"In Congress, we have voted repeatedly to roll back these harmful provisions, but the Republican leadership has blocked our every attempt. The Bush Administration claims that it set out to 'clarify' overtime regulations for employers. I'd say the only thing this Administration has 'clarified' is its total disregard for American workers." "In Congress, we have voted repeatedly to roll back these harmful provisions, but the Republican leadership has blocked our every attempt. The Bush Administration claims that it set out to 'clarify' overtime regulations for employers. I'd say the only thing this Administration has 'clarified' is its total disregard for American workers." "In Congress, we have voted repeatedly to roll back these harmful provisions, but the Republican leadership has blocked our every attempt. The Bush Administration claims that it set out to 'clarify' overtime regulations for employers. I'd say the only thing this Administration has 'clarified' is its total disregard for American workers."

According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the new federal regulations could deny overtime pay to 6 million Americans. In addition, three former top U.S. Department of Labor officials, who served under Reagan, Clinton and the first President Bush, examined these new rules and concluded that they "substantially broadened the class of employees who will be exempt, without substantially clarifying the rules for exemption." Depending on how these rules are interpreted, these experts said they could exempt up to 53 million workers, or 40 percent of the U.S. workforce.

The new overtime regulations spell trouble for Western New York workers, who are already suffering from a stagnant economy, continued job loss and a high local tax burden. On Friday, the State Department of Labor reported that Buffalo/Niagara lost 2,600 private sector jobs since last July - the second highest percentage drop among the state's metropolitan areas. In Rochester, 2,300 private sector jobs have disappeared over the last year. Just last week it was also reported that residents of Upstate New York pay an additional $6 billion in local taxes compared to the rest of the nation.

Congress has tried repeatedly to block the overtime regulations. The Senate has twice passed Senator Tom Harkin's (D-IA) amendment to the Labor/HHS Appropriations bill, which would prevent the Department of Labor from putting the rules into effect. Last year, the House voted to instruct conferees on the Labor/HHS bill to accept the Harkin language in conference. However, the Republican leadership stripped the language out of the bill. Rep. Slaughter has voted on three separate other occasions to stop the overtime rules, but again the Republican leadership opposed the effort every time. Furthermore, the Department of Labor received over 75,000 comments from the public on the rules, but refused to hold a single public hearing.

Overtime protections were created in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. They guarantee most workers time and a half pay for hours worked beyond a standard 40-hour workweek. Considered one of the most basic, bedrock labor protections, overtime provisions cover approximately 115 million workers - or 85 percent of the nation's workforce. In 2000, overtime pay accounted for one-quarter of total income for families earning it.

According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the new federal regulations could deny overtime pay to 6 million Americans. In addition, three former top U.S. Department of Labor officials, who served under Reagan, Clinton and the first President Bush, examined these new rules and concluded that they "substantially broadened the class of employees who will be exempt, without substantially clarifying the rules for exemption." Depending on how these rules are interpreted, these experts said they could exempt up to 53 million workers, or 40 percent of the U.S. workforce.

The new overtime regulations spell trouble for Western New York workers, who are already suffering from a stagnant economy, continued job loss and a high local tax burden. On Friday, the State Department of Labor reported that Buffalo/Niagara lost 2,600 private sector jobs since last July - the second highest percentage drop among the state's metropolitan areas. In Rochester, 2,300 private sector jobs have disappeared over the last year. Just last week it was also reported that residents of Upstate New York pay an additional $6 billion in local taxes compared to the rest of the nation.

Congress has tried repeatedly to block the overtime regulations. The Senate has twice passed Senator Tom Harkin's (D-IA) amendment to the Labor/HHS Appropriations bill, which would prevent the Department of Labor from putting the rules into effect. Last year, the House voted to instruct conferees on the Labor/HHS bill to accept the Harkin language in conference. However, the Republican leadership stripped the language out of the bill. Rep. Slaughter has voted on three separate other occasions to stop the overtime rules, but again the Republican leadership opposed the effort every time. Furthermore, the Department of Labor received over 75,000 comments from the public on the rules, but refused to hold a single public hearing.

Overtime protections were created in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. They guarantee most workers time and a half pay for hours worked beyond a standard 40-hour workweek. Considered one of the most basic, bedrock labor protections, overtime provisions cover approximately 115 million workers - or 85 percent of the nation's workforce. In 2000, overtime pay accounted for one-quarter of total income for families earning it.

According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the new federal regulations could deny overtime pay to 6 million Americans. In addition, three former top U.S. Department of Labor officials, who served under Reagan, Clinton and the first President Bush, examined these new rules and concluded that they "substantially broadened the class of employees who will be exempt, without substantially clarifying the rules for exemption." Depending on how these rules are interpreted, these experts said they could exempt up to 53 million workers, or 40 percent of the U.S. workforce.

The new overtime regulations spell trouble for Western New York workers, who are already suffering from a stagnant economy, continued job loss and a high local tax burden. On Friday, the State Department of Labor reported that Buffalo/Niagara lost 2,600 private sector jobs since last July - the second highest percentage drop among the state's metropolitan areas. In Rochester, 2,300 private sector jobs have disappeared over the last year. Just last week it was also reported that residents of Upstate New York pay an additional $6 billion in local taxes compared to the rest of the nation.

Congress has tried repeatedly to block the overtime regulations. The Senate has twice passed Senator Tom Harkin's (D-IA) amendment to the Labor/HHS Appropriations bill, which would prevent the Department of Labor from putting the rules into effect. Last year, the House voted to instruct conferees on the Labor/HHS bill to accept the Harkin language in conference. However, the Republican leadership stripped the language out of the bill. Rep. Slaughter has voted on three separate other occasions to stop the overtime rules, but again the Republican leadership opposed the effort every time. Furthermore, the Department of Labor received over 75,000 comments from the public on the rules, but refused to hold a single public hearing.

Overtime protections were created in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. They guarantee most workers time and a half pay for hours worked beyond a standard 40-hour workweek. Considered one of the most basic, bedrock labor protections, overtime provisions cover approximately 115 million workers - or 85 percent of the nation's workforce. In 2000, overtime pay accounted for one-quarter of total income for families earning it.

The arms for hostages deal (Iran Contra) used to blow him into office is going to have to be improved upon if they care that we may pick up on it while they’re still in office. Judging from past actions where caught in the cookie jar (WMD’s, 9/11-Iraq connection, EPA report edits, tax-cut inequities, falsified world body Iraq weapons programs documents, global warming, environmental, and terrorist activity data reports, and a list as long as all of our arms linked together), they won’t.

In the 2004 election only a handful of what are called “swing states” will determine who enters the white house legitimately (the first time for either candidate) to steer America and the world through the next four years; whether to recovery from the recent past or further into the abyss it is now being propelled. Only around ten states will throw this “election” to one party or the other. Organizations like Move-On, as well as both candidates themselves, are concentrating their PR efforts in those handful of uncommitted republics, so we’re actually spending MORE MONEY to convince LESS PEOPLE to pull a particular lever this year than we’ve ever spent on the whole damn country in elections past!

Rumors abound on the net and elsewhere of every kind of October Surprise imaginable from the “discovery” of everything and everyone from WMD’s to Ossama to life on Mars (a Steven Spielberg collaboration no less) to another home-turf terrorist attack that we raised the alert about (for the umpteenth time) but weren’t able to stop.

If you look at the names of the artists Move-On has lined up against Bush in its VOTE FOR CHANGE concert tours of those states you get the idea that some very serious pop stars ( Bruce Springsteen, Dave Matthews, the Dixie Chicks) take this administration’s corruption very seriously. Whether the mass of American voters do will be revealed soon enough.

We can only wonder if, in selecting this site, the entire RNC had lost its collective mind. The Republicans at all levels of government managed to do everything that they could possibly do to ensure nothing less than a hostile reception in this city. The administration has upset labor unions, including New York’s bravest and finest. Bloomberg was forced to lay off workers as the Bush administration stiffed the city out of the $20 million that it promised after the 9/11 attacks. Just up the island is Greenwich Village, home to thousands of unmarried and unhappy homos who can raise an army of supporters from sea to shining sea. MSG is not that far away. Anyone in manufacturing who has lost a job to China might have a gripe as well, even as George W. tries to persuade anyone still employed that it’s OK to get time off instead of being paid time and a half. Any veteran who actually served time in the ‘Nam might have something to say. Dick Cheney used four or five deferments, claiming that, at the time, he had “other priorities,” besides getting blown to bits in some rice paddy. No one is sure where George W. spent the war. I doubt if he himself remembers.

John Kerry may have his GOP bought and paid for critics, but at least he was there.

Besides labor, gays, veterans against the war (and Bush), there remains a long list of students, environmentalist, and health and political activists who have a gripe against Bush’s misguided adventure in Iraq.

It is anticipated that more than 250,000 demonstrators will find their way to New York for the convention.

Legendary Madison Square Garden is the place, and the elite of the GOP will grace its stage for the George W. Bush love fest. The prime time speakers include the top of the heap. Leading off on Monday night will be Mayor Mike Bloomberg himself. In the number two slot will be former mayor Rudi Giuliani, to be followed by slugger Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.). On Tuesday, we see First Lady Laura Bush, Education Secretary Rod Paige and the governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger. I can’t understand this choice. Even though anointed by Lord Rothschild himself, Arnold is new to elected office. Perhaps the hundreds of thousands of legal and illegal Hispanic voters in California have something to do with his appearance. Perhaps they believe his speech will hasten the arrival of their driver’s licenses. Wednesday finds Lynne Cheney speaking, followed by the Darth Vader of the GOP, her very own husband, Dick Cheney. After Dick speaks, Senator Zell Miller, a DEMOCRAT from Georgia will try to follow his nastiness. Miller must be thrilled indeed to follow the vice president. I’m sure that the entire convention will be interested in hearing every word from a turncoat southern DEMOCRAT who has dared to defile a REPUBLICAN love fest.

Thursday night is the main event. Our very own Governor George Pataki will speak just prior to the acceptance speech by the wooden puppet who wants to be a real live boy: President of the United States George W. Bush.

It is a formidable lineup, a political murders row of unprecedented power. The late Lee Atwater would have been impressed. Richard Nixon would have only sighed and wished for what could have been.

Guess who’s not coming to party???

Secretary of State Colin Powel will not make an appearance. Deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said on Tuesday that “The secretary does not plan to attend.” This decision demonstrates that the secretary, unlike the RNC, has not lost his mind. But his absence will raise many political eyebrows. Is he trying to save what little credibility he still has? After he was ill used by the administration before the WMD fiasco at the UN, Powell has taken a back seat to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon in matters of foreign policy. Perhaps he knows that his tenure ends with a Bush re-election, and he is rebuilding some political capital. Perhaps he also knows that an escape from New York, with thousands of upset protesters lurking at every corner of mid-town Manhattan, might be a little bit difficult.

The Guns (and heat) of August

Summer in Manhattan is second only to summer in Washington, D.C, for its sweltering heat and humidity. Heavily armed and armored Robocops will not be in the best of humor as they try to contain the hundreds of scattered protests by the thousands of equally unhappy opposition members. Heat casualties could be heavy on both sides of the lines. The Robocops will have the advantage of interior lines, with supplies continually available. Protesters will have to fend for themselves. Rank and file New Yorkers may have little use for the Bushes. But they may resent having their downtown turned into a combat zone. The good news for the protesters is that tear gas may not be used. The bad news is that the police may use rubber bullets. At close range, the phrase “rubber bullet” may suggest something benign. But propelled by a 12-gauge shell, the close quarter effect will not be so. Ask those who participated in the WTO protests in Miami last year. A puppet will give little cover.

The Opposition

On Sunday, August 29, the protesting begins in earnest. The World says No to the Bush Agenda: United for Peace and Justice will “host” a march past Madison Square Garden, followed by a rally. On Monday, the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network and the Still We Rise Coalition are co-sponsoring a march and rally to support HIV/AIDS health care, welfare reform, immigrant issues, housing/homelessness, and criminal justice issues. There are enough social issues to attract thousands of protesters. How they will all fit together remains to be seen. Perhaps the point is for them not fit but to spill out all over Manhattan. At the same time, the Kensington Welfare Rights Union presents another march, beginning at the United Nations and ending at Madison Square Garden. It is hoped that they won’t collide with the folks just mentioned.

Tuesday could see some eye-to-eyeball confrontations. The One Million Yeses and One NO! people are planning a direct demonstration against the Free Speech Zones (police pens). There could be some major league action here. At the same time, the noRNC Youth are calling for “a youth day of action.” What this could be is anybody’s guess.

On Wednesday, the New York City Labor Council will host a massive union rally and march.

These are the main events. There are hundreds of other organizations that are planning to head to the Big Apple to join in the festivities. Manhattan could well become more densely populated than Bangladesh.

Adding to the population will be about 20,000 Republican Party delegates, donors, and officials, who are expected to attend the convention. Following all the action will be a press circus, featuring 15,000 members of the various media. Getting to the center of activities should be easy for conventioneers as the majority of the delegates’ hotels are within a one-mile radius of the convention center.

Delegates and media should expect to meet up with most of the protesters. More than likely, all three groups will meet to discuss the various burning issues of the day.

Bloomberg’s office has issued a press release describing all of the street closures around the vicinity. Many will be closed to all vehicular traffic, and many areas will be restricted to pedestrians who have a “business-related” reason to enter. A designated protest area has been set up on 31st Street at 8th Avenue.

