah, I live at home with my parents.' But overall, it's OK. Hopefully, it goes better this time around," said Northrup, who works as an environmental compliance coordinator for a telecommunications company. "It's one of those things where I say, `I am going to grow up and get my own home.' The goal is for me to get completely out of debt [so] that I might pay everything off and move out again."


At least she has a plan. Not much of a plan, but a plan nonetheless.

Northrup says her parents have been supportive. She doesn't have to call her parents (although she does if she stays out late), keep a curfew, or pay rent.

But there are some rules she has to abide by.

One of them: Her boyfriend can't sleep over unless he stays in the guest room.


The price for living rent free. Heh.

For Northrup, it's the kind of adolescent flashback she hadn't expected.

"At the end of the night, it's like goodnight and you go home," said Northrup. "It's reverting back to high school dating again, a very sad thing to be stuck with at 24."


Yes, it is. Too bad you don't have a freakin' backbone.

Anderson, who moved back home in May after living on her own in Newton for more than a year, finds herself dealing with mild depression adjusting as well.

When she moved back to Lower Mills the first time post-college, she remembers being pelted with questions: "Where are you going now? What are you going to do? What are your friends' phone numbers? Are you going to a party?"

Anderson said she "felt like a teenager."


Couldn't have said it better myself.

This time around, Anderson said, she and her parents made some rules upfront. Among them: She would not be required to wash her dishes of oatmeal right away nor pick up her backpack and handbag that she drops off in the dining room when she gets home.


Slacker!

"It's not so bad," Anderson said of living back home. "Because it's not the first time, we've got a better handle on how to deal with it now."


Translation: My parents put up with more shit than they used to.

Phone line warfare

Not everyone cherishes extended cohabitation with their not-so-little-anymore offspring. At the Hoffman household in Randolph, sometimes Ian and Susan Hoffman can't make calls.


Here's the flip side of the coin...

"We only have one phone line and he likes to use the computer," said Ian Hoffman, who said he enjoys having his oldest son, Shaun, home. "At times it's nice and at times it's, `Aghhhh!' For the most part, it's us trying to get a hold of our phone line."


So get broadband, you cheap prick. Oh, but that's why you're living at home, right?

Shaun Hoffman acknowledges hogging the phone line to go online. But hey, he reasons, he sometimes cooks meals for his parents.

"I'm used to being on my own, washing dishes on my own time, being on the Internet whenever I need to be, doing things my way. But it's different at home," he said.


Translation: "It sucks".

One issue, he says: "nagging" to mow the lawn.


I don't know about you, but if my folks weren't charging me rent to live there, I'd feel obligated to do things like mowing the lawn.

When Hoffman's job prospects fell through, the 2002 college grad knew what he had to do: Suck it up Bend over and assume the position Return to the parental nest. Reclaim the old bunk bed he left after graduating high school in 1996.


A bunk bed? This kid has no shame whatsoever.

Then weeks at home turned into months. The job search became an epic tale. Now a year later, Hoffman says it's OK back in Randolph but "kind of tough. I have to find a job, but there really isn't much out there. It's frustrating."


I'm sure your parents feel the same way, Shaun.

When he graduated in 2002 from Franklin Pierce College in Rindge, N.H., Hoffman was optimistic he would land a job as basketball coach or as a resident director in a school.


Franklin Pierce College, now that explains a lot...

"I had a few jobs lined up but they all fell through, most of them were resident director positions at colleges, which includes housing," he said. "So I applied to 43 positions last summer. With those 43 resumes, I had one interview. I did not get the job."


You're a basketball coach, Shaun. Make every shot count!

He recalls last summer, when he told the parents he wouldn't stay long.


Did your nose get bigger when you said that, Shaun?

"Hey, it's for the summer, what the heck," recalled Susan Hoffman, whose two other children do not live at home. "The summer turned into a year. It was longer than any of us had anticipated."


"What's Shaun's problem?"

Shaun Hoffman began substitute teaching in Canton, where he grew up, and became a volunteer assistant basketball coach at Franklin Pierce College.


Shaun, you're jobless, and you take a position as a freakin' volunteer assistant coach, two hours from Canton? How do you manage to pay for gas, the per diem? Where did this reporter find this ass clown?

He hopes to land a permanent well-paying job -- or at least a part-time job, so he can still coach basketball at his alma matter.

His goal: to break out of the nest by fall.


He'll have better luck breaking away from the Earth's gravitational field.

If he doesn't make it, his mom, despite yearning to make over his bedroom as a gym, says she can handle it.

"He knows," she says, "he has a place to come home to."


If this is the level of backbone we expect from our slacker 'youth' today, we're all doomed...

Johnny Diaz can be reached at jodiaz@globe.com.

© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.


 
Running Man

No, not Ahhnold, but we're about to add another act to the Democratic presidential circus.

If Clark runs, all bets are off

By Robert Kuttner, 8/27/2003

WESLEY CLARK has told associates that he will decide in the next few weeks whether to declare for president.


Here comes the John Kerry "To Run or Not to Run"TM routine...

If he does, it would transform the race. Call me an idiot star-struck, but he'd instantly be among the top tier.


Not hard to do, Bob, since there's only two tiers.

Clark, in case you've been on sabbatical in New Zealand, is all over the talk shows. He's the former NATO supreme commander who headed operations in Kosovo, a Rhodes Scholar who graduated first in his class at West Point, and a Vietnam vet with several combat medals including a purple heart.


Just what the country needs, a combination of Ike, Bill Clinton and Captain Hairdo.

He has been a tough critic of Bush's foreign policy. His domestic positions are not as fully fashioned, but he'd repeal Bush's tax cuts and revisit the so-called Patriot Act.


"And since he hates Bush just like I do, I'll give him the virtual ball bath with my tongue right here!"

More interestingly, Clark is progressive on domestic issues by way of his military background. Though it is very much a hierarchy, the military is also the most egalitarian island in this unequal society. Top executives -- four-star generals -- make about nine times the pay of buck privates.


Ah, yes, the virtues of socialism, coming to a Democratic campaign near you.

In corporate life, the ratio of CEO to worker bee is more like 900 times. The military also has America's most comprehensive child care system. And, as Clark likes to point out, everyone has health care. He's also pro-affirmative action and prochoice.


"Isn't he WONDERFUL?"

My favorite Clark riposte is on guns. He grew up hunting, in a family that had more than a dozen hunting rifles. But he's pro-gun control. "If you want to fire an assault weapon," he says, "join the army." The NRA can put that in its AK-47 and smoke it.


My, my, how General Clark has 'grown' in office, hasn't he?

Clark is the soldier as citizen. Even better, he's the soldier as tough liberal. Just imagine Clark, with his distinguished military record, up against our draft dodger president who likes to play "Top Gun" dress-up. Imagine the Rhodes Scholar against the leader who can't ad lib without a speechwriting staff. Oh, and he's from Arkansas.


Easy, Bob, you almost fell out of your chair there...

The draft-Clark people have already raised over a million dollars. Clark's not-yet-announced campaign is the second Internet phenomenon this year, after Howard Dean's. If he declares, Clark will have lots of volunteers and donors. Like John McCain, he'd be a terrific draw for political independents. Except he's a Democrat. The downside is that it's hard to get into the race this late. A lot of the fund-raisers and campaign professionals are already committed.


And if you support a pro-gun control military officer, it is you that should be committed. To Bridgewater State Hospital.

Bobby Kennedy jumped into the 1968 presidential campaign a lot later, after the February New Hampshire primary, when Eugene McCarthy proved that LBJ was vulnerable. But that was a different era and he was Bobby Kennedy.


Having another 60's flashback, Bob?

