Sunday, April 30, 2006


All Hail King George!

Well, speaking of Nazi Germany, and other totalitarian governments, past and present, here's an intelligent essay from the Boston Globe about Bush's use of power. He's set himself up, with the acquiesence of a congressional majority driven by ideology, as the supreme leader. He has said, many times, he's the ultimate decider: "Decider in Chief." What that means is he can choose to follow or break any law his pals tell him he should. Executive power, to this administration, means absolute power.

There ain't no way that's constitutional, right. But, Bush has said, it's up to him to decide what is constitutional and what isn't. It isn't exactly divine right, but it sure is totalitarian. All hail our dictator!

What can we do about it?

The Boston Globe
Bush challenges hundreds of laws
President cites powers of his office
By Charlie Savage, Globe Staff | April 30, 2006

WASHINGTON -- President Bush has quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution.

Among the laws Bush said he can ignore are military rules and regulations, affirmative-action provisions, requirements that Congress be told about immigration services problems, ''whistle-blower" protections for nuclear regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research.

Legal scholars say the scope and aggression of Bush's assertions that he can bypass laws represent a concerted effort to expand his power at the expense of Congress, upsetting the balance between the branches of government. The Constitution is clear in assigning to Congress the power to write the laws and to the president a duty ''to take care that the laws be faithfully executed." Bush, however, has repeatedly declared that he does not need to ''execute" a law he believes is unconstitutional.

Former administration officials contend that just because Bush reserves the right to disobey a law does not mean he is not enforcing it: In many cases, he is simply asserting his belief that a certain requirement encroaches on presidential power.

But with the disclosure of Bush's domestic spying program, in which he ignored a law requiring warrants to tap the phones of Americans, many legal specialists say Bush is hardly reluctant to bypass laws he believes he has the constitutional authority to override.

Far more than any predecessor, Bush has been aggressive about declaring his right to ignore vast swaths of laws -- many of which he says infringe on power he believes the Constitution assigns to him alone as the head of the executive branch or the commander in chief of the military.

Many legal scholars say they believe that Bush's theory about his own powers goes too far and that he is seizing for himself some of the law-making role of Congress and the Constitution-interpreting role of the courts.

Phillip Cooper, a Portland State University law professor who has studied the executive power claims Bush made during his first term, said Bush and his legal team have spent the past five years quietly working to concentrate ever more governmental power into the White House.

''There is no question that this administration has been involved in a very carefully thought-out, systematic process of expanding presidential power at the expense of the other branches of government," Cooper said. ''This is really big, very expansive, and very significant."

For the first five years of Bush's presidency, his legal claims attracted little attention in Congress or the media. Then, twice in recent months, Bush drew scrutiny after challenging new laws: a torture ban and a requirement that he give detailed reports to Congress about how he is using the Patriot Act.

Bush administration spokesmen declined to make White House or Justice Department attorneys available to discuss any of Bush's challenges to the laws he has signed.

Instead, they referred a Globe reporter to their response to questions about Bush's position that he could ignore provisions of the Patriot Act. They said at the time that Bush was following a practice that has ''been used for several administrations" and that ''the president will faithfully execute the law in a manner that is consistent with the Constitution."

But the words ''in a manner that is consistent with the Constitution" are the catch, legal scholars say, because Bush is according himself the ultimate interpretation of the Constitution. And he is quietly exercising that authority to a degree that is unprecedented in US history.

Bush is the first president in modern history who has never vetoed a bill, giving Congress no chance to override his judgments. Instead, he has signed every bill that reached his desk, often inviting the legislation's sponsors to signing ceremonies at which he lavishes praise upon their work.

Then, after the media and the lawmakers have left the White House, Bush quietly files ''signing statements" -- official documents in which a president lays out his legal interpretation of a bill for the federal bureaucracy to follow when implementing the new law. The statements are recorded in the federal register.

In his signing statements, Bush has repeatedly asserted that the Constitution gives him the right to ignore numerous sections of the bills -- sometimes including provisions that were the subject of negotiations with Congress in order to get lawmakers to pass the bill. He has appended such statements to more than one of every 10 bills he has signed.

''He agrees to a compromise with members of Congress, and all of them are there for a public bill-signing ceremony, but then he takes back those compromises -- and more often than not, without the Congress or the press or the public knowing what has happened," said Christopher Kelley, a Miami University of Ohio political science professor who studies executive power.

Military link
Many of the laws Bush said he can bypass -- including the torture ban -- involve the military.

The Constitution grants Congress the power to create armies, to declare war, to make rules for captured enemies, and ''to make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces." But, citing his role as commander in chief, Bush says he can ignore any act of Congress that seeks to regulate the military.

On at least four occasions while Bush has been president, Congress has passed laws forbidding US troops from engaging in combat in Colombia, where the US military is advising the government in its struggle against narcotics-funded Marxist rebels.

After signing each bill, Bush declared in his signing statement that he did not have to obey any of the Colombia restrictions because he is commander in chief.

Bush has also said he can bypass laws requiring him to tell Congress before diverting money from an authorized program in order to start a secret operation, such as the ''black sites" where suspected terrorists are secretly imprisoned.

Congress has also twice passed laws forbidding the military from using intelligence that was not ''lawfully collected," including any information on Americans that was gathered in violation of the Fourth Amendment's protections against unreasonable searches.

Congress first passed this provision in August 2004, when Bush's warrantless domestic spying program was still a secret, and passed it again after the program's existence was disclosed in December 2005.

On both occasions, Bush declared in signing statements that only he, as commander in chief, could decide whether such intelligence can be used by the military.

In October 2004, five months after the Abu Ghraib torture scandal in Iraq came to light, Congress passed a series of new rules and regulations for military prisons. Bush signed the provisions into law, then said he could ignore them all. One provision made clear that military lawyers can give their commanders independent advice on such issues as what would constitute torture. But Bush declared that military lawyers could not contradict his administration's lawyers.

Other provisions required the Pentagon to retrain military prison guards on the requirements for humane treatment of detainees under the Geneva Conventions, to perform background checks on civilian contractors in Iraq, and to ban such contractors from performing ''security, intelligence, law enforcement, and criminal justice functions." Bush reserved the right to ignore any of the requirements.

The new law also created the position of inspector general for Iraq. But Bush wrote in his signing statement that the inspector ''shall refrain" from investigating any intelligence or national security matter, or any crime the Pentagon says it prefers to investigate for itself.

Bush had placed similar limits on an inspector general position created by Congress in November 2003 for the initial stage of the US occupation of Iraq. The earlier law also empowered the inspector to notify Congress if a US official refused to cooperate. Bush said the inspector could not give any information to Congress without permission from the administration.

Oversight questioned
Many laws Bush has asserted he can bypass involve requirements to give information about government activity to congressional oversight committees.

In December 2004, Congress passed an intelligence bill requiring the Justice Department to tell them how often, and in what situations, the FBI was using special national security wiretaps on US soil. The law also required the Justice Department to give oversight committees copies of administration memos outlining any new interpretations of domestic-spying laws. And it contained 11 other requirements for reports about such issues as civil liberties, security clearances, border security, and counternarcotics efforts.

After signing the bill, Bush issued a signing statement saying he could withhold all the information sought by Congress.

Likewise, when Congress passed the law creating the Department of Homeland Security in 2002, it said oversight committees must be given information about vulnerabilities at chemical plants and the screening of checked bags at airports.

It also said Congress must be shown unaltered reports about problems with visa services prepared by a new immigration ombudsman. Bush asserted the right to withhold the information and alter the reports.

On several other occasions, Bush contended he could nullify laws creating ''whistle-blower" job protections for federal employees that would stop any attempt to fire them as punishment for telling a member of Congress about possible government wrongdoing.

When Congress passed a massive energy package in August, for example, it strengthened whistle-blower protections for employees at the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The provision was included because lawmakers feared that Bush appointees were intimidating nuclear specialists so they would not testify about safety issues related to a planned nuclear-waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada -- a facility the administration supported, but both Republicans and Democrats from Nevada opposed.

When Bush signed the energy bill, he issued a signing statement declaring that the executive branch could ignore the whistle-blower protections.

Bush's statement did more than send a threatening message to federal energy specialists inclined to raise concerns with Congress; it also raised the possibility that Bush would not feel bound to obey similar whistle-blower laws that were on the books before he became president. His domestic spying program, for example, violated a surveillance law enacted 23 years before he took office.

David Golove, a New York University law professor who specializes in executive-power issues, said Bush has cast a cloud over ''the whole idea that there is a rule of law," because no one can be certain of which laws Bush thinks are valid and which he thinks he can ignore.

''Where you have a president who is willing to declare vast quantities of the legislation that is passed during his term unconstitutional, it implies that he also thinks a very significant amount of the other laws that were already on the books before he became president are also unconstitutional," Golove said.

Defying Supreme Court
Bush has also challenged statutes in which Congress gave certain executive branch officials the power to act independently of the president. The Supreme Court has repeatedly endorsed the power of Congress to make such arrangements. For example, the court has upheld laws creating special prosecutors free of Justice Department oversight and insulating the board of the Federal Trade Commission from political interference.

Nonetheless, Bush has said in his signing statements that the Constitution lets him control any executive official, no matter what a statute passed by Congress might say.

In November 2002, for example, Congress, seeking to generate independent statistics about student performance, passed a law setting up an educational research institute to conduct studies and publish reports ''without the approval" of the Secretary of Education. Bush, however, decreed that the institute's director would be ''subject to the supervision and direction of the secretary of education."