The robocops are busily preparing, as well. Details are, of course, classified, but one can imagine the preparations. Robocop will have plenty of back up.

Meanwhile, the Counter Convention organization is estimating that the protests around the Republican Convention could very well be “the largest in history.”

There is no reason to doubt their prediction.

Masiello Ignores Mutual Assistance Rule

In situations such as these, the strategy of the Masiello administration has been to rely on a mutual assistance agreement between Buffalo and neighboring municipalities, created in 1977. Fire Department representatives have pointed out that there is no plan in place to call Buffalo firefighters, even though an on-call detail of the BFD could respond faster than units from other municipalities. In fact, the 1977 agreement explicitly states, “Off-duty personnel (from the BFD) will be re-called for immediate duty and will be compensated at the rate of time and one half...” in the event of such an emergency.

This has not been happening, however. The administration has sought to obtain mutual aid without declaring an emergency, thereby avoiding paying time and a half to Buffalo firefighters.

“They got the County people ready to respond, but they never actually had to call them in. They dodged a bullet,” Lucca said.

“We have asked the mayor’s office and (the city’s acting fire commissioner) Mike D'Orazio to put a plan in place, and they have refused our request to even talk about putting an emergency call back plan in place. It’s beyond belief. I can’t believe that anybody in their position would ignore the needs of the citizens for political reasons,” he added.

Of course, these days, any discussion involving emergency planning must involve the possibility of terrorism. Although the federal Department of Homeland Security has earmarked at least eight million dollars for these purposes, it appears that the county has hijacked the funds. “We still haven’t seen the benefit of those security dollars,” Lucca said. “We believe Mayor (Anthony) Masiello has bargained away those dollars to the county.”

Lucca said that he believes that this puts the community at risk unnecessarily. He said that he suspects that The Buffalo News has avoided coverage of these issues for the same reason that it failed to cover the major fire on Howard Street: the editorial staff's support of the Control Board's blatant anti-union agenda.

Control Board Strategy: Divide and Conquer

The Control Board was, in large part, created by the Republican Party's need to attain something that they could never achieve at the polls in the City of Buffalo – power. M&T Bank CEO and the ideological leader of the Control Board, Bob Wilmers, has been the point man in the all-out war against the city's three most powerful unions representing police officers, firefighters, and public school teachers.

Hopes that a funding crisis would put the teachers’ union at Wilmer's mercy appear to have been ill founded. Only the governor’s veto of spending on education as legislators appear ready to allocate enough money to the district to stave off the push toward privatization represented by the charter school movement, at least for this year.

Now State Supreme Court Justice Nelson H. Cosgrove's decision to force the city to make promised pay increases to the Buffalo Police Department has created the possibility of another defeat for Wilmers and the Control Board.

While Control Board Chairman Thomas Baker has expressed confidence that the board can get the ruling overturned upon appeal, he and fellow Wilmers supporters on the editorial board of The Buffalo News portrayed the victory for the Police Benevolent Association as a major threat to the Buffalo Professional Firefighters Union, and white-collar workers for the city.

As transparent as the strategy might seem, it appears to have had some effectiveness with some of the rank and file firefighters. One firefighter we talked to on condition of anonymity expressed frustration with Buffalo Professional Firefighters Association President Joe Foley, emphasizing the need for the union to play “hardball” in negotiations and admitting to an “us vs. them” attitude with the Buffalo Police. “(PBA President) Bob Meeghan gets them pay raises and we're left holding the bag? We're already stretched to the limit. You can't make any concessions with these people. We've made too many concessions to them already.”

“Of course, there’s frustration on our part,” Lucca said of the police contract. “But the police contract wasn’t even honored and the Control Board is still fighting it. Plus they had to give up quite a bit to get those pay raises. The police tend to come first because fighting crime is paramount in most people’s minds.”

Buffalo News Fails to Publish Firefighters Critique of Fire Study

The city commissioned a study of the Buffalo Fire Department to MMA Consultants of Boston, Mass. The results were a number of suggestions for departmental reorganization. Not surprisingly, The Buffalo News has failed to allow the Buffalo Professional Firefighters Association to give their input on the recommendations, despite the fact that the union agrees with some of the study’s findings.

The union has put its response to the study online on its website, http://www.local282iaff.com

Here are a few excerpts from the response:

“We believe that MMA’s analysis of Buffalo Fire Department Operations and the city’s fire suppression needs is superficial. Relevant criteria were not considered in some of their recommendations.”

“We know that some of their data were inaccurate, which can lead to incorrect conclusions. We also believe that the methodology they employed in their mapping analysis, which attempted to show that their suggested relocation/firehouse closing plan would still enable the city to meet the response time standards of NFPA 1710, does not answer the fundamental question posed by the standard: Can the City of Buffalo put one engine on the scene in four minutes, and a full assignment (as determined after performing a task analysis for the typical fire to be expected in our municipality) on the scene in eight minutes?”

“They cherry-picked what they wanted from this study,” Lucca said pointing out that the only thing from the study that has been implemented is the closing of firehouses. “They haven’t upgraded training. We’ve been without a commissioner for eight months now. No new rigs. No new firehouses. Nothing. Absolutely zero. What we’re saying is if you’re going to follow this study’s recommendations, follow them.”

2 p.m. Protest Starbucks Bush has assisted Starbucks in crushing a newly formed union at a Manhattan store. Meet in front of Starbucks on 36th and Madison in midtown Manhattan (take the 6 train to 33rd Street) and then march to Starbucks regional headquarters on 33rd Street and Fifth Avenue. See starbucksunion.org for more information.

5:30 p.m. Ring Out against the RNC Bell Ringing at Ground Zero. Take a look at www.RingOut.org or contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Sunday, August 29 – The RNC Begins

9 a.m. Youth Feeder March to the United for Peace and Justice March and Rally Meet at Columbus Circle, Southwest corner of Central Park at 59th Street. Hosted by the Youth RNC Welcoming Committee.

Progressive Jewish Breakfast and Protest Join progressive Jews for breakfast before the UPJ march. There will be bagels and coffee, a space for ritual and organizing, and speakers and education. At 11:30 a.m., the group will march to join the United for Peace and Justice March. This will be followed by a protest at 1 p.m. at the Republican Jewish Coalition at the Plaza Hotel (58th Street and Fifth Avenue). Sponsored by Jews for Racial and Economic Justice. Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call (212) 646-8966, ext. 11.

Unauthorized Protest on the Great Lawn in Central Park This is a call from the Manhattan Libertarian Party to ignore the city's refusal to allow a rally at the park. DISCLAIMER: The Libertarian Party is a pro-capitalist group that believes in privatizing everything from welfare to schools. While their politics are at odds with the RNCNotWelcome.org collective, we respect their refusal to seek a permit and agree when they say, "If you ask the government for permission to protest it, you deserve to be told no."

3 p.m. (See 5 p.m.) Calls for Action Against Broadway Plays There has been a call for a "Mouse Bloc" and "Chaos on Broadway" to "Disrupt [the RNC delegates'] merry-making."

5 p.m. RNC Delegates attend Broadway Plays To be sure, the shows that they plan to see will not be “Hairspray,” “Rent,” or “The Producers.”

Monday, August 30

8:30 a.m. "Breakfast at Tiffany's" with Libby Pataki To be held at Tiffany's Fifth Avenue and 57th Street. (212) 755-8000

4 p.m. Poor Peoples's Campaign's March For Our Lives United Nations, 45th Street and First Avenue. Sponsored by Kensington Welfare Rights Union.

Big Tent Event, sponsored by the Republican Unity Coalition who wants to "make homosexuality a "non-issue" for the Republican Party." To be held at the Bryant Park Grill, 25 W. 40th St., between Fifth and Sixth Avenue. (212) 840-6500 or (212) 206-8815. Fax (212) 206-8841.

Hip-Hop Summit Action Network Mobilization to focus on ending Rockefeller Drug Laws in New York and other mandatory minimum sentences throughout the United States.

Poor People's March sponsored by Still We Rise, a large coalition of community-based organizations.

10 p.m. – 1 a.m. Post-Convention Party for New York and New Jersey delegations At Cipriani's, 89 E. 42nd St. between Park and Vanderbilt avenues. (212) 973-0999.

Tuesday, August 31

One No, a Million Yeses! A call for direct action at the RNC by local anti-authoritarians. This day is meant as a day of creative action outside the pens that are too often called "free speech zones." Weekly spokescouncil meetings on Tuesdays.

Youth Day of Action called by the Youth RNC. Welcoming Committee. Read their call here or contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information.

9:30 a.m. Finance Roundtable, Sponsored by the Bank of America at the Tavern on the Green, Central Park at West 67th Street. For more information, call (212) 873-3200 or fax (212) 580-4265.

3 p.m. Luncheon sponsored by pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca at the St. Regis Hotel, Two East 55th Street, at Fifth Avenue. (212) 753-4500 Fax (212) 787-3447. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

4:30 - 7:30 p.m. New York Delegation Reception Sponsored by Kodak at the Tavern on the Green Central Park at West 67th Street. (212) 873-3200 Fax (212) 580-4265

10 p.m. – 1 a.m. Post-convention party, sponsored by the American Gas Association, at Noche, 1604 Broadway, between 48th and 49th streets. (212) 541-7070

Immigrant-Worker Solidarity Day Of Action and Conference. For more information, contact Lee Siu Hin Tel (Immigrant Solidarity Network): (626) 695-3405 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Wednesday, September 1

1 p.m. Luncheon at the Central Park Boathouse, honoring House Speaker Dennis Hastert's wife, Jean. Sponsored by Burlington Northern Santa Fe, who stands to make a fortune with "freer" trade with Mexico.

4 p.m. Working for Working Families Labor Rally. Meet at Eighth Avenue and 30th Street.

6 p.m. Panty Performance Protest. A "Mass Flash" in Battery Park City, southwest Manhattan, to create a media spectacle that lays bare the shameful tactics of the Bush administration and boldly demands an end to political cover-up. More information at axisofeve.org.

7 - 9 p.m. Permitted rally by the National Organization of Women In the East Meadow of Central Park. More information at nownyc.org

8 p.m. St. Mark's Church, 131 E. 10th Street DEMO: A Demonstration in Words Featuring 20 poets, including Anselm Berrigan, Cornelius Eady, Bob Holman, Eileen Myles, Katha Pollitt, and Vijay Seshadri. Organized by Ram Devinini and Jen Benka. Free admission.

10 p.m. RNC Reception at Crobar. This event is sponsored by the American Gas Association, 530 W. 28th St. between 10th and 11th avenues. (212) 629-9000

10 p.m.- 1 a.m. Post-convention party, sponsored by the American Gas Association, at Noche, 1604 Broadway, between 48th and 49th streets. (212) 541-7070

10 p.m. – 2 a.m. Copacabana, 560 W. 34th St. at 11th Ave. RNC "Hispanic Event" (those are their words, not ours. Sponsored by (ironically) Coca-Cola. (212) 239-2672

Thursday, September 2:

RNC Ends as a Total Failure!

Bush expected to receive the Republican nomination.

5 – 7 p.m. Madame Tussaud's, 234 West 42nd Street (between Seventh and Eighth avenues in the heart of Times Square). New York delegation reception, (800) 246-8872

10 p.m. – 2 a.m. Water Club, 500 East 30th Street on the East River Post-Convention Party sponsored by the pharmaceutical giant, Novartis.

Party in Tompkins Square, Avenue A and Ninth Street. One People's Project (212) 479-7362

Anti-RNC Cloudbuster Operations From one or more undisclosed locations on the Brooklyn waterfront, the Brooklyn Orgastic Politics Collective will redirect the flow of Orgone Energy above Manhattan, attempting to "suck the fascism" from Madison Square Garden as George W. Bush is renominated.

Stealth Charter School Attack Repelled.

Remember our article on Chris Jacobs? He's kind of like the character of Michael in The Godfather. He'd probably like to just get out and enjoy the fruits of the Jacobs family empire, but he keeps getting pulled back in. He got elected to the Buffalo Board of Education after an expensive campaign, and now it's time for the dirty work. Chris Jacobs and his pro-charter school allies on the Buffalo Board of Education tried to pull a quickie and push through a charter school expansion proposal package while two opponents were absent. These must be passed by the end of September or they will be pushed back another year.

The hidden agenda was met with hostility by members who thought they were supposed to be discussing the budget like it said on the dance card. The naysayers on the school board don't seem to appreciate the urgency of the privatizers’ hostile takeover of the education system. The King Urban Life charter school, for example, has received dismal grades on standardized tests. The half-life of the charter school experiments already under way is rapidly approaching, and with the bloom off the rose, so to speak, Chris Jacobs and the red suspender crowd will have a tougher sell as time goes by. The democratic process of the school board seems to be getting in the way. Hmmm, what would our president do in this situation?