On the other hand, a lot of the support for the existing candidates is soft, with the exception of Dean's. Some of Dick Gephardt's own closest backers wonder if he can really do it, and that also goes for John Kerry, Joseph Lieberman and John Edwards.


"Run, Wesley, Run!"

This year, just about everyone engaged in Democratic politics has a higher commitment to the goal of ousting George Bush than to any single Democratic candidate. Clark could probably peel off a lot of donors and campaign professionals -- and grow some new ones. And, as candidates drop out, many professionals will soon be looking for work.


Ousting George Bush. Gee, Bob, isn't that why everybody runs for office, to defeat your political opponent?

If Clark gets in, Kerry would be hurt the most, because Kerry is most like Clark.


You mean Clark waffles on all his positions too?

His military record and defense expertise make him the most bullet-proof of the Democratic field on national security issues. But, paradoxically, Dean might be hurt, too. Dean has been the favorite of the antiwar activists and he's also the freshest face. Clark is an antiwar candidate and a former four-star general and an even fresher face. As someone who's not an identified liberal from a conservative part of the country, he'd also pull votes from Lieberman, Edwards, and Graham.


That's Bob's "I'm right once in a column" paragraph.

Who might Clark pick as a running mate? Someone with domestic political experience: a Western or Midwestern governor or senator. Maybe New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, a former Clinton Cabinet official and a Hispanic. Or how about Michigan's effective and popular governor, Jennifer Granholm? Or Illinois Senator Dick Durbin?


How about Walter Mondale or Bob 'The Torch' Torricelli? I hear they're looking for work.

Dwight Eisenhower was the last general to make it to the White House. He could have had the nomination of either party. He decided that he was a Republican, but he governed as an old-fashioned moderate, and he was phenomenally popular.


"In other words, he wasn't a real Republican, because columnists people actually liked him."

Now all of this may just be an August sunstroke fantasy.


And we can guess who's suffering from sunstroke here.

We'll soon find out. And if Clark doesn't get in, he'd make one fine vice presidential candidate for any of the bunch.


And if that doesn't work, he'll have another conspiracy theory to explain things.

Expect another Kuttner bootlick if and when the real 800 pound gorilla of Democratic politics enters the fray.

Robert Kuttner is co-editor of The American Prospect. His column appears regularly in the Globe.

© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.


Sunday, August 24, 2003
 
Pedophile Priest To Meet His Maker

A former neo-Nazi stangled John Geoghan in prison yesterday.

No tears shed from this quarter.


 
Bummer

The Saugus, MA Little League team lost to the boys from Boynton Beach, FL, 9-2.

It was a nice run while it lasted. Congratulations on a fine display, guys.


 
Standing Headline

Singer Bobby Brown arrested

ALPHARETTA, Georgia (AP) -- Singer Bobby Brown was arrested on a probation violation while dining with his wife, Grammy winner Whitney Houston, police said Saturday.

Brown was picked up Friday night at a restaurant in the Atlanta suburb of Alpharetta after an unidentified caller tipped authorities, said police Sgt. Chris Lagerbloom, a department spokesman.

Brown, 33, was taken to the DeKalb County Jail, Lagerbloom said. He did not know how Brown violated his probation.


Did you check for a crack pipe?

Brown remained in custody Saturday evening, a jail official said. A spokeswoman for the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department did not return several phone calls from The Associated Press seeking further comment.

In January, Brown was sentenced to eight days in jail and ordered not to drive for a year after pleading guilty to a 1996 drunken driving charge in DeKalb County.

Last November, Brown was arrested in Atlanta on charges of possessing less than an ounce of marijuana, speeding and having no driver's license or proof of insurance. He also did a 26-day stint in a Florida jail in 2000 for a previous probation violation.


He was practially begging for it...

Brown left R&B group New Edition in the late 1980s for a solo career. His hits include "My Prerogative" and "Every Little Step."


"Step into the jail cell, Mr. Brown".


Friday, August 22, 2003
 
Greatest Game Since Fisk in '75

No, not that Fisk!

I'm not sure that's an overstatement, but anyone who cheerleads for the local boys watched last night's Little League game had to be impressed. What an unbelievable emotional roller coaster that game was.

Good luck tomorrow, Saugus!


 
Tree Killer

The Boston Globe's Derrick Z. Jackson discovers another of George Bush's many 'flaws' - he doesn't commune with nature enough.

Riiiight.

Bush's non-leap forward


A play on Mao's Great Leap Forward? No slander too obnoxious for this guy to smear with.

By Derrick Z. Jackson, 8/22/2003

IT IS EASY to see why President Bush does not take the environment seriously. No, I am not thinking about the fact that the White House is a self-service station for Exxon/Mobil. It is far more elementary than that. The president simply does not spend enough time in the environment to appreciate it. Our president did his best to appear earnest last weekend in California,plopping down by helicopter in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation area. He shoveled some dirt, took a short walk, and lofted some words to the heavens. "We want to respect nature and honor God's great gift to our country by conserving these beautiful properties all across the country," he said.


Yes, indeed. That explains why he bought a 1600 acre ranch a few years ago and why he loves to clear brush when he's there. What did you expect Bush to do, start pouring a foundation?

Bush hopped back into his helicopter to make it back to Orange County for a $2,000-a-plate lunch. He might have praised God in the temple of the mountains, but the collection plate was in the concrete burbs. Pardon, but we do have to pull into the service station long enough to observe that a Republican fillup includes the premium fuel of $46 million from oil and gas companies in the 2000 and 2002 election cycles, while Democrats got a low-octane $12 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In California, the vast majority of cash from Chevron/Texaco and Atlantic Richfield went to the GOP.


Derrick's talking about the nonpartisan fair and balanced Center for Responsive Politics, where we can also observe how much trial lawyers, the movie industry and organized labor contribute to political campaigns.

As Bush soars toward $250 million for his reelection campaign, he continues to leave behind a landscape aching for more respect. Early in his presidency, he promised $5 billion over five years to repair facilities in national parks. Bush has "spent" $2.9 billion so far, but $2.5 billion of it was not new money. It was merely siphoned off from other park projects and services such as visitor education, species tracking and, ironically, trail maintenance. Bush might have held a shovel for a photo op, but when no one was looking, he kicked the dirt right back into the hole.


That's Liberal CompassionTM - your love for something is expressed solely as a function of how much federal money you throw at, er, invest in something.

The real problem, I suspect, is that Bush does not give himself the time to truly sink into the woods, climb the mountains, paddle the rivers, and find that special place or moment where you really understand what God's gift is.


I'm sure president Bush wouldn't mind doing these things, but unlike Derrick Nature Man Jackson, the President of the United States has far more important things to do than take long, leisurely strolls through Sherwood Forest.

As an example, I was with my wife and two friends in July at Lakes of the Clouds hut of the Appalachian Mountain Club. Anyone who has been there knows what an almost alien feeling it is up there at just over 5,000 feet.


Derrick's establishing his street, er, nature cred now...

I've been at Lakes at times of toe-chilling 30-something degrees and sustained 80-mile-an-hour winds. While your windows rattle, you could look down with binoculars to the Mount Washington Resort and see golfers in shorts, bathed in 80-degree sun.


Try biking up the fuckin' mountain, pansy.

I've noted the vast gulf between valley and mountaintop many times in my hikes. This summer, as Bush continues to run away from global warming seriously, I felt a particular awe as to how thin our air -- and our existence -- is.


I've noticed the vast gulf between Derrick's perceptions and reality. President Bush is currently on vacation in Crawford, where that mondo-sized ranch of his is located. His regular itinerary is noted above. Could it be that Derrick just doesn't like the particular expression of Bush 'being one' with nature when clearing brush, certainly tougher than enduring 'toe-chilling 30-something degrees'. What a wuss Derrick is; before the knee injury, I used to jog in -20 degree (F) weather and winds of 40 MPH blowing off Boston Harbor.

