Monday, June 18, 2007

Hunter S. Thompson Meets Judge Clarence Thomas

by Hunter S. Thompson
from Rolling Stone #622, January 23, 1992
[Part I] Memo From the National Affairs Desk: Sexual Harassment Then
and Now..The Ghost of Long Dong Thomas...The Road Full of Forks
Dear Jann,
God damn, I wish you were here to enjoy this beautiful weather with
me. It is autumn, as you know, and things are beginning to die. It is
so wonderful to be out in the crisp fall air, with the leaves turning
gold and the grass turning brown, and the warmth going out of the
sunlight and big hot fires in the fireplace while Buddy rakes the
lawn. We see a lot of bombs on TV because we watch it a lot more, now
that the days get shorter and shorter, and darkness comes so soon, and
all the flowers die from freezing.
Oh, God! You should have been with me yesterday when I finished my
ham and eggs and knocked back some whiskey and picked up my Weatherby
Mark V .300 Magnum and a ball of black Opium for dessert and went
outside with a fierce kind of joy in my heart because I was Proud to
be an American on a day like this. If felt like a goddamn Football
Game, Jann -- it was like Paradise.... You remember that bliss you
felt when we powered down to the farm and whipped Stanford? Well, it
felt like That.
I digress. My fits of Joy are soiled by relentless flashbacks and
ghosts too foul to name....Oh no, don't ask Why. You could have been
president, Jann, but your road was full of forks, and I think of this
when I see the forked horns of these wild animals who dash back and
forth on the hillsides while rifles crack in the distance and fine
swarthy young men with blood on their hands drive back and forth in
the dusk and mournfully call our names....
O Ghost, O Lost, Lost and Gone, O Ghost, come back again.
Right. and so much for autumn. The trees are diseased and the
Animals get in your way and the President is usually guilty and most
days are too long, anyway....So never mind my poem. It was wrong from
the start. I plagiarized it from an early work of Coleridge and then
tried to put my own crude stamp on it, but I failed.
So what? I didn't want to talk about *** autumn, anyway. I was
just sitting here at dawn on a crisp Sunday morning, waiting for the
football games to start and taking a goddamn very brief break from
this blizzard of Character Actors and Personal Biographers and sickly
Paparazzi that hovers around me these days (they are sleeping now,
thank Christ -- some even in my own bed). I was sitting here all
alone, thinking, for good or ill, about the Good Old Days.
We were Poor, Jann. But we were Happy. Because we knew Tricks. We
were Smart. Not Crazy, like they said. (No. They never called us late
for dinner, eh?)
Ho, ho. Laughs don't come cheap these days, do they? The only guy
who seems to have any fun in public is Prince Cromwell, my shrewd and
humorless neighbor -- the one who steals sheep and beats up women,
like Mike Tyson.
Who knows why, Jann. Some people are too weird to figure.
You have come a long way from the Bloodthirsty, Beady-eyed news Hawk
that you were in days of yore. Maybe you should try reading something
besides those goddamn motorcycle magazines -- or one of these days
you'll find hair growing in your palms.
Take my word for it. You can only spend so much time "on the
throttle," as it were....Then the Forces of Evil will take over.
Ah, but that is a different question, for now. Who gives a ***? We
are, after all, Professionals....But our Problem is not. No. It is the
Problem of Everyman. It is Everywhere. The Question is our Wa; the
Answer is our Fate.... and the story I am about to tell you is
horrible, Jann.
I came suddenly awake, weeping and jabbering and laughing like a
loon at the ghost on my TV set....Judge Clarence Thomas....Yes, I knew
him. But that was a long time ago. Many years, in fact, but I still
remember it vividly....Indeed, it has haunted me like a Golem, day and
night, for many years.
It seemed normal enough, at the time, just another weird rainy night
out there on the high desert....What the Hell? We were younger, then.
Me and the Judge. And all the others, for that matter....It was a
Different Time. People were friendly. We trusted each other. Hell, you
afford to get mixed up with wild strangers in those days -- without
fearing for your life, or your eyes, or your organs, or all of your
money or even getting locked up in prison forever. There was a sense
of possibility. People were not so afraid, as they are now.