Privatizing Protection for Bloomberg

Speaking of privatization, it's interesting to note that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg now has a beefed-up private security detail. It seems that some of New York City's finest have not been shy about letting the mayor know how they feel about working without a contract for the last two years. Here the mayor is trying to be everywhere at once, promoting the GOP convention and what a great job George Bush has done for New York and these cops are running him down in public. Sheesh! We know that New Yorkers are pushy but come on! Don't be surprised if some of those nice folks in riot gear are wearing corporate logos as opposed to shields. Once we're able to privatize AND militarize our cops, we'll really be in the new era that our neocon visionaries dreamed of, and every precinct in this great nation will be like a mini Abu Ghraib. Breathtaking, isn't it? Nut Job: $100 mill for Richardson Complex Is Craaaazzzyyy!!! The state budget is in and guess what? One hundred million is going to a pork project for the State Dormitory Authority. It proves that our lawmakers in Albany are insane in the membrane. Meanwhile, the public schools get forty million, the cops win a Pyrrhic victory in a court case, and the firefighters get their Homeland Security bonus money stolen. The twin towers of the Buffalo Psychiatric Center are an architectural masterpiece that should probably be mothballed. Then again, some people think that they're haunted and should be torn down. One thing for certain is that the priorities of our politicians these days are scary – very scary!

If a dirtball, a sleazeball, a greaseball, a screwball, and a goofball play dodgeball with fireballs on a basketball court during baseball season, whose nuts will catch on fire first?

I can say two things in Swedish: “googoo gaga” and “shitboot.”

Rohypnol is known as the “date rape drug.” I’m no pharmacist, but I wonder if any other crimes have their own drug. If I walked into Walgreen’s or the right neighborhood, could I find the “steal-a-candy-bar drug,” the “insider-trading drug,” the “flamethrower-massacre drug,” the “toss-your-baby-in-the-trash drug” or the “mace-your-teacher drug”? Not that I’m planning any crimes, but I’d probably be tempted by the “drop-a-boulder-on-your-relatives drug,” as long as it was minty.

While trying to say “carpal tunnel syndrome,” my mother said something like “carnal tunnelvision syndrome,” which sounds a bit like nymphomania and just goes to show that if verbal ineptitude were the only prerequisite for the presidency, I’d be the First Son right now.

Unfortunate names I noticed in the graveyard:

Wurst

Failing

Hickey

Butts

Butman

Bingeman

Dickman

Sniffin

Here’s an intriguing offer I once heard in Cambridge from a panhandler with a brick: “For one dollar, you can hit me with this brick.”

I once saw a sign that said, “The brightest bacon for freedom.” Then I looked again and realized it said, “The brightest beacon for freedom.” This mistake inspired some unhealthy breakfast choices, along with these beacon-free book titles that can’t be found at Amazon.com: The Distant Bacon, Bacon of Hope: A Guide to Internal Truth, Bacon Street Girls: Worst Enemies/Best Friends, The Bacon at Alexandria, and The Ascended Masters Light the Way: Bacons of Ascension.

Would a pimp in the Popemobile or the pope in a pimpmobile feel more at home?

While discussing a friend’s wife — and by discussing I mean “venomously condemning” — I briefly tried to be diplomatic about my feelings, but what I ended up saying was that I’d like to “put her in a sack.” I hastily added that I’d like the sack to be on a nice, safe airplane headed to a clean, peaceful country, but that little disclaimer didn’t do much to disguise the implications. Once you’ve advocated for the put-her-in-a-sack method of conflict resolution, there just isn’t much room for interpretation.

How many John Donne poems rhyme “corpus collosum” with “ruptured scrotum”?

I thought there couldn’t be a worse euphemism for genocide than “ethnic cleansing,” but I’ve been proven horribly wrong by the term “humanitarian situation.”

In The Passion of the Christ, they beat the crap out of Jesus, and they beat the shit out of Jesus, and they beat the snot out of Jesus, and they beat the fuck out of Jesus, and they beat the stuffing out of Jesus, and they beat the ugly out of Jesus, and they beat the living daylights out of Jesus, and they beat the holy hell out of Jesus, but did they beat the bejeezus out of Jesus?

The words of the week:

10) Robo-lobster

9) Yutz

8) Giddy

7) Squeegee

6) Ape-poopy

5) Mama-yama

4) Absoschmuckinglutely

3) Biblical

2) Jackassitude

1) Spokes-fembot

The evilest sentence in the language: “Good luck to you in your future endeavors.”

Wordluster Mark Peters wants to hear your thoughts, jokes, and questions about language, including favorite words, memorable goofs, trenchant observations, and other word-ish material. Email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Open Water reportedly was made for about $179,000, shot on digital video, and may turn out to earn bigger box office bucks than that other inexpensive thriller, The Blair Witch Project. The story is based on real events. A husband and wife head to the Bahamas for a little rest and relaxation. They are high-energy go-getters, workaholics who enjoy each other’s company. The respite will recharge their psychic batteries. Emotionally, they are healthy. There’s a promise of no computers, but, well… you know go-getters. The couple joins a group on a scuba diving jaunt and after the coral reef swimming and fish watching is over, the charter boat crew forgets about them. They, Susan and Daniel, are left behind, bobbing like corks in the wide-open sea.

As simple as that is, that’s the movie. But like the very best of pure cinema, Open Water works on you like a jackhammer. It drags you in, plays with your fears, toys with your expectations, and delivers not only jolts, but also meaningful dialogue. Most of the film concentrates on the two lost souls and they’d better have something interesting to say to keep the audience alert. The filmmakers, Chris Kentis and Laura Lau, real-life husband and wife, do the impossible. Because they are actually married, Kentis and Lau understand how couples talk. And when Susan and Daniel talk, what they say has the ring of truth. Tension, trepidation, blame, recrimination, relaxation, and humor are part of the package. I marveled at the idea that I was watching two people float in dangerous water for nearly an hour and was interested in who they were, what they had to say, and most importantly, their well being.

I also liked the fact that Kentis (who wrote, directed, edited, and co-shot the movie) and Lau (who produced and co-shot the movie) avoided fakery. Those are real sharks you are seeing. And I especially liked the fact that this is not a cheesy thrill-seeking film, with overwrought special effects and blood, blood, blood. The dread you feel is based on primal terror. Kentis’ editing is sublime. He builds fear like a master.

There’s a moment in Open Water when Susan and Daniel start to argue about who is at fault for their predicament. The dialogue is so real, that for a moment you forget they might be shark food. They are two married people having it out. Both Blanchard Ryan as Susan and Daniel Travis as Daniel are utterly believable in their roles.

Open Water is unerringly gripping. It feels real. And it’s smart. No dumbing down here. But perhaps even better, everything about this movie is dangerous.

Now on to The Door In The Floor. The movie is based on a novel by John Irving entitled A Widow For One Year. The film doesn’t burrow deeply into Irving’s satirically comic sensibilities, so what we see onscreen really doesn’t fully capture the notion that this is a comic novel. Of course, the rule is to review the movie, not the source material; therefore, the good news for audiences is that this is a first-rate film.

At first hearing, the subject matter doesn’t seem like fodder for laughter, even if it’s the knowing intellectual kind. Screenwriter-director Tod Williams captures, with less humor than the book, Irving’s compelling story of parents still recovering from the death of their two sons’ in an automobile accident five years before. The father, Ted Cole (a magnificent Jeff Bridges), is a children’s book writer and illustrator. He’s a pompous ass, a drunk, and an unrepentant womanizer. The mother, Marion (an outstanding Kim Basinger), has been reduced in the wake of her beloved sons’ deaths to being little more than a zonked out robotic form, a mother and wife in name only. She can barely be a parent to the four-year-old daughter she and Ted produced in a mistaken effort to replace the lost sons and help assuage their trauma.

The Door in The Floor takes place in Long Island’s tony Hamptons and confines itself to one doomed summer, during which Marion and Ted agree to a trial separation. A 16-year-old hopeful future writer named Eddie (a promising young actor named Jon Foster) arrives to work as Ted’s assistant. It quickly becomes clear to Eddie that Ted requires little more from him than driving the author to his next sexual conquest, which frees up a lot of time for Eddie to do things interns generally don’t do (unless it’s the presidential kind, I guess). The kid masturbates sniffing Mrs. Cole’s underwear.

Needless to say, he gets caught by the missus. There’s no retribution, but instead the older woman finds some joy in establishing a sexual relationship with the lad. The sex and the togetherness (not necessarily the same thing) are treated by writer-director Williams in a nonjudgmental way. Williams – whose first film was the very accomplished, semi-autobiographical, and little seen The Adventures of Sebastian Cole – has a real flair for visual and verbal punches. His ear for dialogue is pitch perfect. This is a movie about people who don’t often communicate, but when they do communicate, it’s with subtle jabs.

The film The Door in the Floor also doesn’t drip too much venom on the Hamptons the way Irving does in his novel. It concentrates on the people, but these are characters that hold your interest throughout. Williams has chosen to soften the blows, but his cast is so good, you occasionally want to see them break loose. In his way, Bridges understands what’s going on better than do the other cast members and sometimes better than Williams. He ratchets up the energy and you’re grateful for it, but overall this is still a fascinating exercise in marital disintegration. You feel the pain and anger of lives adrift.

As in Magnolia, Cruise has overthrown the good guy youth thing in Collateral, which is one of the best adult crime dramas to pop up this summer movie season. Director Michael Mann delivers a totally believable study in villainy as Cruise, playing a hit-man, stalks the gritty, noirish nighttime streets of Los Angeles, a cityscape that was made for this kind of film. He’s on assignment to kill a group of people connected to a federal investigation. Cruise hires a cab for the evening, at $600, and takes the driver, a very good Jamie Foxx, on the ride of his life. The movie focuses on the interplay between Cruise and Foxx and it works on both a thriller level and on an ethical level. It’s Cruise’s best acting performance and proves that it’s time for him to grow up. Does he really need to be TOM CRUISE, when he can be a better actor in character parts that are well written and superbly directed? I don’t think so. Collateral should be seen for a number of reasons.

Another should-see is Garden State, an intelligent and wonderfully unconventional movie about coming to terms with who you are and why you’re that way. Screenwriter-director Zach Braff also plays the primary male lead in this little independent film that delighted the folks at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The joke in Hollywood is that most actors really want to direct. Braff wanted to direct, fell into acting (he’s one of the ensemble players on the television series Scrubs), and now proves he really can direct.

Braff plays Andrew Largeman (a.k.a. Large) who’s been knocking around Los Angeles doing bit parts in movies. He suffers from multiple neuroses. He’s got the prescription drugs to prove it, and angst should be his middle name. After his emotionally distant father lets him know that his mother has died, Andrew returns to his New Jersey hometown for the funeral and ends up in a series of amusing odysseys and get-togethers with friends and rediscovers his reason for being. Occasionally, the movie meanders and some story threads go nowhere, but the film has terrific performances from Braff, Peter Sarsgaard as his stoner friend, and Natalie Portman as the ethereal (albeit available) girl of Andrew’s dreams. Garden State is sweet and honest and quirky.

Less successful is Valentin, an Argentinean movie about a precocious little boy who roams around 1960s Buenos Aires as if he owns the place. The kid’s name is Valentin and his family is fractured. His grandmother (Carmen Maura from Pedro Almodovar’s films) is raising him, but the child’s goal is to help the adults in his life, one of whom is his absent father, find romance. As a matchmaker, Valentin is both solemn and spunky, and he learns an important lesson, adulthood is a tough world. This is a movie about human nature that never quite understands that sometimes it’s good when children are seen and not heard. Valentin even narrates the film, but the narration isn’t very interesting and the dialogue never quite propels the story. This is more a character study than anything else. Screenwriter-director Alejandro Agresti seems to be retelling tales from his own life (he even plays Valentin’s father), but it’s not a very interesting life.

Markedly unsuccessful is Little Black Book, yet another Hollywood bubblehead comedy about a young woman who wants to work in television and does. There’s a very flat attempt at satire, as in Network, and when she goofs around with a guy’s PDA filled with data about his sexual conquests, the movie tumbles into a romantic comedy manhole, from which no one can climb out. The film’s only asset is its acting. The cast, which includes Kathy Bates, Holly Hunter, Ron Livingston, and Stephen Tobolowsky, is good, but the movie’s real joy comes from the panache of Brittany Murphy as the dreaming TV wannabe. Murphy has comedic star power. She’s comparable to those feisty screwball dames from the 1930s: Jean Harlow and Myrna Loy and Jean Arthur. I hope Murphy finds better scripts because audiences deserve to see her in better comedies. She’s a treasure.

Good Lord. I thought, “Is everyone in Arkansas related to the Blythes and the Clintons? Hard to believe that our ex-president can trace his lineage all the way back to the Irish kings and probably with a more accurate genealogy might be distantly related to Jesus.

“Elvis” leaves out nothing except his bowel movements as he relates his childhood memories of growing up poor and on the other side of the tracks. We learn early that his puberty was normal and the only time he suffered from concupiscence (horniness) was when he was under stress. Ah! To lead a stress-free life absolved from the rigors required of cold showers and morning doses of saltpeter. If only my own brothers had been as blessed as Clinton.

I nodded off several times through the first 200 pages, my head drooping occasionally to the open page and then rousing myself to read on until I finally reached the photo layout stuck between pages 282 to 283. Unfortunately, the photo pages do not count as reading material, and one must plunge ahead to page 602, where a determined reader is greeted with another seven pages of viewer delights. Try as I might, I could not continue this marathon read and could only digest several pages every few days. At one point, my eyes closed, and, when I awoke, I discovered that I had hit the meaty part.

The name Monica Lewinsky caught my eye, and I avidly read through the drool-stained pages. When I sleep, I sometimes sleep with my mouth open, unknowingly drooling. So I wiped the spit with a paper towel and, to my delight, found that it had only leaked through three pages and not one was blue. Kenneth Starr wouldn’t be able to accuse me of anything other than drooling copious amounts of saliva.

