"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.

But the battle didn't happen. There was neither gnashing of teeth nor raised voices. Instead, BFSA President Thomas Baker denied stories that the BFSA was targeting the police contract, saying, "We are not going to pick on unions." And Police Benevolent Association President Robert Meegan expressed confidence that officers would receive their back pay, retroactive to July 1, 2002, in three payments as promised in the new contract.

But the media, which had promised fireworks, instead created them. Members of the media appeared to be fed up with the BFSA, which had left the Central Library's auditorium to go into an hour-long executive session. Baker had advised the audience that the delay would be somewhat longer than the first executive session at the beginning of the meeting, which had lasted just minutes. Veteran television reporters, including Rich Kellman of WGR-TV and Rich Newberg of WIVB-TV, were left to speculate on what was happening at that mysterious executive session. They did not, however, choose to investigate the library's offerings. Being the owner of both a press pass and a library card, I soon possessed a book of Russian fairy tales. During the lull in action, I was well-entertained by tales of tsars, wolves, and the witch, Baba Yaga, as well as by the antics of the bored media folk.

BFSA members returned from the executive session and quickly adjourned the meeting. The moment that the media had been awaiting was at hand. The reporters were ready for a skirmish, but as participants, not as an audience. Armed with cameras, microphones, and notebooks, the media chased BFSA members, shouting questions. This was going to be fun. I put the book in my bag and prepared myself to watch a media circus. Both Giambra and Masiello were disinclined to say anything substantive, and they left, one at a time.

Baker was next. He was quickly surrounded by a swarm of reporters, who fired questions at him with a great jumble of sound and fury. They demanded to know what happened during the executive session. All that he would say was, "We met with our lawyers." He then stated, "Our conversations with our lawyers are confidential and privileged." The reporters debated the concept of open meetings with Baker. He repeated several times, "Our conversations with our lawyers are confidential and privileged."

Baker was not willing to discuss individual contracts, such as the police contract or the as-yet-unresolved firefighters' contract. He was willing to talk about what he called "the big picture." "We're going to look at all of the contracts. We're in a difficult position. This is going to be hard stuff. We can't go on spending more than we take in," he said, adding that the city's revenue gap was approximately $25 million for the 2003-2004 fiscal year. He told the reporters about the likelihood of budget cuts and revenue enhancements. He said something about "deferments and suspensions" but did not go into any detail. But, at the same time, he pointed out that 70 percent of the city's budget goes to salaries and fringe benefits.

Meegan didn't offer fireworks to the reporters, either. "We're playing it by ear," he said. "We are fulfilling our obligations," he added, referring to the institution of one-officer patrol cars in the downtown district.

The BFSA never discussed city contracts, except to say that several unions, including firefighters; school engineers; teacher aides; and tradesmen, such as plumbers, bricklayers, and glazers, are now negotiating new contracts.

The BFSA did give Acting City Comptroller Andrew A. SanFilippo the go-ahead to issue a $98 million anticipation bond. SanFilippo explained that, by mid-September, the city will be out of cash. The city, however, is expecting money from sales tax revenues and from state aid, which will pay off the underwriters of the anticipation bond. The BFSA also gave the city the responsibility of turning in a fiscal plan by September 1. Between September 1 and September 15, the board will review the plan and will decide whether to approve or disapprove the plan.

This was the BFSA's first working meeting. The members voted to appoint Dorothy (Dottie) Johnson as executive director, Carl McCall as treasurer, and Richard Tobe as secretary and records access officer. For the benefit of the audience, Baker explained the purpose of the BFSA. "It's to balance the books," with the "goal of giving the city a clean bill of financial health." The BFSA has to make "unpopular decisions," he stated, which caused a murmur in the audience.

In other business, the BFSA approved the expenditure of $618,000 for new police cars. It also discussed obtaining office space and the hiring of additional staff for its operation, including analysts, a financial expert, and an office manager.

Early in September, the BFSA will hold a public forum to get citizens' input on what will happen next. Stay tuned. I can't promise you Baba Yaga, that great witch of Russian folklore, but there is potential for sound and fury that could signify something or perhaps nothing at all.

What we were doing, in reality, was building strong bones. Many of today's kids are being short changed. They sit at home, playing video games. They drink more soda pop than anything else and eat more fast food than real food. Mom and Dad both work, so a family dinner with real vegetables has become a special occasion, instead of the norm.

Today's kids are also being bombarded with the media's "thin is better" mantra, and, as a result, they are always looking for ways to eliminate many foods from their diet. The problem is that they're eliminating the wrong foods.

As children grow up, the size and strength of the bones that their body manufactures is heavily influenced by estrogen production. And I don't mean just females! Men produce testosterone (in very large quantities during the prime bone-forming teen years), which can be converted into estrogen, using a special enzyme called aromatase. As estrogen levels decline, so does the body's ability to build and strengthen bone. As men age and their testosterone levels decrease, so does their estrogen-producing ability. Hence, as men age, and lose bone mass, their risk of osteoporosis increases as dramatically as does a woman's.

Another factor in bone density is exercise. Running, jumping, and playing are all high-impact activities. Regular amounts of impact exercise helps promote bone density. Think of your bones as a box of raisin bran. When you shake the box for a few minutes, all of the raisins settle to the bottom. When you participate in high-impact activities, your bone cells settle to the "bottom" of your bones, causing you to form denser bone mass.

As more and more kids stay indoors and play on the computer and watch television, more of them are developing a weak bone structure that will disassemble more easily as they age. Even young athletes, who you would think are very fit, can have poor bone density. Some sports, such as gymnastics, figure skating, and ballet, prize a tiny, lithe body. These are physically demanding activities, yet have weight requirements that are not natural in the average world. Many young (and not-so-young) people involved in these type of sports will starve themselves or will become bulimic or anorexic, in their desire to be a part of the team.

When a young girl loses too much weight, she can develop amennorrhea (cessation of menstruation). Estrogen is stored in the fat cells; if there is little or no fat, there are lower levels of the necessary estrogen needed to produce a period or to build bone density. Early menopause will also encourage osteoporosis. Even though your child athlete looks healthy, a parent needs to be on guard for this type of predisposition. Persons who carry less weight then normal can also have a weak bone structure, and injuries are a common result.

A person also needs adequate amounts of calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D to build bone density. It’s not hard to get a sufficient supply of calcium and its companions, magnesium and Vitamin D. They occur quite naturally in milk. You can always use skim milk or two percent milk if the fat content is an issue for you. Cheese, yogurt, and ice cream are easy additions to a calcium-starved diet. Even that dish of macaroni and cheese is loaded with calcium. There are even dairy products made with lactose added, in case you're lactose intolerant.

For those who are not fond of dairy products, there are other foods that can supply you with a substantial amount of calcium:

Calcium enriched orange juice contains between 250 and 350 mg. per eight-ounce serving. Cold cereal (fortified) can have up to 250 mg. of calcium per serving. Canned salmon, with bones, has about 300 mg of calcium per 3 oz. serving. Kidney beans have 50 mg. of calcium per cup. Spinach (cooked) has about 100 mg of calcium per cup. Kale (cooked) has about 100 mg. of calcium per cup. Broccoli (cooked) contains about 70 mg. of calcium per serving. Mineral water provides between 30 and 50 mg. of calcium per eight-ounce glass.

Be sure to take your basic high-potency multiple vitamin-mineral supplement with your largest or most nutrient dense meal, for maximum absorption. An additional 500 mg of vitamin C and 400 IU of vitamin E, plus a good calcium magnesium supplement, will round out your supplement program. The amount of calcium and magnesium supplementation you need will vary, depending on the amount of calcium-rich foods consumed during that day. Too much calcium is not good either! Look for calcium in a two-to-one ratio to magnesium for best absorption.

Be strong and stay strong! Eat well and exercise regularly. Take care of your bones! Thinning of the bones can happen to the most healthy-looking people.

The second drink that I tasted was the Fusion Mojito, which consists of Kaya Fusion rum, fresh mint, triple sec, un-refined sugar, 7-Up, and lime wedges. Served in a highball glass, this drink looks like a wild version of ginger ale. What makes it different from the original mojito is the sweetness. Although it still has that refreshing mint flavor, the 7-Up gives it that extra kick, making it all the better. This is the type of drink in which you can hardly taste the alcohol, and it goes down really easy.

Bottom line: Both drinks will make you smile.

(editor's note: The following is an open letter to Darryl McGrath the author of the editorial which can be found at the Buffalo News website)

Dear Ms. McGrath:

“HISTORICALLY CHALLENGED” ---- An appropriately titled, but solipsistic argument that completely fails to address the failure of education both public and private to adequately produce educated citizens for the past, present and future in these United States.

I am not of your generation, and more likely I reside in the generation that your parents inhabit. However, my depression-era memories are not reliable, since I was born in the year that Hitler invaded Poland. While not a great student of mathematics I have been able to deduce that you were born in 1958. Your article mentioned your age as being 45 years. Funny that a young girl would remember those scintillating conversations about "Before and After the War." Do you have it confused with the Vietnam War?

As your gaze searches the bright, shining and anxious faces of your students for some sign of cognition, do you ever wonder how they were ever allowed into college? Have you ever questioned our educational system and its failure to perform its intended function? Have you ever believed that you and your students have been fed one bright shining lie after the other? Have you ever pursued the ability to think critically by introducing yourself to the great philosophers of the past and present?

Stupid people are unable to learn while the ignorant in our midst have the ability to switch on the lamp of knowledge and I would suggest that you reach over and switch on your lamp. Your essay, while well-intended, nets an F from me. You may inform yourself of the failure of our educational system by reading The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto. He is also a contributor to Harper's Magazine and you may read his essay Against School in the September issue.

Your students are the messengers from a bankrupt educational system and do not need to be castigated as dumb or lacking in motivation from an employee of that same bankrupt system. The system that you reported on for The Buffalo News and now represent as a professor at the State University of NY at Albany has also failed you because you are a product of the very same system. It feeds you and provides you with your livelihood. Think about it and reach for the light switch immediately.