Down there, a little less than 1 mile below, people cavort in shorts. One mile up, I'm in a down jacket and a wool hat. One more mile up, if you were on a Sierra crest, some people might get altitude sickness. Another mile up and on most mountains around the world, you are in permanent snow and glaciers. Another mile up, 20,000 feet, you have to acclimate for several days if you are making a Himalayan ascent. Another mile up and you are in the death zone.


You're off message now; aren't you supposed to be Bush-bashing?

All that difference. It seems so far, so tall, so formidable. And yet, if you laid that distance down flat on a map, that 6 miles would not even cover the distance along the Charles River from the Science Museum to Watertown Square. In Chicago, it would not come close to equaling the distance of the urban Lakefront bikeway. It would not cover the 7 miles it takes for me to get from my house to the Globe, which by car takes about 20 minutes.

Sometimes, it's those simple recognitions that give you the greatest awe. Bush has clearly not had that moment. Bill and Hillary Clinton once took a White House vacation to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons where they actually camped in a tent for a night and went on an 8-mile hike. The Clintons ended up protesting a proposed nearby gold mine.


Great '60's flashback moment. Sounds more like a hippie reunion than anything else. It doesn't sound like very presidential behaviour to me.

Perhaps the moment will come when something that Bush loves at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, is no longer there. He brags about being able to jog in inhospitable 100-degree heat, but just maybe, when something he is used to disappears, a cactus, a flower, a cricket song, he will realize how we have abused the hospitality of the planet. He just might get that awe. That is our best hope for him to take the environment seriously. He needs the awe to forget about the oil.


Not when we have you around to constantly remind us, Mr. 30 Degree Tough Guy.

Derrick Z. Jackson's e-mail address is jackson@globe.com.

© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.


Thursday, August 21, 2003
 
Snooze Bar Trivia

Ever wonder why the snooze bar on your alarm clock is set at nine minutes? Wonder no more.


 
Darwin Award Nominee - California Division

Not exactly world-class stupidity, but stupidity nonetheless:

Marine biologists say great whites usually attack humans only when they mistake them for something else. The fact that Ms Franzman was wearing a dark wetsuit and flippers might have been her undoing, said John McCosker, a shark expert with the Californian Academy of Sciences. "If you are wearing a wetsuit and fins and you are swimming with sea lions, you are doing a clumsy job of imitating shark food," Mr McCosker told the San Francisco Chronicle.


 
Ohio - It Figures

It looks more and more like the job of some cops is to produce revenue. A report out of Cleveland mentions that motorists are now being pulled over for flashing their headlights in order to warn other motorists of police speed traps. The offence - obstruction of justice.

What a scam.




Wednesday, August 20, 2003
 
Lights Out

The electricity is back on -- so what's next?


That's easy - Blame Bush, of course!

By Robert Kuttner, 8/20/2003

EVERYONE SEEMS obsessed about which weak link in the power chain caused last week's spectacular blackout.


Probably FirstEnergy of Ohio, from all current accounts.

But that exercise is a little like wondering whether it was a nail or a piece of glass that finally caused a bald tire to blow. In this case, the bald tire is the electrical grid. And the grid is overstressed because of the logic of electricity deregulation.


Of course, it's 'the logic of electricity deregulation' in that he doesn't agree with it.

Until the mid-1990s, local highly regulated public utilities generated, transported, and sold power. State public utilities commissions shared responsibility for planning adequate capacity and for making sure that utilities invested in maintaining transmission lines. As regulated monopolies, the utilities were guaranteed a fair rate of return.


Here, 'fair' is a euphemism for 'below market' rate of return. I've learned to a) dismiss it as bullshit and / or b) run for the hills when a liberal tosses the word 'fair' around. You pay for the amount of electricity you use. No comprende, Bob?

Most economists thought that electric companies had to be organized and regulated as "natural monopolies," for several reasons: Power could not be efficiently stored.


And it still can't.

Electricity is a vital service.


So is breathing. Should we regulate the use of oxygen as well?

There needs to be spare capacity for periods of peak demand. And it makes no sense economically to string two parallel sets of wires, so the consumer could not be sovereign.


It seems most economists were wrong, weren't they? Are you including yourself in this exalted group, Bob?

In the 1970s, however, a new wave of economic thinking held that electric power could be treated like an ordinary commodity after all. Local utilities would get out of the business of generating electricity. They would buy their power from the cheapest producer, and the market in wholesale electricity would be like any other market. Local utilities, however, would still be regulated in terms of rates they could charge customers and in terms of the system's reliability.


Thanks for the history lesson. How's this relevant now?

But, as the Enron scandal and the great blackout of 2003 demonstrated, the theory had some big glitches. The new unregulated generating companies often took advantage of their power to manipulate prices. And with electricity being bought and sold over long distances, the grid (which was designed for a local regulated industry) was not up to the load. Nor was anyone ultimately responsible for upgrading it.


That's a load of horseshit. The great blackout of 2003 was caused, insofar as we know now, by failures at a single plant. Bob also forgets (or, as usual, intentionally omits) that Enron's price manipulation and took advantage of the spreads between wholesale (businesses) prices and retail (residences) prices. Bob uses the word 'manipulate' to imply wrongdoing when the mere existence of these spreads, to an extent, made them legal.

In theory, it's efficient to trade wholesale electricity. But in practice, it costs a fortune to upgrade transmission lines in order to transmit all that power. It's not at all clear that the benefits outweigh the new costs. It's also evident that deregulation has dramatically increased the risk of catastrophic failure. Earlier blackouts were usually confined to smaller areas because long-distance transmission was a rarity.


Even more horseshit, effectively debunked at Lynn Kiesling's site. Consider the same transmission lines are used to distribute wholesale and retail electricity. Why does it costs a fortune, then, for upgrading transmission lines for wholesale and retail transmission is never brought up? What's the argument now? Besides, weren't the utilities supposedly getting a 'fair' rate of return? Is that it why now 'costs a fortune upgrade transmission lines in order to transmit all that power', because the previous rates of return were in fact inadequate and resulted in underinvestment for many of the past fifty years?

Further, the obscure organization responsible for coordinating the whole show, the North American Electric Reliability Council (the organization that has 'voluntary' standards that nobody follows - Ed.), is a voluntary industry affair. Its own executives and engineers say that it lacks the authority to effectively govern the grid.


Hacks who need to control, er, 'govern', something. That's thinking outside the box, isn't it?

There's another irony. Everyone who loves big government now concedes that a "deregulated" electricity industry still needs regulation.


"Everyone"? Her? Him? Me? Who are these people you presume to speak for, Bob?

But the Republican administration in Washington believes in as little regulation as possible. So while there is widespread consensus that Congress needs to legislate reliability standards, pro-regulation forces don't trust Bush's appointees to deliver adequate regulation. The potential for both mischief and for catastrophe is so large that regulation needs to be in the hands of people who believe in it.


Regulation has worked wonders so far. Let's have some more!

The story is also complicated by two other factors. Pending federal legislation would give the Reliability Council and regional coordinating bodies new powers. But the Bush administration and its energy industry allies want to use the electricity crisis to light up a Christmas tree of special interest measures -- everything from oil drilling in Alaska to new giveaways to oil and gas interests.


You see, the whole story is 'complicated', this is why we need 'smart' regulatory agencies like the Reliability Council (don't you feel safer already?) to do this for us. That, and Bob doesn't seem concerned in the slightest about dependence on Arab oil.

There's also an issue of federal authority versus states' rights -- but with an unusual twist.