Reading about the Republican assault on the presidency from Clinton’s perspective is enlightening. I am afraid that Clinton is much too charitable to the pin-headed moralistic and self-righteous Kenneth Starr and company. He also gives former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich a bye in not explaining how Newt and the boys were attempting to dismantle our government and force a parliamentary form of government on the yokels outside the corridors of power.

From my perspective, the “Contract for America” failed because the smell of Clinton blood took precedence over the hard Republican swing to the right, causing the Republicans to lose sight of their agenda. Clinton observes that “Gingrich had proved to be a better politician than I was. He understood that he could nationalize a midterm election with the contract, with incessant attacks on the Democrats, and with the argument that all the conflicts and bitter partisanship in Washington the Republicans had generated must be the Democrats fault since we (the Democrats) controlled both Congress and the White House. …The nationalization of midterm elections was Newt Gingrich’s major contribution to modern electioneering.”

Kenneth Starr, meanwhile, continued his persecution of the Whitewater red herring and spending millions in taxpayer dollars until he unearthed a splotch of genetic material that a trip to the cleaners could have eradicated. Starr rallied his posse of rabid Republicans and, among the antipathy of a citizenry more in tune with Clinton than America’s new moralists, spent millions more on a failed impeachment. Hooray for sin! Forgiven but never forgotten.

Yes! It took most of the summer to finish reading this holy chronicle and, upon completion, I can affirmatively state that the next few months leading to our presidential election will allow us another look into the Machiavellian world of politics; but, after all, it is the only real soap opera available to our hard-pressed media.

The amazing thing about Clinton is that he rose as high as he did in an America that has often looked toward an aristocracy for guidance and assurance. Clinton proved to the American electorate that a good intelligent politician evincing a firm grasp of situational ethics and rising from the grassroots has a charisma unknown in the world of the country club set. Three hundred pages fewer of family life, relatives, friends, and love would have made it a more interesting, read but what the hell. We all love cornpone.

Chasing a Retail Fad With Gov’t $

Still, proponents of Bass Pro argue that the sheer scope of the Bass Pro/Aud project puts it above any competition. That, of course, is ridiculous, as is the notion that people will drive down in droves from southern Ontario to the Bass Pro in Buffalo when the company is already operating an outlet in suburban Toronto.

The superstore concept that Bass Pro presented is novel, but untested over time. Will it be as attractive to consumers ten years down the road? Probably not.

Also on the same front page of Business First was an article about how Republican Congressman Jack Quinn has vowed that the Bass Pro project will be his top priority in his final months in office. Don’t look now, but the editors of Business First might just be on to something.

Until very recently, industrial development agencies were forbidden from investing in retail operations. Retail jobs generally pay low wages and are unnecessary for government to support because retailers typically respond to demand. The question is how big is the market for outdoor gear and should government be in the business of stimulating competition in this market sector.

Intermodal Casino Pork

This critical question is not being asked and that doesn’t make any sense, unless you look at whom the project will benefit. As we’ve reported earlier, Bass Pro is also involved in a superstore/casino/resort in Las Vegas. It’s not hard to imagine the Bass Pro megalith in the Aud doubling as a downtown casino. How this project is eligible for federal monies under the heading of “intermodal transportation” is a credit to Jack Quinn’s creativity in carving out sculptures of spam from the Washington pork barrel. Too bad, Tony twiddled his thumbs while the $100 million in transportation funds that Quinn lined up dwindled down to the current figure of $34 million.

South towns Casino May Create Cattaraugus County Tax Shelter

The Seneca Gaming Compact acted as a springboard for a casino in the Southtowns, located near Salamanca. Of course, businesses built on Seneca tribal territory in the vicinity of this new casino would be exempt from New York State taxes. The creation of this tax-free zone, which includes the upscale resort area of Ellicottville, is being used as a rationale for a massive overhaul of the Cattaraugus County Industrial Development Agency.

If passed, the new CCIDA will become a tax break trough of unprecedented proportions.

Who Loses?

According to an article in The Buffalo News on a new proposal being considered by the Cattaraugus Industrial Development Agency, “...municipalities and school districts will have to wait 15 years to receive full property tax revenues from new manufacturing, commercial, and tourist-related developments.”

The logic is simple: since the Salamanca casino will create all sorts of “tax free” spin-off businesses for the Seneca Tribal Council kingpins, the rest of Cattaraugas County business (or at least the politically connected ventures) deserve the same sort of “tax relief.”

Who Wins

This could all turn out to be big help for Casino Buffalo Cheerleader Carl Paladino, who now wants to build a new hotel in Ellicottville. By sheer coincidence, Paladino has lobbied the CCIDA to go through with the proposed changes.

If this latest “tax avoidance” mechanism is allowed to stand in Cattaraugus County, think of the sort of tax breaks could be generated by the creation of a casino in Erie County.

Joel Rose, co-chair of Citizens Against Gaming in Erie County, commented in an e-mail on the Cattaraugus deal: “If you're a small player, and the competition opens up across the street with tax-free sales, you take your lumps. But if you're a big player, one who finances many a political campaign, you just get the local taxpayers to chip in and cover you, while you go right on promoting the policies which lead to this mess in the first place. The sheer gall takes my breath away.” Buffalo is a community with a lot of problems. It suffers from an eroding tax base, the gross mismanagement of the Masiello administration, and a business culture that is dominated by a risk-averse banker with little or no clue about how to promote sustainable job growth in the region.

The litany of problems does not, by any means, end there. Another idiosyncrasy of our decadent political culture is the tendency to artificially stimulate competition through government handouts to businesses operating in struggling sectors of the economy. We’ve documented this many times in the past. Conservatives and liberals can agree that this sort of profligacy is out of control, and yet it continues to occur in Simpson-esque proportions.

The latest mega-project that The Buffalo News and others are promoting is the conversion of Memorial Auditorium into a Bass Pro Shop. The final price tag is not yet available but, when all public subsidies are combined, it would not be unrealistic to expect the grand total to be in excess of 100 million dollars.

And speaking about fish, well, something smells pretty fishy in Albany. Could that smelly fish wrapped in old newspapers be nothing other than the long-overdue state budget? Apparently, yes. As of August 13, the New York State Legislature finally approved the budget and has sent it on to the governor for his signature. He has already promised to veto portions of it.

So, what about the records? Well, for one thing, this year’s budget is the latest that any budget has been approved in the history of New York State. Not only that, this year marks the twentieth year in a row that New York State's budget has not been approved on time. According to State Senator Byron Brown (D-Buffalo), this year's budget has also set a national record in tardiness. Corina Eckl, fiscal affairs director for the National Conference of State Legislatures, confirmed New York State's status as a record breaker. "In any given year, you will have a handful of states miss their budget deadlines, but not perpetually year after year like New York."

Some people, such as Brown, fail to be impressed by the propensity that New York State has for breaking records. People who are not fans of perpetual late budgets see it as a bad joke played on the citizens of the state, not as a potential Olympic event, with the state’s fearless leaders standing on top of the medals stand, waiting for the gold to be draped around their necks. No, They see the bad joke as having started on April Fools Day, the deadline for the budget, when no budget was forthcoming. And now, you can add an element of bad luck to the trick. Instead of budget approval occurring on April Fools Day, it’s occurring very suspiciously on or around

Friday the thirteenth of August. Brown was so unimpressed with the late budget that he organized a rally, held on August 5 in front of the Mahoney State Office Building, to protest the process that New York State uses to generate a budget. That process, he said, is the "most dysfunctional in the nation."

Generating a state budget months late is not an Olympic event. But, if it were, what kind of sport would it be? According to Brown, it's a team sport, but most of the team isn't on the field. Three players, Speaker of the Assembly Sheldon Silver, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, and Governor George Pataki, square off for the contest to make the budget. Their senator and assemblymember teammates sit on the bench, as much an audience as their irritated constituents to a frequently contentious match that has gone into overtime months ago. Apparently the role of bench warmer is not satisfactory to Brown. "Three men in a room does not work for New Yorkers. We must reform this process. We should not tolerate anything less... I am frustrated and embarrassed to be a part of a body that doesn't understand the impact that this (the late budget) has on people's lives."

Some of the people who feel the strongest impact on their lives are the state’s schoolchildren, said Buffalo Board of Education President Florence Johnson. The budget delays cost the Buffalo School District and other poorer upstate districts a "golden opportunity for long-range planning… budget cuts invade the classroom and dash the hopes and dreams of children.”

The record breaker also has an effect on not-for-profit organizations, with programs that depend on government grants for support. Brenda McDuffie of the Buffalo Urban League said, "The (late budget) causes great harm to a community that is already frail. We can't do it (run a program to assist young people having difficulty in school) when we have others who do not act responsibly."

Recently, Brown introduced legislation (S. 7665A) that would require state legislators to meet for at least three hours per day, including weekends and holidays, until a budget is passed. The governor would also be required to stay in Albany if the budget is not adopted by the April 1 deadline.

One of the signs held aloft at the August 5 rally was a wanted sign, depicting "Deadbeat Governor Pataki."

One can only imagine what sort of company would sign up politicians who break records for tardy budgets for lucrative product endorsements, much like they sign up Olympic gold medallists.

Menu:

Appetizers/Salads: Gumbo Lobster Sushi Roll Maui Roll * Goat Cheese and Soba Noodle Salad

Entrees: Pacific Seafood Cassoulet # Grilled Tenderloin with Raspberry Port Sauce

Dessert: * Table Side (interactive) Smores Roasted Banana and Rosemary Cheese Cake

Libations: Pinot Grigio, Mezzacorona, Italy

*- Pinot Noir, Robert Mondavi * - Best of Category # - Best of Show

The beaches are one of America’s favorite vacation destinations. Tens of thousands of New Yorkers go to the beach every summer to enjoy the sun, sand, and surf. Providing local jobs and generating millions of dollars to the local economy, coastal tourism is threatened by pollution that puts public health at risk. Sewage spills and urban runoff continue to contaminate many of our beaches with disease-causing bacteria and other pathogens. High bacteria levels, indicating the presence of human or animal waste, prompted 88 percent of the national closures and advisories in 2003.

“It is unfortunate that in the 21st century we still have to wonder if we will get sick from swimming in the water. Nationwide approximately 45% of our waters are still not clean enough to support basic uses such as fishing or swimming, that is unacceptable,” stated Adrienne Esposito, CCE Executive Director, “New York needs to take steps to stop untreated sewage and control storm water run-off from contaminating into our waters.”

The two leading causes for beach closures in New York State are untreated sewage released into the water, which leads to high bacteria levels, and non-point source pollution, like storm water run-off. When rainwater runs off parking lots, highways, and rooftops it collects pollutants such as pesticides, motor oil, gasoline, and pet waste that contaminates our streams, lakes, rivers, estuaries and oceans.

Thirty-six percent of all New York’s beach closures were a result of untreated sewage contaminating our waters. Specifically a problem for Erie County, which had 115 beach closures, mostly related to high bacteria levels. Monroe County recorded 32 beach closures, also due mostly to high bacteria levels. Sewage contamination was responsible for the majority of the 52 beach closures in Chautauqua County.

The report offers several reasons why New York closures jumped so drastically from 2002. First, there was an increase in the frequency and the number of beaches monitored in 2003 than in 2002. Second, due to inadequate back-up generators for sewage treatment plants, the August 2003 blackout caused many sewage treatment plants to release untreated sewage into our waterways, particularly impacting the New York City region. Finally, although the beach closures and public health advisories are increasing nationwide, the current administration is weakening water quality regulations and programs instead of strengthening them.

The current administration began working to undermine Clean Water Act protections for beach water the first day it took office and continues to issue new policies that undermine Clean Water Act programs that help keep beach water clean and safe for swimming. The administration also has declined to protect many wetlands and other waters that filter beach water sources, rolled back treatment requirements for sewage, allowed contaminated storm water from new development to pollute rivers, slashed federal funding for clean water programs, and delayed and derailed state efforts to clean up polluted waterways.

“With the Administration weakening water quality protection, CCE is calling on the New York State Legislature to protect our magnificent coastal beaches and local waterways, by enacting the Wetlands Protection Act (S4480/A07905),” said CCE program coordinator Brian Smith. Currently, thirty-three percent of beach closures in NYS are caused by storm water run-off. “Wetlands help to filter out pollutants found in storm water run-off, which results in less pollution going into our lakes, streams, estuaries, and oceans and leads to cleaner, safer, and open beaches for all New Yorkers,” Smith concluded.


(For the complete report, go to http://www.nrdc.org/water/oceans/ttw/titinx.asp.)

Citizens Campaign for the Environment is an 80,000 member, not-for-profit, non-partisan advocacy organization working for the protection of public health and the natural environment.
Checking In To Club Fed

Martha, when you move into Club Fed for your five-month stay, there are a few things that you should know. First, give the Bureau of Prisons enough time to plan your adventure. If you don't, you might serve your sentence in either a county jail or a federal detention center. I know from first-hand experience that county jails are bad entertainment. You'll feel bored and claustrophobic in a jail cells (cage), but you'll be spared the terror associated with being trapped in a stuck elevator or Camp Delta in Guantanamo.

Even in Danbury, you could find yourself sitting in a little cage. Some inmates, such as yours truly, start our sentences in the "Special Housing Unit," otherwise known as the SHU (pronounced "shoe") or "seg." I don't know how special you have to be to go to a "special housing unit." Apparently, I was very special because I went to the SHU twice during my three-month tenure at Danbury.