Sincerely,

Bill Logal

Dean began his speech by saying, “Thirty percent of people under the age of twenty-five vote, we’re going to do better than that.” As evidence he pointed to his growing success at fund-raising through his internet campaign and stated that, “This election is going to be about one thing: jobs.”

Dean said that the middle class in America is being hurt by the president’s economic policies and focused on Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans by saying, that rather than assist average Americans who are struggling in this economy, “He’d rather give the money to Ken Lay and all those boys in Texas.”

Citing his record of balancing the budget as Governor of Vermont, Dean said that he would focus on balancing the federal budget, if elected. “No Republican has balanced the budget in thirty-four years,” he said drawing cheers from the crowd.

Gov. Dean then outlined what he characterized as several key points about the war in Iraq, “that turned out not to be true,” He cited the Iraqi regime’s alleged attempt to buy uranium, the alleged deal between Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, and the administration’s assertion that it knew where Saddam was keeping weapons of mass destruction, as evidence that the President had misled the American public.

Defending his opposition to the war in Iraq, Dean stated, “I will never send our brothers and sisters and sons and daughters to die in a foreign country without telling the truth.

Dean termed the President’s inability to grant communities the resources to adequately carry out homeland defense a failure. “As they say in Texas when it comes to defense, he’s all hat and no cattle.”

Dean said that he believes that Bush and his policies have damaged this country’s image abroad. “You would be hard put to find many people around the world today who want to be like America.”

Dean then returned to another main plank in his platform, health care. In keeping with America and its standing in the world, he started listing a number of other industrialized countries that all have universal health care, until the cheers from the crowd began to drown him out.

He then outlined a number of progressive initiatives including investment in infrastructure, particularly greater broadband internet access and renewable energy sources.

Bush’s stance against affirmative action in the recent University of Michigan controversy also came under attack by Dean, particularly his use of the racially loaded term of “quotas.” “This President played the race card,” he said, “and for that alone he deserves to be sent back to Crawford, Texas.”

In keeping with the theme of civil rights he pointed out that his passage of civil union legislation for gays, perceived as a liability by conservative critics, has more popular support in the country than many people realize.

Dean also criticized his own party for trying to beat George Bush by being more like him. On the unfunded mandate of No Child Left Behind, he asked, “What in the world are Democrats doing voting for a bill like this?”

“Teachers call it no behind left,” he quipped.

“The biggest loss this country has faced in the last two and a half years is our sense of community,” he stated in describing the Bush Administration’s “Rule by fear.”

“This campaign is about you taking back the power,” he told the crowd, urging them to help him by subscribing as many people as possible to his e-mail list. In a closing reference to the Presidential election of 2000, he said, “this time the person with the most votes will win.”

After his speech, Dean held a brief press conference. That story will be online shortly.

To pull off this grand theft by kilowatt, the NiMo-led consortium fabricated cost and schedule reports, then performed a Harry Potter job on the account books. In 1988, I showed a jury a memo from an executive from one partner, Long Island Lighting, giving a lesson to a NiMo honcho on how to lie to government regulators. The jury ordered LILCO to pay $4.3 billion and, ultimately, put them out of business.

And that's why, if you're in the Northeast, you're reading this by candlelight tonight. Here's what happened. After LILCO was hammered by the law, after government regulators slammed Niagara Mohawk and dozens of other book-cooking, document-doctoring utility companies all over America with fines and penalties totaling in the tens of billions of dollars, the industry leaders got together to swear never to break the regulations again. Their plan was not to follow the rules, but to ELIMINATE the rules. They called it "deregulation."

It was like a committee of bank robbers figuring out how to make safecracking legal. But they dare not launch the scheme in the USA. Rather, in 1990, one devious little bunch of operators out of Texas, Houston Natural Gas, operating under the alias "Enron," talked an over-the-edge free-market fanatic, Britain's Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, into licensing the first completely deregulated power plant in the hemisphere.

And so began an economic disease called "regulatory reform" that spread faster than SARS. Notably, Enron rewarded Thatcher's Energy Minister, one Lord Wakeham, with a bushel of dollar bills for 'consulting' services and a seat on Enron's board of directors. The English experiment proved the viability of Enron's new industrial formula: that the enthusiasm of politicians for deregulation was in direct proportion to the payola provided by power companies.

The power elite first moved on England because they knew Americans wouldn't swallow the deregulation snake oil easily. The USA had gotten used to cheap power available at the flick of switch. This was the legacy of Franklin Roosevelt who, in 1933, caged the man he thought to be the last of the power pirates, Samuel Insull. Wall Street wheeler-dealer Insull creator of the Power Trust, and six decades before Ken Lay, faked account books and ripped off consumers. To frustrate Insull and his ilk, FDR gave us the Federal Power Commission and the Public Utilities Holding Company Act which told electricity companies where to stand and salute. Detailed regulations limited charges to real expenditures plus a government-set profit. The laws banned "power markets" and required companies to keep the lights on under threat of arrest -- no blackout blackmail to hike rates.

Of particular significance as I write here in the dark, regulators told utilities exactly how much they had to spend to insure the system stayed in repair and the lights stayed on. Bureaucrats crawled along the wire and, like me, crawled through the account books, to make sure the power execs spent customers' money on parts and labor. If they didn't, we'd whack'm over the head with our thick rule books. Did we get in the way of these businessmen's entrepreneurial spirit? Damn right we did.

Most important, FDR banned political contributions from utility companies -- no 'soft' money, no 'hard' money, no money PERIOD.

But then came George the First. In 1992, just prior to his departure from the White House, President Bush Senior gave the power industry one long deep-through-the-teeth kiss good-bye: federal deregulation of electricity. It was a legacy he wanted to leave for his son, the gratitude of power companies which ponied up $16 million for the Republican campaign of 2000, seven times the sum they gave Democrats.

But Poppy Bush's gift of deregulating of wholesale prices set by the feds only got the power pirates halfway to the plunder of Joe Ratepayer. For the big payday they needed deregulation at the state level. There were only two states, California and Texas, big enough and Republican enough to put the electricity market con into operation.

California fell first. The power companies spent $39 million to defeat a 1998 referendum pushed by Ralph Nadar which would have blocked the de-reg scam. Another $37 million was spent on lobbying and lubricating the campaign coffers of legislators to write a lie into law: in the deregulation act's preamble, the Legislature promised that deregulation would reduce electricity bills by 20%. In fact, when San Diegans in the first California city to go "lawless" looked at their bills, the 20% savings became a 300% jump in surcharges.

Enron circled California and licked its lips. As the number one life-time contributor to the George W. Bush campaign, it was confident about the future. With just a half dozen other companies it controlled at times 100% of the available power capacity needed to keep the Golden State lit. Their motto, "your money or your lights." Enron and its comrades played the system like a broken ATM machine, yanking out the bills. For example, in the shamelessly fixed "auctions" for electricity held by the state, Enron bid, in one instance, to supply 500 megawatts of electricity over a 15 megawatt line. That's like pouring a gallon of gasoline into a thimble -- the lines would burn up if they attempted it. Faced with blackout because of Enron's destructive bid, the state was willing to pay anything to keep the lights on.

And the state did. According to Dr. Anjali Sheffrin, economist with the California state Independent System Operator which directed power movements, between May and November 2000, three power giants physically or "economically" withheld power from the state and concocted enough false bids to cost the California customers over $6.2 billion in excess charges.

It took until December 20, 2000, with the lights going out on the Golden Gate, for President Bill Clinton, once a deregulation booster, to find his lost Democratic soul and impose price caps in California and ban Enron from the market. V But the light-bulb buccaneers didn't have to wait long to put their hooks back into the treasure chest. Within seventy-two hours of moving into the White House, while he was still sweeping out the inaugural champagne bottles, George Bush the Second reversed Clinton's executive order and put the power pirates back in business in California. Enron, Reliant (aka Houston Industries), TXU (aka Texas Utilities) and the others who had economically snipped California's wires knew they could count on Dubya, who as governor of the Lone Star state cut them the richest deregulation deal in America.

Meanwhile, the deregulation bug made it to New York where Republican Governor George Pataki and his industry-picked utility commissioners ripped the lid off electric bills and relieved my old friends at Niagara Mohawk of the expensive obligation to properly fund the maintenance of the grid system.

And the Pataki-Bush Axis of Weasels permitted something that must have former New York governor Roosevelt spinning in his wheelchair in Heaven: They allowed a foreign company, the notoriously incompetent National Grid of England, to buy up NiMo, get rid of 800 workers and pocket most of their wages - producing a bonus for NiMo stockholders approaching $90 million.

Is tonight's black-out a surprise? Heck, no, not to us in the field who've watched Bush's buddies flick the switches across the globe. In Brazil, Houston Industries seized ownership of Rio de Janeiro's electric company. The Texans (aided by their French partners) fired workers, raised prices, cut maintenance expenditures and, CLICK! the juice went out so often the locals now call it, "Rio Dark."

So too the free-market cowboys of Niagara Mohawk raised prices, slashed staff, cut maintenance and CLICK! -- New York joins Brazil in the Dark Ages.

Californians have found the solution to the deregulation disaster: re-call the only governor in the nation with the cojones to stand up to the electricity price fixers. And unlike Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gov. Gray Davis stood alone against the bad guys without using a body double. Davis called Reliant Corp of Houston a pack of "pirates" --and now he'll walk the plank for daring to stand up to the Texas marauders.

So where's the President? Just before he landed on the deck of the Abe Lincoln, the White House was so concerned about our brave troops facing the foe that they used the cover of war for a new push in Congress for yet more electricity deregulation. This has a certain logic: there's no sense defeating Iraq if a hostile regime remains in California.

Sitting in the dark, as my laptop battery runs low, I don't know if the truth about deregulation will ever see the light --until we change the dim bulb in the White House.