The twist being is that Bob's actually acknowledging state's rights.

After Enron fleeced Californians to the tune of tens of billions of dollars, several other states lost their appetite for halfway deregulation. Montana also took a beating. That state has plentiful cheap power, in coal and hydro-electricity. But after deregulation, the local utility made some foolish investments, Montana's own power ended up being sold out of state, and local rates skyrocketed.


So 'local rates skyrocketed' after they 'made some foolish investments'. Yep, sure sounds like we need more federal regulation...

Many other states with cheap local power looked at these misadventures in deregulation and said, "No thanks." Now the Bush administration, in a reversal of the usual Republican position on states' rights, wants to compel those states to deregulate.


Well, so much for Bob's acknowledgement of state's rights.

So the legislative tangle matches the tangle of outmoded electric lines.


You're too clever for words, Bob.

What's the answer? Free marketers want to go full speed ahead to full deregulation. They deserve to write their expert testimony by candlelight.


"'Cuz they're mean, heartless, etc.". Give me a fuckin' break with the schoolteacher scold, Bob.

At a minimum, Congress needs to pass reliability legislation without the special interest gimmicks. States that want to keep integrated and regulated utilities should be allowed to do so. Local power, including solar, also makes us less vulnerable to terrorists than huge regional grids. Public power, the cheapest and most reliable form of electricity, would be the best approach of all.


I mentioned earlier that the up and running rate of power plants at 99.945 percent, which exceeds the 'three 9's' test (99.9%), and Bob doesn't think that's progress. If he gets the level of regulation he desires, we'll all be using candlelight.

Robert Kuttner is co-editor of The American Prospect. His column appears regularly in the Globe.

© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.


 
No Bias At The Boston Globe

Riiiiiiight.

I sometimes wonder what level of world-class stupidity is required to write editorials for the Boston Globe. This column nearly left me speechless in its display of raw fucking ignorance and willful blindness to the facts.

A cameraman killed

8/20/2003

WITH AMERICAN soldiers being killed almost daily in Iraq, nervousness among the occupying forces is understandable. But there is no excuse for US troops gunning down a TV cameraman doing his job, as happened to a prize-winning Reuters newsman on Sunday.


It is tragic that a journalist died, and I do not make light of the situation. Here's a test for you. Pretend you're a US Marine, something that the Boston Globe never seems to consider when it writes bilge like this. Click on the link and make a split-second decision whether to fire or not. Remember that these are close-up pictures; actual field range is at least 50 yards. I leave it to you to discern between a cameraman and a RPG crew at such a distance. By the time you can tell the two apart, you're probably dead.

Despite the fact that Mazen Dana, 43, a father of four, had received permission from a US military official to film on the site, where other newsmen were also working, soldiers on two approaching tanks thought he might be an Iraqi guerrilla and his camera a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, according to reports. They shot first and attempted resuscitation later, unsuccessfully.


Problems like this have been known for a long, long time. Here's some more:

It has been well known since 1982 that electronic news gathering equipment looks like a rocket propelled grenade launcher through military gun sights. This was demonstrated when a CBS news crew set up to cover an Israeli column advancing towards Beruit in an orchard after the Israeli column had been ambushed a number of times by PLO RPG crews.

The CBS crew was turned to raw hamburger by Israeli firepower as soon as the Israelis came in range.

There was a big stink by the international journalistic community until the Israelis produced a side by side picture of a news crew with a camera and an RPG crew through an Israeli tank sight. After that you saw a lot of long range telephoto pictures of Israeli troops.

Most of the "combat junkie" international journalists of the current generation are used to being near third world fighting. The combatants being covered have little or no training, are often high on drugs and lack modern fire control on their weapons. The reporters can often bluff or bribe their way through these 3rd worlders to get the shots and quotes they need for the evening news.

American soldiers on the other hand are well trained, stone sober and have the latest fire control on their weapons. They are also well disciplined and trained to deal with reporters as a matter of course down to the junior officer level and cannot be bribed. Those American troops that forget their training are dealt with by the American chain of command so reporters as a whole are given very little or nothing to work with.

What these reporters refuse to take seriously is that their only protection from American firepower on a modern battlefield is to be part of an American embedded reporter program. Editors who came up through the same 3rd world battlefields of the 1980's and 1990's as their current news crews just cannot understand the orders of magnitude difference in killing power between western troops and 3rd worlders when the former are fighting with serious intent.

Americans in Iraq are not Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza. The Americans are out to kill terrorists and anyone that looks like an armed terrorist in their line of sight is going to die. And Al-Qaeda terrorists like to look like reporters to get close to their targets. Massoud, "the Lion of the Panshir," found that out in the days before 9/11/2001.

The penalty for stupidity on the modern battlefield in range of American troops is death. The only reason not to nominate Mazen Dana for the Darwin Awards is that he had four kids before he was killed. Any news organization that puts its reporters with camera's near American troops in combat outside of the embed program should be sued by the relatives of the dead cameramen for criminal negligence.


Eighteen journalists have died in Iraq from hostile fire and accidents. Five have been killed by the US military.


That statement proves the basic point. It's another way of saying thirteen journalists were killed by Ba'ath Party remnants, assorted jihadis, Iraqi Mafia, and accidents. It must really pain this columnist to be unable to blame all the deaths on the US military.

The Pentagon should respond quickly and affirmatively to the many calls for a thorough investigation, sanctions where warranted, and a stricter policy on when to engage.


Not at the expense of our troops, asshole. How about re-embedding the journalists, as mentioned above?

As for sanctions, the group Reporters Without Borders cited a number of US military transgressions and said, "Such behavior is unacceptable and must be punished."


Yes. The same bunch of asshat reporters that mention with barely concealed glee how many of our troops die on a weekly basis. The front page of today's Wall Street Journal proudly trumpets this factiod: "Casualties:131 U.S. and 45 British soldiers have died" and these preening, moralistic cocksuckers have the fucking gall to piss and moan about preventible deaths that are one tenth the scale? Don't insult my intelligence.

The prospect of punishment may be remote, however, given the report last week from Central Command about the shelling of the Hotel Palestine in Baghdad on April 8 that killed two TV newsmen. A US tank engaged in "a proportionate and justifiably measured response" when it fired on the hotel, the report said. The hotel had been clearly identified as occupied by some 100 journalists, but the report said gunfire was coming from "surrounding buildings" and soldiers also saw "flashes of light, consistent with enemy fire, coming from the same general location." Soldiers also felt that an enemy spotter might have been working out of the hotel.


It must have been Joan Vennochi ghostwriting this piece of shit. Changing the subject is the best way to avoid your original flawed argument. Fine, I'll bite on this one.

This report has been derided by news groups. One, the Committee to Protect Journalists, said its own study showed that no one was firing on US troops from the hotel.


No, it was just a group of spotters on the hotel roof, knowing they'd have a certain degree of protection on a building with journalists inside:

The decision to fire was made by the company's commander, Capt. Philip Wolford, after a gunner from one of his tanks scanned the hotel and saw someone observing with binoculars. At the time, the company was receiving mortar fire from several unknown points on the hotel's side of the river and had received intelligence that Iraqi spotters were using tall buildings to track American movements, military sources said.

Wolford said his troops "were hit by four or five points along the river." He also said he had received reports of teams of fighters with rocket-propelled grenades clustered at the foot of the hotel.


Spotters and RPG crews in the vicinity of the hotel, which could once again be mistaken for journalist's cameras, and the journalists still don't have Clue One which would tell them to get the hell out of there yesterday? Winds of Change is 100 percent correct: In a war zone, the penalty for stupidity is death.