In the SHU, your fashion statement is bright orange, while anywhere else in the prison, you wear khaki. You spend 23 hours in a little cage and one hour in an outdoor pen. It's highly unlikely, however, that you'll spend much, if any, time there because media folks and paparazzi would swarm the prison gates if they found out that you had been consigned to the hole.

The Prison Camp on the Hill

Most likely, you will go to the minimum-security camp, up the hill from the medium-security federal correctional institution. Unlike the fenced-in FCI, the camp is open, though run down. It tends to leak during rain storms, causing a buildup of mold and mildew.

When you first arrive at the camp, your official "job title" will be "A & O" (Admissions and Orientation). You will be given work assignments that are matched to your talents, such as cleaning kitchen drains or sweeping sidewalks with a little broom.

Get a Job but Beware the Wildlife!

Once you're declared medically fit to work, you'll be assigned a job. You will work for seven hours per day for twelve cents an hour. Going to work is not optional, as I found out when I was sent to the SHU for refusing to work (see the article "Protest in Prison" in the June 10-24 Alt Press).

Work can be entertaining. Some of my companions on the ground maintenance crew reported being frightened by the sudden appearance of a deer. Every time they related the story, the deer grew in size and aggressiveness. Eventually, the enormous deer was described as "charging at people."

Keep in mind that all of your supervisors and, indeed nearly all of the prison staff, are also "correctional officers (COs)." They will have other titles, such as teacher, foreman, secretary, psychologist, or correctional counselor. They wear large and noisy sets of keys around their waists. Sometimes they'll try to assert their authority by stating the obvious: "You are an inmate!" or "You are in prison!" Try to resist the urge to say, "Thank you for sharing." Occasionally, staff members throw temper tantrums, which can be scary if they are wielding weed whackers. The re-enactments of these scenes also become embellished over time.

Your new boudoir

The place that you will call your bedroom will be a room with several bunk beds and lockers. Because you're over 50, you will sleep on a bottom bunk. My bed was a top bunk that faced a window and allowed me a stunning view of the sun rising over the hills.

When your roommates first meet you, they will ask many questions. My roommates wanted to know about my protest and if I planned to protest again. I was more than happy to tell them why I felt that the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation should be closed and investigated. Most of my friends had been convicted of drug-related offenses or of the vague charge called "conspiracy." Some of your new friends may even be called "kingpins." One of them is called "Sister." Yes, the government puts nuns in prison. Sister Ardeth Platte will be in Danbury until December 2005 for participating in a "plowshares action" at a nuclear missile silo in Colorado.

Of Needles, Hooks, and Books... Hobbies in Prison

In my room, we enjoyed reading and crocheting. People can mail paperback books to you. Craft supplies and sewing kits can be purchased from the commissary. It's possible to alter your clothing with your sewing kit but that's against the rules, so, um, don't get caught. Some inmates have more unusual hobbies. It was suspected that convicted Watergate crook G. Gordon Liddy wiretapped the warden's telephone during his "non-work" hours when he resided in the Danbury FCI in the 1970s.

What's for Dinner???

Don't expect much variety in your diet. You'll get a lot of (cluck, cluck) chicken: baked, fried, sauced, and turned into salad. Also, you'll eat eggs, eggs, and more eggs. Oh, and take a look at the words written on those little sugar packets. It seems that we got the stuff that the government confiscates when it seizes restaurants and other businesses. It must be a cost-cutting measure. On holidays, you get special food and cookouts.

The Goon Squad

Getting charged with a violation (referred to as an incident report or "shot") is a big production. A lieutenant, summoned from the FCI, calls to the CO's office and questions you. If the lieutenant feels it necessary or if the complaining party insists, you could be delivered to the SHU. Other times, you may be required to perform extra duty, such as garbage removal or goose poop cleanup.

Lieutenants are the goon squad. They are the ones who will bring drug-sniffing dogs into the camp or who will search for drugs in bathrooms and flowerbeds.

Laundry Police, Egg Confiscation, and Count

The COs have the task of counting the inmates, handing out the mail, enforcing the prohibition against visiting in other people's rooms, searching lockers for contraband, and babysitting the inmates' laundry and TV rooms. They also perform room inspections and can be quite diligent about checking for dust in the most unlikely of places. Sometimes, they say the funniest things. When a CO confiscated boiled eggs from one woman's locker, he asked, "Where's the chicken that laid those eggs?"

CO-wanna-bees probably go to training school picturing themselves as heroes in dramatic battles with unrepentant, violent felons. Furthest from their mind is the image of themselves being deputized as the "laundry police," constantly reminding people to remove clothing from the dryer or to put the iron back where it belongs.

What they do mostly, though, is to count inmates, day and night. They are not especially good at counting. If the count is off, the COs go into panic mode and fetch lieutenants from the FCI. Inmates are "government property," and the government doesn't like to misplace any of its property.

Walking in Circles

I remember seeing a movie quite some time ago called "The Confession." Set in Czechoslovakia in the late 1960s, it was about the victim of ruthless interrogation by the secret police, who apparently saw the value of cardiovascular exercise and talk therapy. The man was ordered, "Walk! Confess to your crimes!"

In Danbury, you can walk or jog in circles around the track. Confessing to crimes while exercising is optional. You can play softball, bocce ball, or volleyball or take yoga classes... or you can sunbathe. If you are caught wearing an improvised "bikini" or "tank top," you will be ordered to change into "something more appropriate," and your fashion statement will be confiscated.

Checking Out of Cub Fed

Home confinement will be fun for you. Oh, and I've been told that, no, those monitoring devices don't short circuit in the shower. You may even set a fashion trend with your new ankle bracelet. And that register number that the U.S. Marshals assigned to you is yours forever.

The Pentagon spin masters have been desperate to contain this mess. Finding willing scapegoats has not been easy. The Army pushed out the highest- ranking officer that they cared to railroad, Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, to take the fall, but she has been reluctant to fall on her commission and save George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld any embarrassment. She has been talking to anyone who will listen. She even has claimed that Israeli intelligence agents were operating inside the walls of the now sinister (and still operating) Abu Ghraib facility, assisting their American counterparts in the gentle art of persuasion. The general will not go quietly into the good night as the chief Torquemada in this disgusting Iraqi Inquisition. But the worst is yet to come.

Just three months ago, veteran investigative reporter Seymour Hersh broke the Abu Ghraib story in the pages of the New Yorker. The now notorious photos of detainees being forced naked onto human pyramids, leashed like dogs, and forced into various humiliating poses have been circulated across the globe. I doubt that there is a man, woman, or child from the Gobi desert to Tierra Del Fuego who hasn’t seen these pictures and felt nauseous in a dozens of different languages.

Army Sergeant Jeremy Sivits, the man responsible for the Rush Limbaugh-proclaimed "letting off of steam" offense of manufacturing a monkey pile of Iraqis, has been sentenced to one year in the slammer and was booted out of the army for that crime.

The military is court-martialing and punishing individual soldiers. The damage done to U.S. image abroad is wide, and will take years to fix, if repair is possible. The German television magazine, "Report Mainz, "has reported charges from the International Red Cross that the United States is holding 107 children in U.S.-administered detention centers, including Abu Ghraib. Red Cross representative Florian Westphal states that, “Between January and May of this year (2004), we’ve registered 107 children, during 19 visits in six different locations.”

The Red Cross report reveals testimony of the abuse of these children. U.S. Army Sergeant Samuel Provance told of one incident involving a 16 year old being soaked with water and smeared with cold mud and then returned to his prisoner father. One eye- witness, who was assigned to Abu Ghraib, told of interrogating officers getting their hands on a 15- to 16-year-old girl. She had been stripped half naked before some military police not under the spell of military intelligence stepped in and stopped it. U.S. News and World Report has revealed some 106 annexes to the Red Cross report. The files show prisoner riots; escapes, perhaps with help from Iraqi guards; shootings; corruption; rampant sexual misconduct; beatings; insect-infected food; and daily mortar attacks from nearby Iraqi insurgents. Last May, coalition intelligence officers estimated that between 70 to 90 percent of the Iraqi detainees were arrested "by mistake."

But Hersh, speaking at an ACLU meeting in San Francisco, broke another story that dwarfs these last examples. He says that he has seen videotapes of American occupation soldiers sodomizing Iraqi boys. Hersh also claims that the Bush administration is holding onto the evidence tapes, refusing to release them. But stories have been released, concerning classified screenings of these tapes to U.S. Senators and Members of the House of Representatives. These Members of Congress have been quoted as saying that the scenes on the evidence tapes are horrific indeed.

Hersh says of the rapes:” The boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling, and the worse part is the soundtracks, of the boys shrieking. And this is your government at war.”

Al-Jazeera has also reported that the Bush administration has the tapes. Hersh went on to claim that there has been “…a massive amount of criminal wrongdoing that was covered up at the highest command out there, and higher.”

As disturbing as this story is, the worst part is trying to imagine who in the United States Army would do such an act of barbarity. I served on active duty, and I know that, to the average G.I., these acts are inconceivable. We would have shot out of hand anyone we caught committing such an act.

At the ACLU speech, Hersh elaborated further: “…a series of massive crimes, criminal activity by the president and vice-president, by this administration anyway…”

This is not the first time that Hersh has uncovered evidence of serious wrongdoing. He broke the story of the Mi Lai massacre back in the sixties, and has investigated the CIA/Howard Hughes connection. During the Watergate scandal, he was a reporter for The New York Times. His reputation and credibility are beyond reproach. Hersh wouldn’t reveal something as shocking as this most-recent story without solid evidence.

As we go to press, “Report Mainz” is quoting Army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Barry Johnson that the U.S. military is now imprisoning 58 Iraqis from the ages of 14 to 17. Johnson added that the children are held in Abu Ghraib and “Camp Bucca” for an average of six months.

Arkansas Indymedia has published a report in which a spokesman for the Department of Defense, Lieutenant Colonel Joe Yoswa, confirmed that the U.S. military is holding 58 juveniles. He denies, however, that any are female. But Iraqi television reporter Suhaib Badr-Addin Al-Baz told the German paper Der Spiegel that he had seen “hundreds of children,” and he has confirmed there were young girls imprisoned. “She was beaten…I heard her call: ‘they have undressed me. They have poured water over me.'”

The report also conforms that children are routinely taken into custody during sweeps made by U.S. patrols. “Whole families” are arrested in the middle of the night. These families are taken before a “committee” that decides to release and who to detain. The highest-ranking member of this committee is a colonel.

The official reason being for detaining these kids is for “anti-occupation activities.” Details were not released.

(other sources for this story include UPI, USA Today, Big News Network, and the rawstory)

If only Kerry’s fictional former Swift Boat crew members could be located and persuaded to appear at the convention and tell stories of Lt. Kerry’s courage and devotion to duty. If only they would describe his leadership skills and fire. If only there was a story of Kerry saving a fellow soldier’s life!!

If only retired career military officers could be found to relate more stories of courage under fire, stories of sound judgment, and patriotism. If only they could be found to endorse Kerry’s nomination. If only there were a former member of the joint chiefs of staff who would stand up on the stage and endorse Kerry’s courage.

War hero status would play so well in the entire country. There is no one anywhere in the country who can criticize or otherwise find fault with courage under fire, devotion to duty, saving a fellow countryman, volunteering for combat, public service, and all the rest of it. Not even the most far left-leaning peace freak would refuse to board the John Kerry Swift Boat patrol.

Matter-of-fact war hero status would overwhelm the lefty fringe of the Democratic party, denying it any wedge to embarrass the convention. The infamous Chicago convention of 1968 would not be allowed to rear its ugly head. No small radical band of brothers to foul up the well-ordered convention script.

If only combat footage from actual swift boat patrols on the Mekong River and canals could be shown to the conventioneers and the folks looking on at home. One picture would be worth a thousand votes. Even the most right-wing, war-mongering, liberal-hating. beer-guzzling Bambi killer would have to hand it to Lt. Kerry. Unlike George W., not only did he talk the talk, he walked the walk. George's defense might come down to the fact that the Viet Cong never attacked Selma, Alabama, or wherever he was, while he was on duty.

An authentic war hero would put the macho back into a Democratic Party famous for limp-wristed hang wringing, whining, and crying. This Democratic presidential candidate has wasted gooks. George W. Bush has wasted nothing but time at best and buckets of American blood at worst.

Even better: locate another living Vietnam hero who had been horribly wounded in the war, wheel him out, and have him introduce the nominee. Not a dry eye in the house. And, of course, this fictional story would be over reported, exposed, analyzed, written about, and commented on by the thousands of print reporters, radio and television correspondents, and talking heads. Columnists would have a field day.

Even though 95 percent of the membership of the Democratic Party is against the war in Iraq and want U.S. troops removed immediately, Kerry’s war hero status will allow the platform committee to blow off an anti-war plank. Kerry knows that any seeming appeasement on his part will give his Republican opponents a weakness to exploit, thus driving the dwindling group of undecided voters into the Republican camp. Kerry knows that the Republicans have got Mr. and Mrs. average American family scared to death. Seeming to negotiate with terrorism would be the political kiss of death.