Similarly, the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld affirmative-action programs, as long as they do not include quotas. Most recently, in 2003, the court upheld a race-conscious university admissions program over the strong objections of Bush, who argued that such programs should be struck down as unconstitutional.

Yet despite the court's rulings, Bush has taken exception at least nine times to provisions that seek to ensure that minorities are represented among recipients of government jobs, contracts, and grants. Each time, he singled out the provisions, declaring that he would construe them ''in a manner consistent with" the Constitution's guarantee of ''equal protection" to all -- which some legal scholars say amounts to an argument that the affirmative-action provisions represent reverse discrimination against whites.

Golove said that to the extent Bush is interpreting the Constitution in defiance of the Supreme Court's precedents, he threatens to ''overturn the existing structures of constitutional law."

A president who ignores the court, backed by a Congress that is unwilling to challenge him, Golove said, can make the Constitution simply ''disappear."

Common practice in '80s
Though Bush has gone further than any previous president, his actions are not unprecedented.

Since the early 19th century, American presidents have occasionally signed a large bill while declaring that they would not enforce a specific provision they believed was unconstitutional. On rare occasions, historians say, presidents also issued signing statements interpreting a law and explaining any concerns about it.

But it was not until the mid-1980s, midway through the tenure of President Reagan, that it became common for the president to issue signing statements. The change came about after then-Attorney General Edwin Meese decided that signing statements could be used to increase the power of the president.

When interpreting an ambiguous law, courts often look at the statute's legislative history, debate and testimony, to see what Congress intended it to mean. Meese realized that recording what the president thought the law meant in a signing statement might increase a president's influence over future court rulings.

Under Meese's direction in 1986, a young Justice Department lawyer named Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote a strategy memo about signing statements. It came to light in late 2005, after Bush named Alito to the Supreme Court.

In the memo, Alito predicted that Congress would resent the president's attempt to grab some of its power by seizing ''the last word on questions of interpretation." He suggested that Reagan's legal team should ''concentrate on points of true ambiguity, rather than issuing interpretations that may seem to conflict with those of Congress."

Reagan's successors continued this practice. George H.W. Bush challenged 232 statutes over four years in office, and Bill Clinton objected to 140 laws over his eight years, according to Kelley, the Miami University of Ohio professor.

Many of the challenges involved longstanding legal ambiguities and points of conflict between the president and Congress.

Throughout the past two decades, for example, each president -- including the current one -- has objected to provisions requiring him to get permission from a congressional committee before taking action. The Supreme Court made clear in 1983 that only the full Congress can direct the executive branch to do things, but lawmakers have continued writing laws giving congressional committees such a role.

Still, Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Clinton used the presidential veto instead of the signing statement if they had a serious problem with a bill, giving Congress a chance to override their decisions.

But the current President Bush has abandoned the veto entirely, as well as any semblance of the political caution that Alito counseled back in 1986. In just five years, Bush has challenged more than 750 new laws, by far a record for any president, while becoming the first president since Thomas Jefferson to stay so long in office without issuing a veto.

''What we haven't seen until this administration is the sheer number of objections that are being raised on every bill passed through the White House," said Kelley, who has studied presidential signing statements through history. ''That is what is staggering. The numbers are well out of the norm from any previous administration."

Exaggerated fears?
Some administration defenders say that concerns about Bush's signing statements are overblown. Bush's signing statements, they say, should be seen as little more than political chest-thumping by administration lawyers who are dedicated to protecting presidential prerogatives.

Defenders say the fact that Bush is reserving the right to disobey the laws does not necessarily mean he has gone on to disobey them.

Indeed, in some cases, the administration has ended up following laws that Bush said he could bypass. For example, citing his power to ''withhold information" in September 2002, Bush declared that he could ignore a law requiring the State Department to list the number of overseas deaths of US citizens in foreign countries. Nevertheless, the department has still put the list on its website.

Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard Law School professor who until last year oversaw the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel for the administration, said the statements do not change the law; they just let people know how the president is interpreting it.

''Nobody reads them," said Goldsmith. ''They have no significance. Nothing in the world changes by the publication of a signing statement. The statements merely serve as public notice about how the administration is interpreting the law. Criticism of this practice is surprising, since the usual complaint is that the administration is too secretive in its legal interpretations."

But Cooper, the Portland State University professor who has studied Bush's first-term signing statements, said the documents are being read closely by one key group of people: the bureaucrats who are charged with implementing new laws.

Lower-level officials will follow the president's instructions even when his understanding of a law conflicts with the clear intent of Congress, crafting policies that may endure long after Bush leaves office, Cooper said.

''Years down the road, people will not understand why the policy doesn't look like the legislation," he said.

And in many cases, critics contend, there is no way to know whether the administration is violating laws -- or merely preserving the right to do so.

Many of the laws Bush has challenged involve national security, where it is almost impossible to verify what the government is doing. And since the disclosure of Bush's domestic spying program, many people have expressed alarm about his sweeping claims of the authority to violate laws.

In January, after the Globe first wrote about Bush's contention that he could disobey the torture ban, three Republicans who were the bill's principal sponsors in the Senate -- John McCain of Arizona, John W. Warner of Virginia, and Lindsey O. Graham of South Carolina -- all publicly rebuked the president.

''We believe the president understands Congress's intent in passing, by very large majorities, legislation governing the treatment of detainees," McCain and Warner said in a joint statement. ''The Congress declined when asked by administration officials to include a presidential waiver of the restrictions included in our legislation."

Added Graham: ''I do not believe that any political figure in the country has the ability to set aside any . . . law of armed conflict that we have adopted or treaties that we have ratified."

And in March, when the Globe first wrote about Bush's contention that he could ignore the oversight provisions of the Patriot Act, several Democrats lodged complaints.

Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, accused Bush of trying to ''cherry-pick the laws he decides he wants to follow."

And Representatives Jane Harman of California and John Conyers Jr. of Michigan -- the ranking Democrats on the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees, respectively -- sent a letter to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales demanding that Bush rescind his claim and abide by the law.

''Many members who supported the final law did so based upon the guarantee of additional reporting and oversight," they wrote. ''The administration cannot, after the fact, unilaterally repeal provisions of the law implementing such oversight. . . . Once the president signs a bill, he and all of us are bound by it."

Lack of court review
Such political fallout from Congress is likely to be the only check on Bush's claims, legal specialists said.

The courts have little chance of reviewing Bush's assertions, especially in the secret realm of national security matters.

''There can't be judicial review if nobody knows about it," said Neil Kinkopf, a Georgia State law professor who was a Justice Department official in the Clinton administration. ''And if they avoid judicial review, they avoid having their constitutional theories rebuked."

Without court involvement, only Congress can check a president who goes too far. But Bush's fellow Republicans control both chambers, and they have shown limited interest in launching the kind of oversight that could damage their party.

''The president is daring Congress to act against his positions, and they're not taking action because they don't want to appear to be too critical of the president, given that their own fortunes are tied to his because they are all Republicans," said Jack Beermann, a Boston University law professor. ''Oversight gets much reduced in a situation where the president and Congress are controlled by the same party."

Said Golove, the New York University law professor: ''Bush has essentially said that 'We're the executive branch and we're going to carry this law out as we please, and if Congress wants to impeach us, go ahead and try it.' "

Bruce Fein, a deputy attorney general in the Reagan administration, said the American system of government relies upon the leaders of each branch ''to exercise some self-restraint." But Bush has declared himself the sole judge of his own powers, he said, and then ruled for himself every time.

''This is an attempt by the president to have the final word on his own constitutional powers, which eliminates the checks and balances that keep the country a democracy," Fein said. ''There is no way for an independent judiciary to check his assertions of power, and Congress isn't doing it, either. So this is moving us toward an unlimited executive power."
© Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company


Reporters Tried As Spies?

The American government loves secrecy; if the people are addicted to oil, the ruling junta is addicted to secrecy. All authoritarians are addicted to secrecy, because they perceive knowledge as power and they know the more knowledge they can keep to themselves, the more power they have.

To keep that power, they’ll do whatever they can to keep their supply. Power junkies, heroin junkies, they all behave the same. Now the government is considering trying reporters for espionage if they tell any secrets.

Maybe they could even put them up against the wall...

The New York Times
April 30, 2006
In Leak Cases, New Pressure on Journalists

Earlier administrations have fired and prosecuted government officials who provided classified information to the press. They have also tried to force reporters to identify their sources.

But the Bush administration is exploring a more radical measure to protect information it says is vital to national security: the criminal prosecution of reporters under the espionage laws.

Such an approach would signal a thorough revision of the informal rules of engagement that have governed the relationship between the press and the government for many decades. Leaking in Washington is commonplace and typically entails tolerable risks for government officials and, at worst, the possibility of subpoenas to journalists seeking the identities of sources.

But the Bush administration is putting pressure on the press as never before, and it is operating in a judicial climate that seems increasingly receptive to constraints on journalists.

In the last year alone, a reporter for The New York Times was jailed for refusing to testify about a confidential source; her source, a White House aide, was prosecuted on charges that he lied about his contacts with reporters; a C.I.A. analyst was dismissed for unauthorized contacts with reporters; and a raft of subpoenas to reporters were largely upheld by the courts.