It is only natural that such organizations -- and newspaper editorials -- react with outrage when colleagues are killed on the job. But these killings raise a broader question of whether the coalition rules of engagement are too aggressive with all civilians.


Oh, right. They're a bunch of well-behaved Mormon college students in that neck of the woods, er, desert.

Reports of excessive force against Iraqis mount: US soldiers even killed two Iraqi policemen they mistook for criminals recently. Such actions inflame local passions, making it all the harder for occupying forces to keep the peace.


Gee, Ace, did this fact ever occur to you:

The three Iraqi officers were firing from their unmarked police car at a suspect vehicle they were chasing when the Americans opened fire on them in a western suburb of the capital, Sergeant Hamza Atiya Muhsen, who said he was driving the car, told AFP (emphasis added - Ed.).


...

The US military said it was investigating an incident which could have been a case of "mistaken identity."


Did the thought ever enter your pea-sized brain that, to the U.S. military guys, that these clowns might not be real Iraqi cops?

The Pentagon says its rules of engagement are confidential. Certainly in wartime the military does not want to telegraph its moves. But the United States chose to fight -- and now to make peace -- in an area where foes make sure it is hard to tell them from friends.


Well, gee, you bunch of fucking geniuses, don't you think that's the crux of the biscuit right there? From that, Young Einsteins, don't you think the journalists bear at least some level of responsibility when they're in a fucking WAR ZONE????

US overreaction threatens civilians, including reporters, and only helps the opposition. The military must find out what is going wrong and make it right.


Denial isn't just a river in Egypt, folks. It flows through the offices of 135 Morrissey Boulevard, Boston, MA.

My solution - put large orange dunce caps on every journalist in Iraq, or on all of them, for that matter. The shoe fits.

© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.


 
World's Most Boring / Annoying Blog

Here's my nomination.


Tuesday, August 19, 2003
 
What's The Difference?

Nick Schultz opines on Paul Krugman and Robert Kuttner, indistinguishable from a distance:

For years I could never tell the difference between Paul Krugman and Robert Kuttner. Part of it was that their last names both began with a ‘K’ but mostly it was because they both wrote quasi-populist economics columns that slammed Republicans and free markets with equal relish and were almost indistinguishable in their nastiness and faulty logic (faulty logic? no surprise here - Ed.). When Krugman went to the New York Times and elevated his profile (and diminished his academic street cred) it became easier to tell the two apart. But two pieces on the Times op/ed page about the recent blackout – Krugman’s here and Kuttner’s here – rehash the same lame arguments against their phony boogeymen: “the market” and “deregulation.” Kuttner’s is the nastier of the two, and he went so far as to compare classical liberal economics and markets with suicidal Islamic fanatics.

When the blackout hit on Thursday, many of us first thought of terrorists. What hit us may be equally dangerous. We are hostage to a delusional view of economics that allowed much of the Northeast to go dark without an enemy lifting a finger.”

Northwestern University’s Lynne Kiesling has spent the last several days doing the media rounds tirelessly helping to explain why the blackout happened and why the Kuttner/Krugman scourge of “deregulation” is a red herring. She would be surprised to know she’s “equally dangerous” to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, but unlike Krugman and Kuttner, she eschews their humorlessness, so she’ll probably let it slide off her back. If you actually want to understand what is happening with the electricity grid and markets, read Kiesling, or read today’s definitive piece from the Wall Street Journal’s George Melloan.


 
Enough!

I fell for another quiz:

HASH(0x8722acc)
schizoid


Which Personality Disorder Do You Have?
brought to you by Quizilla

God damn, that guy in the picture looks like Steve Buscemi! It figures.

Then again, given the other choices, my results remind me of Machiavelli's famous dictum, "'It's better to be feared than to be loved, if you cannot be both".


 
Going To The Movies

Another Quizilla quiz:
CWINDOWSDesktopFightclub.jpg
Fight Club!


What movie Do you Belong in?(many different outcomes!)
brought to you by Quizilla

Given the other choices, I'm not embarassed by this one. Thanks, Drumwaster!


 
WOT Futures

If you feel like like giving your two cents on the probabilities of various events coming true or not, stop by Rantburg and make a contribution.


 
Hotshot Italian Sprinter Wins Again

No, not that one! Alessandro Petacchi of Fassa Bortolo wins the first (flat) stage of the ENECO Tour of Holland.

Petacchi won four stages at this year's Tour de France. What the fuck happened in the Alps, dude?

Cipollini, pictured above, and here and here and here (what's with the Fabio look? - Ed.), entered seven Tours and abandoned every one of them. He did manage to finish all the Tours of Italy (the Giro), though. Go figure. Given that, and the fact that the Fassa Bortolo team finished le Tour with only three of their original nine riders, I'm predicting that Petacchi / his team won't be invited to next year's Tour. The only thing that will save his ass is the absence of Spanish teams like ONCE and ibanesto.com, which indeed sucks for professional cycling.


 
Checkmate!

Joan Vennochi, still bitter over the loss of Shannon 'Bitch' O'Brien to Mitt Romney for Massachusetts governor last year, takes a whack at the Mittster. Can't be because he's a Republican, I'm sure...

It's Romney's move on UMass

By Joan Vennochi, 8/19/2003

MITT ROMNEY doesn't have Bill Bulger to kick around anymore. Now what?


Running out of material already, Joan?

Bulger's departure as president of the University of Massachusetts hands the new Massachusetts governor a significant political victory. But it is more symbolic than substantive. It also reveals the underlying dishonesty in Romney's push to force Bulger out of a job.


Nope, it's all Romney's fault, didn't have a thing to do with less than forthright testimony.

Eliminating the office of university president never had anything to do with cost-cutting (Bulger's salary = $300K - Ed.) or improved management, as Romney initially claimed. It was all about eliminating Bulger, an icon of old-style Massachusetts politics. Romney was never quite straightforward about that goal, always striving to make the attack on Bulger sound more high-minded than personal.


It's all Romney's fault, right?

At any rate, Bulger is gone, undone not by loyalty to a brother but by evasiveness under oath about that loyalty.


So lying's okay when a) Clinton gets a knob job or b) you're doing it to protect a brother who had John McIntyre, among others, murdered. Nice standards you have there, Joan.

The controversy over his relationship with his fugitive brother, James "Whitey" Bulger, should not obscure the good things that Bill Bulger accomplished at UMass. He put a spotlight on public higher education in a state that is too bedazzled by its private institutions to value a strong public university system.


The spotlight was mainly on Bulger.

He used his considerable influence to shake down donations give jobs to his cronies raise money from the ever-shrinking Boston business base. And he deserves credit for knowing when to leave.


He didn't 'leave', Romney kicked his ass out. Great spin job, Joan.

He did not drag the state university system down with him, and he could have. There is recent, local precedent for that kind of selfishness: Cardinal Bernard Law took the Boston Catholic Church down with him. As for the severance package that has everyone so outraged, perhaps the anger should be turned on the UMass board of trustees. They gave Bulger a long-term contract, and he enforced what he could, as any one of us would have tried to do.


Fine. Fire all of them, too.

Now Romney is promoting a "full worldwide search" for a new president who will make people say "wow," as he put it during a press conference. While Romney did not rule out the possibility of a politician to replace Bulger, that outcome would more likely make people say "ow."


That's the sound Joan makes, dropping a consonant on her foot.

There is considerable pressure on Romney to deliver on his commitment to replace Bulger with a "dedicated leader in the academic world." The first three trustees he gets to appoint as governor this September will also demonstrate just how dedicated he is to education over raw politics.


That's rich. Billy Bulger practically invented the term 'raw politics'.

Romney has much to prove when it comes to figuring out what is next for the University of Massachusetts. And the same is true for the broader issue, what is next for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts?