Ralph Nader, on the other hand, is not a war hero. He is a member of the lefty left green party whiners who don’t like red-blooded American cars and other Detroit-Iron deathmobiles. Even Ralph’s friends in the Republican Party who are getting him on the ballot in the swing voter states know that a Kerry War hero campaign will render Ralph’s anti-American activism obsolete. That precious and ever-dwindling supply of undecided voters will not fly to Ralph. Nor will those left-wing Democratic voters seething with Bush hatred.

This fictional story of war heroes would force Kerry’s former primary candidate rivals for the nomination to drop their left-wing agendas for the duration of the campaign and to be on board the Swift Boat with everybody else.

War hero status would put all of the power and influence into John Kerry’s hands. Bill and Hillary Clinton would be squeezed out. A Kerry win will destroy Hillary’s presidential ambitions. A Kerry loss will be blamed on the subversive activities engineered by Bill and Hillary to keep Hillary’s presidential ambitions alive for 2008. The 2008 primary then will become a political bloodbath as the party splits back into its old schisms, leaving a power void that the Clintons can rush to fill. A Massachusetts liberal, flip-flopping eastern intellectual war hero future commander-in-chief could campaign in downtown Crawford, Texas, with nothing to fear. He’s killed commies for Christ, just like their hero and professional non-soldier-soldier, JOHN WAYNE.

Terrorists around the globe would be put on notice that, even though the man from Crawford is gone, there is indeed a new sheriff in town, a sheriff who will not hesitate to put more notches on the presidential M-16. Alas for the Democrats... if only it were true.

When Bobo met Satan

You can always make fun of your own group, which is why I never miss an opportunity to lay the verbal smack down on men, Polacks, dorks, atheists, crackers, breeders, writers, jugglers, guys with beards, guys who use hair gel, sufferers of recurrent corneal erosion, people raised Catholic, and people with pet rats.

As an American, I also have a God-given right to make fun of English people. This right accrues to all Americans, whether we believe in an omnipotent deity or the tiny leprechaun that tells Ralph Wiggum to burn things. So I’m pleased to quote a Hindu saying that I found in The Dictionary of International Slurs. We can thank some creative Hindu person for thinking of it and Abraham A. Robackis for translating and collecting it.

Here it is: A demon took a monkey to wife—the result, by the grace of God, was the English.

Maybe I’m just looking ahead to the hot monkey love portion of this column, but the idea of a demon and a monkey getting Biblical makes me somewhat giddy. It also makes me wonder if I can find pictures of this unholy yet romantic union on the Internet… Best of all, this expression need not be limited to the motherfuckers of the mother country. Like all folk expressions, it can and should be altered to fit the occasion. For example:

A demon took a monkey to wife—the result, by the grace of God, was your face. A demon took a monkey to wife—the result, by the grace of God, was Terre Haute, Indiana. A demon took a monkey to wife—the result, by the grace of God, was Mark Peters. Burning ape-like romance

When given a choice between making whoopee, sinking the sausage, and doing the horizontal polka, I’d just as soon bury the ice pick... in my forehead. But if I had to choose between making love and making hot monkey love… I’d vote with my banana for the latter.

Thanks to Google, I now know that there are even more possibilities open to the romantically inclined. Depending on your mood, you could make red-hot monkey love, hot throbbing monkey love, or butt-naked hot monkey love. If hot sweet monkey love sounds a little too Sarah McLaughlin for you, then there’s always hot sweaty monkey sex.

If, like me, you’ve been settling for human love, self-love, and sheep love, these new possibilities feel like going from cave paintings to hi-def TV. And I’m even more impressed by these non-human versions: hot robot monkey sex and alien monkey love. Likewise, I’m sure that your mother will be impressed if, instead of closing your letters with a vanilla “All my love, Gwendolyn,” you close with style, using an expression your evolutionary predecessors would be proud of: All my hot buttered monkey love, Gwendolyn.

Fill-in-the-blank monkey

In addition to comparisons, such as He’s hunched over like a monkey fucking a football and proverbs, such as If you shave a monkey, she looks just like a human, monkey is often used like a suffix to describe just about anyone. Virtually any word can be grafted onto monkey to make humorous compliments, such as stud monkey, harmless insults, such as mogul monkey, and genuinely offensive insults, such as sand monkey and porch monkey.

Some of the most creative monkeys of this type have been spotted on television shows. Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Xander Harris—after performing a love spell that went awry—feared becoming the cuddle monkey of every woman in town. In another episode, after playing the mystically controlled, bug-eating, syphilis-having fool one too many times, Xander swore he was done being everyone’s butt monkey. The Simpsons’ writers have used monkey in this way even more often. In various episodes, Moe calls a supermarket bag boy a sack monkey, Sideshow Bob calls a bellboy a brainless luggage monkey, Homer gets a job as a prank monkey, Krusty the Clown describes children as channel-hoppin’, Ritalin-poppin’ monkeys, and Groundskeeper Willie refers to the French as cheese-eatin’ surrender monkeys.

Any versions of X + monkey you’d like to share? Monkeys of all species are encouraged to write in with their research and improvisations for use in a future column.

The show will feature more than 20 artists, who specialize in a wide variety of media, including sculpture; oil, acrylic, and watercolor paintings; multimedia instillations; and photography. The exhibit title, “Project Underground Above,” highlights the presence of the creators that local media does not cover. The exhibit will become a permanent installation in city hall. In addition, the group is opening a new store at 611 Elmwood Avenue.

“These artists are the true roots and underground of Buffalo,” Brown said. “Most of these artists are not shown at (major galleries). They are ignored, but (they are) some of the best artists in Buffalo.”

Also to be featured at the Buffalo City Hall art opening will be some of the 50 local bands that the group works. These bands will also release a CD at New World Record. Some of the bands featured on the compilation will include Stemm, The Fracture, Fallout Shelter, Ad Hoc Theory, and more.

Amsterdam will host an after party at 8 p.m. for the public to come and enjoy the various antiques, art, and vintage clothing. The site is the former home of MIX.

Brown and Devlin founded A.R.M. on the eve of September 11, 2001. They said that they felt that “the world had become completely archaic, taking the artists away from their paints, musicians away from their songs, and writers away from their words.” A.R.M. wants to help Buffalo become ranked No. 1 in art destinations and to have, not just the United States, but the world pay attention.

The unique idea for the site on top of city hall actually came from Devlin, when she noticing the proposed closing of the Buffalo Animal Shelter, since one of the dogs that she and Brown own is a stray. They called City Hall and invited a few common council members to the various shows the group has had at Nietzsche’s and other venues to raise money for local organizations. Devlin said that the members were impressed with all of the artists and performances, noting that this is what the city needed. The members said for A.R.M. to check out the City Hall space. “Common Council President David Franczyk and his two legislative advisors, Michael Kuzma and Bob Sienkiewicz, really helped us out,” Brown said.

Brown had previously moved to New York City to work with Buffalo bands in Manhattan and make a film. He was doing fine, so why did he come back?

Brown chuckled and said that it was a weird story. One Thursday, he woke up in Manhattan, called a cab, went to JFK and was in Buffalo by noon. Just to go. That night he met his wife, and so the story goes.

He said that he hopes Buffalo as an artist’s destination will just be “meant to be.”

“I believe since moving back to Buffalo, what will save this city is music and art,” Brown said. “Tuesday will be insane, in a good way.”

As for Porter himself, he lived a smashingly enviable cosmopolitan life – Paris, London, New York City, and Los Angeles were his ports of call, and the sparkling and wonderfully honest new movie De-Lovely pays tribute to his world. The film, directed by Hollywood veteran Irwin Winkler and written by former Time magazine movie critic Jay Cocks, explores both Porter’s creative process as well as his private life. The movie doesn’t hesitate to examine the composer’s bisexuality, although in reality, Porter’s life was dominated by his gay side. As seen in the movie, his enjoyable pool parties were guy-oriented. The film has a PG-13 rating for sexual content, but truth-be-told; the straight sex is very chaste. I suspect the bedroom kiss between Porter and a sexy, shirtless, blond male ballet dancer concerned the ratings board. There is actually nothing in this movie that would offend anyone with a functioning brain, unless someone finds reality and its depiction offensive. Here’s what Porter himself said about his sexual identity: “I wanted every kind of love that was available, but I could never find them in the same person, or the same sex.”

The popular Porter moved effortlessly between a variety of worlds: straight and Gay, Art Deco Europe and robust America, well-dressed Broadway and money-machine Hollywood, show biz delis and high society dinners. He had a lifelong love affair with his wife, as well as lifelong love affairs without his wife. He thrived wherever he settled, enjoying a lifestyle that would have overwhelmed other men, and which was, in fact, illegal in some of the places that he lived. He was born in 1891 in Peru, Indiana. His father was a pharmacist and his grandfather was a true coal and timber baron. Porter’s family had money. The movie has a couple of weaknesses, one of which is that it doesn’t detail enough of Porter’s genesis as a composer. He actually began composing when he was ten years old. And it seems that writing music was a breeze for him. We want to know why. In 1937, at the height of his fame, he was riding at the home of a Countess in Locust Valley, New York when he fell off the horse. The animal also toppled and crushed both of the composer’s legs. Over the years, Porter endured dozens of operations and massive pain. Through it all, he wrote his magical songs. He thrived and survived. Before he died in 1964, he had written some of the most fabled and popular Broadway shows every crafted. De-Lovely exists as both a musical and a biography, and brings to the screen a worldly sophistication that is rare in today’s era of crass pop culture. Compare it, for example, to Night And Day, the 1946 biographical picture that stars Cary Grant as a very heterosexual Porter. De-Lovely not only accepts Porter’s duality, but also bases the movie on it. His clever and witty lyrics take on a delicious ambiguity once you realize they are not necessarily written about love with a woman.

Although married, in what most people would call a very modern marriage, it would seem, based on what happens in De-Lovely, that on many evenings Porter was free to do as he pleased. Yet, his wife, Linda Lee Porter, was obviously the love and solace of his life. For her part, she accepted him as he was. One night in Paris, they put their cards on the table. “You know then, that I have other interests,” he says. Linda replies, “Like men.” Porter replies, “Yes, men.” His wife’s response: “You like them more than I do. Nothing is cruel if it fulfills your promise.” Dialogue like this is rarely heard in American movies. There is a certain wistful nature to the couple’s relationship. The key for the filmmakers, especially when Linda is no longer enamored of the “lifestyle” but still loves her husband, is to make certain that the woman does not come across as one more bitter fag hag. To everyone’s credit, especially Ashley Judd’s, who superbly plays Mrs. Porter, she doesn’t.

As for the actor playing Porter, well, Kevin Kline is nothing less than terrific. In addition to his acting talents, Kline plays the piano, which allows for a lot of convincing time at the keyboard. The movie opens with an elderly Porter and a producer (Jonathan Pryce) watching a memory-filled rehearsal for a musical based on the composer’s life. Through flashbacks we take a tour of Porter’s world. Cole and Linda met in Paris at that time in the 1920s when expatriate Americans were creating a new kind of lifestyle. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald were there, too, and Ernest Hemingway, and the movie features as the Porters’ best friends the famous American exile couple Sara and Gerald Murphy, who are the model for Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night.

Having been born into money, Porter made a lot more and knew how to spend it, whether it was on parties in Venice, high-toned travel, or fabulous gifts. Linda’s sense of style matched her husband’s perfectly. The movie is a canvas of sleek style and glamorous fashions. The couple always looked freshly pressed, always seemed at ease, always had the last sophisticated word, even if beneath the surface there was a lot of drinking and a series of compromises. The cigarette smoking that would kill Linda was at first an expression of freedom, but at the end seems like a defense mechanism. The movie details how, before every show, Linda would give Cole a bejeweled cigarette case, something that symbolized the production and becomes an iconographic moment in their lives.

The film’s flashback structure allows the weakened Porter to revisit the joyful days of his life. De-Lovely is filled with Porter’s magnificent songs, and many of them are sung by contemporary singing stars, a smart device that blends in well with events on screen. We see and hear Natalie Cole, Robbie Williams, Diana Krall, Elvis Costello, Alanis Morissette, and Sheryl Crow take on Porter tunes. I thought Crow’s interpretation of “Begin The Beguine” was off-base, but you might consider that a quibble. The movie contains much more music than most musicals, but it is not a concert film because the songs illuminate the material. Watching the film, we are reminded how exhilarating the classic American songbook is. De-Lovely isn’t raw or edgy like the movie version of Chicago, but it’s as good. I hope moviegoers embrace it. In addition to the outstanding songs, the film is forthright in how it examines the relationship between Cole and Linda. Some might proclaim that they never found a completely, passionate, satisfying romance, but they would be wrong, proving they don’t understand the dynamics of the human condition and the myriad possibilities of complicated friendships.

De-Lovely does it right and delivers an emotional wallop. It gets into your head and under your skin. And with all of that glorious music, it should also dance into your heart.

As a public housing ‘expert’ I was recruited by UB planner Bob Shibley in 1993 to assist in writing your housing platform promising public housing reform. But BMHA Executive Sharon West has now leveraged an incredible ‘protective order’ for her in-house criminal Flynn, granted by her friend City Court Judge Ogden demanded by felony prosecutor McHale last summer, into a total ban of my entering BMHA offices at 300 Perry, whether or not Flynn is present. I was jailed in handcuffs by BMHA Security (& charged with contempt of court by McHale when released on $5000 bail 31 hours later) for talking to TV reporters about the importance of their reporting the scandal at BMHA-owned Marine Drive Apartments at a press conference called by US Attorney Battle in March on the 300 Perry parking lot.