Palast is the author of the New York Times bestseller, "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy" (Penguin USA 2003) and the worstseller, "Democracy and Regulation," a guide to electricity deregulation published by the United Nations (2003, written with T. MacGregor and J. Oppenheim). See Greg Palast's award-winning reports for BBC Television and the Guardian papers of Britain at www.GregPalast.com. Contact Palast at his New York office: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The previous evening Senator Clinton had told MS-NBC that the blackout affecting huge portions of the northeast and Canada must be looked at in the context of the GOP’s power deregulation policies. However, in her speech in Buffalo, she didn’t discuss the blackout, specifically, telling the group of Young Dems only that , “You couldn’t have met in a better place to harness your energy for the future,” perhaps in reference to the fact that Buffalo has thus far been spared the brunt of the power outages.

After touting the City of Buffalo as, “…one of the most beautiful, most hospitable and most interesting cities in America,” Sen. Clinton focused in on the recall effort of Gov. Gray Davis in California, which she characterized as an expensive end run around the Democratic system. She pointed out that while the recall referendum was financed privately with a few million dollars raised by wealthy Republicans, the State will wind up spending $65 million to enable, “…an angry minority to reverse the results of a Democratic election.”

She also compared the recall effort in California to the contested Presidential election of 2000 in Florida. She said that both efforts set a terrible precedent. In referring to GOP tactics in Florida, she asked rhetorically, “They got away with it, didn’t they?”

She then took a more optimistic tack by praising the efforts of the Young Democrats and encouraging them not to lose hope, as they work towards taking back the White House in 2004. “It’s important to understand how anxious and worried many people are about the direction our country has taken.”

She exuded confidence as she assured the convention that, “We will have a strong candidate, who I believe will be elected.”

In examining the record of George Bush, she compared his administration to a magician’s disappearing act, citing the imminent demise of numerous health and social welfare programs, increased police protection, and support for Americorps championed by her husband’s administration as a result of Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

She said Bush’s tax cuts of over 2 trillion dollars, “will inevitably make us a more unequal country,” adding that, “He’s the first president to have taken us to war and cut taxes at the same time.”

Describing the Bush administration as the most radical and reactionary in American history, Sen. Clinton urged the Young Democrats to take back their future from a government that appears intent on mortgaging and short selling it.

However, on the subject of the war in Iraq, Sen. Clinton was more circumspect than a number of Democratic Party Presidential candidates, who have come out against the war. She pointed out that she has attempted to support the President when she could on issues such as increasing AIDS research funding and the war on terrorism.

She said that the Clinton administration deserved some credit for the preparedness of American troops. “If we get into a war, we can’t lose because of the quality of our troops,” she said.

Rather than criticize the decision to go to war, she pointed out that, “We can see that we were not prepared in Iraq to win the peace.”

Sen. Clinton did at several points in her speech direct comments specifically to her audience to remind them of their importance in the Democratic process. In order to counter the GOP’s “bad ethics and bad economics,” she advocated for young people to get more involved. “Politics is much more focused on people who are older than on younger people, ” she said.

“If young people had voted in 2000, “she continued, “that election would not have been close at all.”

Perhaps saving some of the more egregious sins of the Bush administration for the end of her speech, Sen. Clinton criticized the Bush Administration for its insistence on its right to use nuclear weapons in first strike situations and also its secrecy surrounding the investigation into the events that culminated in the terrorist acts on September 11.

Sen. Clinton summed up her talk by speaking of the historical roots of the Young Democrat of America clubs that arose out of the hard times of the Great Depression in 1932 to counter the “…inaction, complacency and drift,” of the Republican administration of Herbert Hoover.

Her summary drew a rousing ovation and a large portion of the crowd remained in the room in hopes of meeting the woman who has become, without question, one of the Democratic Party’s most influential leaders.

The new pact brings the teacher assistants under the general protection of the "master contract" between Kaleida, WCHOB's parent corporation, and several thousand other 1199 SEIU and other union members.

The teacher assistants work at various Buffalo area locations of the Early Childhood Development and Head Start Programs operated by Kaleida under a grant from the federal Department of Education. "Limited funds made for difficult negotiations at times." said union organizer Todd Hobler. "But the effort was worth it. Everyone was very happy with the results."

The teacher assistants formed an 1199 SEIU chapter in April and were given formal recognition by Kaleida the next month.

The report showed that only 59% of estuarine waters in New York State fully support all designated uses such as swimming and fishing, the other 41% are impaired or threatened. Even more troubling, none of the 577 miles of Great Lakes shoreline in New York State fully support designated uses, with 70% of those miles listed as impaired or threatened.

“It is troubling and disheartening to observe so many of New York State’s waterways in a state of impairment or decline,” stated Sarah Meyland, CCE Executive Director. “Our waterways, Long Island Sound, the South Shore Estuary, the Great Lakes, and the Finger Lakes, should be thriving economic, tourist and commercial centers. Instead, many are too polluted for fishing, swimming or other forms of commercial and recreational use,” Meyland added.

Among the sources of beach water pollution, Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSOs) and Nonpoint Source Pollution, commonly referred to as “polluted runoff”, were documented as major sources of poor beach water quality in urban areas of New York State from Long Island Sound to the Great Lakes.

SSOs occur when raw sewage escapes from the sewer lines before it reaches a treatment facility. The sewage generally escapes when there is heavy rainfall causing an overload of the sanitary sewer collection systems. This is especially a problem for systems with excess infiltration of rainfall through the ground into leaking sewer pipes and with large inflows from sources such as roof drains connected

directly to sewers. As flows exceed the capacity of the system, sewers overflow and discharge untreated sewage from manholes, breaks in collection pipes and into basements threatening public health and environmental quality. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that between 1.8 million and 3.5 million cases per year of swimming-related illnesses are caused by SSOs.

The problems associated with sewage overflow are especially apparent in the Western New York area. Aging, dilapidated sewage infrastructure along Lake Erie has contributed to many beach closings and

further deterioration of the lake. Places like Woodlawn Beach in Hamburg have been plagued with numerous beach closings in recent years. Also, sewage is one of the contributing factors to the oxygen deprivation causing the “dead zone” that engulfs as much as two-thirds of Lake Erie by the end of the summer.

One New York State Beach, Harbor Island in Mamaroneck, was closed to swimming permanently for three years, including the reporting year for this publication, 2002. Sewage overflows in Mamaroneck were documented in Sewage in the Suburbs, a report released by Citizens Environmental Research Institute in 2002. Since the release of Sewage in the Suburbs, the Village of Mamaroneck has commenced the process of instituting a Capacity, Maintenance, Operations and Management (CMOM) program to assist in curtailing the overflowing sewage. Harbor Island Beach recently reopened, and then closed again due to a significant sewage overflow. Until its recent reopening, Harbor Island Beach was the longest permanent beach closure in New York State history.

Long Islanders have recently been witnesses of the large scale damage that is caused when raw sewage overflows into coastal waters. Last month State officials closed Port Jefferson Harbor to shellfishing after approximately 600,000 gallons of sewage escaped into the waterway prior to treatment. Shellfishers were directed by State authorities to release their catches due to the contamination caused by the sewage, which carries a host of bacteria and pathogens that can cause serious illness.

“Local municipalities, New York State and the federal government must make significant investments in sewer system upgrades in order to reduce the amount of raw sewage that is escaping into our environment,” stated CCE Program Coordinator Brian Smith. “Otherwise, more and more beaches will be continuously closed to people and the number of waterways fit for human use will decline,” continued Smith.

Non-point source pollution is another major source of water quality impairment, which closed New York State beaches in 2002. Non-point source pollution is created when pollution from the ground such as pesticides, motor oil, gasoline, pet waste and other pollution is washed into nearby waterways during rain events. This “runoff” pollution has been documented to be the leading source of water quality impairment in many New York State waterways. The pollution not only makes waterways unsafe for swimming, but closes waterways subject to runoff for commercial activities such as shellfishing. The damage caused by runoff pollution is exacerbated by its ability to make algae grow at excessive rates. The algae then dies and rots, a process which depletes oxygen from the water causing a condition called hypoxia, which is deadly to fish and other marine organisms.

In March 2003 the Federal Government, under the Clean Water Act, began requiring states to plan for the reduction of non point source pollution. The program, called the Phase II Rule, require municipalities across the state to create a plan for the mitigation and control of stormwater runoff. The regulations also require large-scale construction projects to account for runoff pollution created on site during activities.

“The successful implementation of the Clean Water Act’s Phase II stormwater program will allow municipalities to document the extent of non point source pollution generated in their community, and take action to prevent further damage to local waterways, and therefore help keep beaches safe for swimming” Meyland concluded.

In order to get a copy of Testing the Waters: A Guide to Beach Water Quality at Vacation Beaches, visit www.nrdc.org.

Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE) is a statewide, not-for-profit, non-partisan advocacy organization working for the protection of the natural environment and public health.

For more information contact:

August 13, 2003, 10 A.M Sarah Meyland, Executive Director (516) 390-7150 Brian Smith, Program Coordinator W(716)831-3206 H(716) 694-2202

On Friday, August 1, Gibbs returned to her old neighborhood to give a tour of the area and an admonition to the public. “It is important that Western New Yorkers do not forget the lessons learned from Love Canal.” With her on the podium were Mike Schade of the Citizens Environmental Coalition and Rick Ammerman of the Hickory Woods Residents for Clean Environment. The nearly three-hour press conference and tour of the Love Canal area made it clear that efforts by the authorities to bury the memories of Love Canal are succeeding. The only indicators of unusual occurrences at the site are the fenced-in area of the Love Canal with its monitoring wells and the surrounding collection of eerily vacant and overgrown streets. But a new playground and nature habitat have been built on land that was once declared to be “uninhabitable.” A new minor league baseball field is under construction on the former site of the 93rd Street School. No signs in the area betray the Black Creek Village’s sordid history.

In a decidedly poignant moment, the caravan paused at the site of Gibbs former home on 101st Street. There, Gibbs and some of the former neighbors alternately reminisced and railed about the friendly, secure neighborhood that suddenly became their worst nightmare in the late 1970s. Only the residents of Hickory Woods, who now face a similar situation, could fully appreciate this combination of nostalgia and venom that the women expressed.