[Part II] Fear and Loathing in Elko: Bad Craziness in Sheep
Country....Side Entrance on Queer Street....O Black, O Wild, O
Darkness, Roll Over Me Tonight
It was just after midnight when I first saw the sheep. I was running
about eighty-eight or ninety miles an hour in a drenching, blinding
rain on U.S. 40 between Winnemucca and Elko with one light out. I was
soaking wet from the water that was pouring in through a hole in the
front roof of the car, and my fingers were like rotten icicles on the
steering wheel.
It was a moonless night and I knew I was hydroplaning, which is
dangerous.... My front tires were no longer in touch with the asphalt
or anything else. My center of gravity was too high. There was no
visibility on the road, none at all. I could have tossed a flat rock a
lot farther than I could see in front of me that night though the rain
and the ground fog.
So what? I though. I know this road -- a straight lonely run across
nowhere, with not many dots on the map except ghost towns and truck
stops with names like Beowawe and Lovelock and Deeth and
Jesus! Who made this map? Only a lunatic could have come up with a
list of places like this: Imlay, Valmy, Golconda, Nixon, Midas,
Metropolis, Jiggs, Judasville -- all of them empty, with no gas
stations, withering away in the desert like a string of old Pony
Express stations. The Federal Government owns ninety percent of this
land, and most of it is useless for anything except weapons testing
and poison-gas experiments.
My plan was to keep moving. Never slow down. Keep the car aimed
straight ahead through the rain like a cruise missile....I felt
comfortable. There is a sense of calm and security that comes with
driving a very fast car on an empty road at night....F*** this
thunderstorm, I thought. There is safety in speed. Nothing can touch
me as long as I keep moving fast, and never mind the cops: They're all
hunkered down in a truck stop or jacking off by themselves in a
culvert behind some dynamite shack in the wilderness beyond the
highway....Either way, they wanted no part of me, and I wanted no part
of them. Only trouble could come of it. They were probably nice
people, and so was I -- but we were not meant for each other. History
had long since determined that. There is a huge body of evidence to
support the notion that me and the police were put on this earth to do
extremely different things and never to mingle professionally with
each other, except at official functions, when we all wear ties and
drink heavily and whoop it up like the natural, good-humored wild boys
that we know in our hearts that we are..These occasions are rare, but
they happen -- despite the forked tongue of fate that has put us
forever on different paths....But what the hell? I can handle a wild
birthday party with cops, now and then. Or some unexpected orgy at a
gun show in Texas. Why not? Hell, I ran for Sheriff one time, and
almost got elected. They understand this, and I get along fine with
the smart ones.
But not tonight, I thought, I sped along in the darkness. Not at 100
miles an hour at midnight on a rain-slicked road in Nevada. Nobody
needs to get involved in a high-speed chase on a filthy night like
this. It would be dumb and extremely dangerous. Nobody driving a red
454 V-8 Chevrolet convertible was likely to pull over and surrender
peacefully at the first sight of a cop car behind him. All kinds of
weird s*** might happen, from a gunfight with dope fiends to permanent
injury or death....It was a good night to stay indoors and be warm,
make a fresh pot of coffee and catch up on important paperwork. Lay
low and ignore these loonies. Anybody behind the wheel of a car tonight
was far too crazy to f*** with, anyway.
Which was probably true. There was nobody on the road except me and
a few big-rig Peterbilts running west to Reno and Sacramento by dawn.
I could hear them on my nine-band Super-Scan shortwave/CB/Police
radio, which erupted now and then with outbursts of brainless speed
gibberish about Big Money and Hot Crank and teenage c***s with huge
They were dangerous Speed Freaks, driving twenty-ton trucks that
might cut loose and jackknife at any moment, utterly out of control.
There is nothing more terrifying than suddenly meeting a jackknifed
Peterbilt with no brakes coming at you sideways at sixty or seventy
miles per hour on a steep mountain road at three o'clock in the
morning. There is a total understanding, all at once, of how the
captain of the Titanic must have felt when he first saw the Iceberg.
And not much different from the hideous feeling that gripped me when
the beam of my Long-Reach Super-Halogen headlights picked up what
appeared to be a massive rock slide across the highway -- right in
front of me, blocking the road completely. Big white rocks and round
boulders, looming up with no warning in a fog of rising steam or swamp
The brakes were useless, the car wandering. The rear end was coming
around. I jammed it down into Low, but it made no difference, so I
straightened it out and braced for a serious impact, a crash that
would probably kill me. This is It, I thought. This is how it happens
-- slamming into a pile of rocks at 100 miles an hour, a sudden brutal
death in a fast red car on a moonless night in a rainstorm somewhere
on the sleazy outskirts of Elko. I felt vaguely embarrassed, in that
long pure instant before I went into the rocks. I remembered Los Lobos
and that I wanted to call Maria when I got to Elko....
My heart was full of joy as I took the first hit, which was oddly
soft and painless. No real shock at all. Just a sickening thud, like
running over a body, a corpse -- or, ye f***ing gods, a crippled 200-
pound sheep thrashing around in the road.
Yes. These huge white lumps were not boulders. They were sheep. Dead
and dying sheep. More and more of them, impossible to miss at this
speed, piled up on each other like bodies at the battle of Shiloh. It
was like running over wet logs. Horrible, horrible....
And then I saw the man -- a leaping Human Figure in the glare of my
bouncing headlight, waving his arms and yelling, trying to flag me
down. I swerved to avoid hitting him, but he seemed not to see me,
rushing straight into my headlights like a blind man....or a monster
from Mars with no pulse, covered with blood and hysterical.
It looked like a small black gentleman in a London Fog raincoat,
frantic to get my attention. It was so ugly that my brain refused to
accept it....Don't worry, I thought. This is only an Acid flashback.
Be calm. This is not really happening.
I was down to about thirty-five or thirty when I zoomed past the man
in the raincoat and bashed the brains out of a struggling sheep, which
helped to reduce my speed, as the car went airborne again, then
bounced to a shuddering stop just before I hit the smoking, overturned
hulk of what looked like a white Cadillac limousine, with people still
inside. It was a nightmare. Some fool had crashed into a herd of sheep
at high speed and rolled into the desert like an eggbeater.
We were able to laugh about it later, but it took a while to calm
down. What the hell? It was only an accident. The Judge had murdered
some strange animals.
So what? Only a racist maniac would run sheep on the highway in a
thunderstorm at this hour of the night. "F*** those people!" he
snapped, as I took off toward Elko with him and his two female
companions tucked safely into my car, which had suffered major
cosmetic damage but nothing serious. "They'll never get away with this
Negligence!" he said. "We'll eat them alive in court. Take my word for
it. We are about to become joint owners of a huge Nevada sheep ranch."
Wonderful, I thought. But meanwhile we were leaving the scene of a
very conspicuous wreck that was sure to be noticed by morning, and the
whole front of my car was gummed up with wool and sheep's blood. There
was no way I could leave it parked on the street in Elko, where I'd
planned to stop for the night (maybe two or three nights, for that
matter) to visit with some old friends who were attending a kind of
Appalachian Conference for sex-film distributors at the legendary
Commercial Hotel....
Never mind that, I thought. Things have changed. I was suddenly a
Victim of Tragedy -- injured and on the run, far out in the middle of
sheep country -- 1000 miles from home with car full of obviously
criminal hitchhikers who were spattered with blood and cursing angrily
at each other as we zoomed through the blinding monsoon.
Jesus, I though Who are these people?
Who indeed? They seemed not to notice me. The two women fighting in
the back seat were hookers. No doubt about that. I had seen them in my
headlights as they struggled in the wreckage of the Cadillac, which
had killed about sixty sheep. They were desperate with Fear and
Confusion, crawling wildly across the sheep....One was a tall black
girl in a white minidress...and now she was screaming at the other
one, a young blond white woman. They were both drunk. Sounds of
struggle came from the back seat. "Get your hands off me, Bitch!" Then
a voice cried out, "Help me, Judge! Help! She's killing me!"
What? I thought. Judge? Then she said it again, and a horrible chill
went through me....Judge? No. That would be over the line.
He lunged over the back seat and whacked their heads together. "Shut
up!" he screamed. "Where are your f***ing manners?"
He went over the seat again. He grabbed one of them by the hair.
"God damn you," he screamed. "Don't embarrass this man. He saved our
lives. We owe him respect -- not this god damned squalling around like
A shudder ran through me, but I gripped the wheel and stared
straight ahead, ignoring this sudden horrible freak show in my car. I
lit a cigarette, but I was not calm. Sounds of sobbing and the ripping
of cloth came from the back seat. The man they called Judge had
straightened himself out and was now resting easily in the front seat,
letting out long breaths of air....The silence was terrifying: I
quickly turned up the music. It was Los Lobos again -- something about
"One time One Night in America," a profoundly morbid tune about Death
and Disappointment:
A lady dressed in white
With the man she loved
Standing along the side of their pickup truck