Ogden denied altering the protective order from “stay 100 feet away from Flynn” (who I had not been close to in two years) to “stay away from BMHA property”, then recused herself from my case & disappeared. After repeated requests to Judges Ogden & Amodeo, Police Commissioner Diina & other top law enforcement officials to investigate the altered document, there is finally admission that Ogden’s clerk, after she denied it on the record in court, penciled-in the change resulting in my “felony arrest” (a transparent goal of DA Clark, who has relentlessly prosecuted my watchdog activities, when he assigned a “felony prosecutor” last summer to a case dismissed by Judge Murphy in September 2001, but appealed by Clark 8 months later, in May 2002).

I hold you heavily responsible for this travesty. Despite Flynn’s conviction for criminal tampering in 1994 by City Court Judge Hugh Scott (& ADA Lisa Rodwin), after terrorizing Kader Realty & calling Niagara Mohawk impersonating Kader to have office electricity shut off, you appointed him to two city positions. When I exposed Flynn’s new crime you did nothing, instead re-appointing a housing criminal to the BMHA Board, as the DA relentlessly prosecuted me for exposing Flynn’s crimes. Now a jury of Buffalo residents will squander their civic duty to watch an unscrupled prosecutor try to silence me in blatant perversion of DA Frank Clark’s mandate to prosecute public corruption & white collar crime.

Apparently that is of no concern to you, again proving validity of Buffalo’s “Worst Governed City” ranking when “Governing Journal” studied 35 cities in February 2000. Two weeks ago you told me you would speak to one of my attorneys to learn more about this latest unjust prosecution on behalf of your corrupt appointee.

If you have any concern about a city government which uses politically-appointed Criminal & sociopath to force me to leave Buffalo for my own safety, while urgently need reform of dramatically failed housing policy is unaddressed, you could still keep that promise & speak to Michael Kuzma, Esq. And, perhaps, urge Clark & Franczyk to end this travesty.

Urgently, Richard Kern, MSW; Housing Advocate

I’m not going to state too much about The Village, because like me, you deserve to see this movie cold, so don’t read too much about it – you needn’t ever worry that I’ll give away any ending points of any movie. I think The Village works well as a cautionary tale about community paranoia, and it also provides a few creep-out moments that will keep you on edge. In the very late 1890s, a group of people have gathered in rural Pennsylvania to participate in a form of communal living, not unlike Elbert Hubbard and his Roycrofters in our own bucolic East Aurora. Strange goings-on unnerve the villagers and after a nasty knifing, one of their own is sent to the far-off town to gather medicine to help the fellow whose been stabbed. The chosen one is a young blind woman. The movie offers chaste romance, and she is smitten with him. The film ending suspense arises from whether or not she will succeed in her quest.

The Village offers breathtakingly beautiful cinematography from Roger Deakins, as well as a simple tale told with stark dialogue. To a person, the acting is magnificent. The cast includes Sigourney Weaver, William Hurt, Cherry Jones, Adrien Brody, Joaquin Phoenix, Celia Weston, Michael Pitt, and as the blind girl, Bryce Dallas Howard, daughter of director Ron. The Village unreels like a short story by Edgar Allan Poe, and it offers simple pleasures that grow every time you think about it.

The Manchurian Candidate is the stand-alone remake of the classic 1962 political thriller from director John Frankenheimer. All of the essential characters are back, albeit with different nuances, but the new film, directed by Jonathan Demme as if he knows he’s tampering with art, just doesn’t deliver the suspense and power of the first movie. Everything’s too reverential; too cautious. In the early version, brainwashing was a shocking tool to control American politics, and North Koreans were the villains. In the well-made but mechanical update, a microchip is implanted in the unsuspecting victims in order for a global corporation to dominate American politics. It’s all so boring and familiar. Instead of the Korean War, we’re wallowing in the Gulf War period. There’s still an assassination plot, a touch of romance, paranoid adversaries, and one of the most delicious female villains ever tossed onto a movie screen. Angela Lansbury was the power-mad mother in the original, but the always top-notch Meryl Streep matches her in venom and intensity. As for Denzel Washington’s military officer who smells a rat, …well, Mr. Washington doesn’t really breathe much fire into the part. He isn’t flippant enough or anti-establishment enough. He sort of bumbles into clues. Frank Sinatra on the other hand (in the first Manchurian Candidate) was edgy and sarcastic. You believed his dread. Liev Schreiber as the possible vice-president and potential assassin is no Laurence Harvey, and that’s a bad thing.

The Bourne Supremacy is cinematic proof that Hollywood may never run out of ideas for car chases and car crashes. Forget Robert Ludlum’s novel; the movie is nothing like it. This frenetic sequel to The Bourne Identity brings back Matt Damon as spy Jason Bourne (a.k.a. David Webb) who has amnesia and is on the run, but really just wants to be left alone. The film is one long demolition derby. Damon is called upon to do little more than shift gears. Joan Allen is the new CIA project boss who just wants him caught. She’s tough-as-nails, but after a while, with the endless jump cuts and constantly circling camera movements, you just want it all to end. The movie has few moments that last longer than a few seconds. The film’s only asset is the chance to see Moscow and Berlin as you’ve never seen them. Other than that, there’s no supremacy here.

Before Sunset is writer-director Richard Linklater’s sequel to his free-form 1995 romance Before Sunrise in which Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke talked and talked and talked and said nothing. Promising to meet nine years later, they do in this new film, and talk and talk and talk and still say nothing. Set in Paris, which looks delightful, the story is badly in need of dramatic tension. Movies like this are only as good as what’s being said. From my vantage point, not much is being said. Ms. Delpy has blossomed and brings a bit of substance to the film. Mr. Hawke hasn’t blossomed at all; in fact, he looks cadaverous and unhealthy.

I, Robot and Catwoman are two misfires that prove too many special effects slow down the tempo of a film, even an action movie. In both features, everything looks fake. Too many blue-screen FX moments. Neither film is strongly connected to its source material. In fact, I, Robot is only “suggested” by Isaac Asimov’s book. It has something to do with a cop in the future who thinks robots are killing people. Will Smith looks lost as the cop. Catwoman, with Halle Berry looking like a sado-masochistic leather fetish stripper as the title character, has none of the fun or fantasy of its Batman sire.

Napoleon Dynamite is a pathetic waste-of-time, a goofy failed comedy about an unattractive teenage nerd in Idaho. If you want to see an unattractive teenage nerd, just go watch that weird computer guy who was called Mr. Potato Head in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

What?

Many in the international art community were quick to condemn the severity of the U.S. government's investigation, especially since Kurtz was the person who notified authorities and allowed Homeland Security forces into his home, following his wife's death, caused by an enlarged heart.

Why?

At a protest held in Buffalo's McKinley Square, many were of the opinion that Kurtz was being singled out for punishment because of the Critical Art Ensemble's political writings. His right to create art employing a medium of non-lethal, biologically manipulated material, was, after all, the right of all artists to create an art that reflects upon the society and culture of the artist.

The Anti-Author's “Real Deal”

After reading the Electronic Civil Disobedience manifesto, one can see how some of the political ideas of these critical theorists/artists could be called “unpopular," but is this group so radical as to merit a smack down from the powers that be? Is Professor Kurtz being prosecuted to send a message to his friends on the left?

Well, the answers to these questions seem to be a qualified yes and yes. They are qualified because it remains unclear whether anyone in law enforcement has read the manifesto carefully enough to realize that the ivory tower radical chic of CAE does not represent a clear and present danger to society. Yes, Kurtz is being singled out because the notion of “fair use” of genetic code scares the daylights out of everybody.

In attempting to confront the “fear factor” surrounding genetic modification through performance art, Kurtz and his group have accomplished their goal of provoking a response. From here on out, everything is part of “the nomadic work,” including any jail time Kurtz may receive as a result. The attack on the bunkers of power appear to have claimed their first casualty, a human individual named Kurtz. And that's the Anti-Author's “Real Deal.” Physical Space Still Exists And Can Be Used Electronic Civil Disobedience was published in 1996, and it has a quaint, “the internet can change everything” optimism. As such, the politics of place belongs firmly in the dustbin of history, alongside the concept of the author, of course. So while we aren't told who authored a particular essay, such as “Resisting the Bunker,” we might not need to know.

The author of the essay, "ECD” (or the anti-author, as the case may be) states that physical civil disobedience cannot disrupt power because power has become fluid and no longer resides in physical, monumental structure. So according to this theory, the protest in support of Kurtz in Buffalo was utterly useless.

Radical Chic Vs. Hacker Culture

The author goes on to formulate a strategy for cells of resistance comprised of six individuals with a hacker at the center creating benign virus code that would disrupt corporations, but not individuals. It also called for revolutionary indoctrination of the hacker community to satisfy that unscratchable itch for ideological purity which tends to afflict the collective hindquarters of many of our esteemed colleagues on the left.

While admitting that hacker culture is distinct and far removed from the struggles of the old new left, the author seems unwilling to allow history to simply run do its job with these new young Hegelians. As we now know in hindsight, the political philosophy of hacker culture has yet to be distilled, although it seems to be developing a vaguely libertarian flavor as represented by groups such as Slashdot and EFF. The real troublemakers on the horizon are guns for hire, particularly in places such as Russia. More Jesse James than Che Guevara.

Prescribing computer hacker cultural theory reminds me of Michael Calleri's rule for directors contemplating long, focused computer monitor shots on film: Don't do it! Why? Because maybe Windows 3.1 isn't quite as sexy in 2004 as it seemed in 1994. Maybe Mr. Director is clueless about computers and superimposes a lot of images on the hacker's monitor that make no sense. The violation of Calleri's computer rule may be the author of ECD's greatest offense.

So the notion of ECD has fatal flaws. The six-man cell strategy that was basically appropriated from Che seems to be working in Iraq, however.

Attention Slackers: “Obey!”

Other essays in the book have happily stood the test of time, however. One essay titled “Slacker Luddites” may have been an inspiration for the movie “Office Space.” It captures the X-gen, slacker/hacker ambivalence toward both careerism and political engagement. In spite of the reactionary agenda of the George W. Bush administration, much of that ambivalence remains under a tranquil narcissistic surface.

Young people seem much more prepared to engage in “electronic civil obedience” (i.e. loyalty to Microsoft, first person shoot 'em ups, reality TV, bogus unscientific TV polling, etc.) than in highly risky and illegal hacking “actions” that will somehow harm only corporate powers. This essay seemed to be the most prescient in this regard.

Resistance Is “Useless”

Another essay, “The Technology of Uselessness,” contemplates nuclear weapons, among other useless things, and argues that the weapons' real usefulness rested in their uselessness. To use them would be to end life on Earth as we know it, so the only way they could be useful is if they were useless.

A similar argument might be made about the Department of Homeland Security. If terrorists do not strike American soil, they must be doing their job and probably deserve more money, but if terrorists do strike, then the department needs to spend more money so that mistakes won't be repeated. Either way, one could argue that the Department of Homeland Security exists to spend more money.

The Political Utility of Useless Violence

Continuing that logic, one could argue that the country is safer with troops stationed in the Persian Gulf because they are easier targets for terrorists than are civilians in the United States. So if the goal is to make the country safer, then our troops should be used as decoys for terrorists.

Using troops as decoys for extended periods of time is not a novel concept. It implies, however, that in the current environment, they are of no use unless they are deployed. As time goes by, they may be unable to quell the lawlessness that passes for resistance to U.S. occupation. Either way, their main utility seems to lies in uselessness.

The Return of the Mythic Hero of the American Heartland: George W. Bush The return of this country to the philosophy of the domestic security state may be an overreaction to the events of Sept.11, 2001, or it may represent a return to a natural state of affairs following a period of civil unrest, uncontrolled inflationary pressures, and Democratic Party hegemony at the end of the twentieth century.

The sense of entitlement, assurance, and messianic purpose with which George W. Bush is approaching a second term was not foreseen in the critical theory of the CAE. The inventors of that theory seem to have underestimated the power of “late capital” to create and project the illusion of a mythic hero.

Repression and anti-intellectualism, omnipresent in the background of these Critical Art Ensemble essays, have moved to the foreground in the current political environment. From “nomadic art tactics” to borrowing a book from your local library, people engaging in politically charged actions must be prepared for the consequences, as irrational as they might be. Critical theory presupposes certain academic rules and etiquette, but as they say, math yields to brute force.

Behold the American Colossus with one foot in Iraq and the other in Afghanistan as it pisses all over your flaccid French philosophic constructs.

What?

Many in the international art community were quick to condemn the severity of the U.S. government's investigation, especially since Kurtz was the person who notified authorities and allowed Homeland Security forces into his home, following his wife's death, caused by an enlarged heart.

Why?

At a protest held in Buffalo's McKinley Square, many were of the opinion that Kurtz was being singled out for punishment because of the Critical Art Ensemble's political writings. His right to create art employing a medium of non-lethal, biologically manipulated material, was, after all, the right of all artists to create an art that reflects upon the society and culture of the artist.

The Anti-Author's “Real Deal”

After reading the Electronic Civil Disobedience manifesto, one can see how some of the political ideas of these critical theorists/artists could be called “unpopular," but is this group so radical as to merit a smack down from the powers that be? Is Professor Kurtz being prosecuted to send a message to his friends on the left?

