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BLACK-OUT AT THE TIMES

-- Readers Forced to View Unsolicited Corpornography

by Greg Palast
August 25, 2003

I guess the lights never went back on at the Times. That's the only acceptable explanation for the loving Lewinsky The Paper of Record gave to the power industry on the front page of its Sunday edition.

Over 20-some column inches, we are told that "experts say" that the reason the lights went out over one fourth our continent ten days ago was that the electric industry, most particularly, transmission lines, "remained regulated." The answer to our woes, the Times informs us, is more deregulation -- except for the visionary rules contained in the President's energy bill. In the editorial posing as a news story, the Times lectures us that the president's proposals would have been law, and saved us from the power outage, "but politics have stymied their progress."

Later in the article, the stymiers of progress are named: those evil small-minded "consumer groups."

So who are these "experts" who revealed The Truth to the The Times? The authors quote seven in the article, beginning with David Owen, the industry's chief lobbyist. That paid shill is followed by James Hoecker, identified by his former title only, as a "independent" regulator. Just from the article, you'd think the poor guy is unemployed these days. In fact, he's walked comfortably through the revolving door and onto the industry payroll. His law firm represents, among others, First Energy, the characters who started the black-out rolling. I guess that fact was not "fit to print" in The Times.

My favorite is the Times giving us the expert advice of the "director of Transmission for the National Grid Transco which owns and runs the grid in England and Wales." This Brit says Americans should pay more money to grid operators. What he doesn't say -- and the Times is happy to keep his secret -- is that his corporation owns Niagara-Mohawk Power Corporation, the company that spread the power outage into New York. Undoubtedly, NiMo's failure to react to the emergency resulted from the corporation's eliminating 800 workers in New York over the past two years and radically cutting investment in the grid system it operates in the USA.

The parade of industry retainers, payrollers and lobbyists lecturing us stumbles on through the Times' inside pages. Unnamed "industry analysts" telling us "consumers will have to foot the bill" to fix the system. As an analyst of the industry for decades -- and on no one's payroll except the United Nations -- I can tell you that you HAVE paid the bill already for a good system. But power pirates such as the National Grid of England have run off with the booty.

I admit, there's one "expert" cited who is not receiving an industry paycheck. The article is capped by the finger-wagging counsel of the Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Chairman Pat Wood III concludes the article with his admonition that deregulation must be accelerated. Wood is, after all, the man in charge of our nation's power system. His qualifications for the job? His appointment was secretly proposed by Ken Lay.

If the Times wants to publish corpornography on its front page, hey, it's a free country. At least they did it with the lights off.


Greg Palast is author of the bestseller, "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy," and the worstseller, "Democracy and Regulation." The later, regarding the dangers of deregulation, written with Theo MacGregor and Jerrold Oppenheim, was financed and published by the United Nations ILO.

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