Running out of arguments? Just change the subject, a time-honored tradition of the Desperate ColumnistTM.

On its own, the forcing out of a university president means little. It is symbolism, not coherent policy. Romney's actual accomplishments since election last November are scant.


Didn't Romney balance a budget that was running in the red to the tune of $3 billion dollars?

He garnered the biggest headlines for using a jet ski to rescue boaters in Lake Winnepesaukee (sic), which is laudable as an act of personal kindness and heroics.


Whoops! Great editors you got there, Joan.

But...

But where is the kindness or heroics when it comes to rescuing the school children of Massachusetts, the families who need affordable housing, or the citizens who can't afford prescription drugs?


Why does state need to 'rescue' just about everyone? Are they drowning too?

The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation's most recent bulletin presents the fiscal reality Romney and state legislators still must confront. "Although the budget makes great strides in closing a potential gap of $2.5 billion, it fails to eliminate fully the state's structural deficit," the August report states. "The task of balancing the 2005 budget will be exacerbated by 2004's reliance on approximately $400 million of one-time resources. The need to replace those nonrecurring revenues, combined with expectations of only modest revenue growth and continued escalation of health care costs, will produce a shortfall of more than $1 billion in 2005."


The report is here.

The Taxpayers Foundation's report concludes by noting that state leaders will face "much starker" choices in 2005, having already cut basic programs by almost $3 billion and largely exhausted the opportunities for fee and other nontax revenue increases. "It is clearly time for a thoughtful and honest debate about what levels of annual spending -- and spending growth -- are in the best long-term interest of the citizens of the Commonwealth and what levels of revenue are needed to support that spending."


The report above (scroll down an article or two) also mentions the high cost of doing business in Massachusetss. That pretty much rules out big-time tax increases. Time for the state to cut back on some capital projects.

Thoughtful, honest debate about levels of spending and revenue.


Because we have to do it for The ChildrenTM, the families who need affordable housing, citizens who can't afford prescription drugs, militant lesbian poets from Nicaragua, pet llamas...

That's not as much fun as leading the charge to kick Bill Bulger out of UMass, is it, Governor Romney?


"It wasn't fun, it was a blast!"

Joan Vennochi's e-mail address is vennochi@globe.com.

© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company


Monday, August 18, 2003
 
Boring, Boring, Boring

Donald Luskin is taking the 'rag on Paul Krugman' theme to a whole 'nother level. He's inviting readers to write Krugman's bi-weekly anti-Bush screed just after predicting the essence of the article and offering betting lines for anyone willing to take the action. Sorry, Don, but I'll stick to football, thanks.

The only thing worse than being boring is being predictable. It seems Krugman's fast becoming both.


 
The Broken Record

Tom Oliphant sees a problem with our electrical system. How does he propose to solve it? That's right, more government intervention.

The broken grid
By Thomas Oliphant, 8/17/2003

WASHINGTON

THE LARGEST BLACKOUT in American history occurred within a private-public system that emphasizes the generation of electricity more than its transmission. More than anything, it should remind people of all political persuasions that this is why government exists and that the safe, reliable transmission of electricity is a modern economy imperative that common sense can provide far better than political ideology.


Unless your political ideology involves market-based reforms, of course.

Of all the maddening ironies since the Northeast shut down on Thursday, none is more infuriating than the fact that the problem and the most sensible solutions to it have been identified for years. Worse, giant steps forward via national legislation are not all that controversial and have moved forward in Congress twice in recent years.

They can be summed up in one word -- reliability.


Duh...

That is, reliability in the form of new, mandatory rules of the electricity road that together with new investment in transmission and switching equipment and technology can lead to a far better system than the jerry-built mess that failed last week.


Of course, we still don't know the exact reason for the crash, although a plant in Ohio is the leading culprit, so how can anyone realistically offer solutions that will address the problem?

The new rules for a system that could work much, much better were part of comprehensive energy legislation that passed the House of Representatives on April 11. New rules were also part of comprehensive energy legislation that passed the Senate barely two weeks ago, on July 31.

The problem lies not in the specifics of these rules, but in the word "comprehensive." Major steps forward on the electricity front are essentially being held hostage to ideological and regional disputes over other energy issues. The most famous of these is the effort launched by the Bush administration two years ago to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling and the environmental backlash this effort provoked.


First, there's a set of federal and state regulations that might be examined first. This Opinion Journal article is a good source for some of these issues. Here's another by Lynn Kiesling (via Instapundit) that explains precisely why 'deregulation failed:

First, the "deregulation" that has occurred in electricity has primarily been in opening up wholesale markets for power generators and their customers (i.e., utilities), enabling people in Manhattan to continue consuming power (and clamoring now for more regulation) without Con Edison having to build more power plants on the island itself. The existence and growing vitality of wholesale electricity markets has created substantial value in the past decade, through encouraging generation where it is cheapest and sales of power to where it is most needed.

But this limited amount of market liberalization has left the industry in an awkward place. Generation is largely governed by market processes, but transmission and retail distribution remain heavily regulated.


Second, Drilling in ANWR has absolutely NOTHING to do with the current discussion about the failure of the electrical grid other than for Oliphant to take the obligatory Bush cheap shot. It's as moronic as Bill Richardson on CNN Thursday night decrying our use of SUV's when talking about the blackout.

After what happened last week, it would seem to make sense to let this shouting match continue -- along with others involving nuclear power, conservation measures, and the automobile industry -- but not at the expense of sensible steps forward in electricity that could occur fairly quickly if they were separated from the overall legislation and enacted. This is a classic case of various people's and special interests' vision of the "perfect" energy policy clashing with the "good" of what is possible right now.


Right. Let's just pass a few laws about a problem that hasn't been discussed, I'm sorry, shouted about, in any manner, and we'll throw in the auto industry for no apparent reason because everyone knows they're just a bunch of big, evil, profit making corporations that make machines that pollute. Nope, no 'political ideology' here, right, Tom?

Political obstacles to electricity legislation still need to be overcome. They include the opposition to national measures concentrated among generators of relatively cheaper power in the Southeast and Northwest. There is also a huge gap between the estimated need for new investment in transmission lines and modern equipment (approaching $60 billion) and the currently available capital (barely half that).


See the above links. One of the problems with the transmission lines is that state regulations dictate how much of a rate of return is allowed on such investment. This is the primary reason that the power grid is as old as Oliphant himself. Who wants to invest in anything when the rate of return is dictated to you and is inadequate when compared with the alternatives, like power generation?

The simple fact is that a largely deregulated market for wholesale electricity supplies over the past decade has overwhelmed what had been an essentially voluntary system designed after the famous blackout of 1965 to make sure that cascading failures in the transmission grid could not happen again.


It can also be that deregulation was done in a half-assed fashion (yes to power generation, no to the transmission / grid part), but Tom's conveniently ignoring this.

Two bureaucratic acronyms are necessary to paint an oversimplified picture of what is wrong -- NERC and FERC.

NERC is the North American Electric Reliability Council, in existence since 1968 and an operation that sits atop various regional councils composed of electricity's private and public players. It has a variety of detailed rules and standards for the operation of the labyrinth of connected, high-voltage transmission lines that bring power to people and business.


According to this blurb, the electrical system overall has been up 99.949% of the time.

These rules, however, are voluntary and cover a grid system that is now operated for purposes it was not built to serve and is having to deal with an exponential increase in the volume and complexity of demand. The new system of deregulated, wholesale markets has also made competitors out of companies that used to cooperate routinely on transmission matters. The rules, in short, are being routinely broken.


That's interesting spin, Tom. How can you break rules that are voluntary in nature? The obvious solution, then, is to make them mandatory.