It is not easy to gauge whether the administration will move beyond these efforts to criminal prosecutions of reporters. In public statements and court papers, administration officials have said the law allows such prosecutions and that they will use their prosecutorial discretion in this area judiciously. But there is no indication that a decision to begin such a prosecution has been made. A Justice Department spokeswoman, Tasia Scolinos, declined to comment on Friday.

Because such prosecutions of reporters are unknown, they are widely thought inconceivable. But legal experts say that existing laws may well allow holding the press to account criminally. Should the administration pursue the matter, these experts say, it could gain a tool that would thoroughly alter the balance of power between the government and the press.

The administration and its allies say that all avenues must be explored to ensure that vital national security information does not fall into the hands of the nation's enemies.

In February, Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, asked Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales whether the government's investigation into The Times's disclosure of a National Security Agency eavesdropping program included "any potential violation for publishing that information."

Mr. Gonzales responded: "Obviously, our prosecutors are going to look to see all the laws that have been violated. And if the evidence is there, they're going to prosecute those violations."

Recent articles in conservative opinion magazines have been even more forceful.

"The press can and should be held to account for publishing military secrets in wartime," Gabriel Schoenfeld wrote in Commentary magazine last month.

Surprising Move by F.B.I.

One example of the administration's new approach is the F.B.I.'s recent effort to reclaim classified documents in the files of the late columnist Jack Anderson, a move that legal experts say was surprising if not unheard of.

"Under the law," Bill Carter, a spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said earlier this month, "no private person may possess classified documents that were illegally provided to them."

Critics of the administration position say that altering the conventional understanding between the press and government could have dire consequences.

"Once you make the press the defendant rather than the leaker," said David Rudenstine, the dean of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York and a First Amendment scholar, "you really shut down the flow of information because the government will always know who the defendant is."


Parallels Between Nazi terror and US Slide Into Totalitarianism

On one of my late-night wanderings in the blog bog, I came across this quote about the way the Nazi regime slid into a regime of terror and horror—and how many people hardly noticed it.

Sometimes history does repeat itself... This is worth reading and worth reflecting about. Because the Bush-Cheney regime is walking down that very same road.

For the past 5 years I've been haunted by this quote from Milton Mayer's book on Nazi Germany, "They Thought They Were Free" (sorry the excerpt is so long but I think it's worth it):

What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if he people could understand it, it could not be released because of national security. And their sense of identification with Hitler, their trust in him, made it easier to widen this gap and reassured those who would otherwise have worried about it.

This separation of government from people, this widening of the gap, took place so gradually and so insensibly, each step disguised (perhaps not even intentionally) as a temporary emergency measure or associated with true patriotic allegiance or with real social purposes. And all the crises and reforms (real reforms, too) so occupied the people that they did not see the slow motion underneath, of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter....

To live in this process is absolutely not to be able to notice it - please try to believe me - unless one has a much greater degree of political awareness, acuity, than most of us had ever had occasion to develop. Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, "regretted," that, unless one were detached from the whole process from the beginning, unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these "little measures" that no "patriotic German" could resent must some day lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing. One day it is over his head....

How is this to be avoided, among ordinary men, even highly educated ordinary men? Frankly, I do not know. I do not see, even now. Many, many times since it all happened I have pondered that pair of great maxims, Principiis obsta and Finem respice - "Resist the beginnings" and "consider the end." But one must foresee the end in order to resist, or even see, the beginnings....

You see, one doesn't see exactly where or how to move. Believe me, this is true. Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for the one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join with you in resisting somehow. You don't want to act, or even to talk, alone; you don't want to "go out of your way to make trouble." Why not? - Well, you are not in the habit of doing it. And it is not just fear, fear of standing alone, that restrains you; it is also genuine uncertainty.

Uncertainty is a very important factor, and, instead of decreasing as time goes on, it grows. Outside, in the streets, in the general community, "everyone is happy. One hears no protest, and certainly sees none... In the university community, in your own community, you speak privately to you colleagues, some of whom certainly feel as you do; but what do they say? They say, "It's not so bad" or "You're seeing things" or "You're an alarmist."

And you are an alarmist. You are saying that this must lead to this, and you can't prove it. These are the beginnings, yes; but how do you know for sure when you don't know the end, and how do you know, or even surmise, the end? On the one hand, your enemies, the law, the regime, the Party, intimidate you. On the other, your colleagues pooh-pooh you as pessimistic or even neurotic. You are left with your close friends, who are, naturally, people who have always thought as you have.

But your friends are fewer now. Some have drifted off somewhere or submerged themselves in their work. You no longer see as many as you did...

And one day, too late, your principles, if you were ever sensible of them, all rush in upon you. The burden of self deception has grown too heavy, and some minor incident, in my case my little boy, hardly more than a baby, saying "Jew swine," collapses it all at once, and you see that everything, everything, has changed and changed completely under your nose. The world you live in "your nation, your people“ is not the world you were in at all. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays. But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed. Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves; when everyone is transformed, no one is transformed. Now you live in a system which rules without responsibility even to God. The system itself could not have intended this in the beginning, but in order to sustain itself it was compelled to go all the way.

Posted by: Cal at April 28, 2006 04:45 AM

Saturday, April 29, 2006


Mohawks Still Fight For Sovereignty

This came yesterday. For centuries the Mohawk people have been refusing to surrender to the Anglo-Americans. I’m on the far side of the continent from this struggle. My heart is with the Indian people on issues of national sovereignty.

You read it and you decide.

Sent: Thursday, April 27, 2006 12:02 PM

Subject: Chief Louise Thundercloud & Freedom Fighter of the Mohawk people

I am Chief Louise Thundercloud. I am sending this to you in hopes that you
can address this situation or know of someone who can. Canada has issued a
news black out to keep the press from knowing about their atrocities. I have
forwarded the email address of the main freedom fighter of the Mohawk

I am Hazel E. Hill. I am one of the designated spokesperson for the media
etc. and in situations like this, also one of many jobs. The people are
well. We are remaining peaceful, although in the minds of many, how long
will we be able to? The police situation is building up fast. Last night I
myself went to scout around with a couple of the men from the camp and there
were at LEAST 60 opp marked&unmarked cars at unity school road, we have
confirmed reports that the cdn. army is based at the Hamilton Airport, and
that there are over 1000 opp or rcmp stationed in several motels around the
Yorkdale area. I am not a criminal. I am a mother and a grandmother. our
people have the oldest and dearest law of the land. The Kaienerekowah.
That is what the people are fighting for. Sounds kind of ironic doesn't it.
We are fighting for our Law of Peace, Love and Harmony. Our ancestors
shared till there was nothing left for their children. We are only trying
to keep what little there is for ours. I am so saddened this morning as I
write because we have one young man still in jail because he only has a
traditional name and refuses to speak their English language. I am very
proud of that young Kanienkehaka. He is standing up for our Law. We have
the Two Row Wampum. that is the original treaty between the Onkwehonweh
people and the White race. We stand by that two row. we do not interfere
with their government, yet they do not acknowledge ours. We were never
conquered yet they stand before us with guns as if their intimidation
tactics will make us run and hide. I refuse to be the next sacrificial lamb
that their race uses to usurp authority over our people so that they can
stand before creation pretending to be upholders of Peace. Sonkwiontisonh
has seen their true colors, the rest of the world will see their true
colors. the Onkwehonweh nations of the world are coming together for Peace,
and we are standing strong and united. Welcome.! Their press stands at the
gate occasionally to give us an interview. We have tried to tell our story.
They play what they want to play. We are learning to work with independent
press and we will have our story told. My tears this morning are for the
children. They are trying to incite fear into their citizens and my
daughter will attend school with them this morning. I pray for her. She is
strong and knows our hearts. I know she will be respectful of their
feelings and opinions, but will they respect hers? My thoughts are running
so many ways, we have so many people to protect and they have guns. But I
will stand with our Creator, with our Kaienerekowah, in Peace and Love and
Truth and I will stand with Honor. they can stand their with their guns and
their hatred and only they will know what that makes them feel like.
tonight the Caledonia citizens are rallying. they are angry because we
refuse to lift the roadblocks. they want the world to think we are keeping
their citizens hostage. We did not cause this to happen. the OPP moved in
and swarmed our people violating the OIdest and Supreme Law of the Universe.
They even violated their own laws and continued promises by promising an
hours warning before they came in. they think that we didn't see them
gathering numbers in the barn across the road for the past two weeks. they
didn't think that we could count as carloads of men came in and only one
driver came out. for weeks they have planned this. they think they are the
only ones who understand preparation. We proved once again that we are an
honorable people. they did not get met with weapons although our warriors
want to do their jobs. we met them once again with peace and marched them
right back off our lands. Even l was a victim of their brutality and in
defense I did kick back. I have already asked forgiveness of Creation for
my anger. I will continue to do so. But it is they who put the roadblocks
their. we only built a physical one for the protection of our people as
well as their own. their children feel the same things in their hearts as
our children do. they are frustrated and angry and we are trying to teach
them how to deal with those feelings. before the roadblocks came up and
before they attacked us that early morning, their children would come by and
throw garbage and holler racial statements to our people. The roadblocks
are for their children as well to keep them from being able to antagonize
and cause hardships so that our young people won't want to re-act. We hold
no hostages. the emergency vehicles are allowed through. The local
residents are allowed through. They came to worship at their church
yesterday and they probably prayed for us as we pray for them each morning
at sunrise. We have to maintain that protection for all of us. they want
us to show good faith. We have shown good faith for over 2000 years, and it
is not we who killed the Peacemaker, it is their people. He told us this
day would come, and we are doing as He instructed us to do. Only Canada can
decide what it will do. My heart is filled with thanksgiving to each and
everyone of you who has shown their support, through e-mails, donations, by
coming to the site. I apologize to all of you who I have been unable to
answer in e-mail because we are in a very violent and serious situation
which requires my attention in other areas. I have forwarded this through
our Mohawk Nation News office so that she can share with all of you. We
welcome you to the Land of Peace, we have re-kindled the fire of Peace here
and we will stand United and we are honored by the show of strength of our
brothers and sisters across the world. The Eagle people are doing their job
upholding the Peace. We need you to help the rest of the world understand
and get this word out. I will be in touch as soon as I possibly can. It is
just after 7:00 am, I am going to work with the Clan Mothers and women to
get our young boy out of jail this morning. Please pray that we are
successful. He has become a Prisoner of the War that they have declared
against us. We want our son to come home.