A shot rang out in the night
Just when everything seemed right
Right. A shot. A shot rang out in the night. Just another headline
written down in America....Yes. There was a loaded .454 Magnum
revolver in a clearly marked oak box on the front seat, about halfway
between me and the Judge. He could grab it in a split second and blow
my head off.
"Good work, Boss," he said suddenly. " I owe you a big one, for
this. I was done for, if you hadn't come along." He chuckled. "Sure as
hell, Boss, sure as hell. I was Dead Meat -- killed a lot worse than
those goddamn stupid sheep!"
Jesus! I thought. Get ready to hit the brake. This man is a Judge on
the lam with two hookers. He has no choice but to kill me, and those
two floozies in the back seat too. We were the only witnesses.... This
eerie perspective made me uneasy....F*** this, I thought. These people
are going to get me locked up. I'd be better off just pulling over
right here and killing all three of them. Bang, Bang, Bang! Terminate
the scum.
"How far is town? the Judge asked.
I jumped, and the car veered again. "Town?" I said.
"What town?" My arms were rigid and my voice was strange and reedy.
He whacked me on the knee and laughed. "Calm down, Boss," he said.
"I have everything under control. We're almost home." He pointed into
the rain, where I was beginning to see the dim lights of what I knew
to be Elko.
"Okay," he snapped. "Take a left, straight ahead." He pointed again
and I slipped the car into low. There was a red and blue neon sign
glowing about a half-mile ahead of us, barely visible in the storm.
The only words I could make out were NO and VACANCY.
"Slow down!" the Judge screamed. "This is it! Turn! Goddamnit,
turn!" His voice had the sound of a whip cracking. I recognized the
tone and did as he said, curling into the mouth of the curve with all
four wheels locked and the big engine snarling wildly in Compound Low
and the blue flames coming out of the tailpipe....It was one of those
long perfect moments in the human driving experience that makes
everybody quiet. Where is P.J.? I thought. This would bring him to his
We were sliding sideways very fast and utterly out of control and
coming up on a white steel guardrail at seventy miles an hour in a
thunderstorm on a deserted highway in the middle of the night.
Why not? On some nights Fate will pick you up like a chicken and
slam you around on the walls until your body feels like a
beanbag....BOOM! BLOOD! DEATH! So long, Bubba -- You knew it would End
like this....
We stabilized and shot down the loop. The Judge seemed oddly calm as
he pointed again. "This is it," he said. "This is my place. I keep a
few suites here." He nodded eagerly. "We're finally safe, Boss. We can
do anything we want in this place."
The sign at the gate said:
Thank god, I thought. It was almost too good to be true. A place to
dump these bastards. They were quiet now, but not for long. And I knew
I couldn't handle it when these women woke up.
The Endicott was a string of cheap-looking bungalows, laid out in a
horseshoe pattern around a rutted gravel driveway. There were cars
parked in front of most of the units, but the slots in front of the
brightly lit places at the darker end of the horseshoe were empty.
"Okay," said the Judge. "We'll drop the ladies down there at our
suite, then I'll get you checked in." He nodded. "We both need some
sleep, Boss -- or at least rest, if you know what I mean. S***, it's
been a long night."
I laughed, but it sounded like the bleating of a dead man. The
adrenalin rush of the sheep crash was gone, and now I was sliding into
pure Fatigue Hysteria. The Endicott "Office" was a darkened hut in the
middle of the horseshoe. We parked in front of it and then the Judge
began hammering on the wooden front door, but there was no immediate
response...."Wake up, goddamnit! It's me -- the Judge! Open up! This
is Life and Death! I need help!"
He stepped back and delivered a powerful kick at the door, which
rattled the glass panels and shook the whole building. " I know you're
in there," he screamed. "You can't hide! I'll kick your a** till your
nose bleeds!"
There was still no sign of life, and I quickly abandoned all hope.
Get out of here, I thought. This is wrong. I was still in the car,
half in and half out...The Judge put another fine snap-kick at a point
just over the doorknob and uttered a sharp scream in some language I
didn't recognize. Then I heard the sound of breaking glass.
I leapt back into the car and started the engine. Get away! I
thought. Never mind sleep. It's flee or die, now. People get killed
for doing this kind of s*** in Nevada. It was far over the line.
Unacceptable behavior. This is why God made shotguns...
I saw lights come on in the Office. Then the door swung open and I
saw the Judge leap quickly through the entrance and grapple briefly
with a small bearded man in a bathrobe, who collapsed to the floor
after the Judge gave him a few blows to the head...Then he called back
to me. "Come on in, Boss," he yelled. "Meet Mister Henry."
I shut off the engine and staggered up the gravel path. I felt sick
and woozy, and my legs were like rubber bands.
The Judge reached out to help me. I shook hands with Mr. Henry, who
gave me a key and a form to fill out. "Bulls***," said the Judge.
"This man is my guest. He can have anything he wants. Just put it on
my bill."
"Of course," said Mr. Henry. "Your bill. Yes. I have it right here."
He reached under his desk and came up with a nasty-looking bundle of
adding-machine tapes and scrawled Cash/Payment memos...."You got here
just in time," he said. "We were about to notify the Police."
"What?" said the Judge. "Are you nuts? I have a goddamn platinum
American Express card! My credit is impeccable."
"Yes," said Mr. Henry. "We know that. We have total respect for you.
Your signature is better than gold bullion." The Judge smiled and
whacked the flat of his hand on the counter. "You bet it is!" he
snapped. "So get out of my goddamn face! You must be crazy to f***
with Me like this! You fool! Are you ready to go to court?"
"Please, Judge," he said. Don't do this to me. All I need is your
card. Just let me run an imprint. That's all." He moaned and stared
more or less at the Judge, but I could see that his eyes were not
focused...."They're going to fire me," he whispered. "They want to put
me in jail."
"Nonsense!" the Judge snapped. "I would never let that happen. You
can always plead." He reached out and gently gripped Mr. Henry's
wrist. "Believe me, Bro," he hissed. "You have nothing to worry about.
You are cool. They will never lock you up! They will Never take you
away! Not out of my courtroom!"
"Thank you," Mr. Henry replied. "But all I need is your card and
your signature. That's the problem: I forgot to run it when you
checked in."
"So what?" the Judge barked. "I'm good for it. How much do you
"About $22,000," said Mr. Henry. "Probably $23,000 by now. You've
had those suites for nineteen days with total room service."
"What?" the Judge yelled. "You thieving bastards! I'll have you
crucified by American Express. You are finished in this business. You
will never work again! Not anywhere in the world! Then he whipped Mr.
Henry across the front of his face so fast that I barely saw it.
"Stop crying!" he said. "Get a grip on yourself! This is
Then he slapped the man again. "Is that all you want?" he said.
"Only a card? A stupid little card? A piece of plastic s***?"
Mr. Henry nodded. "Yes, Judge," he whispered. "That's all. Just a
stupid little card."
The Judge laughed and reached into his raincoat, as if to jerk out a
gun or at least a huge wallet. "You want a card, whoreface? Is that
it? Is that all you want? You filthy little scumbag! Here it is!"
Mr. Henry cringed and whimpered. Then he reached out to accept the
Card, the thing that would set him free...The Judge was still grasping
around in the lining of his raincoat. "What the f***?" he muttered.
"This thing has too many pockets! I can feel it, but I can't find the
Mr. Henry seemed to believe him, and so did I, for a minute....Why
not? He was a judge with a platinum credit card -- a very high roller.
You don't find many Judges, these days, who can handle a full caseload
in the morning and run wild like a goat in the afternoon. That is a
very hard dollar, and very few can handle it....but the Judge was a
Special Case.
Suddenly he screamed and fell sideways, ripping and clawing at the
lining of his raincoat. "Oh, Jesus!" he wailed. "I've lost my wallet!
It's gone. I left it out there in the Limo, when we hit the f****ing
"So what?" I said. "We don't need it for this. I have many plastic
He smiled and seemed to relax. "How many?" he said. "We might need
more than one."
I woke up in the bathtub -- who knows how much later -- to the sound
of the hookers shrieking next door. The New York Times had fallen in
and blackened the water. For many hours I tossed and turned like a
crack baby in a cold hallway. I heard thumping Rhythm & Blues --
serious rock & roll, and I knew that something wild was going on in
the Judge's suites. The smell of amyl nitrate came from under the
door. It was no use. It was impossible to sleep through this orgy of
ugliness. I was getting worried. I was already a marginally legal
person, and now I was stuck with some crazy Judge who had my credit
card and owed me $23,000.
I had some whiskey in the car, so I went out into the rain to get
some ice. I had to get out. As I walked past the other rooms, I looked
in people's windows and feverishly tried to figure out how to get my
credit card back. Then from behind me I heard the sound of a tow-truck
winch. The Judge's white Cadillac was being dragged to the ground. The
Judge was whooping it up with the tow-truck driver, slapping him on
the back.
"What the hell? It was only property damage," he laughed.
"Hey, Judge," I called out. "I never got my card back."
"Don't worry," he said. "It's in my room -- come on."
I was right behind him when he opened the door to his room, and I
caught a glimpse of a naked woman dancing. As soon as the door opened,
the woman lunged for the Judge's throat. She pushed him back outside
and slammed the door in his face.