Mad dogs, Englishmen, and, apparently, environmental activists, go out in the noonday sun. Beneath the August sun, the caravan moved to the Chemical Waste Management [CWM] site on Balmer Road in Porter for the second leg of the anniversary tour. Gibbs spoke about environmental justice and the overburdening of the Lewiston-Porter area, which is home to the only hazardous waste dump in New York State. Bill Rolland and Bill Choboy of Residents for Responsible Government and Tim Henderson of Residents Organized for Lewiston-Porter’s Environment preceded Gibbs in addressing the crowd over the roar of nearly constant truck traffic entering and exiting the CWM site. Their simple message was “enough is enough.”

An environmental awards ceremony was held that evening at the P.A.C.E. Region 1 Union Hall on 24th Street in Niagara Falls. The seemingly tireless Gibbs handed out more than thirty awards to local environmental activist individuals and groups. The speakers stressed the cooperation of union and environmental causes to the overflow crowd at the Union Hall. Speakers at the event included Jim Briggs of Paper Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers, Roger Cook from the Western New York Council on Occupational Safety and Health, Kathleen Curtis from the Citizens Environmental Coalition, Jim Duncan from the United Auto Workers, Don McMillan of the Workers Health and Safety Center, as well as David Hahn-Baker from the Toxic Waste/Lupus Coalition. They introduced Gibbs as the keynote speaker. Gibbs spoke about her experiences with Love Canal, the necessity for cooperation between labor and environmentalists, and her new organization, the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, which is based in Virginia.

The following story ran in the March 21, 2003 issue of Alt:

The Seneca Casino Gaming Pact has been allowed to stand, despite evidence presented to lawmakers at all levels that at least one of the parties involved in crafting the agreement, Seneca Tribal Councilor Arthur “Sugar” Montour, Jr., has been associated with an organization that has received direct funding from Libyan leader and known terrorist supporter Col. Moamar Qadhafi.

So much for the “war on terrorism.”

Here in our own backyard, the Mohawk Warrior society, a.k.a. Mohawk Sovereignty Security Force, of which Montour and his father have been long-time members, continues to grow in strength. The group sent three members to Tripoli, Libya, to receive a quarter of a million dollar grant from Qadhafi in 1991, as reported by a Toronto newspaper, The Globe and Mail, and by The New York Times.

National Security Directive Number 205, which President Ronald Reagan’s administration issued in 1986, explicitly states that “the policies and actions in support of international terrorism by the government of Libya constitute and unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.” It further prohibits “travel-related transactions” and a “total ban” on both service contracts and trade.

The participation in Qadhafi’s Libyan Human Rights Committee awards ceremony served the propaganda needs of both parties.

“Among other charges Qadhafi leveled at the United States were that it mistreated both its African-American and Native American citizens and that prisoners in American jails were subject to exploitation. Americans were less free than Libyans, he (Qadhafi) alleged, because they faced travel restrictions, including a travel ban to Libya,” according to In Search of Sacred Law: The Meandering Course of Qadhafi’s Legal Policy, by Ann Elizabeth Mayer.

Clearly, Qadhafi was seeking to redirect criticism for harboring suspects involved in the terrorist attack on Pan Am Flight 103 that exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, in December 1988.

A news program broadcast by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., titled “Witness: The Dark Side of Native Sovereignty,” exploring the origins and controversy surrounding the Warrior Society, also included footage of an event that could indicate why representatives of the Mohawks decided to participate in Qadhafi’s demonstration against the government of the United States.

April 24, 1990: “The Night Of Terror”

The Mohawk Warriors were founded in an environment of criminal activity, despair, and resentment on the Akwesasne Reservation, which straddles the international border between the United States and Canada on the St. Lawrence River.

The Warriors banded together under a banner of sovereignty, rallying many of their brethren who were living in deep poverty on the reservation. The group’s major assets included the Nation’s exemption from paying taxes to the governments of Canada and the United States, and also the group’s leaders’ ability and willingness to protect their import and export activities by force of arms.

A major confrontation erupted between the traditionalists, who were suspicious of the motives and ambitions of the Warriors, when the Warriors opened a casino. The CBC report claimed that much of the gaming equipment was supplied by Las Vegas-based operators who were associated with Mafia chief John Gotti, and it became clear that there was disagreement between whether these types of activities should be regulated by the Tribal Council or whether the sovereignty of the nation extended down to each individual and his right to do as he pleased.

The traditionalists set up blockades with their cars to prevent non-natives from coming on to the reservation to gamble. The Warriors responded with what has gone down in modern Mohawk Nation history as “the night of terror.”

Mike Francis, a U.S. Army veteran who was caught on the wrong side of the conflict, recounted to CBC News: “I had family and friends that had to run for their lives. I’ve done tours overseas, y’know, and I was never under fire like that.”

Footage taken during the attack showed numerous bursts of gunfire. The Warriors used CB radios to broadcast intimidations and threats to their adversaries. And the CBC obtained tapes that demonstrated the campaign’s viciousness. Miraculously, by the time it was all over, only two persons were killed.

After the funeral ceremony, when victims’ families sang John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance,” an exodus from the reservation began. The result was that an estimated 1,000 people were forced from their homes.

Neither Canadian nor American authorities heeded calls by the refugees to intervene on their behalf. No aid or support was given either. Instead, the terrorist campaign was rewarded with unquestioned control of the reservation. Since that time, the Warriors have expanded their power and influence greatly.

Import Export Business: “You Call it Smuggling; I Call it Free Trade.”

As taxes on Canadian cigarettes skyrocketed in the early nineties, the Warriors profited tremendously. Wholesalers delivered cigarettes to the reservation, which were then “exported” to various parties on the Canadian side, free of the onerous taxes that the government had imposed on them to cover the health care costs associated with smoking-related cancer and heart disease. The profit margins were such that Warrior leaders were able to set up cigarette manufacturing plants on reservations.

In summing up the leadership’s individual business empires, the CBC report stated, “All (members of the leadership) support or helped support the heavily armed Warrior Society, created to overcome opposition on the reserves and keep Canadian and American law enforcement out.”

One of the original Warriors, Tony Laughing, said on camera, “You call it smuggling; I call it free trade.”

CBC described another cigarette plant owner, Peter Montour, as follows, “He’s been convicted on drug charges for running a marijuana smuggling pipeline from Mexico to southern Ontario.”

Speaking about the criminal element associated with the Warriors, Montour said, “There’s a lot of us natives with criminal charges… I’m not trying to rationalize it, but I think a lot of it has to do with, we don’t accept your authority. You can throw us in jail, you can do anything you want, but we do not accept your authority.”

This sort of anti-authority stance was echoed in another CBC documentary aired on the news program, “The Fifth Estate,” wherein a youthful Sugar Montour told reporters on camera about his involvement with the Warriors. Sporting a slick, designer Six Nations Warriors jacket, and a mullet hairdo, the youthful Montour gave an outline of how he got started in the family business. He said that he started “runnin’” or transporting goods, making five hundred dollars or more a day, when he was sixteen. By the time he was seventeen, he had more than $100,000 saved. “It’s better than flipping burgers,” he said, laughing.

At one point, however, federal agents stung Montour for selling them a small amount of cocaine and restricted weapons. Asked if this would make him wary of running illicit merchandise in the future, he was anything but repentant.

“Why not?” he said, “I can trade whatever I feel I can trade through the Mohawk Nation. It is my right to sell any product that I can.”

Analysis

While many feel that respecting native sovereignty is the least that can be done, given the shameful history of this country’s treatment of its indigenous peoples, allowing a free wheeling, heavily armed group that came to power through intimidation to expand its scope to “save” downtown Buffalo is a notion that deserves more scrutiny than it has received thus far.

Before converting prime real estate in Buffalo to a Native American casino, it’s important for the community to understand who will be involved in such a venture, where they are coming from, and what they will expect to take from it.

On a boat cruise organized recently by the Friends of the Buffalo Niagara Rivers (FBNR) jointly with other organizations to celebrate its fifteenth anniversary, members gave accounts, together with facts and figures, about the efforts that the organization has made in the past 15 years. They also talked about the improvement in water quality. But the color and odor of the water itself managed to blot these out. As the river flows through several of Buffalo’s poorest neighborhoods, including the Old First Ward, the Valley, Seneca-Babcock, and the South Park-Bailey communities, it presents a continuing health risk to the populace. It is obvious that authorities need to do much more to implement and bring fruit to the efforts of FBNR and other such organizations and to see that an India-like situation is not created here as well.

Michel Holland of the Office of Strategic Planning for the City of Buffalo, who is currently working on the city's comprehensive master plan, while acknowledging the vast contribution that FBNR has made in cleaning up the Buffalo waterfronts that carry the contamination legacy of the area's post-industrial history, agreed that there was a need to “redefine ourselves.”

“FBNR has provided invaluable service in advocating and prioritizing the issues and has paved the road for Buffalo waterfronts’ future,” said Mr. Holland.

The main objective of FBNR is to promote, preserve, and protect the natural and historical environments of the Buffalo and Niagara rivers for the benefit of the local community. This includes restoration of the ecological health of the Buffalo and Niagara river systems; celebration of the cultural and historic fabric of the area; improvements to public access along the rivers to the surrounding communities and citizens of the region; encouragement of community awareness, "ownership" and stewardship of the rivers; and support of sustainable development of the region's economy.

During the cruise, Frank Di Mascio of the Sewer Authority pointed out the primary and secondary treatment plants, which are jointly expected to treat 600 million gallons of sewage per day in two years. Vast investments have been made, and the system is being updated. “FBNR has been able to influence sewer authority decisions significantly,” said Lynn Di Mascio, who has retired from the Sewer Authority.

The Buffalo River remains severely damaged largely due to loss of habitat and continued pollution of the river channel from upper watershed non-point sources, combined sewer overflow (CSO) systems and historic contaminants contained in river sediments and riverfront brownfields. Several projects have been undertaken to improve the condition of the water bodies. The City of Buffalo is currently working on the waterfront component of the city’s master plan through three projects: The Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan (LWRP), the Waterfront Corridor Initiative (WCI), and the City Waterfront Setback Study. The LWRP comprises an inventory of existing conditions, policy statements about the use and management of the city’s waterfront resources, a land-use plan, list of projects and implementation strategy. The Waterfront Corridor Initiative is an implementation project designed to translate the LWRP and preceding 20 years of waterfront corridor planning activities into action now. FBNR was recently awarded a city CDBG (community development block grant) to study the creation of a building setback along the city’s waterfront. FBNR will make recommendations as to appropriate setback depths based upon waterbody drainage areas, ecological needs, and the impact on existing property owners.