FERC is the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which is assumed to oversee all this but doesn't, because it lacks the ability, the budget, and the statutory authority. At least a third of the country's transmission operations exist beyond FERC's reach, and it obviously has no authority over the important parts of the bulk power transmission system that involve Mexico and Canada.


So FERC is useless as a regulatory agency. What a surprise.

At a minimum, the answer that only national legislation can provide is national rules that are mandatory and fair to all electricity players in North America. The legislation already exists, and especially compared to the other elements of energy policy, it is not as controversial. After what happened last week, there is no longer any excuse for more delay.


Hey, Tom, we've been trying this approach for fifty years now, don't you think we should try something different? As Jerry Taylor and Peter Van Doren write in today's Wall Street Journal,

Let companies decide for themselves the terms and conditions under which they'll cooperate with their neighboring service territories, including the terms under which parties will be liable to one another for error.


Thusly motivated, power companies will have an incentive for upgrading their portion of the grid, so as not to get hit with the inevitable lawsuits.

In the meantime, the most important factor limiting the danger of more blackouts is probably the continued sluggishness of the US economy. There is a widespread fear in the industry that at the growth rates of the late 1990s, the current system and its weak rules cannot operate reliably. You would think that would be incentive enough for the politicians to act.


If the problem is theirs to fix, that is.

Thomas Oliphant's e-mail address is oliphant@globe.com.

© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.


Wednesday, August 13, 2003
 
What You Won't Find In The Globe

Truth about tax cuts

THE BUSH administration's economic advisers convene at the president's Texas ranch today, desperately seeking stimulus.


They sure sound desperate to me. The DemocRATS, that is...

Given their deeply ideological and partisan strategy, however, prospects are not good. Unemployment holds stubbornly above 6 percent. The nation continues to shed jobs even as productivity and growth inch up. Despite promises to the contrary, the president's costly tax cuts have not had a substantial stimulative effect on business or job creation. The states are facing budget deficits of $80 billion in the fiscal year just begun, forcing deep local service cuts and municipal layoffs.


And deep partisans like the Globe editorial board keep intimating that the state budget deficits, about half attributable to the state of California, are somehow connected to the Bush administration. Nice try, ideologues.

Mortgage rates are rising, dampening the economic activity attributed to home refinancing.


It also affects new home purchases as well, I can vouch for that. Mortgage rates are an indication of the demand for money, and it's increasing.

And household debt is up -- mimicking, of course, the wild deficit spending in Washington. The administration's own Office of Management and Budget is projecting a record deficit of $475 billion next year, and that doesn't include the costs of rebuilding Iraq.


The only time liberals bitch about deficit spending is when it's not them spending the money.

Yesterday at a press conference organized by the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, Robert Solow, a huge liberal Nobel prize-winning economist and professor emeritus at MIT, attacked the Bush tax cuts, calling them "redistributive in intent and redistributive in effect."


First, let me say that Solow looks like a very interesting person, but he's still pretty much a Keynesian at heart.

Then again, I thought liberals were all for redistributing income? I must be on the wrong planet or something...

This is true in more ways than one. First, the tax cuts shift billions in federal dollars from working people, whose wages are not rising above inflation, to the super-wealthy.


What a load of crap. Marginal tax rates were cut across the board (which means everyone who pays taxes gets a tax cut) and the child tax credit was increased from $600 to $1000 per child, with the difference being rebated immediately to working families taxpayers. It's a huge stretch (ok, it's a lie) to assert that 'working people' are getting 'billions in federal dollars' removed from their wallets.

Also, the cuts redistribute the tax burden from Washington to the states, which are responding to record shortfalls with tax hikes, increased fees, or both.


I'd love to understand how a federal individual tax cut directly impacts fifty state budgets, since I've never seen any state budget include "Revenue from the Federal Government" as part of the budget. It seems to me that what the Globe editor is really thinking is this: since Bush is cutting taxes, and the states are running deficits just like they did in the 1990's, and since all government services are essential, our preferred solution would be to raise taxes, thus the 'shift' in the tax burden can be 'blamed' on Bush because he cut taxes first.

And the cuts effectively de-fund government programs that mostly help middle and lower-income families while reducing the contribution toward those services among the rich. Thanks to Bush, the federal income tax burden as a percentage of gross domestic product is at its lowest level since the 1940s.


This is the Big Government Liberal mindset in a nutshell. Once a federal program is enacted, its efficacy can never be questioned nor can the program be underfunded, and any attempt at either makes you an enemy of the people, whose otherwise hapless existences would be rendered meaningless by the underfunding or elimination of these programs.

Solow was one of 10 Nobel laureates who signed a statement in February saying the president's fiscal policy -- especially his proposed permanent cut in the dividend tax -- was not credible as a stimulus plan.


The dividend tax cut's primary purpose was to eliminate a distortion in the tax code. Companies can write off interest on bonds it issues but not dividends.

But Bush and his aides are unmoved. They continue to push to make the tax cuts permanent while hiding the true cost of the current round with sunset provisions no one believes will stick.


Another symptom of the Big Government Liberal mindset - letting taxpayers keep more of their money is a 'cost' to the federal government.

What will truly and fairly stimulate the economy is a short-term relief package for working families and the states, coupled with a long-term return to fiscal discipline. That means halting or rolling back the most damaging tax cuts before the deficit threatens the fiscal integrity of the nation. Yesterday another Nobel prize-winning economist, George Akerlof of the University of California, said "The debate has so far been much too polite."


Fuck off, jerkof Akerlof (a fleeting grasp, indeed! - Ed.).

Note the complete absence of spending reductions when they claim to be talking about 'fiscal discipline'; this is just another 'soak the rich and anyone who won't vote for us' hatchet job because all they care about is undoing Bush's tax cut, which is the same thing as a tax increase and rewarding the states for spending money like Ivana Trump at a Tiffany's opening , thus leading to a tendency for the states to do it again and again and again.

It is time to call the Bush stimulus plan what it is: phony, divisive, irresponsible.


Fits this column to a tee.

Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.


 
Just What The Witch Doctor Ordered

The world is slowly coming to an end. Witness a conference on the exchange of scam e-mails.

Maybe they'll teach everyone how not to abuse the 'CAPS LOCK' key as an advanced technique?


Tuesday, August 12, 2003
 
Madhouse

Tom Oliphant comments on the California circus.

Feinstein stands tall against the madness
By Thomas Oliphant, 8/12/2003

WASHINGTON

AS BEFITS ONE tough pol, Dianne Feinstein uses one tough word -- hypocrisy.


A subject Feinstein knows a great deal about.

How else to describe those who believe that to recall California Governor Gray Davis is to abuse a system established to deal with extreme cases of corruption and malfeasance but who then run for the position in the recall election? If one opposes the recall, Feinstein argues, one should not enable it through the back door. Feinstein's position is not only a knock on the only prominent Democrat headed for the October ballot -- Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante -- it is also a shot at the public figures positioning themselves for campaigns (columnist Arianna Huffington and businessman Peter Ueberroth) who had also opposed the recall until it gathered steam and attracted the ultimate opportunist, Arnold Schwarzenegger, after Feinstein declined to run.


He uses the word 'opportunist' like it's a bad thing. Besides, isn't that the whole point of a recall petition, to remove those who commit grave acts of malfeasance? I don't believe the recall law actually bars a Lieutenant Governor from doing this. Bustamante's 'hypocrisy' should then be mentioned early and often.

It is also a shot at the behavior of her party, which muscled another Democrat, insurance commissioner John Garamendi, out of the race over the weekend and is preparing to send the muddled message of "No on recall, Yes on Bustamante" to voters.