"Forget that credit card -- we'll get some cash," the Judge said.
"Let's go down to the Commercial Hotel. My friends are there and they
have plenty of money.
We stopped for a six-pack on the way. The Judge went into a sleazy
liquor store that turned out to be a front for kinky marital aids. I
offered him money for the beer, but he grabbed my whole wallet.
Ten minutes later, the Judge came out with $400 worth of booze and a
bagful of Triple-X-Rated movies. "My buddies will like this stuff," he
said. "And don't worry about the money, I told you I'm good for it.
These guys carry serious cash."
The marquee above the front door of the Commercial Hotel said:
"Park right her in front, said the Judge. "Don't worry. I'm well
known in this place."
Me too, but I said nothing. I have been well known at the Commercial
for many years, from the time when I was doing a lot of driving back
and forth between Denver and San Francisco -- usually for Business
reasons, or for Art, and on this particular weekend I was there to
meet quietly with a few old friends and business associates from the
Board of Directors of the Adult Film Association of America. I had
been, after all, the Night Manager of the famous O'Farrell Theatre, in
San Francisco -- "the Carnegie Hall of Sex in America."
I was the Guest of Honor, in fact -- but I saw no point in confiding
these things to the Judge, a total stranger with no Personal
Identification, no money and a very aggressive lifestyle. We were on
our way to the Commercial Hotel to borrow money from some of his
friends in the Adult Film business.
What the hell? I thought. It's only Rock & Roll. And he was, after
all, a judge of some kind....Or maybe not. For all I knew he was a
criminal pimp with no fingerprints, or a wealthy black shepherd from
Spain. But it hardly mattered. He was good company (if you had a taste
for the edge work -- and I did, in those days. And so, I felt, did the
Judge). He had a bent sense of fun, a quick mind and no Fear of
The front door of the Commercial looked strangely busy at this hour
of night in a bad rainstorm, so I veered off and drove slowly around
the block in low gear.
"There's a side entrance on Queer Street," I said to the Judge, as
we hammered into a flood of black water. He seemed agitated, which
worried me a bit.
"Calm down," I said. "We don't want to make a scene in this place.
All we want is money."
"Don't worry," he said. "I know these people. They are friends.
Money is nothing. They will be happy to see me."
We entered the hotel through the Casino entrance. The Judge seemed
calm and focused until we rounded the corner and came face to face
with an eleven-foot polar bear standing on its hind legs, ready to
pounce. The Judge turned to jelly at the sight of it. "I've had enough
of this goddamn beast," he shouted." It doesn't belong here. We should
blow its head off."
I took him by the arm "Calm down, Judge," I told him. "That's White
King. He's been dead for about thirty-three years."
The Judge had no use for animals. He composed himself and we swung
into the lobby, approaching the desk from behind. I hung back--it was
getting late and the lobby was full of suspicious-looking stragglers
from the Adult Film crowd. Private cowboy cops wearing six-shooters in
open holsters were standing around. Our entrance did not go unnoticed.
The Judge looked competent, but there was something menacing in the
way he swaggered up to the desk clerk and whacked the marble
countertop with both hands. The lobby was suddenly filled with
tension, and I quickly moved away as the Judge began yelling and
pointing at the ceiling.
"Don't give me that crap," he barked. "These people are my friends.
They're expecting me. Just ring the goddamn room again." The desk
clerk muttered something about his explicit instructions not to....
Suddenly the Judge reached across the desk for the house phone.
"What's the number? I'll ring it myself" The clerk moved quickly. He
shoved the phone out of the Judge's grasp and simultaneously drew his
index finger across his throat. The Judge took one look at the muscle
converging on him and changed his stance.
"I want to cash a check," he said calmly.
"A check?" the clerk said. "Sure thing, buster. I'll cash your
goddamned check." He seized the Judge by his collar and laughed.
"Let's get this Bozo out of her. And put him in jail."
I was moving toward the door, and suddenly the Judge was right
behind me. "Let's go," he said. We sprinted for the car, but then the
Judge stopped in his tracks. He turned and raised his fist in the
direction of the hotel. "F*** you!" he shouted. "I'm the Judge. I'll
be back, and I'll bust every one of you bastards. The next time you
see me coming, you'd better run."
We jumped into the car and zoomed away into the darkness. The Judge
was acting manic. "Never mind those pimps," he said. "I'll have them
all on a chain gang in forty-eight hours." He laughed and slapped me
on the back. "Don't worry, Boss," he said. "I know where we're going."
He squinted into the rain and opened a bottle of Royal Salute.
"Straight ahead," he snapped. "Take a right at the next corner. We'll
go see Leach. He owes me $24,000."
I slowed down and reached for the whiskey. What the hell, I thought.
Some days are weirder than others.
"Leach is my secret weapon," the Judge said, "but I have to watch
him. He could be violent. The cops are always after him. He lives in a
balance of terror. But he has a genius for gambling. We win eight out
of ten every week." He nodded solemnly. "That is four of five, Doc.
That is Big. Very big. That is eighty percent of everything." He shook
his head sadly and reached for the whiskey. "It's a horrible habit.
But I can't give it up. It's like having a money machine."
"That's wonderful," I said. "What are you bitching about?"
"I'm afraid, Doc. Leach is a monster, a criminal hermit who
understands nothing in life except point spreads. He should be locked
up and castrated."
"So what?" I said. "Where does he live? We are desperate. We have no
cash and no plastic. This freak is our only hope."
The Judge slumped into himself, and neither one of us spoke for a
minute.... "Well," he said finally. "Why not? I can handle almost
anything for twenty-four big ones in a brown bag. What the fuck? Let's
do it. If the bastard gets ugly, we'll kill him."
"Come on, Judge," I said. "Get a grip on yourself. This is only a
gambling debt."
"Sure," he replied. "That's what they all say."
[Part III] Dead Meat in the Fast Lane: The Judge Runs Amok...Death of
a Poet, Blood Clots in the Revenue Stream...The Man Who Loved Sex
We pulled into a seedy trailer court behind the stockyards. Leach
met us at the door with red eyes and trembling hands, wearing a soiled
bathrobe and carrying a half-gallon of Wild Turkey.
"Thank God you're home," The Judge said. "I can't tell you what kind
of horrible shit has happened to me tonight....But now the worm has
turned. Now that we have cash, we will crush them all."
Leach just stared. Then he took a swig of Wild Turkey. "We are
doomed," he muttered. "I was about to slit my wrists."
"Nonsense," the Judge said. "We won Big. I bet the same way you did.
You gave me the numbers. You even predicted the Raiders would stomp
Denver. Hell, it was obvious. The Raiders are unbeatable on Monday
Leach tensed, then he threw his head back and uttered a high-pitched
quavering shriek. The Judge seized him. "Get a grip on yourself," he
snapped. "What's wrong?"
"I went sideways on the bet," Leach sobbed. "I went to that goddamn
sports bar up in Jackpot with some of the guys from the shop. We were
all drinking Mescal and screaming, and I lost my head."
Leach was clearly a bad drinker and a junkie for mass hysteria. "I
got drunk and bet on the Broncos," he moaned, "then I doubled up. We
lost everything."
A terrible silence fell on the room. Leach was weeping helplessly.
The Judge seized him by the sash of his greasy leather robe and
started jerking him around by the stomach.
They ignored me and I tried to pretend it wasn't happening....It was
too ugly. There was and ashtray on the table in front of the couch. As
I reached for it, I noticed a legal pad of what appeared to be Leach's
poems, scrawled with a red Magic Marker in some kind of primitive
verse form. There was one that caught my eye. There was something
particularly ugly about it. There was something repugnant in the harsh
slant of the handwriting. It was about pigs.
By F.X. Leach
Omaha 1968
A filthy young pig
got tired of his gig
and begged for a transfer
to Texas.
Police ran him down
on the Outskirts of town
and ripped off his Nuts
with a coathanger.
Everything after that was like
coming home in a cage on the
back of at train from
New Orleans on a Saturday
with no money and cancer and
a dead girlfriend.
In the end it was no use
He died on his knees in a barn
with all the others watching.
Res Ipsa Loquitur