Although Pipitone’s band was a bit modified, bringing in talents from two other bands, Patrick Shaughnessy on drums (from Doombuggy) and Rebecca Mercurio on acoustic bass (from Red Headed Stepchild), it gave the music a unique twist. Shaughnessy created a steady beat, acting as the backbone for the music, and Mercurio moved with the bass as if it were her own body. Holly Christiano kept the rhythm going on guitar as the band continued with “Brown eyed-man,” which emulated a classic rock sound, with a mixture of blues, that gave a slow and almost sexy feel.

The band also added to its set list a cover of Lucinda Williams’ “The Name of This Town,” which has also been covered by the infamous Tom Petty. To conclude her group’s set, Pipitone voiced her appreciation to be playing with L.P and then broke into her last song, “What Do You When You Don’t Know What To Do?” Pipitone wailed on the electric guitar and eventually slid down on her knees toward Christiano, proving to the audience that she is quite the virtuoso. It was only when the set stopped that the feet stopped tapping.

Next up was headliner LP, a petite woman sporting low riding jeans that were barely held on by a belt, a black t-shirt and wild, short, curly brown hair, covering almost all of her eyes and backed by a two guitar, one bass and drum lineup, began with her first song “Can’t Shake It.” I must say, after hearing the vocals from this woman, neither could I. If you just looked at LP, you would never guess that such incredibly powerful voice and impressive vocal range could come from such a tiny woman. Her voice (think a sweeter versions of Stevie Nick’s without the smoker’s voice) incorporates a hard-rock sound along with a bluesy undertone, which left the audience with their jaws on the floor and smiles across their faces.

LP released her debut solo album, Heart-shaped SCAR in 2001, and has been touring different venues around the country ever since. What made this show particularly unique was the fact that LP played only two songs off that album. The rest of her work was relatively new and extremely well done.

LP’s voice trilled in the song “Never Was,” as she hit high notes that would normally make your ears bleed. But she sang them so eloquently and with such ease you couldn’t realize the change in tone. Not only were LP’s vocals amazing but so was her stage presence. She used the stage as her own personal canvas and threw her entire body into the music. Strutting around the stage like a female Iggy Pop, LP kept the audience constantly focused on her. While singing the song “Little Depth,” LP added in a hint of Elvis by giving the audience a little lip curl, thrusting her hips in all directions, and moving with the music. Watching her was as fun as listening.

The bass and drums softened their sound during the song “Wasted,” which allowed the audience to hear LP’s distinctly flawless voice, while she kept her hard rock edge. I’ve gotta hand it to her; she makes being “wasted” quite a beautiful thing. It was amazing how she made singing seem so natural and effortless.

It was the song, “The Darkside,” that threw me for a loop. Although the blithe tune didn’t seem to fit the downer title, the band’s relentless energy made it sound phenomenal. They also made it interesting to watch as Lowry went airborne during the song, “Huge in Japan.” Returning for two encores, LP covered a slower version of Radiohead’s “Creep,” enrapturing the crowd one last time.

Although both Pipitone and LP are women who look like they would break if you twisted them the right way, they proved to the audience that size definitely doesn’t matter. Both artists, with their in-your-face vocals and strikingly intense energy, created a night of ongoing musical vigor that captivated the entire audience. If you weren’t there (and by the size of the turnout you probably weren’t), and like hard rockin’ music, you need to stop reading this and go check out both of these artists. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.

Just last Thursday, the UK Telegraph reported that Nigeria would not send any help at all unless the United States would pay more than the approximate $14 million that it had offered. The Nigerian Foreign Minister said, “We made it clear (that) we needed assistance in their deployment, in terms of logistics, in terms of funding.” The Nigerian army apparently needs the money, as the last time its troops deployed to Liberia as peacekeepers, they reportedly stripped the countryside bare on their way home.

Analysts claimed that Nigerians would not deploy until the money issue is “sorted out.”

As Nigerians begin to arrive, it appears that the check has cleared. Another member of the “coalition of the billing” has been minted.

The helicopter carrier USS Iwo Jima and its three ship Amphibious Ready Group has been ordered into Liberian waters. Tuesday afternoon, they are reported off the coast and just over the horizon. The 2,300 Marine complement is presumably standing by for the word to go, and that word seems to depend on the actions of African dictator of the month, Charles Taylor. Taylor claimed that he would give up the reigns of power on August 11, but with a series of catch-22s. Taylor will go into exile into neighboring mentioned Nigeria, but only when U.S. troops are on the ground and in country and keeping the peace as the senior partner. The Bush administration had stated that U.S. troops would not go ashore until Taylor has left the building, so to speak.

Taylor seems to be concerned with his fate. The last two deposed Liberian dictators were informed that they were no longer in office without being presented with the usual pink slip. One was murdered in his office and the other was tortured to death as a video camera recorded the action.

Of course, being a former dictator in exile is only good if you’re allowed to enjoy the fruits of your hard-won, ill-gotten gains. Presumably, Taylor has rewarded himself handsomely for services rendered to the sovereign nation of Liberia. Unfortunately, there is a United Nations war crimes indictment for atrocities waiting for him on the outside.

The indictment accuses Taylor with “crimes against humanity” in Sierra Leone. Taylor allegedly backed rebels fighting a ten-year conflict. The indictment was brought on June 4 of this year by a Sierra Leone court, and the United Nations upheld that indictment.

Taylor has now said that he will not go unless the charges are dropped.

Liberian Vice-President Moses Blah told reporters last week, "The president has said very clearly that, if he is going to leave, there must be sufficient forces on the ground… he wants the indictment to be lifted off his head. “

Unfortunately, for both Charles Taylor and Liberia, the United Nations-backed court has stated again and again that it will not drop the charges. It claims Taylor was a major player in the brutality against civilians inside of Sierra Leone.

Liberian rebels hold the northern suburbs of Monrovia and the city's port facilities. They have stated that they will abandon the position so that humanitarian aid can flow, but Taylor must give up power before that happens. There are thousands of civilians trapped in the embattled city, desperately awaiting relief that is waiting to be delivered. The city is short of clean water and food, and disease is beginning to spread. Refugees have swelled the city's population by as much as 200,000. With little or no clean water, cholera is feared. Also feared is a constant bombardment from mortars, sniper fire and stray rounds spraying the ruined schools and stadiums that many are now calling home. Major General Seya Sheriff warned, “If he (Taylor) refuses to leave, I will attack him; we will move on him.”

Taylor’s stall tactics could spark new fighting that has killed more than 2,000 civilians since rebels pushed into the capital two weeks ago.

President George W. Bush has promised that “America will support international peacekeeping efforts” in Liberia. But many Liberians believe that the administration has stalled in the manner of Charles Taylor. They are anxious for and have repeatedly pleaded for U.S. intervention.

The Pentagon, however, is not going to be stampeded. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld reflected the administration's apparent lack of urgency in Liberia. After speaking with Bush, he said: “We don’t have any announcements to make at the moment.”

At the briefing on Tuesday, a reporter asked if Liberia could become "another Somalia." General Richard Meyers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, answered with a rather ironic condition for troop involvement ”There will be no commitment of troops anywhere in the world without some of the essentials that we need, and that is a clear mission, a clear-end state, and sufficient force to do the job.” He should have applied that formula to the invasion of Iraq.

"When we have a sense of unity and job security, it will allow us to focus on the real reason we are here: our patients. That's why we voted to form a union,” said Victoria Brennan, a case manager at Bry-Lin.

Approximately 150 Bry-Lin staff members are already members of 1199 SEIU. They work as registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, social workers, medical technicians, aides, service, maintenance, and clerical employees.

Bry-Lin Hospital provides a full range of behavioral health services, including mental health, substance abuse, counseling, referral, and treatment on both an in-patient and out-patient basis. Its principal location is at 1255-75 Delaware Avenue in Buffalo, with satellite facilities in Amherst and Alden. The case managers work at all three locations.

In New York State, 1199 SEIU is the largest organization of health care workers, with more than 7,000 members in the Buffalo-Niagara region who work at Women and Children's Hospital, Millard Fillmore Hospital, Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center and more than three dozen other hospitals and nursing homes.

For further information, please contact Clarence Ervin at (716) 946-7502 (cell phone) or Bruce Popper at (585) 936-5249 (pager).

Tribal leaders have often struck deals with the “gaming industry” that have greatly enriched themselves and their corporate partners but have just as often failed to deliver on promises of community empowerment.

In addition, the communities in which these facilities are located generally suffer when these casinos are targeted at local, lower-income residents, especially senior citizens.

These negatives and far more serious problems are facing the Buffalo area, because of the Seneca Gaming Compact that Governor George Pataki signed into law last year. The Buffalo News, however, which continues to lend generous editorial support to Pataki, appears to look the other way as some of the more unpleasant facts about the governor’s new “business partners” have come to light.

Seneca Niagara Financing Deal Appears To Be Illegal: NIGC The Seneca Tribal Council’s horrendous financing deal with Chinese Billionaire Lim Goh Tong’s Freemantle Ltd. may be illegal, according to a recent article published by Onlinecasinonews.com. The National Indian Gaming Commission has expressed doubts about the highly unusual deal’s legality. The article states, “According to the commission, the provisions give the lenders so much control that the deal constitutes a management contract, which would make the deal subject to a more thorough federal approval.” The deal, with a price tag of 29 percent interest, deprives members of the Seneca Nation from sharing profits from the casino.

A March 3 article in The News by Jerry Zremski quotes Richard Schiff, the commission’s general counsel, as saying, “The National Indian Gaming Regulatory Commission is doing a routine check to see if the loan qualifies as a management contract, which would subject it to further review and approval.” The News appears to have accepted the official line and has never followed up on the story.

