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In the Dark

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During the days of empire, the Chinese coined a famous joke about the British. “Why did the sun never set on the British empire?” the Chinese asked. “Because God could never trust the British in the dark!”

If only America’s trust in market forces could find bottom with that much humor. When reports of the East Coast’s most famous blackout hit the news, Canada (that evil practitioner of socialized medicine) was first to get the blame. Then it was northeastern Ohio. Now it’s the slow realization that, hey, perhaps it was the deregulation of utility companies that put millions of New Yorkers, Detroiters, and evil socialist Canadians in the dark. Back in the roaring years of 1998 through 2000, Bush’s buddies at Enron made a big splash over building a corporate house of cards that traded energy shares. What Enron really energized was the emptying of so many company retirement accounts. Now we’re somewhat aghast at a system of electricity deregulation that separated the maintenance of antiquated transmission lines from electricity generators. This gave people cheaper electricity, sure, but now the East Coast grid needs an expensive upgrade. Like your grandparents said, you pay now or you pay more later. At least this let the Iraqis offer tips, via the New York Times, on how to beat the heat when you’ve got no AC: shower with your clothes on, don’t wear shorts (they look “childish”) and drink hot tea, which has the psychological effect of actually making you feel cooler by comparison. The Iraqis are experts, of course, having gone without power almost since the U.S. invasion started.

Can’t we wage war against e-mail spam first? The President’s Commission on the U.S. Postal Service wants to bring the nation’s postal service and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security under one roof in hopes of developing a postage stamp that will identify the sender and recipient of every piece of mail, according to a report by CNET Networks, Inc. Granted, everyone’s smarting from those five anthrax deaths. But who can doubt that e-mail spammers kill everyone’s time, and therefore a portion of our short, short lives?

Blair in your hair. Wouldn’t it be a hoot, thought Esquire magazine, to have admitted fabricator and former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair review a film based on the life of former New Republic reporter Stephen Glass, also an admitted fabricator? Not really, cried an outraged public. The tony men’s magazine gave Blair his second axing of the year. Will someone please explain how it is that Glass scored a book-and-movie deal, while Blair can’t get a token review job with an ironic twist?

Separate but equal, or together but unequal? A young black lesbian was stabbed last week for thwarting a man’s advances as she and her friends walked down the streets of New York City. That same week, Bronx state Sen. Ruben Diaz (Democrat, curiously) filed a lawsuit with the right-leaning Liberty Counsel to stop state financial support for the new Harvey Milk High, established to protect gay and lesbian teens from harassment. Diaz and the Liberty Counsel argue such a school would practice segregation. Officials said the school will be open to heterosexual teens as well.

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