He means the state Democratic party, and most state partiers don't take marching orders from their Senators, at least if they're smart. They know that they need a single, electable DemocRAT to beat Arnold or anyone on the opposite side of the political fence if they want to retain the governor's office. The fact that Bustamante and Davis don't get along is his greatest asset, his being Hispanic running a close second, so someone has to take the gas pipe. That's Garamendi.

Feinstein's position is principled for three reasons: I agree with it It risks defeat; I agree with it it deprives her of sweet revenge against Davis, to which she is entitled; and I agree with it it flows from 15 years of experience with the worst in politics. The fact that she herself was the target of an absurd recall drive 20 years ago is but the tip of a grotesque iceberg.


Life sucks when you have to be elected all the time, doesn't it?

Feinstein came to national attention because she took charge of a shattered San Francisco in the aftermath of the 1979 murders of Mayor George Moscone and City Supervisor Harvey Milk by former City Supervisor Dan White.


"They whacked 'em! I can't believe they fuckin' whacked 'em!"

From her perch on the county's Board of Supervisors


What is she, a peacock?

she won a full term and then began governing the city in the moderate New Democrat style for which she is now better known. In a different era, she vetoed an ordinance recognizing domestic partnerships among gay people (already in anguish over the murder of Milk, a trailblazing gay politician). And she pressed for a law banning ownership of handguns in the city.


Yep. While she got one for herself. How's that hypocrite label treatin' you, Dianne?

This attracted the ire of a fringe group, the White Panthers, who organized a recall petition that succeeded in forcing an election in the spring of 1983. Instead of whining about the personal indignity, Feinstein used the recall to solidify her position; she won with 81 percent of the vote and faced no serious opposition in the real election that fall.


The White Panthers gathered over 24,000 signatures. Some 'fringe group'. She outspent the White Panthers by a 100 to 1 ratio and won 84 percent of the vote. Democracy in action, folks...

In the summer of 1984, in addition to hosting the Democratic national convention, she came within an eyelash of being Walter Mondale's choice as the first woman on a national ticket. Pete Wilson beat her for governor in 1990, but she was back in 1992 running for the rest of his term in the US Senate.


Good thing for Feinstein that Geraldine Ferraro was on the Mondale ticket instead, baggage and all. If Feinstein was on that ticket, she'd have been finished as a politician. Just look at Ferraro.

That's when the madness continued. One of her opponents in the Democratic primary was none other than Gray Davis, then as now addicted to negative politics and special-interest cash. Davis helped pioneer the TV spot that "morphs" an unpopular image into your actual opponent. Davis, showing the moral compunction of a serial killer, chose the Queen of Mean, Leona Helmsley, as his Feinstein model. But she won.


Like there's a difference...

Two years later, she faced one of the most absurd examples of money politics ever -- the effort by an obscure, super-rich New Jersey Texas transplant, Jon Corzine Michael Huffington, who first bought a congressional district north of Los Angeles and then tried to buy the Senate seat.


Sorry, wrong Senate seat...

Feinstein fought back and just barely prevailed in the year the Republicans took Congress by storm. As befits modern money politics, Huffington's wife (the same Arianna) then dumped him and became a Newt Gingrich groupie on her way to her current status as a "progressive."


She's flaky, even by California standards. Michael's better off without her.

Feinstein is urging opposition to the recall. By its standards -- budget politics, gridlock, the obscuring of deficits, and absurd reliance on debt-financing -- Republicans George Pataki in New York and a president named Bush more than give Davis a run for his money.


So it's okay to slam the recall initiative as 'hypocritical' because they're going after a DemocRAT, but 'By its standards' it would be fine to use it anyway on Pataki and Bush? If anyone's deserving of the big scarlet H on his forehead, it's Tom Oliphant.

She urges Davis to get out of the gutter and go to work. She urges the labor movement and other large organizations with Democratic ties to go to work, too, especially in organizing a major effort to collect absentee ballots opposing recall. She will have allies for her position -- above all the campaign itself, which will either be full of childish Schwarzenegger bromides or narrow appeals in an election where a plurality (in fact, a minority of a minority) would win.


Christ, it's Arnold's first election, of course a rookie's going to have problems. Bet Oliphant would be dumping on Ahhnold if he was a DemocRAT? Exactly.

I have no idea whether Feinstein's principled message can stand up to the furies loosed in the state, or even whether facing a tidal wave, she may have to switch gears and support a replacement.


Thus opening up another charge of 'hypocrisy'. She should be used to it by now.

But I do know that her life supports the proposition that the ugliest dimensions of "people" politics are just the opposite of what? and that tough-minded people can stand up to it. People should listen to her.


All Dianne Feinstein's doing is pulling a modified John Kerry StraddleTM. She claims high-minded opposition to a recall initiative voted on by the voters of California while urging on a ballot opposing recall knowing full well it has no legal impact and calling on Gray Davis to 'go to work' knowing he'll be out of work in a few months.

The concept is called hypocrisy, and Dianne Feinstein is a 4th degree black belt in the art.

Go Arnold.

Thomas Oliphant's e-mail address is oliphant@globe.com.

© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.

Thursday, August 07, 2003
 
What took You So Long?

Presidential candidate Al Sharpton explains his lack of popularity in the race - It's Whitey's Fault.

Al Sharpton Criticizes White Media

By MIKE GLOVER
The Associated Press
Wednesday, August 6, 2003; 8:48 PM


SIOUX CITY, Iowa - Veteran black activist Al Sharpton contended Wednesday that the news media are dismissive of his presidential campaign because newsrooms are overwhelmingly white.

"I think when you look at the lack of diversity in the newsrooms, when you look at the lack of diversity from the editors and those in power, then you see them as automatically dismissive of anything that is not like them, which is white males," said Sharpton.


Jayson Blair didn't rescue Al fast enough, I suppose...

"I think we've seen some very blatant racial insensitivity in the coverage of this race so far," said Sharpton, in an interview with The Associated Press.


Can't really see it improving after this.

Sharpton complained that former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean has been virtually anointed the hot candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004 - a case, he said, of a white-dominated media focusing on a middle-age white man.


I'd much rather have a candidate half in the casket, wouldn't you, with all that experience and wisdom?

He noted that many commentators have compared Dean to former presidents Carter and Clinton, both governors of relatively small states, without mentioning that both Georgia and Arkansas have sizable minority populations, while Vermont is nearly all white.

"No one has even asked about the fact that this surge of support has been really one-dimensional," said Sharpton.


Two points - Dean captured the moonbats early, and maybe this shows you how tolerant the hard left really is when it comes to supporting non middle aged white men? I tend to doubt the latter angle, simply because Al is pretty much a caricature candidate after the Tawana Brawley hoax.

In addition, Sharpton said he is often asked about how he can hope to lure white voters in key early states like Iowa and New Hampshire, while Dean is never pressed on how he will appeal to minorities.

"When I come to Iowa, they ask how can Sharpton get the white vote," said Sharpton. "I've run in New York and gotten more white votes in my races than he's gotten black votes in Vermont? Why aren't we talking about that?"


About the 'nearly all white' aparthied state of Vermont?

Sharpton said former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, another Democratic presidential who is black, also isn't getting serious news coverage.


That's because she's another joke candidate who also doubles as a convicted felon.

"That kind of racial insensitivity has permeated this race," he said. "I think we've seen some very blatant racial insensitivity in the coverage of this race so far."


How about candidates with less political baggage than a Kennedy family reunion?

Sharpton was in Sioux City to join Sen. Tom Harkin in a series of forums Harkin is sponsoring giving the nine Democratic candidates a chance to make their case with activists pledged to attend next January's precinct caucuses. The caucuses will launch the presidential nominating season.


I can't wait to hear what Sharpton says about nearly all white Iowa after the primaries...