In Peace,

Hazel E. Hill


History: Zinn Setting The Record Straight

This is a good time to remind people about American history: what’s real and what isn’t. George Bush is whoring to the good old racial supremacy groups, the ones who used to listen to Father Coughlin, drive Chinese people out of towns, burn crosses at night, and who are now some of his most staunch allies on “immigration reform.”

When I was growing up, it was hard to imagine the country reverting to the bigotry and race-baiting and war-making that had gone on for so much of our history. But, now it isn’t just imaginable, all you have to do is pick up a daily paper or listen to talk radio, watch Fox News. At one time, Germany was seeen as a world leader in civilized rational behavior; that was before Hitler... At one time, much more recent, America was seen as a world leader in civilized rational behavior...

Removing America's Blinders
By Howard Zinn, The Progressive
Posted on April 24, 2006, Printed on April 24, 2006

Now that most Americans no longer believe in the war, now that they no longer trust Bush and his Administration, now that the evidence of deception has become overwhelming (so overwhelming that even the major media, always late, have begun to register indignation), we might ask: How come so many people were so easily fooled?

The question is important because it might help us understand why Americans -- members of the media as well as the ordinary citizen -- rushed to declare their support as the President was sending troops halfway around the world to Iraq.

A small example of the innocence (or obsequiousness, to be more exact) of the press is the way it reacted to Colin Powell's presentation in February 2003 to the Security Council, a month before the invasion, a speech which may have set a record for the number of falsehoods told in one talk. In it, Powell confidently rattled off his "evidence": satellite photographs, audio records, reports from informants, with precise statistics on how many gallons of this and that existed for chemical warfare. The New York Times was breathless with admiration. The Washington Post editorial was titled "Irrefutable" and declared that after Powell's talk "it is hard to imagine how anyone could doubt that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction."

It seems to me there are two reasons, which go deep into our national culture, and which help explain the vulnerability of the press and of the citizenry to outrageous lies whose consequences bring death to tens of thousands of people. If we can understand those reasons, we can guard ourselves better against being deceived.

One is in the dimension of time, that is, an absence of historical perspective. The other is in the dimension of space, that is, an inability to think outside the boundaries of nationalism. We are penned in by the arrogant idea that this country is the center of the universe, exceptionally virtuous, admirable, superior.

If we don't know history, then we are ready meat for carnivorous politicians and the intellectuals and journalists who supply the carving knives. I am not speaking of the history we learned in school, a history subservient to our political leaders, from the much-admired Founding Fathers to the Presidents of recent years. I mean a history which is honest about the past. If we don't know that history, then any President can stand up to the battery of microphones, declare that we must go to war, and we will have no basis for challenging him. He will say that the nation is in danger, that democracy and liberty are at stake, and that we must therefore send ships and planes to destroy our new enemy, and we will have no reason to disbelieve him.

But if we know some history, if we know how many times Presidents have made similar declarations to the country, and how they turned out to be lies, we will not be fooled. Although some of us may pride ourselves that we were never fooled, we still might accept as our civic duty the responsibility to buttress our fellow citizens against the mendacity of our high officials.

We would remind whoever we can that President Polk lied to the nation about the reason for going to war with Mexico in 1846. It wasn't that Mexico "shed American blood upon the American soil," but that Polk, and the slave-owning aristocracy, coveted half of Mexico.

We would point out that President McKinley lied in 1898 about the reason for invading Cuba, saying we wanted to liberate the Cubans from Spanish control, but the truth is that we really wanted Spain out of Cuba so that the island could be open to United Fruit and other American corporations. He also lied about the reasons for our war in the Philippines, claiming we only wanted to "civilize" the Filipinos, while the real reason was to own a valuable piece of real estate in the far Pacific, even if we had to kill hundreds of thousands of Filipinos to accomplish that.

President Woodrow Wilson -- so often characterized in our history books as an "idealist" -- lied about the reasons for entering the First World War, saying it was a war to "make the world safe for democracy," when it was really a war to make the world safe for the Western imperial powers.

Harry Truman lied when he said the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima because it was "a military target."

Everyone lied about Vietnam -- Kennedy about the extent of our involvement, Johnson about the Gulf of Tonkin, Nixon about the secret bombing of Cambodia, all of them claiming it was to keep South Vietnam free of communism, but really wanting to keep South Vietnam as an American outpost at the edge of the Asian continent.

Reagan lied about the invasion of Grenada, claiming falsely that it was a threat to the United States.

The elder Bush lied about the invasion of Panama, leading to the death of thousands of ordinary citizens in that country.

And he lied again about the reason for attacking Iraq in 1991-- hardly to defend the integrity of Kuwait (can one imagine Bush heartstricken over Iraq's taking of Kuwait?), rather to assert U.S. power in the oil-rich Middle East.

Given the overwhelming record of lies told to justify wars, how could anyone listening to the younger Bush believe him as he laid out the reasons for invading Iraq? Would we not instinctively rebel against the sacrifice of lives for oil?

A careful reading of history might give us another safeguard against being deceived. It would make clear that there has always been, and is today, a profound conflict of interest between the government and the people of the United States. This thought startles most people, because it goes against everything we have been taught.

We have been led to believe that, from the beginning, as our Founding Fathers put it in the Preamble to the Constitution, it was "we the people" who established the new government after the Revolution. When the eminent historian Charles Beard suggested, a hundred years ago, that the Constitution represented not the working people, not the slaves, but the slaveholders, the merchants, the bondholders, he became the object of an indignant editorial in The New York Times.

Our culture demands, in its very language, that we accept a commonality of interest binding all of us to one another. We mustn't talk about classes. Only Marxists do that, although James Madison, "Father of the Constitution," said, 30 years before Marx was born that there was an inevitable conflict in society between those who had property and those who did not.

Our present leaders are not so candid. They bombard us with phrases like "national interest," "national security," and "national defense" as if all of these concepts applied equally to all of us, colored or white, rich or poor, as if General Motors and Halliburton have the same interests as the rest of us, as if George Bush has the same interest as the young man or woman he sends to war.

Surely, in the history of lies told to the population, this is the biggest lie. In the history of secrets, withheld from the American people, this is the biggest secret: that there are classes with different interests in this country. To ignore that -- not to know that the history of our country is a history of slaveowner against slave, landlord against tenant, corporation against worker, rich against poor -- is to render us helpless before all the lesser lies told to us by people in power.

If we as citizens start out with an understanding that these people up there -- the President, the Congress, the Supreme Court, all those institutions pretending to be "checks and balances" -- do not have our interests at heart, we are on a course towards the truth. Not to know that is to make us helpless before determined liars.

The deeply ingrained belief -- no, not from birth but from the educational system and from our culture in general -- that the United States is an especially virtuous nation makes us especially vulnerable to government deception. It starts early, in the first grade, when we are compelled to "pledge allegiance" (before we even know what that means), forced to proclaim that we are a nation with "liberty and justice for all."

And then come the countless ceremonies, whether at the ballpark or elsewhere, where we are expected to stand and bow our heads during the singing of the "Star-Spangled Banner," announcing that we are "the land of the free and the home of the brave." There is also the unofficial national anthem "God Bless America," and you are looked on with suspicion if you ask why we would expect God to single out this one nation -- just five percent of the world's population -- for his or her blessing.

If your starting point for evaluating the world around you is the firm belief that this nation is somehow endowed by Providence with unique qualities that make it morally superior to every other nation on Earth, then you are not likely to question the President when he says we are sending our troops here or there, or bombing this or that, in order to spread our values -- democracy, liberty, and let's not forget free enterprise -- to some God-forsaken (literally) place in the world.

It becomes necessary then, if we are going to protect ourselves and our fellow citizens against policies that will be disastrous not only for other people but for Americans too, that we face some facts that disturb the idea of a uniquely virtuous nation.

These facts are embarrassing, but must be faced if we are to be honest. We must face our long history of ethnic cleansing, in which millions of Indians were driven off their land by means of massacres and forced evacuations. And our long history, still not behind us, of slavery, segregation, and racism. We must face our record of imperial conquest, in the Caribbean and in the Pacific, our shameful wars against small countries a tenth our size: Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan, Iraq. And the lingering memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is not a history of which we can be proud.

Our leaders have taken it for granted, and planted that belief in the minds of many people, that we are entitled, because of our moral superiority, to dominate the world. At the end of World War II, Henry Luce, with an arrogance appropriate to the owner of Time, Life, and Fortune, pronounced this "the American century," saying that victory in the war gave the United States the right "to exert upon the world the full impact of our influence, for such purposes as we see fit and by such means as we see fit."