"They're going to kill me," Leach said. "They'll be here by
midnight. I'm doomed." He uttered another low cry and reached for the
Wild Turkey bottle, which had fallen over and spilled.
"Hang on," I said. "I'll get more."
On my way to the kitchen I was jolted by the sight of a naked woman
slumped awkwardly in the corner with a desperate look on her face, as
if she'd been shot. Her eyes bulged and her mouth was wide open and
she appeared to be reaching out for me.
I leapt back and heard laughter behind me. My first thought was that
Leach, unhinged by his gambling disaster, had finally gone over the
line with his wife-beating habit and shot her in the mouth just before
we knocked. She appeared to be crying out for help, but there was no
I ran into the kitchen to look for a knife thinking, that if Leach
had gone crazy enough to kill his wife, now he would have to kill me,
too, since I was the only witness. Except the Judge, who locked
himself in the bathroom.
Leach appeared in the doorway holding the naked woman by the neck
and hurled her across the room at me....
Time stood still for an instant. The woman seemed to hover in the
air, coming at me in the darkness like a body in slow motion. I went
into a stance with the bread knife and braced for a fight to the
The thing hit me and bounced softly down to the floor. It was a
rubber blow-up doll: one of those things with five orifices that young
stockbrokers buy in adult bookstores after the singles bars close.
"Meet Jennifer," he said. "She's my punching bag." He picked it up
by the hair and slammed it across the room.
"Ho, ho," he chuckled, "no more wife beating. I'm cured, thanks to
Jennifer." He smiled sheepishly . "It's almost like a miracle. These
dolls saved my marriage. They're a lot smarter than you think." He
nodded gravely. "Sometimes I have to beat two at once. But it always
calms me down, you know what I mean?"
Whoops, I thought. Welcome to the night train. "Oh, hell yes, I said
quickly. "How do the neighbors handle it?"
"No problem," he said. "They love me."
Sure, I thought. I tried to imagine the horror of living in a muddy
industrial slum full of tin-walled trailers and trying to protect your
family against brain damage from knowing that every night when you
look out your kitchen window there will be a man in a leather bathrobe
flogging two naked women around the room with a quart bottle of Wild
Turkey. Sometimes for two or three hours...It was horrible.
"Where is your wife?" I asked. "Is she still here?"
"Oh, yes." he said quickly. "She just went out for some cigarettes
She'll be back any minute." He nodded eagerly. "Oh, yes, she's very
proud of me. We're almost reconciled. She really loves these dolls."
I smiled, but something about this story mad me nervous. "How many
do you have?" I asked him.
[To be continued]