Alt has obtained evidence that appears to cast further doubt on the legality of the Freemantle deal. A complete report will appear in our next issue.

Casino Buffalo: Resistance is Futile

The Buffalo News appears to be one hundred percent behind the Pataki-Giambra message that resistance to more Western New York casinos is futile.

An article by Barbara O’Brien about an August 4 anti-casino protest at Cheektowaga Town Hall noted that two casino opponents spoke in front of the Town Board meeting. It failed to mention that one of those speakers was a Seneca, Bobby Jones. Jones has uncovered evidence of the influence of organized crime upon the process of the Seneca Gaming Compact, buts his comments at the meeting went unrecorded.

Instead, the article actually focused on proposed changes to the Cheektowaga Conservation Advisory Council. Conveniently, the change would make it easier for Town Supervisor Dennis Gabryszak to help push a Seneca proposal to build a casino in Cheektowaga.

According to Jones, Gabryszak has avoided repeated requests for a meeting to discuss these serious problems. Last month, in an interview with Alt, Gabryszak pleaded ignorance about any criminal influence on the Seneca casinos, saying, “Once again, you know, you’ve got to try to get as much information as you can, especially on the matter that you just raised.”

Now that Gabryszak has been presented with this information, he doesn’t appear to be very willing to act upon it. In another Buffalo News article emphasizing the Seneca’s power over the process of a casino in the Buffalo area, SNI President Rickey Armstrong was quoted as saying, "We cannot and will not be bullied into a poor location that places the assets of the Seneca Nation at risk.”

In fact, Armstrong and his cohorts on the Tribal Council have shown a tremendous willingness to put the assets of the Senecas at grave risk in the past as evidenced by the shocking terms of their loan agreement for the Seneca Niagara casino and its dubious legality. The terms of the Seneca gaming compact with New York State have also opened a legal loophole that will allow taxation on the sale of cigarettes over the internet. Armstrong may be impervious to bullying, but, in the compact, he allowed a key aspect of Native American sovereignty to be bargained away.

Dan Herbeck, Author of American Terrorist, Ignores Evidence of Terrorism Dan Herbeck, who, with fellow News writer Lou Michel, co-authored American Terrorist, a book on Timothy McVeigh, has now filed several stories on the casino. But, strangely, he has ignored the criminal backgrounds of some of the key players in the Seneca Tribal Council’s bid for as many casinos as they can get in Western New York. Rather than review Councilor and Compact negotiator Arthur “Sugar” Montour’s background in cocaine and gun trafficking, or Barry Snyder Sr.’s continuing troubles with the EPA, Herbeck took recent demands for four new casinos in stride. “(SNI President Rickey) Armstrong could not be reached to comment Monday, and Tribal Council Chairman Barry Snyder declined to comment,” he wrote of the reticent SNI leaders.

Snyder’s Seneca Hawk gas station was, until recently, a prominent advertiser on The Buffalo News website. Herbeck also failed to address the issue of the SNI’s right to open up retail outlets for tax-free sales of cigarettes, gasoline, and other items, once the proverbial foot is in the door with the casino. He seems to take at face value assurances that this would not happen. Why the Tribal Council would not take advantage of this opportunity to make millions of dollars is another question that Herbeck fails to ask.

“Gabryszak said Armstrong seemed to understand,” Herbeck writes, “telling him that the real focus of the Senecas' interest in Cheektowaga is the idea of developing a casino.” He “seemed to understand”? Is that supposed to be a commitment?

What happens if they decide that they are interested in retail later? What’s to stop them from opening up shop? Again, Herbeck doesn’t ask.

Most shockingly, Herbeck has not investigated the Mohawk Warrior Society and its influence on the SNI Tribal Council. He doesn’t address the way that the group came to power: through terrorism. And he doesn’t discuss the group’s epic battles against the governments of the United States and Canada. Nor does he discuss the group’s connection to Libyan leader Moamar Ghadafyi.

Why members of a group that flew to Tripoli to chum around and who accepted cash from Col. Ghadafyi deserves the red carpet treatment from Herbeck is difficult to comprehend. But it does highlight a key weakness in his book about McVeigh, which was his failure to ask one simple question, “Why?”

The book’s “Just the facts, ma’am” style didn’t save any lives in Oklahoma. His articles on the corrupt drive to bring four more casinos to the area seems more like a press release than an exercise in investigative journalism. It fails to inform the reader of crucial facts and certainly won’t help protect the community from the criminal element associated with this supposedly unstoppable casino movement. The die may be cast, and it may be impossible to spare this community from the increasing influence of organized crime, but fate often spares the doomed in the face of courage. That would make a nice theme for Herbeck’s next book, provided he’s not already signed on to write another “what-if” post-mortem.

As opposition on the Cattaraugus and Allegany reservations grows over the obvious rip off being perpetrated by the SNI Tribal Council, The News has done its part to keep things quiet. As the Sept. 9 Seneca referendum on an Allegany casino approaches, however, The News still has a chance to redeem itself and look under the hood of the pro-casino juggernaut before the engine boils over.

Mr. Giambra in a routine press conference/sound bite opportunity, dutifully covered by local TV crews, once again attacked the Buffalo Police Department last week by asking voters to think about how ridiculous the idea of giving cops back pay that is due to them in their labor contract. “Think about it,” Giambra asked with an incredulous grin on his face, “Would you run a business like that?”

We did think about it, and you know what? We realized that the only business that Joel has ever known has been the political cesspool of Buffalo politics. From his teenage Mayor’s summer youth gig filling the water glasses of the Common Council to his current position as Pataki poop boy, Joel has never actually had to deal with the vagaries of the private sector. So when he talks about “running things like a business”, it’s important to remember that he’s entering a very theoretical realm of thinking.

Of course, there are many M.B.A. wonders out there who would wholeheartedly agree with Joel that employees should be screwed at every turn, especially in areas like back pay and living up to labor agreements. After all, that money needs to be channeled into things like control boards and political patronage jobs, when your CEO is Joel Giambra, and your Board of Directors is The Buffalo Club.

Mr. Giambra’s boilerplate Enron-like message was somewhat blunted, however, by another police news story that was unfortunately lumped together with Joel’s free election campaign ad. Shortly after Giambra made his remarks, Buffalo Police Officer Lt. Paul R. Delano Jr. was chasing down a man who had allegedly attempted to rape two women when he was forced to shoot the suspect after being struck with a pipe.

At least one station, WIVB-TV Channel 4, added that Delano had also fired his weapon once before in a completely separate incident – no follow-up mention of the alleged rapist’s previous record, to date. Apparently, reforming the business of law enforcement doesn’t allow for that kind of discussion.

When you really think about it, there are certain groups that greatly benefit from the kind of assault on law enforcement that Mr. Giambra has been conducting – predatory street criminals in general, and organized crime figures in particular. Joel may be “powerless” to stop the shadowy characters demanding four new casinos in WNY, but he sure knows how to take a bite out of the hindquarters of the people who are in the “business” of preventing criminals from “doing business.”

Buffalo is dead, Long live Joel Giambra’s political-criminal nexus of Erie County Inc.

Yesterday’s clash between residents of the former City of Buffalo and Erie County officials was the most violent of the year, but it didn’t deter the authority chairman from declaring the latest Five-Year Plan as “an enormous success.”

According to the authority, government spending continues to be reduced, efficiency of service is up, unemployment is at record lows, and regional growth has surpassed expectations. The Five-Year Plan in question, while never presented in its entirety, did have several broad goals that appear to have been met, including developing new waterfront property, bringing more businesses and residents to outlying areas of Greater Erie County, and the controlled razing of portions of the former East Side of Buffalo.

“In short,” said the deputy chairman, “Every one of our goals from the last Five-Year Plan has been over-filled.” Meanwhile, outside the compound, a Best Street woman, who had been holding a dead infant and yelling at entering officials about unemployment, welfare, and food, set herself on fire and ran at a Channel 2 News cameraman, saying “They killed my baby girl, they killed my baby girl,” repeatedly. The Erie County Volunteer Fire Department was unable to respond in time, and the woman died, despite the attempts of many bystanders to smother the flames. Witnesses to the protest were shocked that those inside the Buffalo Club could be so unconcerned and callous to the needs of the tens of thousands of desperately poor people living within the boundaries of the former City of Buffalo. Some observers walking away from the scene were heard quietly sobbing to themselves and wondering aloud how what happened to their city. They were heard to ask, “Who could have known how bad it could truly get?”

Sound like hell?

It just may be what we here in the City of Buffalo could end up with in the next fifty years as local government is forced to function as a business with little or no concern for the needs and wants of the community. Luckily, no one can accurately forecast how bad it will get, and there’s still a chance to stop the city from being disemboweled.

Gutting the City

“Fixing Buffalo requires leveling the playing field,” said Common Councilmember-at-Large Charley Fisher III. “In the end, we need economic justice for the city.”

Others in the community, who work directly with those most in need of help, say that the democratic ideals this nation are supposed to embody have been torn from the community’s hands with the imposition of an unelected control board and the downsizing of legislative representation. “The control board represents the idea that we can get out of our current dilemma by cutting services and decreasing the quality of life in the city,” said Colin Eager of the Buffalo Coalition Against Poverty (BCAP). “If things continue like they are, we will have an empty, hostile city. People with means will continue to leave. All the schools will be closed, the fire houses will close, and you’ll be left with a lot of uneducated people running around with their heads on fire.”

Dan Ward, Amherst Town Board member and Democratic contender for Erie County executive, doesn’t see such drastic problems, but he has been at the forefront of efforts to change the way that the entire region does business. Ward, who would like to see taxes kept in check, said that he believes that revenue can be shared more equitably throughout the county. He has even decried his own town because it “ripped the economic guts out of Buffalo over the last twenty years.”

Many others have recently poked their heads into the public sphere to question the way that city government is being railroaded into a business-like model. They all appear to agree that government cannot and should not be run as a business because the two are very different things with different goals and challenges. These experts all agree that government isn’t all about getting and saving money; it involves service, community, and quality of life for the whole.