Both the Republican and Democratic parties have embraced this notion. George Bush, in his Inaugural Address on January 20, 2005, said that spreading liberty around the world was "the calling of our time." Years before that, in 1993, President Bill Clinton, speaking at a West Point commencement, declared: "The values you learned here ... will be able to spread throughout this country and throughout the world and give other people the opportunity to live as you have lived, to fulfill your God-given capacities."

What is the idea of our moral superiority based on? Surely not on our behavior toward people in other parts of the world. Is it based on how well people in the United States live? The World Health Organization in 2000 ranked countries in terms of overall health performance, and the United States was thirty-seventh on the list, though it spends more per capita for health care than any other nation. One of five children in this, the richest country in the world, is born in poverty. There are more than 40 countries that have better records on infant mortality. Cuba does better. And there is a sure sign of sickness in society when we lead the world in the number of people in prison -- more than two million.

A more honest estimate of ourselves as a nation would prepare us all for the next barrage of lies that will accompany the next proposal to inflict our power on some other part of the world. It might also inspire us to create a different history for ourselves, by taking our country away from the liars and killers who govern it, and by rejecting nationalist arrogance, so that we can join the rest of the human race in the common cause of peace and justice.

Howard Zinn is the co-author, with Anthony Arnove, of “Voices of a People’s History of the United States.”
© 2006 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at:


Bush: American First!

There’s a certain irony in having George Bush define patriotic behavior—in this case, the correct language to use while singing the National Anthem, considering his craven abandoning of his duties while in the National Guard.

I have family and friends who have lived within the borders of the United States since before it was the United States. Some speak Spanish; their ancestors have lived here since the 16th Century and they continue to speak Spanish. Others have been here since before even the Spaniards arrived, long before the times when Europeans landed here with swords, guns and Bibles and declared themselves as the True Americans.

The nerve of Euro-Americans to claim the right to determine who can be an “American” is beyond reason: it’s simple racist jingoism. Whatever the President learned about patriotism he did by reading crib sheets before—or during—school exams.

The New York Times

April 29, 2006
Bush Enters Anthem Fight on Language

WASHINGTON, April 28—President Bush has never been shy about speaking Spanish in public, and he is known to love all kinds of music: country, folk and even Tex-Mex style rock. But one thing you will not find on his iPod: "Nuestro Himno," the new Spanish version of the national anthem that was released on Friday as part of the growing immigrants' rights movement.

Asked at a news briefing in the Rose Garden on Friday whether he believed the anthem would have the same value in Spanish as it did in English, Mr. Bush said flatly, "No, I don't."

"And I think people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English," Mr. Bush said. "And they ought to learn to sing the national anthem in English."

Mr. Bush has tried to occupy a middle ground in the raging debate over immigration, supporting legislation that would grant immigrant workers temporary legal status and perhaps a path to citizenship, while pushing for immigrants to learn English also pressing for more steps to stop the flow of newcomers over the border. But his statement about the anthem was taken by members of both parties as a clear signal to conservatives that he stood with them on what many of them see as a clash between national identity and multiculturalism.


The anthem has fed into a backlash on talk radio, the Internet, cable television and Capitol Hill, with conservatives complaining that it was encouraging the very cultural balkanization that they have feared all along.

Mr. Bush's comments were striking for a president who has embraced Spanish in his political life. Mr. Bush grew up in Midland, Tex., alongside Spanish-speaking children. As a politician who became governor and ran for president aiming to build a broader Republican coalition, he seized every chance to win over the fast-growing Hispanic population.

"He recognized that Texas was rapidly becoming a state that would have more Hispanics and more African-Americans than it would Anglos," said Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, who plans to introduce a resolution on Monday "to remind the country" why the national anthem should be always sung in English.

Mr. Bush took aim at Hispanics as an important voting bloc during the last two president campaigns. Mr. Bush has starred in his own Spanish-language advertising, and he was the first president to give his weekly radio address in Spanish. (The Spanish wire service Agencia EFE once said he spoke the language poorly, "but with great confidence.")

Mr. Bush ventured into a little Spanish on Friday, using the Spanish pronunciation for the smugglers known as "coyotes" while outlining the need for stricter border enforcement.

Democrats and Republicans alike said Mr. Bush seemed to be making clear to conservatives — for the grassroots and for those in Congress opposing guest worker and citizenship provisions in the immigration legislation — that there were limits to his support for the pro-immigration agenda. Should the Senate pass immigration legislation this year that creates a guest worker program and a path to citizenship for some workers in the United States illegally — provisions that most conservatives oppose — Mr. Bush would play a main role in working on a deal with the House, which has passed a bill that addresses just border security.

White House officials said Mr. Bush was not being politically calculating and has always believed that new immigrants should embrace the national language and culture.

Mr. Bush made his comments in a wide-ranging session with reporters in which he also said he opposed calls for a windfall-profits tax on oil companies.

Friday, April 28, 2006


Huh? What did he say?

One of my activities is serving on the board of directors for a local anti-poverty organization. Sometimes I have trouble understanding what is being said, because so much of the talk is in a weird language that uses elements of sociology, business-ese, government gobbledegook, and probably a few other arcane fields. Some of the vocabulary is so complicated it makes Scott McClellan's weasel-wording sound clear and concise.

Here’s something I found on the web about jargon:

Why did the chicken cross the road?

'Deregulation of the chicken's side of the road was threatening its dominant market position. The chicken was faced with significant challenges to create and develop the competencies required for the newly competitive market. Andersen Consulting, in a partnering relationship with the client, helped the chicken by rethinking its physical distribution strategy and implementation processes.

'Using the Poultry Integration model (PIM), Andersen helped the chicken use its skills, methodologies, knowledge, capital and experience to align the chicken's people, processes and technology in support of its overall strategy within a Program Management framework.

'Andersen Consulting convened a diverse cross-spectrum of road analysts and best chickens along with Andersen consultants with deep skills in the transportation industry to engage in a two-day itinery of meetings in order to leverage their personal knowledge capital, both tacit and explicit, and to enable them to synergize with each other to achieve the implicit goals of delivering and successfully architecting and implementing an enterprise-wide value framework across the continuum of poultry cross-median processes.

'The meeting was held in a park-like setting, enabling and creating an impactful environment which was stragetically based, industry focused, and built upon a consistent, clear, and unified market message and aligned with the chicken's mission, vision, and core values. This was conducive towards the creation of a total business integration solution. Andersen consulting helped the chicken change to become more successful.'


Medicare Part D Problems Increase

Here’s a follow-up on yesterday’s posts about Medicare. The new drug program just doesn’t work right—sort of like FEMA. And, yes, I’m one of those who was switched from a Medicaid-funded program to Part D., and I pay for the prescriptions: not much, but it hurts.

Yahoo! News
1 in 5 pay more in Medicare Rx plan;_ylt=AuBlAWTBg.9UVVtIsA.HyHnfB2YD;_ylu=X3oDMTA3MXN1bHE0BHNlYwN0bWE-
By Richard Wolf, USA TODAYThu Apr 27, 7:09 AM ET

Medicare's new prescription-drug program has increased out-of-pocket costs for about one in five participants, causing some to risk their health by reducing or eliminating medications.

Though most of the more than 30 million beneficiaries enrolled in the program are saving money, two recent surveys suggest a substantial minority of seniors and people with disabilities are not:

• A Kaiser Family Foundation poll taken April 6-11 found 55% of 154 seniors who had enrolled said the plan would save them money, 19% said it would cost more, and another 19% said they would break even.

• A KRC Research poll taken March 15-20 for the Medicare Rx Education Network, a consortium of groups working to implement the law, found 59% of 201 enrolled seniors saved money, but 23% did not.

Both polls rely on small samples of beneficiaries and have large margins of error: +/-8 percentage points for the Kaiser poll, for example. But they confirm what had been predicted about the program since it went into effect Jan. 1: There are millions for whom the plan is increasing drug costs.

Among them: most of the 6.4 million low-income people transferred from state Medicaid drug programs. Most had no co-payments for drugs under Medicaid but now pay $1 to $5 per drug.

Others include those who used to get drugs for free from drug companies or at reduced cost in state programs; those who had less expensive employer retiree coverage; and those with little or no current drug expenses who signed up for a Medicare plan as a hedge against future costs.

That last group is paying premiums but getting little or no benefit. Premiums will rise after the May 15 sign-up deadline for those not yet enrolled.

Medicare officials acknowledge that many low-income seniors and disabled Americans are paying more. They are urging drug companies and states to continue assistance to the poor who rely on expensive medications.

"Any extra help they need can and should be provided by those other sources," says Kathleen Harrington, director of external affairs at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

In one case, a 59-year-old Newburgh, N.Y., man died in March after he stopped taking medications he could no longer afford, according to his pharmacist and his cousin. Eddie Rosa, whose death was first reported by the Middletown, N.Y., Times Herald-Record, lived alone and suffered from heart disease, diabetes, seizures and other mental and physical conditions.

Despite those illnesses, his pharmacist, Marty Irons, says, "I really think he'd be alive today if he had all his medicines." Adds his cousin, Dolores Reano, "When Medicare came in, it just blew him away."

When the Medicare drug program went into effect, Steve Worrell, 53, of Black Hawk, Colo., lost the free medications he had been getting from a drug company for his disabling arthritis. Faced with a $5,400 annual bill under Medicare, he spaced out his injections. His condition worsened. "You start swelling up, and you start twisting more," he says.