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Annual Heating Degree Days Valuable NOAA Map

This map is very valuable. Pick your area and see what the normal HDD are for the year. 95% will occur in the five winter months of November through March.
My sister Lois lives in Aspen, CO. Look at the tight bands as one goes up the mountain!
Cincinnati is at the convergence of bands also.
Cincinnati, by the way, is the "freeze-thaw" capital of the U.S. The temperature goes above and below more than any other place.

Good Book Review: Excellent Book on Justice Clarence Thomas

in NYT today.

Published: June 17, 2007
After all the twisted racial history of the United States Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas was confirmed by the Senate with the smallest margin of victory in more than 100 years, with little professional scrutiny and with a level of manipulative political rancor that diminished everyone directly involved. The effect on Thomas, we learn from this impeccably researched and probing biography, was to reinforce the chronic contradictions with which he has long lived.
Skip to next paragraph
The Divided Soul of Clarence Thomas.
By Kevin Merida and Michael A. Fletcher.
Illustrated. 422 pp. Doubleday. $26.95.
First Chapter: ‘Supreme Discomfort: The Divided Soul of Clarence Thomas’ (June 17, 2007)
Enlarge This Image
Design by Abbott Miller; photographs from Bettmann/Corbis

Thus, although he seriously believes that his extremely conservative legal opinions are in the best interests of African-Americans, and yearns to be respected by them, he is arguably one of the most viscerally despised people in black America. It is incontestable that he has benefited from affirmative action at critical moments in his life, yet he denounces the policy and has persuaded himself that it played little part in his success. He berates disadvantaged people who view themselves as victims of racism and preaches an austere individualism, yet harbors self-pitying feelings of resentment and anger at his own experiences of racism. His ardent defense of states’ rights would have required him to uphold Virginia’s anti-miscegenation law, not to mention segregated education, yet he lives with a white wife in Virginia. He is said to dislike light-skinned blacks, yet he is the legal guardian of a biracial child, the son of one of his numerous poor relatives. He frequently preaches the virtues of honesty and truthfulness, yet there is now little doubt that he lied repeatedly during his confirmation hearings — not only about his pornophilia and bawdy humor but, more important, about his legal views and familiarity with cases like Roe v. Wade.
Kevin Merida and Michael A. Fletcher conducted hundreds of interviews with Thomas’s friends, relatives and colleagues for “Supreme Discomfort,” in addition to doing extensive archival research. Although Thomas refused to be interviewed, this was not a serious handicap, given his vast paper and video trail and his volubility about his feelings. The authors superbly deconstruct Thomas’s multiple narratives of critical life-events — the accounts vary depending on his audience — and it says much for their intellectual integrity that though they are clearly critical of their subject, their presentation allows readers to make their own judgments. Thomas is examined through the prism of race because, they argue, “that is the prism through which Thomas often views himself,” and their main argument is that “he is in constant struggle with his racial identity — twisting, churning, sometimes hiding from it, but never denying it, even when he’s defiant about it.”
The first third of the book assiduously assembles the shards of his life from his birth in Pin Point, Ga., to his nomination to the Supreme Court by President George H. W. Bush in 1991, and it casts new light on the social and psychological context in which Thomas fashioned himself. Pin Point, where he spent his first six years, comes as close to a scene of rural desolation as is possible in an advanced society. This is black life in the rural South at its bleakest, in which the best hope of the law-abiding is a job at the old crab-picking factory. It is in this sociological nightmare that a 6-year-old boy, by some miracle of human agency, discovers the path to survival through absorption in books. Born to a teenage mother, abandoned by his father when he was a year old, plunged into the even more frightening poverty of the Savannah ghetto, Thomas, along with his brother, was eventually rescued by his grandparents.
Thomas has made a paragon of his maternal grandfather, Myers Anderson, an illiterate man who, through superhuman effort, native intelligence and upright living, was able to provide a fair degree of security for his family. Anderson cared deeply for the downtrodden, and the hard turn in Thomas’s adult individualism cannot be attributed to him. Indeed, it turns out that the man Thomas reveres disapproved strongly of his conservative politics.
Three other important forces shaped Thomas. In addition to white racism, he suffered the color prejudice of lighter-complexioned blacks. This dimension of black life has been so played down with the rise of identity politics that it comes as a shock to find a black person of the civil rights generation who feels he was severely scarred by it. Thomas says that growing up, he was teased mercilessly because his hair, complexion and features were too “Negroid” and that his schoolyard nickname was “ABC: America’s Blackest Child.” The authors seem inclined to believe contemporaries of Thomas who claim that he exaggerates and has confused class prejudice with color prejudice, as if class prejudice were any less execrable. On this, I’m inclined to believe Thomas, although, given where he now sits, the wife he sleeps with, the child he has custody of and the company he keeps, it might be time to get over it.
But Thomas bears the scars of yet another black prejudice: not only was he too black, he was also culturally too backcountry. Coastal Georgia is one of the few areas in America where a genuinely Afro-English creole — Gullah — is used, and Thomas grew up speaking it. In Savannah he was repeatedly mocked for his “Geechee” accent and was so traumatized by this that he developed the habit of simply listening when in public. That experience, Thomas claims, helps explain his mysterious silence on the Supreme Court during oral arguments. This seems a stretch, since Thomas is now an eloquent public speaker and an engaging conversationalist who, like most educated Southerners north of home, erased his accent long ago.
Another revealing aspect of Thomas’s upbringing is his difficult relationship with women. He is now reconciled with his mother, but for much of his life he resented and disapproved of her. She, in turn, acknowledges that she preferred his more compassionate brother, who died in 2000. The event that most angered the black community was Thomas’s public rebuke of his sister for being on welfare. The person most responsible for adopting and raising him was his step-grandmother, yet it is his grandfather, who initially spurned him and had abandoned Thomas’s own mother, who gets all the credit. His first career choice was to be a Roman Catholic priest, and he actually spent a year in a seminary, presumably anticipating a vow of chastity. For all his bawdy humor, he was extremely awkward with women, and his bookishness did not help. This hints, perhaps, at one source of his later troubles.
Up to the point of Thomas’s confirmation hearings, this book is a finely drawn portrait that surpasses all previous attempts to understand him. The remainder of the work is more wide-angled. Merida and Fletcher, who are journalists at The Washington Post, take us through the tumultuous hearings, then examine Thomas’s career and personal life up to the present: his complete embrace by the extreme right (he is a friend of Rush Limbaugh’s); his performance on the court; his relationship with Antonin Scalia, an ideological ally who some people think heavily influences Thomas’s thinking; and his secluded private life. We learn interesting things about him — for example, the stark contrast between his sometimes unfeeling legal opinions and his often compassionate personal relationships; the fact that he has quietly facilitated the confirmation of very liberal black judges, often to their amazement; and that he is probably the most accessible of the justices and enjoys the admiration and abiding loyalty of his clerks.
The treatment of Thomas’s legal doctrine, however, is pedestrian. Whatever one’s reservations about his “originalist” philosophy — notoriously, he has held that beating a prisoner is not unconstitutional punishment because it would not have appeared cruel and unusual to the framers — recent evaluations of his opinions by scholars like Henry Mark Holzer and Scott Douglas Gerber indicate that they should be taken seriously. Well, by lawyers anyway. We have also gone beyond the question of “who lied” in our assessment of the hearings. Of greater import would have been a critical examination of the bruising politics behind these hearings, the way both sides manipulated Thomas and Anita Hill, and the questionable ethics and strategic blunder of the left in focusing on Thomas’s sexuality, given America’s malignant racial history on this subject, instead of on his suspect qualifications for the job.
Nonetheless, the book remains invaluable for any understanding of the court’s most controversial figure. It persuasively makes the case that “the problem of color is a mantle” Thomas “yearns to shed, even as he clings to it.” In doing so, it brilliantly illuminates not only Thomas but his turbulent times, the burden of race in 20th-century America, and one man’s painful and unsettling struggle, along with his changing nation’s, to be relieved of it.
Orlando Patterson is a professor of sociology at Harvard and the author of “The Ordeal of Integration: Progress and Resentment in America’s ‘Racial’ Crisis.”