Meanwhile, some local notables continue to call for a financial and political dissolution of the City of Buffalo. Local newsweekly publisher Jamie Moses actually called for the controlled razing of large tracts of land that the city’s poorest people call home. This certainly may be leveling, but it’s of a different sort than that advocated by Fisher and others.

The World We Live In

A livable city isn’t all about business. Buffalo and, for that matter, the entire Buffalo-Niagara Region, is a toxic mess. Last week’s brief focus on Love Canal and Hickory Woods is ample evidence that the region cannot sell itself out to any company that wants to invest. Even those businesses that have no intention of pouring more toxins into the ground run into trouble as evidenced by a local developers’ discovery of mercury seeping from the soil of a proposed east side development site.

The Buffalo-based Citizens Campaign for the Environment sees environmental problems getting worse in the region because of financial difficulties and a lack of commitment to renewable energy sources. According to the organization’s program director, Brian Smith, there are many unaddressed toxic sites in the Buffalo-Niagara region, a problem that is accelerating as environmental programs are defunded.

“Although improvements have been made,” Smith said, “The (Bush) administration’s roll-back of federal environmental regulations has made it harder for progress to continue. When states face budget deficits, the first things to go are often environmental programs.”

And it’s not just the soil. Sitting at the eastern end of the world’s largest fresh water basin used to be a boon for the Buffalo-Niagara region. Now it’s become a bit of a bust, due to a combination of pollution, the introduction of alien species, climate changes, water sales, and even sprawl, according to a variety of experts.

Groups ranging from the somewhat alarmist Union of Concerned Scientists to the Army Corps of Engineers have noted falling water levels in all the Great Lakes, a pattern that most scientists attribute to global warming, according to Reg Gilbert of Great Lakes United and a variety of Canadian newspaper reports.

Gilbert said there were two main concerns for Lake Erie water levels. They are climate change, due to global warming and dead zones, areas where fish and other water life cannot live, due to increased algae levels. According to Gilbert, the most recent studies show that about two-thirds of the lake was a dead zone at the end of 2002. Experts say that the two problems are closely related and that evaporation rates are outpacing precipitation ranks as one of the highest concerns.

Experts also point to sprawl as a major contributor to lower water levels and higher pollution. As falling water lands in parking lots and roadways, it then has to make its way through the sewer system before it ends up in the watershed area. This means that the water takes longer to reach lakes and rivers and that sewage processing can get overloaded, forcing a dump of virtually unprocessed water.

“You find a lot of communities, like the Niagara region, have population loss but increased land use,” Gilbert said. “We can all agree that a tablespoon of feces in the lake doesn’t matter, but how much is too much?”

With predictions ranging from a five- to twenty-five foot drop in Lake Erie water levels over the next fifty years, this all adds up to a smaller lake with inevitably higher concentrations of pollution, algae, and invasive species, such as zebra mussels. While there may be new waterfront property to develop due to lowered water levels, future residents may never be safe swimming in or drinking from those waters again.

Lack of Creativity and Commitment

The recent decision to place yet another long-serving state official in charge of day-to-day operations of the fiscal control board reeks of irresponsibility. Dorothy Johnson, the new executive director of the control board, brings with her 14 years of watching Western New York slide helplessly into economic oblivion while her superiors forced unfunded mandate after unfunded mandate upon the region, county, and city. Obviously, her ability to bring local concerns to the state table is limited, despite the apparent infatuation with her that some local politicians have expressed to The Buffalo News.

The control board has yet to appoint any community leaders, and is made up of many of the same people who have actively or passively watched Buffalo decline. These are the same people who got us here and are now running the show, to the tune of $1.2 million, in a governmental body that is undemocratic and unrepresentative of the city’s constituents. “No one imagined this board would cost us $1.2 million,” said the soon-to-be-downsized Fisher. “If voters had known that behind this would be a control board that cost more than the money saved by downsizing the council, I don’t think they would have voted for it. Even if the state foots the bill, we taxpayers are still going to pay for it.”

While a better future is imaginable, reality demands we face facts to achieve it. Placing hope in business-focused economics hasn’t ever worked for the masses, and it isn’t going to do the trick this time.

“The only way we’ll get out of this is community organization,” Eager said. “The government has abandoned us to the wolves or it has become the wolf itself.”

And Saddam has been blamed for the increase in the attacks against Americans. Just before press, the U.S. government announced a $25 million reward for the hope-not-to-be legendary Beast of Baghdad, presumably dead or alive. The fruit of his loins, sons Uday and Qusay, are worth a mere $15 million (editor's note: since we're not sure whether the sons are worth $15 million each or together, we have to assume that this is specifically aimed toward the low-budget bounty hunter types). They are suspected of paying bounties for U.S. scalps and for encouraging hundreds of foreign-born fighters to slip into the country and join the fighting.

The primary motivation for the bounties seems to be the release of a supposed audio tape of a very much alive Saddam Hussein. Recorded by Al-Jazeera over the phone, the voice could be the Bush administrations’ worst nightmare on the ground in Iraq. The voice claimed that the tape was made on June 14. The much hoped-for-dead-dictator took credit for the increased attacks and promises. Much to everyone’s disappointment, the voice also said, "I am still present in Iraq.” He also said that other former Iraqi leaders are still in the country. If true or otherwise believed by the average Iraqi, this could seriously undermine the entire U.S. effort.

The specter of an unseen Saddam Hussein and still potent secret police could terrify the civilian population, even force some of it to join the ranks of the attackers, only if to hedge their bets with a public demonstration of loyalty to the former tyrant. After all, the Americans have a habit of running out on allies that they no longer want or can’t afford. Ask the Kurds to the north or the Shiites in the south.

The voice on the tape also tried to explain the quick American victory. "We have sacrificed the government… but we will not sacrifice our principles or surrender…”

Later, the voice calls for another Muslim standard, the Jihad, against the invaders.

But this seemed to have some merit. At a U.S. base 55 miles north of Baghdad, 18 American soldiers were wounded, two seriously, when a salvo of four mortar rounds hit inside the compound. A mortar is a crew-served weapon, and it takes considerable support and organization to put into the field.

And, on Saturday, an explosion ripped through the city of Ramadi, killing seven newly graduated police recruits and wounding about 54 other people. The recruits had been participating in a U.S. training program.

But the problem with the bounty could be that Saddam and sons are worth considerably more than these figures. And, if they are hiding out inside the Sunni triangle, Hussein’s home territory, no one there is likely to rat them out. This is where the former ruling Ba'ath Party had its strongest support.

The $25 million bounty on the head of Osama Bin Laden has seen no success. Nothing has turned up but dozens, if not hundreds, of private military contractors crawling all over the countryside and annoying the drug traffickers.

Here at home the Independence Day weekend saw Americans of every stripe enjoying the now traditional, almost mandatory outpouring of Strip Mall Patriotism. But for one U.S. soldier standing guard at the Baghdad Museum, this Independence Day was his last. He was part of the First Armored Division, and was up in the gunner’s hatch of his Bradley when a sniper shot him.

He was the 67th soldier to die since May 1, when we were told by a victory-flushed President George W. Bush that major combat had ended. Of that total number, 26 have died from hostile fire. The Pentagon sees this death as “militarily insignificant.” Of course, the dead soldier was not asked if he thought his death was insignificant.

There are about 55,000 American troops inside Baghdad, so the Pentagon’s seemingly callous attitude can be explained by the lack of serious numbers, much as former secretary of defense Robert McNamara tried to use statistical analysis and number crunching to prove victory and legitimize the war in Vietnam.

North Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap proved McNamara’s notion of spreadsheet tactics groundless. Giap pushed his peasant army to legendary military victory while Robert McNamara was banished to the World Bank.

But the Bush administration is not concerned. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld held one of his now-legendary Pentagon press briefings last Monday to set the record straight. While patronizing assembled reporters from around the globe, Rumsfeld said that leftovers from Hussein's former regime are responsible for the attacks. He claimed that they were part of a ‘terrorist network,’ but argued against the feared guerrilla war and the casualty-generating meat-grinding quagmire that an insurgency would produce.

“There are so many cartoons where people, press people, are saying, ‘Is it Vietnam yet? Hoping it is and wondering if it is… it isn’t… it’s a different time… it’s a different era… it’s a different place…”

The secretary is correct about that. Unfortunately, the color of spilled blood never changes.

(Editor’s note: sources for this story include the U.S. Department of Defense, Reuters. AFP, The Observer, and SanDiegoChannel.com)

“For all of us, this struggle is about respect and dignity,” says Josefina Bonilla, a 27-year employee. “We have given our lives to this company, our youth, our hard labor, and Azteca Foods has grown to be large and profitable. All we want is the respect we have earned.”

But that respect has not been forthcoming. Their all-male, mostly white supervisors routinely yell at them and insult them, the workers say, telling them that they are worthless and threatening to fire them. Supervisors reportedly follow employees to the restroom and wait outside to time them. And many workers say that their supervisors follow them to the lunch area, ordering them back to work as soon as they sit down to take their 20-minute unpaid lunch break.

Many of the workers have severe rashes, which they believe are caused by the bleach that they use in the flour, and many more have been burned by the sulfuric acid that they mix in the dough. Company doctors reportedly dismiss these complaints out of hand. The workers also report on-going problems in getting the proper protective equipment. There have been numerous injuries at the plant. One of these involved a replacement worker who slipped on a bag of tortillas during the strike and got his hand caught between two conveyor belts that dragged his arm in and mangled it. None of the replacement workers in the area were trained (as required by law) in stopping the belt, which also has no emergency stop button. The worker says that he remained stuck for ten minutes until someone could get him out.

The Occupational Safety and Heal th Administration (OSHA) investigated the incident, and striking workers expect OSHA to issue at least one citation to Azteca. The injured temp worker is currently hospitalized in Loyola Medical Center and says that he cannot use his arm. Azteca is paying temp workers minimum wage, with no benefits, to replace striking union employees.