Maria Oranje of Oakley, Calif., who turned 100 on Wednesday, is luckier. She takes 26 medications, but since she was switched from Medicaid to the Medicare program in January, her co-payments have been picked up by her daughter, Greta Heartfill, 62.

"If it wasn't for her living with me (and me) taking care of all this stuff," Heartfill says of her mother, "she would not have been able to make it."

Copyright © 2006 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.
Copyright © 2006 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.

Thursday, April 27, 2006


Medicare Robbery, CEOs Join In

Been a while since I posted a two-fer. This is about the other government—yeah, I know, which other—fiasco: health care.

The percentage of Americans without health care keeps climbing: not just the numbers. If it was just the numbers, then it could be attributed to population growth; but it’s the actually percentage, the proportion of people who are uninsured. Oregon has one of the largest number of uninsured children in the country. As long as the Bush-Cheney Junta is running the nation, we’re not going to see health care improve. They only care about making it worse, except—

Except for the insurance companies. The HMO’s are making a killing. The pharmaceutical industry is making money like they’re printing it. I’m running along on Part D of Medicare, but I can see that drugs costing $10.00 apiece are going to yard me into out-of-pocket costs; Beth, my own true love, has nearly reached the place where she’s facing hundreds and hundreds of dollars a month in prescription costs.

In the first article, below, there’s an obvious lie: the government designed the Medicare prescription benefit to help the drug industry.

The second article is about how nicely the HMOs are doing under our current system of health semi-care. Every year the covered services become fewer, but the CEOs make more and more. I’m just boggled by the utter lack of concern, empathy, even sympathy by our rulers and the rich businessmen. I hope there is a Heaven, and a Hell, just so those fat-cats can go and shovel molten steel for eternity.

Disabled, seniors confront Medicare hole
4/27/2006, 12:07 a.m. PT
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Mildred Lindley is stuck in a hole, the doughnut hole — "right in the middle of it," she says — that comes with Medicare's new prescription drug benefit.

Just four months into the program, Lindley has hit the point in her coverage where she has to pick up, at least for a few months, the full cost of the medication she takes to keep her bone marrow cancer in remission. As a result, her two-month supply of Thalomid shot up from $40 to a whopping $1,300.

"If I can't get it, I guess I'm here until the Lord takes me out. That's all I can do, because there's no way I can afford it," said Lindley, an 80-year-old from Jonesboro, Ark.

"I'm in the hole all right."

Under the standard drug benefit, the government subsidizes the drug costs for seniors and the disabled. But after costs reach $2,250, the subsidy stops until a beneficiary has paid out $3,600 of his or her own money. Then, the government will start picking up 95 percent of each purchase.

Congress designed the drug benefit to give people some help with their initial drug costs, plus help those who have massive expenses. The doughnut hole was designed to reduce the overall cost of the program and still allow the federal government to meet those two goals.

About 6.9 million Medicare beneficiaries will have to deal with a gap in their drug coverage at some point this year, according to estimates from the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health policy research group.

Medicare officials point out that, even with the doughnut hole, millions of seniors are getting financial help that they never had before. They also stress that the poorest of beneficiaries will get extra help to cover their medications.

However, there are beneficiaries who are convinced they will be worse off, many of whom had relied on free medicine provided by the drug manufacturers. They were told by the manufacturers this year that the free supplies would stop now that they were eligible for Medicare coverage.

Victoria D'Angelo of Denver relied on the patient assistance programs for many of her prescription needs last year. She enrolled in a Medicare drug plan when told by one of those companies that such help would end Jan. 1.

Now, that she's hit the doughnut hole, she's charging some of her drugs to her credit card. She said she'll worry about the ramifications later since she cannot afford to skip taking her Seroquel, which is used to control bipolar disorder.

"Basically, I've been to hell and back on this," said D'Angelo, referring to her disease. "I'm just deathly afraid of getting sick again."

Shirley Rhodes of Gladwin, Mich., figures that while she and her husband, Samuel, are in the doughnut hole, they'll have about $49.67 a month to live on after covering their drug expenses.

For that reason, they will wait until the last possible day to enroll in a Medicare drug plan. In the meantime, she'll continue to ask the pharmaceutical companies to help her out, and she'll work with Social Security officials to figure out how the family might qualify for extra assistance through Medicare.

"If we don't qualify, we will be giving our house back to the mortgage company, and then we'll still owe for the second and third mortgage," Rhodes said.

Some beneficiaries pay higher monthly premiums to make the doughnut hole smaller or do away with it entirely. Also, the poorest beneficiaries don't have to worry about it at all.

Analysts say that most beneficiaries who hit the doughnut hole probably won't get there until the fall.

Mark McClellan, administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, stresses that the beneficiaries may be able to avoid the doughnut hole entirely by switching to generic drugs or lower-cost brand names.

Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, says that senior citizens taking five commonly prescribed drugs _for high blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease, arthritis pain and depression_ could save between $2,300 and $5,300 a year under various Part D plans by switching to lower-cost drugs.

Lawmakers are also pleading with drug manufacturers to continue with patient assistance programs that allowed many low-income people to get free medicine.

"We've got a situation where it looks like the May 15 date has become an excuse for dropping the assistance that many Medicare beneficiaries rely on, and that's not right," said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.


On the Net:

Medicare site:

Consumers Union:

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services:

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Dave Zweifel: 'Greed thrives in our health care system'
Date: Thursday, April 27 @ 10:03:22 EDT
Topic: Corporate America

Dave Zweifel, The Capital Times (Madison, WI)

Here's another one to remember when someone tells you that our "private" health care system works:

The Wall Street Journal ran a front-page story last week with the headline that said it all: "As Patients, Doctors Feel Pinch, Insurer's CEO Makes a Billion."

The story, datelined Minnetonka, Minn., was about William McGuire, a doctor who stopped practicing in 1986 to take a management job with UnitedHealth Group Inc., one of the largest HMOs in the country.

He's now the chief executive officer of the corporation, makes $8 million a year in salary plus bonus, has personal use of the company's private jet and has amassed what the Journal describes as "one of the largest stock options fortunes of all time."

According to the newspaper, those options total $1.6 billion.

"Even celebrated CEOs such as General Electric Co.'s Jack Welch or International Business Machines Corp.'s Louis Gerstner never were granted so much during their time at the top," the WSJ story said.

But the gist of the story is that while McGuire and other UnitedHealth execs are raking in millions, their company is putting the squeeze on everyone else.

"Dr. McGuire's story shows how an elite group of companies is getting rich from the nation's fraying health care system," the bible of the business world reported. "Many of them aren't discovering drugs or treating patients. They're middlemen who process the paperwork, fill the pill bottles and otherwise connect the pieces of a $2 trillion industry."

The newspaper's research shows that UnitedHealth has particularly benefited in recent years as health care inflation eased somewhat.

Insurers still raised premiums at double-digit rates. At UnitedHealth, for example, its stock price tripled from January of 2003 to January of this year and its net income rose to $3.3 billion. Hence, the nice board-of-director-approved windfall for McGuire. (Interestingly, former UW-Madison Chancellor Donna Shalala is a member of UnitedHealth's board.)

"In Minnesota, such riches have infuriated some people," the story continued. "Joel Albers, a Minneapolis pharmacist, regularly impersonates Dr. McGuire at state fairs, donning a tuxedo, holding up an enlarged picture of Dr. McGuire on a stick and handing out leaflets denouncing corporate greed."

Of course, this is just one more anecdote that serves to describe our broken health care system, which leaves more than 40 million Americans without coverage and an embarrassment of riches for those who know how to milk that system.

On one hand we have Medicare, which provides universal single-payer coverage to all Americans over age 65 at about a 2 percent administrative cost. On the other hand we have a hodge-podge of plans with layer after administrative layer that gobbles up close to 20 percent in overhead costs (Dr. McGuire's just a piece of that) and leaves millions out in the cold.

How hard can it be to choose in which direction we need to go?

Dave Zweifel is editor of The Capital Times. E-mail:

Copyright 2006 The Capital Times

Source: The Capital Times (Madison, WI)

The URL for this story is:


FEMA About To Crash?

Apparently, I’m far from being the only one thinks that FEMA is a boon-doggle, a cash cow, a place of utter incompetence that allows too many people to rise, like scum, to their proper levels. The whole super-structure built onto the ship of state after 9/11 appears to be a place for hacks and creeps and the politically connected (all three, unfortunately) to get fat paychecks at the expense of the taxpayers. And, at the risk of getting my name on some government blacklist (if it isn’t there already), I think the entire Homeland Security set-up is equally flawed and stupid.

Bureaucracies, however, expand: they rarely, if ever, contract. What will probably happen is that there'll be an additional level of administrators to watch the previous levels. If that doesn't work, then they can open up a new level. At least it keeps people off the streets and out of traffic.

Senate Report Urges Dismantling of FEMA
A New Agency, With More Funding and Authority, Would Be Built in Homeland Security Department
By Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 27, 2006; A03

Hurricane Katrina exposed flaws in the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security that are "too substantial to mend," and FEMA should be dismantled and rebuilt inside the troubled department, according to the final report by Senate investigators.

The report, to be released to key senators today and to the public next week, makes 86 recommendations that would undo major changes made when President Bush and Congress launched the department in 2003, and would reverse parts of a reorganization ordered by Secretary Michael Chertoff last summer. It stops short of restoring FEMA to independent, Cabinet-level status, as many in Congress and former agency directors want, but would promote its chief to confer directly with the president in a crisis, according to a summary released to news organizations.