December 2000 Usage Red Circled

Usage is circled in red. 459 ccf!

That Cold December of 2000 -- The Effect

This Cinergy bill relates to the earlier post about December, 2000 being so cold. Usage at 885 Greenville was huge, higher than any other recent December. And higher than any other month since, even including Januarys and Februarys.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Judge Cudahy and the Idiocy of Electric Deregulation

Judge Richard D. Cudahy, Judge for the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, [Chicago; covers Illinois, Indiana & Wisconsin] which court is known for its excellently-written, often hilarious, opinions, (e.g. Lust v. Sealy Matress) is the first and only knowledgeable person that I know of, to write unflinchingly about the idiocy of electric deregulation.

Earlier in his amazing career he was a commissioner on the Wisconsin Public Service Commission. He knows whereof he writes.

Copyright (c) 1998 Yale J. on Reg.
Yale University
Summer, 1998
15 Yale J. on Reg. 427

Commentary: The Folklore of Deregulation (with Apologies to Thurman Arnold)
Richard D. Cudahy

And it celebrates the army of middlemen sustained by the folklore of deregulation--
marketers, publicists, advertisers, and the like--a new class dedicated to reinventing
venerable industries as savvy competitors.

We will see that certain endeavors--e.g., the unbundling of functions, the stranding of
costs, the passionate search for mergers, and the pervasive drumbeat of advertising--are
the indispensable ingredients of deregulation. Moreover, we will see that the process of
deregulation itself is legitimized by an army of consultants, marketers, middlemen, and
media people that give shape and meaning to the folklore of deregulation
But gone is obeisance to the idea of universal service--that everyone, wherever
located, should get adequate service at a fair price. This would be achievable only under
regulation, of course. With competition, the megalopolis is frequently and cheaply served
while the small city may have fewer flights than the space shuttle but at comparable

The ISO is one of the mythic heroes of deregulation, beholden to no one and capable
in theory of monumental feats of coordination and dispatch...

In fact, the bilateral traders accused the Poolco advocates of fabricating nonexistent
transmission problems and of introducing an unnecessary ISO to engage in, of all things,
regulation. The bilateral folks only wanted free trade betw

Retail wheeling is an arrangement devoutly sought after by large industrial
users of power. Those with an uncritical commitment to the market believe that the worst threat to their goals is any kind of slowdown [*435] that would allow the forces of regulation to
regroup and counterattack. Perhaps this perception is correct, and retail wheeling is like
the flag raised by the Marines on Iwo Jima to signal their final victory and discourage

counterattacks. But symbolism aside and with a view to grim reality, the rush to judgment
may be premature. The decisive importance of faith and folklore in energy matters is illustrated by the stark contrast between the treatment of natural gas twenty years ago and today. Twenty years ago natural gas was generally believed to be a precious resource in short supply. It was to be reserved by regulatory fiat for its highest use--home heating. It was
emphatically not to be used for electric generation, for heating swimming pools, or for
burning in gas logs. Now the supply of natural gas is generally believed to be
inexhaustible, with no threat of inflated prices. As an environmentally friendly
hydrocarbon, there can be no higher and better use for gas than for industrial applications
and for electric generation. By using it in combined cycle turbine generators, we have a
low-capital-cost source of power, which cancels out economies of scale in generation and
voids any argument that electricity is a natural monopoly. Thus, instead of being subject
to legislative extinction as a generation source, natural gas is to be elevated by free
market competition to a new place of honor. There has been a radical shift in natural
[*436] gas's place in the folklore, reflecting once again the manic-depressive bent of
energy thinking. As we have seen, the folklore of deregulation is imbedded in all the various schemes for competition. But that folklore is perhaps most striking in the people, activities, and
buzzwords that accompany sort. Unbundling and stranded costs are exotic features of the
process, and mergers are commonplace. All are rich ingredients these proposals.
Deregulation is a magnet for middlemen and consultants, as well as for advertising
people of every of the folklore of deregulation.