Yet the company is not broke. Azteca takes in annual revenues up to $33 million, less than ten percent of which is devoted to labor costs, according to company documents. The owner, Art Velasquez, has also reportedly been bragging that he has purchased a $4 million house. Velasquez declined to be interviewed for this story.

And a Company Union, Too

The workers clearly needed and wanted a union. Unfortunately, they already had one. The 87 workers at Azteca Foods belonged to Distillery Workers Local 3, run by the Duff family. The Duffs also own Windy City Temps, currently under federal investigation for allegedly false registration as a minority/woman-owned business, which got the company affirmative action contracts worth millions with the City of Chicago. The Duffs also allegedly received kickbacks from the bank where they kept union funds. John Duff, Jr., spent 17 months in jail for embezzlement of union funds.

But that’s not the worst. “The president, the reps, everybody in the union were from the Duff family,” says Leah Fried, a field organizer with the United Electrical Workers (UE). “They represent some of the poorest workers in the city, and they run a temp agency that basically supplies scabs to the same employers.” The Azteca workers now call the Duffs’ union a “company union” because it helps the employer more than the employees. Fried says that there is a kind of mini-epidemic in Chicago of “mobster-wannabe” unions like Distillery Workers Local 3, victimizing an estimated 20,000 workers in the Windy City alone.

But, in April 2002, Azteca workers stood up to Velasquez and the Duffs, voting three to one to form a union with UE Local 1159. “The workers were signaling that they wanted a change,” says Fried. “But the owner said he would rather die than give them any more than they had.”

The National Labor Relations Board supervised the vote and required bargaining to begin, which it did in May. According to the union, their bargaining team submitted proposals at that time, demanding pay raises and improvements in health benefits. But when Azteca finally responded, says Fried, the company proposed sweeping cuts in employee and union rights, as well as increases in health insurance costs that effectively lowered wages.

“Most employees are general laborers,” says Fried. “For them, the company proposed cost increases that work out to 37 cents an hour for health insurance, and five cents an hour in pay raises, effectively a pay cut of 32 cents an hour.” Azteca also proposed severe limitations on seniority, which had previously determined bidding on job openings in the plant and overtime distribution, among other issues. But, most surprisingly, the company also balked at rights freely granted the previous union: the right to pass out leaflets in non-work areas on non-work time, which is protected by federal law, as well as the standard union security clauses and other rights. The new union has filed an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge alleging that Azteca is not bargaining in “good faith,” as required by law.

Another company demand, which emphasizes the additional uncertainty faced by immigrant workers, is the authority to fire any workers at any time for any incorrect information on their job application. The issue is this, says Fried, “All but three of the workers are Mexican immigrants, and many of them were undocumented until the general amnesty. Then they became documented workers, and they came to their supervisors with new social security numbers and, in some cases, new names.” Azteca’s response, says Fried, was to consider them new employees, stripping them of up to ten years of seniority and re-starting them at the lowest pay rate. Now Azteca wants to fire these employees.

In July, the workers set up an informational picket outside the plant during a shift change, between 2:30 and 4 p.m. Azteca management responded by blockading the road into the plant, stopping all workers on their way in to work, and threatening to fire all participants. Management also allegedly changed the security codes so that workers could only get in if a supervisor let them in, and the company hired private security guards to videotape the picket.

“Of course all that is illegal,” says Fried. “So we marched to the gate and demanded that everybody be allowed back to work, and we told the bosses they’d better call their lawyer.” They did, and no one was fired. The labor board has issued a complaint against the company related to this incident. But, by the end of September, the Unfair Labor Practices (ULPs) were piling up, and the workers couldn’t take much more. What was the purpose of labor laws if the bosses could just keep violating them? So they took a vote and decided to strike over the ULPs.

Taking It to the Streets

On September 30, seventy-five percent of the Azteca employees walked out. The company threatened to replace them all permanently, which is illegal in an Unfair Labor Practice strike. The union has filed another charge with the labor board. Since then, according to UE, not a single striker has crossed the picket line to return to work. Unionized truckers have also refused to cross to make deliveries or pickups. The problem is, says Fried, that there are a lot of non-union drivers.

But, since September, Azteca workers have been finding support all over. Strikers have called for a national boycott of Azteca products, including tortillas, tortilla chips, and tortilla shells, which appears to be having an impact. Workers and supporters have passed out leaflets at grocery stores in several cities where Azteca products are sold. The Hyde Park Co-op chain in Chicago has decided to stop carrying Azteca products since the strike began, and the union claims that their efforts have “crippled production” at the plant, which is reportedly down to fifteen percent of its pre-strike rate. Azteca has been forced to subcontract its tortilla production to suppliers in Texas, Nebraska, and New York, says Fried. And sales, she says, have also been hurt.

The strikers have also been shadowing owner Art Velasquez at the many high-profile charity functions that he regularly attends as a trustee at Notre Dame, a major contributor to the Mexican Fine Arts Museum and elsewhere. They say that they want to expose him for who he really is to people who believe he has a heart of gold.

Both sides in the conflict recently met with a federal mediator, but management is reportedly dragging its feet even in that forum. Meanwhile, community support for the strikers has been overwhelming, ranging from the “usual suspects,” such as Jobs with Justice, Loyola Students Against Sweatshops, Seminarians for Worker Justice, and the Interfaith Committee on Worker Justice, to local and state politicians.

Several parishes of the Catholic Church have provided food for the strikers and have conducted mass on the picket line. All of the workers are Catholic, as is the owner. And at Christmas time, church supporters even helped strikers hold a “posada” on the line. A “posada” is a procession that depicts the family of Jesus of Nazareth seeking shelter before his birth, and, says Fried, “it has become a metaphor for the workers’ struggle: seeking justice.”

To help, contact the owner, Art Velasquez, at 1 (800) 475-7997, or make a much-needed financial contribution by visiting the union’s website,www.ranknfile-org/1159azteca_home.htm or by mailing a check to: UE Local 1159, 37 South Ashland, Chicago, Ill. 60607. Those who want to become more involved may also call the union at (312) 829-8300, or visit the website, for leaflets to hand out at grocery stores.

There are two types of sewage overflows causing the problem in Erie County. They are technically referred to as Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) and Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSOs). CSOs present the largest problem in the City of Buffalo and occur when rainwater flows from our lawns, parking lots, and streets and enters storm drains that empty into the same lines that carry wastewater from our homes. With this excess flow, the system is unable to contain the additional volume. Release pipes have been designed into the system to divert the untreated sewage wastewater into the nearest stream. This occurs quite often in the City of Buffalo, which releases more than 35 million gallons of untreated sewage during heavy rainstorms, through 67 pipes that empty into the Buffalo River, Scajaquada Creek, Niagara River, and even Lake Erie.

Some say that the problem isn’t that bad since the sewage is diluted with rainwater. Others say it was much worse back in the 1960s. Although not as concentrated as residential wastewater alone, these overflow pipes deliver bacteria and viruses, fecal matter, untreated industrial wastes, household chemical cleaners, toilet paper, and other wastes that can cause fish kills, gastrointestinal illness, and beach closures. And since contaminated stormwater is transported through the same pipes, runoff from our streets and lawns means that sediments, toxins from old industrial sites, metals, pesticides, fertilizers, oil, grease, nutrients, and trash are also present.

The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has issued a State Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit for every CSO pipe. What this means is that they have a permit to pollute. The map in the report released by CERI will help the public identify where these points are in their neighborhood. Additionally, under the state Discharge Notification Law, the City of Buffalo will be required to post a sign notifying the public where these pipes are located. When residents know where these points are, they will be able to better avoid these areas.

The next effort will be to break from 40 years of “acceptable practice” and eliminate discharges during wet weather. Buffalo’s system was developed over decades to serve a population that peaked at 600,000 people in the 1950s and has since dwindled to half of that. Due to a shortage of funding and the age of the system, progress has been slow in Buffalo to improve the capacity and remove CSOs. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that CSOs discharge 1.2 trillion gallons into American waters every year, and the agency is requiring cities to come up with long-term CSO control plans.

Although state and federal funding is available, competition for projects is intense amongst communities such as Chicago, Cleveland, Rochester, and New York City which are experiencing the same problem and are working to address it through massive infrastructure overhauls. The Buffalo Sewer Authority is currently considering hiring a lobbyist to help identify and secure further funding.

Chicago has addressed its CSO problem by diverting the flow of sewage before it reaches surface water to a retention tunnel that holds two billion gallons of wastewater. The water is held there until wet weather subsides, and it is then pumped to the sewage plant for proper treatment. Other cities, such as Rochester and New York City, are using retention pipes and holding tanks to reduce flow.

Strong policy and increased federal funding opportunities are needed to seriously reduce the flow. For now, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is relying on the CSO Control Policy to control CSOs so that they do not significantly contribute to violations of water quality standards. Through new regulatory provisions, EPA is requiring all CSO communities at a minimum to implement short-term controls, known as the nine minimum technology-based controls. If these are not sufficient to meet water quality standards, a community may be required to implement more extensive long-term controls, such as building a retention tank.

Facing conventional engineering solutions that could cost as much as $500 million, Buffalo applied for and has received $250,000 from NYSERDA to determine if installing computer-controlled flow devices will help by diverting wastewater and storing it within the system. This may help since, at one time, the system served a much larger population. This method of retention is modeled after success found in Quebec.

Quebec uses a computer-controlled flow device as a “hunt and seek strategy.” What this refers to is that, when a release pipe is overflowing, the system searches for a release pipe that is currently empty. The wastewater is then diverted to the empty pipe and retained. This method, if utilized properly, can contain a majority if not all of the sewage and wastewater in the collection system until the wet whether subsides. If it doesn’t substantially reduce the amount of flow, the city will have to construct a holding facility like other cities have.

Other techniques, such as tree planting, narrowing of streets to reduce impervious pavement, parking lot infiltration islands, and buffers along streams and rivers will also help to reduce surges of storm-water. The Buffalo Sewer Authority is currently using an incremental approach to addressing this problem.

Although the Buffalo Sewer Authority is on the right track, it could be years before the public will see any real changes in water quality around Buffalo and Erie County.