Well, the answers to these questions seem to be a qualified yes and yes. They are qualified because it remains unclear whether anyone in law enforcement has read the manifesto carefully enough to realize that the ivory tower radical chic of CAE does not represent a clear and present danger to society. Yes, Kurtz is being singled out because the notion of “fair use” of genetic code scares the daylights out of everybody.

In attempting to confront the “fear factor” surrounding genetic modification through performance art, Kurtz and his group have accomplished their goal of provoking a response. From here on out, everything is part of “the nomadic work,” including any jail time Kurtz may receive as a result. The attack on the bunkers of power appear to have claimed their first casualty, a human individual named Kurtz. And that's the Anti-Author's “Real Deal.”

Physical Space Still Exists And Can Be Used Electronic Civil Disobedience was published in 1996, and it has a quaint, “the internet can change everything” optimism. As such, the politics of place belongs firmly in the dustbin of history, alongside the concept of the author, of course. So while we aren't told who authored a particular essay, such as “Resisting the Bunker,” we might not need to know.

The author of the essay, "ECD” (or the anti-author, as the case may be) states that physical civil disobedience cannot disrupt power because power has become fluid and no longer resides in physical, monumental structure. So according to this theory, the protest in support of Kurtz in Buffalo was utterly useless.

Radical Chic Vs. Hacker Culture

The author goes on to formulate a strategy for cells of resistance comprised of six individuals with a hacker at the center creating benign virus code that would disrupt corporations, but not individuals. It also called for revolutionary indoctrination of the hacker community to satisfy that unscratchable itch for ideological purity which tends to afflict the collective hindquarters of many of our esteemed colleagues on the left.

While admitting that hacker culture is distinct and far removed from the struggles of the old new left, the author seems unwilling to allow history to simply run do its job with these new young Hegelians. As we now know in hindsight, the political philosophy of hacker culture has yet to be distilled, although it seems to be developing a vaguely libertarian flavor as represented by groups such as Slashdot and EFF. The real troublemakers on the horizon are guns for hire, particularly in places such as Russia. More Jesse James than Che Guevara.

Prescribing computer hacker cultural theory reminds me of Michael Calleri's rule for directors contemplating long, focused computer monitor shots on film: Don't do it! Why? Because maybe Windows 3.1 isn't quite as sexy in 2004 as it seemed in 1994. Maybe Mr. Director is clueless about computers and superimposes a lot of images on the hacker's monitor that make no sense. The violation of Calleri's computer rule may be the author of ECD's greatest offense.

So the notion of ECD has fatal flaws. The six-man cell strategy that was basically appropriated from Che seems to be working in Iraq, however.

Attention Slackers: “Obey!”

Other essays in the book have happily stood the test of time, however. One essay titled “Slacker Luddites” may have been an inspiration for the movie “Office Space.” It captures the X-gen, slacker/hacker ambivalence toward both careerism and political engagement. In spite of the reactionary agenda of the George W. Bush administration, much of that ambivalence remains under a tranquil narcissistic surface.

Young people seem much more prepared to engage in “electronic civil obedience” (i.e. loyalty to Microsoft, first person shoot 'em ups, reality TV, bogus unscientific TV polling, etc.) than in highly risky and illegal hacking “actions” that will somehow harm only corporate powers. This essay seemed to be the most prescient in this regard.

Resistance Is “Useless”

Another essay, “The Technology of Uselessness,” contemplates nuclear weapons, among other useless things, and argues that the weapons' real usefulness rested in their uselessness. To use them would be to end life on Earth as we know it, so the only way they could be useful is if they were useless.

A similar argument might be made about the Department of Homeland Security. If terrorists do not strike American soil, they must be doing their job and probably deserve more money, but if terrorists do strike, then the department needs to spend more money so that mistakes won't be repeated. Either way, one could argue that the Department of Homeland Security exists to spend more money.

The Political Utility of Useless Violence Continuing that logic, one could argue that the country is safer with troops stationed in the Persian Gulf because they are easier targets for terrorists than are civilians in the United States. So if the goal is to make the country safer, then our troops should be used as decoys for terrorists.

Using troops as decoys for extended periods of time is not a novel concept. It implies, however, that in the current environment, they are of no use unless they are deployed. As time goes by, they may be unable to quell the lawlessness that passes for resistance to U.S. occupation. Either way, their main utility seems to lies in uselessness.

The Return of the Mythic Hero of the American Heartland: George W. Bush The return of this country to the philosophy of the domestic security state may be an overreaction to the events of Sept.11, 2001, or it may represent a return to a natural state of affairs following a period of civil unrest, uncontrolled inflationary pressures, and Democratic Party hegemony at the end of the twentieth century.

The sense of entitlement, assurance, and messianic purpose with which George W. Bush is approaching a second term was not foreseen in the critical theory of the CAE. The inventors of that theory seem to have underestimated the power of “late capital” to create and project the illusion of a mythic hero. Repression and anti-intellectualism, omnipresent in the background of these Critical Art Ensemble essays, have moved to the foreground in the current political environment. From “nomadic art tactics” to borrowing a book from your local library, people engaging in politically charged actions must be prepared for the consequences, as irrational as they might be. Critical theory presupposes certain academic rules and etiquette, but as they say, math yields to brute force.

Behold the American Colossus with one foot in Iraq and the other in Afghanistan as it pisses all over your flaccid French philosophic constructs.

Joseph Morales last worked on September 17, 1999, at a Niagara Falls company. He left work with three herniated discs, occupational lung disease, and autoimmune complications. As he fights debilitating disease and pain, he also fights his former employer and an insurance company. And, as Mary Jeffords said, “You never win that fight.”

Morales, his wife, and five children now live on one-third to one-fourth his previous earnings and no benefits.

In 1995, a twenty-eight year old woman, working on a second job, fell as she was carrying a tray of glassware. The fall damaged discs in her back and injured her neck and her knees. She is still fighting to recover, and she is still fighting an insurance company. And as Mary Jeffords said, “You never win that fight.”

Welcome to the hell that is the New York State Workers Compensation System.

Origins of Workers’ Compensation

New York State established its first “workmen’s” compensation system in 1914. Prior to then, when a worker was injured on the job, the only recourse was to sue in courts. The courts routinely ruled that the employer bore no responsibility for a worker’s injury or death. Most infamously, Isaac Harris and Max Blanck, owners of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company, were acquitted of all charges in the 1911 fire that killed 146 in a lower Manhattan tenement factory.

The rationale was often that workers accepted the responsibility for their own safety. If workers felt the job to be unsafe, they could protest or find other employment. Continuing on the job meant acceptance of all of the hazards and, therefore, all of the responsibility.

In 1914, New York State established the Workers’ Compensation Board. According to the board’s website, “The workers' compensation system guarantees workers injured on the job both medical care and weekly cash benefits, usually until they return to work. Returning injured workers to employment without risking their health or welfare is the main goal of the system.”

As we shall see, that is a lie. The system fails those who need it the most – injured workers – and profits those who victimize injured workers – insurance companies and the so-called independent medical examiners.

Profiting from Pain

The one group that does not profit from the workers’ compensation system are the injured workers. The maximum weekly rate, which has not changed since it was set in 1992, is $400. In 1992, the payment represented 66 percent of New York’s average weekly wage, and in 2004, it represents only 44 percent. The weekly minimum rate is $40 or 4.4 percent of the average weekly pay rate for New Yorkers.

A mere three percent of all injured workers on workers’ compensation receive the maximum. According to Denis Hughes, president of the New York State AFL-CIO, “many receive as little as one-sixth of their weekly wage, up to maximum of only $150. So that means that, one week, you could be making $900 a week. Get hurt on the job. And the next week, make $150.”

Some make a profit from the system through fraud. In 2002, the NYS Workers’ Compensation Board recovered $4.6 million in fraud. The board’s budget is roughly $167.6 million. The Business Council of New York asserts that workers compensation costs a little more than three percent of payroll, which would put the insurance premiums in the billions of dollars.

Fraud thus represents a very small fraction of the overall cost of the system. According to the insurance research firm Conning and Company, claimant fraud in 1999 was 1.9 percent of the total premiums paid, or about $480 million.

So who profits? The National Association of Insurance Commissioners estimated that the profit margins of various types of insurance and workers’ compensation carriers proved very profitable indeed. The average profit margin for homeowners insurance was a paltry 5.4 percent, and for auto insurance, it was slightly better at 5.5 percent.

For workers' compensation carriers, however, the profit margin soared to 14.3 percent. The Business Council of New York premiums could soar by 29 percent this year.

How so? The 29 percent increase is based on a recommendation made by the Compensation Insurance Ratings Board. The rating board is a nongovernmental agency assigned the power to recommend premium levels.

By no strange coincidence, the following companies have representatives on the rating board: Employers Insurance Fund of Wausau – A Mutual Company, Firemen’s Fund Insurance Company, Greater New York Mutual Insurance Company, Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company, Royal Indemnity Company, Utica Mutual Insurance Company and the State Insurance Fund. Members of the board essentially recommended a premium increase for themselves.

California employers, on the other hand, received a seven percent cuts in their worker compensation premiums this year. According to the San Jose Mercury News, the California State Insurance Commissioner said that rates could be cut another 5.9 percent. Nothing like this occurred in New York.

The Role of “Professionals”

The insurance company lawyers and claim examiners, of course, do their employers' bidding throughout the process of determining disability under the law. This process can go on for years.

An “Independent” Medical Examination (IME) is an examination that insurance companies can demand after injured workers have been examined by their own physician. It is designed to be a check on the process. The most important check, however, is the one written to the physicians. It comes from the insurance company and typically ranges from $1,000 to $1,500 for each examination.

Insurance companies shop for favorable physicians to conduct IMEs, which injured workers are required to attend. Failure to keep an appointment can be cause for loss of benefits. Jeffords claims that Liberty Mutual Insurance gave her an incorrect address. Jeffords had also been sent to a psychiatrist who had lost his license for “conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude, having false medical credentials, and Medicaid and Medicare fraud.” She has also been required to attend 31 other IMEs.

Another injured worker claimed that his entire examination was the photocopying of his driver’s license.

In addition to the skills as photocopyists, physicians conducting IMEs must also be skilled fiction writers. In 1996, Liberty Mutual argued that Jeffords was only moderately disabled. She requested a copy of the report and ended up receiving two copies. The reports were identical, except for the conclusion on page seven of each. In one report, her disability was labeled "total," and, in the other report, her disability was labeled "moderate.” The physician said that he had adjusted his opinion after a review of his notes.

After an IME, the insurance company can unilaterally reduce benefits according to the physician's report. This reduction does not require a hearing or prior notice. An injured worker can appeal such a reduction at his or her own expense. It can take between six weeks and six months to conduct a hearing and, win or lose, the worker must bear the cost.

The cost by itself can cause workers to accept the reduction, and insurance company claims examiners use that to their advantage. Liberty Mutual reduced Jeffords' home health care assistance and informed her that, if she appealed, the company would further reduce her benefits.

For Jeffords, this could become just one more battle in a seventeen-year contest of judgments and appeals.

Proposed Reforms

The Business Council of New York has high praise indeed for a bill introduced into the New York State Senate by Thomas Libous (R-Binghamton) and Assemblymember Robin Shimminger (D-Kenmore). In fact, the Business Council calls the bill “common-sense reforms supported by New York’s business community.”

The bill does have many remarkable features. The first is the re-definition of the word permanent. The Oxford English Dictionary defines permanent as “continuing or designed to continue indefinitely without change; abiding, lasting, enduring; persistent.”

Under the Libous-Shimminger bill, permanent in New York State would last nine years and seven months, the new maximum length of time a worker could receive compensation for a “permanent” disability.

Rather than a re-definition, the Libous-Shimminger bill portends a major medical breakthrough. The New York State AFL-CIO asks if, perhaps, this isn’t a portent of the future: regeneration of severed limbs or the reconstitution of severely or permanently damaged nerve tissue. Or is this merely throwing injured workers on to the scrap heap?

The bill would further reduce benefits payments by subtracting pension benefits that an injured worker may be receiving and by reducing benefits by 50 cents for each Social Security Disability payment received.

Senator Guy Velella (R-Bronx) and Assemblymember Susan John (D-Monroe) submitted a second reform package. This bill proposes to increase the maximum benefits over the next three years to two-thirds of the average New York weekly wage. The amount would then be adjusted automatically.

The law would also grant workers the right to file personal injury lawsuits, a right that workers forgo in many instances when they file for workers compensation. This right would be limited to cases in which the injury or illness resulted from a serious or willful violation of the law.

To reduce the considerable financial advantage held by insurance companies and employers in the appeals process, the Workers’ Compensation Board could assess attorney fees against an insurer or employer loses an appeal.

This could have saved Jeffords a significant amount of money. She suffered eight separate injuries and Liberty Mutual appealed the determination of the severity of each injury a minimum of three times. Jeffords had to pay for legal representation for each hearing.

The union would be granted the right to protect their members’ interests by exercising a veto over the employer's choice of a workers' compensation insurance company. The union could use a company of its choosing.

In cases where the insurance company unilaterally suspends payment and medical coverage, workers would continue to receive medical treatment until the case is settled.

Finally, for workers who make substantially more than the average weekly wage, insurance companies would offer "earner protection" policies. Such policies would increase compensation payments to higher earning workers to two-thirds of their wage.

The New York State Legislature adjourned last month without acting on either bill. The legislature may act when it reconvenes later this month or in early August.