The 800-plus-page report, "Hurricane Katrina: A Nation Still Unprepared," incorporates many findings by earlier House and White House investigations but goes further in recommending structural changes in how all levels of government -- especially the Homeland Security Department -- respond to catastrophes.

It would replace FEMA with a new National Preparedness and Response Authority whose head would report to the secretary but serve as the president's top adviser for national emergency management, akin to the military role served by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It would reunify disaster preparedness and response activities that Chertoff decoupled, and restore grant-making authority taken away by Congress in redefining a stronger national preparedness system with regional coordinators, a larger role for the National Guard and the Defense Department and more money for training, planning and exercises.

"We have concluded that FEMA is in shambles and beyond repair, and that it should be abolished," Chairman Susan Collins (R-Maine) said in a written statement released by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which held 22 hearings, interviewed more than 320 people and reviewed more than 838,000 pages of documents.

The report by the 16-member panel formally kicks off a frenzied effort by Congress to make fixes before the June 1 start of hurricane season. By framing the debate around FEMA's fate, the report defers to President Bush's request to not carve it out of the Homeland Security Department even as it faults his administration, among 24 findings, for failing to fund and coordinate disaster readiness efforts after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and for emphasizing terrorism at the expense of natural disaster preparedness. The administration was also faulted for bungling the storm response by neglecting warnings, failing to grasp Katrina's destructiveness, doing too little or taking the wrong steps before the Aug. 29 landfall. The report also found design flaws in New Orleans levees and failures by city and state leaders.

The Senate report said making FEMA independent would "do nothing to solve the key problems that Katrina has revealed, including a lack of resources and weak and ineffective leadership," and could lead to wasteful duplication.

The Senate report is the only bipartisan national inquiry into the storm, which killed 1,330 people, displaced 1 million families, swamped 80 percent of New Orleans and led to a $100 billion federal response. House Democrats boycotted their chamber's effort, fearing a partisan whitewash, and called for an independent panel styled after the one that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks. Afterward, several Democrats said its findings were complete, but should have called for Chertoff's removal.

Yesterday, the ranking Democrat on Collins's committee, Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn.) added a written statement excoriating Bush and his aides for being "surprisingly detached" before and just after the storm and for not cooperating with Senate investigators, who he said should have subpoenaed the White House.

"The President failed to provide critical leadership when it was most needed, and that contributed to a grossly ineffective federal response to Hurricane Katrina," Lieberman said.

As Bush headed to the Gulf Coast today, White House spokesman Scott McClellan reiterated the administration's stance to keep FEMA "where it is."

Rep. David G. Reichert (R-Wash.), who chairs a House Homeland Security subcommittee, has proposed reuniting disaster preparedness and response functions within FEMA, which Chertoff split up in a reorganization of the Homeland Security Department. A bipartisan group of committee leaders warned April 12 that "removing FEMA from DHS would only exacerbate the agency's problems" with hurricane season starting June 1.

But Rep. William Shuster (R-Pa.), chairman of a House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee, would make FEMA independent, as would Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), head of the Government Reform Committee.
© 2006 The Washington Post Company


State Liquor Control Head Busted For DUI

In Oregon, liquor sales are a state monopoly. Maybe it attracts people who like to drink. This was in today’s Oregonian paper: it’s one of those peculiarities that happens every so often just to remind us that problem drinking is an equal opportunity employer... And, yes, if you get busted for drunk driving, you have a problem with drinking, ipso facto.

Head of OLCC charged with drunken driving, resigns
4/27/2006, 10:14 a.m. PT
The Associated Press
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The administrator of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission resigned from her post Thursday after being arrested and charged with drunk driving, according to Portland police.

Lonn Hoklin, spokesman for Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski, said Teresa Kaiser e-mailed her resignation to members of the OLCC board of directors Thursday morning.

Police spokesman Detective Paul Dolbey said Kaiser was stopped Saturday night near Portland's Ross Island bridge. Her blood alcohol level was not immediately available.

"Due to circumstances that I deeply regret, I am resigning as executive director of the commission," Kaiser's e-mail to the board read. "I will return on May 15th to tie up loose ends and will say my goodbyes at that time. Although my departure is abrupt, I am confident the commission will move forward."

Kaiser assumed the post Sept. 15, 2003, after several years with Maryland's child support enforcement office.

She is a graduate of Portland's Lewis & Clark Law School and worked as an attorney for seven years as well as in liquor enforcement in Colorado and Washington. She was an OLCC inspector from 1981-1982.

Oregon is one of 18 "control" states for liquor, which means the state owns the beverages at some point in the distribution process.

The OLCC director is appointed by the board, which is named by the governor. The OLCC board will hold an emergency meeting on Friday to appoint an acting executive director.

"The governor naturally is very concerned about this. But he has total confidence that the commission will handle this and do the right thing," Hoklin said.

Statewide, liquor sales are on track to reach $722 million — $77 million more than projected a year ago — for the two-year period ending in June 2007, according to state estimates.

During Kaiser's tenure at the liquor control agency, the OLCC began a two-year pilot program to allow sales of distilled spirits in separate liquor stores within supermarkets instead of in traditional state-run outlets. So far, the pilot program has brought in more revenue than expected, the agency has said. But the pilot program has upset some existing liquor agents, who say it will create unfair competition.

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


New White House Spokes-weasel Capable of Stupidity

Just in case any of us might get to thinking that the Bush-Cheney administration is actually lightening up, here’a a story about Tony Snow, the new White House press-weasel. Seems that he defended a crack Limbaugh made about “black quarterbacks,” and then had the sheer stupidity to say that racism has pretty much gone away.

At least the administration is consistent—consistently arrogant, dull-witted, and mean.

Snow: Racism no longer 'a big deal'
04/26/2006 @ 1:54 pm
Filed by RAW STORY

Tony Snow, conservative pundit and incoming White House press secretary, told television viewers in 2003 that racism is no longer a "big deal," RAW STORY has learned.

Ironically, the remarks were made in defense of Rush Limbaugh's assertion that quarterback Donovan McNabb was overrated by a media showing preferential bias to "black quarterbacks."

"Here's the unmentionable secret," Snow said on an October 2003 edition of Fox News Sunday, "racism isn't that big a deal anymore." Snow argued that "no sensible person supports" racism, arguing that the problem is "quickly becoming an ugly memory."

Republicans have struggled to win greater support in the African American community, which overwhelmingly votes for Democratic candidates. Allegations of racism after Hurricane Katrina pushed President Bush to his lowest point ever in polls of black voters, often rating the president with support of a single-digit.

RAW STORY earlier reported that Snow has made controversial comments about Kwanzaa.

Snow's comments on race have already been challenged as out of touch by Democrats in Congress. Asked Democratic National Committee spokesperson Amaya Smith: "How can Republicans claim to be mending fences with the African-American community after hiring Tony Snow, who just doesn't get it?"

The Democratic National Committee has gone so far as to post the video of Snow's comments on the DNC website.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Bush The Bulldozer

Sometimes, all you can do is shake your head and laugh. Bush is the ultimate environmental bulldozer in the china shop.

Bush Rides Roughshod Over Protected Federal Land
Yesterday, President Bush joked about his difficult bike ride through the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument:

I just spent some quality time in [Congresswoman Mary Bono’s] district, and I forgot to tell you that I had the privilege of riding my mountain bike in the desert, as well. The national monument that she helped put together to preserve open spaces - she’s got a lot of humility, she didn’t name the national monument after herself. If I were to name it I would say, Really Hard Bike Ride Monument.

But the Palm Springs Desert Sun reported that by riding through the area, Bush had ignored the “voluntary avoidance” guidelines at the Monument. The guidelines are meant to protect a species of endangered bighorn sheep:

Jim Foote, acting manager of the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument, said the Clara Burgess trail is also among those monument managers ask people to avoid part of the year to prevent disrupting endangered Peninsular bighorn sheep.

The trail is one of about 10 in the monument under a “voluntary avoidance” program. People are asked to stay off the Clara Burgess trail from Jan. 1 to June 30 during the sheep lambing season, he said.

If this latest Bush bike ride was like his others, a “massive entourage,” including a “long convoy of SUVs and off-road vehicles,” came along for the ride.

Apparently the White House isn’t involved in the Bureau of Land Management’s “comprehensive, multi-agency planning effort … to ensure the survival of the sheep.”

Filed under: Environment

Posted by Payson


Final Solutions Come Around Again, Courtesy of US Right

The more the immigration issue is hustled, the bigger the problem. When a nation is in trouble, there’s nothing like a good scapegoat. The Tsar of Russia knew this, Hitler knew it: and the Republican right knows it. More and more anger and frustration is heaped on the immigrants coming across the US-Mexico border. More and more people are coming up with their own recycled versions of the Final Solution.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Governor decries death threats against Hispanics
Schwarzenegger says lieutenant governor, L.A. mayor have both been targeted.

The Associated Press
SACRAMENTO – Prominent Hispanic elected officials, including the mayor of Los Angeles and California's lieutenant governor, have received threats amid a heated national debate over immigration policy, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Monday.

Schwarzenegger told reporters about the threats against Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, both Democrats, during a news conference in his office Monday.

"It has come to my attention that our Lieutenant Governor Bustamante and our Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa and other elected officials of Mexican heritage have received disturbing and hateful death threats," he said.

Schwarzenegger said he also was disturbed to learn that vandals had torched and spray-painted ethnic insults on a Mexican-owned restaurant in San Diego County earlier this month.

Sheriff's officials ruled the April 10 attack a hate crime.

"That is not what California stands for," Schwarzenegger said. "I've asked the district attorneys throughout our state to be vigilant and swift in their actions against those who practice hate against our fellow citizens."

Bustamante spokesman Steve Green said the lieutenant governor appeared at some immigration rallies with Villaraigosa at the end of March and received "nasty e-mails" afterward. The threat came about three weeks ago on a blank postcard, he said.

"We got one postcard from Pasadena that said words to the effect, 'All you dirty Mexicans should go back to Mexico. The only good Mexican is a dead Mexican,'" Green said.

He said the threat was forwarded to the California Highway Patrol, which declined to comment.

"The CHP investigates threats made against public officials, but we don't discuss the details of those threats," spokeswoman Fran Clader said.

A spokeswoman for Villaraigosa said she didn't know whether the mayor had received any threats because of his position on the immigration debate.

The governor has said he opposes amnesty for illegal immigrants, but also called a massive deportation of the estimated 12 million foreigners living illegally in the United States unrealistic.
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The Enron Effect

Someone once told me that a sociologist was a person who spent $20,000 to find out that a house-of-ill-repute was really a whorehouse. Some things just need to be looked at to be understood. Some things are very obvious. Like back when the states began deregulating public utility rates, any fool could see that once the utilities could charge as they wanted, that was exactly what they were going to do. However, the politicians who let the utilities get away with deregulation couldn’t see any farther than their own personal off-shore bank accounts.

What's happening with the utility rates is the same screwing the same corporations are giving to people in the Third World...and unless you're rich, America is a Third World country.

The Christian Science Monitor

from the April 25, 2006 edition -

In deregulation of electric markets, a consumer pinch
Competition was supposed to lower prices in deregulated states. But faster-rising rates there are spurring a backlash.

By Mark Clayton | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

It's the slow season for the laundromat in tiny Milford, Pa., yet owner Darryl Wood has raised the price of a wash by 50 cents this year, to $2.50. The reason? Electric rates have more than doubled since January, threatening to close the lid on a business his family has run for decades.

"I've already seen an electric bill higher than anything that I've ever gotten," he says. "I thought deregulation would bring rates down. Now, I'm just hoping we can hang on."

His ordeal reflects the fresh dismay many consumers are feeling about the deregulation of the electric utility industry. When deregulation was implemented in the 1990s, supporters said it would drive rates down through competition.

But data so far suggest that rates in deregulated states are rising faster than those in regulated states. That trend could expand as caps on retail electric rates, which have held prices down, are lifted in at least six deregulated states this year.

The issue is heating up:

• In Maryland, where homeowners were threatened with a 72 percent rate hike this summer, deregulation is suddenly a major issue in the governor's race.

• In Delaware, where Delmarva Power set forth rate jumps of at least 59 percent, lawmakers responded by phasing them in over several years and requiring power companies to do long-term planning.

Price comparisons are limited because rate caps are only just being removed. But in New England, where many caps came off last year, retail electric rates surged about 15 percent - except for Vermont, where regulated rates are roughly flat. In the Mid-Atlantic region, rates in deregulated New York have risen 16 percent since 2002, while rates in still-regulated West Virginia were about flat.

Such unexpected disparities are prompting a backlash in states that recently allowed markets to set wholesale and retail pricing. And it's fueling a debate over what went wrong.

Industry officials blame price spikes on higher fuel costs and rate caps set too low years ago. But fuel hikes are only a partial explanation, analysts say. Lack of competition and the ability of companies to sway markets to maximize profits may be factors, too, they say.

"There has been and is today no true competition in wholesale and retail electricity markets," the Electricity Consumers Resource Council wrote in a filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in November.

Power companies strongly disagree.

"Competition has been incredibly robust," says John Shelk, president of the Electric Power Supply Association. "People believe if prices rise something is wrong.... But the reason is the cost of [fuel] increased."

That hasn't cooled the anger in Pike County, Pa., which includes Milford, where residents are telling regulators that the doubling of their rates is outrageous. Just two suppliers bid in an auction to serve the area last October. "It seems a little fishy to some people," Mr. Wood says. "It's very bad for the economy here and for morale."

Some states are even considering re-regulation. But getting the "genie back in a regulated bottle" may be difficult or impossible, says Christie Rewey, an energy specialist at the National Conference of State Legislatures in Denver.

Many states sold their generating stations for a song in the 1990s, she says. Now these same states find that those old plants are a gold mine for their owners and would be very costly to buy back.

Today, 16 of 23 states that initially passed electricity deregulation offer a fully deregulated power system, studies show.

At least 34 states have repealed, delayed, suspended, or have limited retail access to just large customers or are no longer considering deregulating electricity for retail customers, according to a study last year.

Take Montana. It once had the region's lowest electric rates, but sold off its hydro-dams and deregulated in 1997. Some legislators there want the state to buy back those dams. "The power those dams generated for less than $20 per megawatt hour has jumped to over $31 since deregulation," says Don Judge, a political consultant in Helena, Mont. "It's ironic that we sold them in the first place, and now we're paying the price."
Industry defends benefits of deregulation

The re-regulation push worries some industry officials. "Absolutely, we are worried states will try to turn back the clock," Mr. Shelk says. "It would be bad for us, but in [the] long term bad for states, too."

Industry officials have launched a campaign called COMPETE to tout the benefits of competition. And they cite two studies showing that deregulation has saved consumers between $16 billion and $34 billion so far. But other studies by academics and power consumers dispute those findings.

"At best, at this point in time, no discernible overall benefit to retail consumers can be seen from restructuring," wrote Kenneth Rose, an independent energy consultant, in an analysis of deregulation last year.

Consumer anger, others contend, is the surest sign that deregulation has not lived up to its promise.

Disappointment is strong in the PJM wholesale power market, which covers a region with 51 million people in all or parts of 13 states, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Ohio, and Virginia.

In Pennsylvania, which deregulated electricity in 1996, most households are still protected by retail rate caps until 2010. Yet even Irwin "Sonny" Popowsky, the state's consumer advocate on utility pricing and a one-time booster of electricity restructuring, is shaken. "I'm just really disappointed and shocked by the results in places like Pike County, Maryland, and Delaware," he says. "This isn't the way it was supposed to be."

Market prices in New York and New England (except Vermont), where rate caps have come off, are often set by the highest-cost facilities. "These generators all get paid as if they're running a natural-gas-fired machine at double or triple the rate - and that has thrown the equation off," says Gerald Norlander, executive director of the Public Utility Law Project of New York.

Analysts also blame poor competition in residential markets on the higher costs companies incur serving smaller customers. In Ohio, for instance, customers like Mary Babcock want to compare offers from the eight power companies doing business there. But she can't.

Instead of adding competitive pressure to sell electricity at lower cost, deregulation in Ohio has so far yielded just one company interested in selling Mrs. Babcock power - the same one that's sold it to her for years. "No competitive retail electric service providers are currently enrolling customers," says the Ohio Public Utilities Commission Web page.

That's bad news for Babcock. But it's far worse news for Bob Flygar, manager of Eramet Marietta, Inc., a southeast Ohio branch plant that makes alloys for hardening steel. Electricity rates that have leaped 50 percent since 2004 could mean "eventual demise of the Eramet plant" and 400 jobs, he testified before the state utilities commission last October.

"We need a healthy dose of real competition," says John Anderson, president of the Electricity Consumers Resource Council. "We were deregulation's first supporters. But all we've really done is go from one regulatory structure to a new one that is less customer friendly."

He and other critics also allege that a key negative feature in each market is "market power" - an oligopoly situation that may be allowing generating companies to whipsaw prices upward.

Market power worries Howard Spinner, director of economics and finance for the Virginia State Corporation Commission. In his analysis of PJM's market data from last year, Mr. Spinner found 41 generating units he says may be employing a strategy of "economic withholding," which could effectively cut power supplies and raise prices. But he's not certain, since PJM won't release critical data for analysis - something the transmission organization denies.

"We've heard these charges before," says Ray Dotter, a PJM spokesman. "Our independent market monitor has consistently said it is competitive."
Hockey-stick bidding: Market power in action?

But Dr. Rose, the energy consultant, sees what may be subtle attempts to influence prices through strategic bidding that, when graphed, resembles a hockey stick. He points to July 27, 2005 - one of the hottest days in PJM last summer - as a case in point.

A big power company started the bidding with a very low offer: 4,300 megawatts for zero dollars or other nominal amounts, Rose says. It offered the next 2,700 megawatts at gradually higher prices until it reached $100 per megawatt hour. But the last 1,000 megawatts were offered at $200 to $1,000, and it's those last high-cost blocks of power that often set the rate overall.

That, he says, could be evidence of market power.

PJM officials strongly reject allegations of tacit collusion. On the hot summer day in question, prices peaked at $512 per megawatt hour. Hockey-stick bidding is "a common market mechanism," says Joseph Bowring, PJM's internal watchdog. It ensures prices high enough to lower consumption and "keep the market from running out of power."

Back in Milford, officials will soon hold hearings into the power auction process. And hopes are growing that a new auction may be held and a lower-cost supplier found.

"All the consumers up here are saying: 'Now, I see how this deregulation works,' says David Wilson, executive director of the Pike County Chamber of Commerce.

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