A. Middlemen, Media, and Consultants

The folklore of deregulation is part of the powerful myth of the market, with the trader
as high priest and trading as the liturgy. Again, this is perhaps best illustrated by
developments in electric power. In its early years, the electric power business was
dominated by engineers and scientists. The initial problems of the industry raised
predominantly scientific and engineering issues--e.g., [*437] whether direct or
alternating current worked best. There were also early rate problems, mostly addressed by
engineers. After the engineers came the lawyers, who were presumed to know how to
deal with government regulation, when regulation came to be a bigger concern than
which way the current flowed. If there were any cracks in the phalanx of lawyers, they
were filled by the throngs of economists pouring into a land of opportunity. The
economists temporarily eclipsed the lawyers by shrewdly inventing deregulation, thereby
depriving the lawyers of their stock in trade.

With the advent of deregulation came a whole new breed of industry figures. This was
a crowd extraordinarily comfortable in an atmosphere redolent of new angles and new
dollars. These were the marketers, traders, and brokers that composed the emerging class
empowered by the new regime of competition in an unregulated marketplace. In sober
truth, the battle cry of deregulation was not, "Eliminate the middleman!" Rather,

middlemen--individual and corporate--were coming out of the woodwork. The pecking
order of the new regime seemed to put those who arranged trades and made deals or who
followed futures quotations ahead of those who merely knew how to power up a gas
turbine or how to get on the good side of a utility commissioner. The less one dirtied
one's hands with wires and poles, or even rate schedules, the faster one rose, with
marketers in the lead. This new prominence of the trader is a bit like a move from mere
wheat farming to trading in wheat futures on the Chicago Board of Trade. How do you
get them back on the farm, once they've seen the wheat pit? In the folklore of
deregulation, the marketer and the trader are the leading players. In the new regime, if one needs power, one merely e-mails a marketer who has gobs of electricity in his, her, or its portfolio. Everything seems ethereal because it is virtual electricity that exists only as a blip on a computer screen and will never give one a shock. One imagines that somewhere there have to be real power plants and real transmission lines and real electricity, but one doesn't really know this for sure. All one deals with are virtual megawatts, emerging from virtual power stations onto virtual transmission lines for delivery to virtual customers, from whom payment will be received. But note this carefully: The payment is not virtual--it is in real dollars. Reality has retreated to the money part of the system.

The widespread existence of power marketers with only a computer, a fax, and a
cellular telephone lends verity to the idea that electric power has joined the yen and the
ringgit as a staple of exchange and speculation, and that the new elite of the electric
world are traders, brokers, and marketers--middlemen. To those steeped in the culture of
capitalism there is something reassuring about this. Certainly it is more modern and
enlightened to entrust the fate of the nation to traders, who understand and obey the
Invisible Hand, than to follow the lawyers into the snake pit of government regulation. In
the folklore of deregulation, the [*438] prime article of faith is the terminal ineptitude
of government. Any government is conclusively deemed part of the problem and not part
of the solution.

The better one is able to put the trading process into sophisticated garb, the better one
seems to evoke the beating heart of capitalism. Thus, the development of futures and
options or, better yet, options on futures for megawatts of electric power provides an
exhilaration that mere megawatts cannot match. In the public relations version, these
derivatives are useful for hedging and therefore contribute to the efficient management of
the power system. But we sophisticates know better. We know that these vehicles
occasionally prove useful, as in Orange County, to the informed speculator or even to the
uninformed gambler. Also of consequence is the business that these derivatives will
generate for brokerage houses and for commodity brokers, as well as for the exchanges
on which they are traded. A reform and restructuring of electric power is hardly of note
unless it provides new and exciting products for the trading floor--something to put pork
bellies in the shade.

The deregulation of electric power has therefore generated an impressive growth of
employment opportunities for brokers, traders, and marketers. This will more than make
up for all the linemen, electricians, and clerks laid off in the interest of efficiency.
Perhaps these unfortunates can be retrained to be useful around a trading pit. But the need
for brokers, traders, and marketers is only the beginning of the employment opportunities
springing from deregulation. Some of the most impressive of these opportunities are in
the realm of education. No one can keep track of all the seminars, conferences, courses,
colloquia, encounters, round table discussions, brown bag lunches, and apres-ski
discourses offered in the name of preparation for the New World of Deregulation. The
revenues generated by these educational efforts seem to dwarf the combined take of all
the formerly regulated industries put together. And all these industries have their own
educational programs, at times with inter-industry insights, like using power lines for
computer talk.

Many of the members of the faculties of these various courses are consultants hopeful
of finding work with one or more of the programs' students, who are company managers.
So there is a delightful reciprocity about things. It is generally true that brochures
announcing these programs proclaim the advent of deregulation as a turning point in
history roughly on a par with the discovery of America. Nonetheless, however expansive
these interpretations, there is nothing to obscure the bottom line that "the 'd' in
deregulation is for 'dollars'." I am still waiting to hear any suggestion that the new
competitive regime might have a downside. If the advent of deregulation is like any other
novelty, however, at some point there will be a reactive flood of complaints, warnings,
and bomb threats demanding the immediate end of deregulatory activity and a return to
what the sender will call sanity. [*439] Rivaling the rash of educational conferences heralding the arrival of deregulation is the deluge of new newsletters, books, and periodicals dealing in hyperbolic terms with one facet or another of a deregulated industry. These publications have a seemingly inexhaustible supply of arguably newsworthy events with which to fill their pages. Now this is not news as riveting as Monica Lewinsky or Princess Di, and it may even be thin
gruel for a dentist's waiting room. But at least the definition of "newsworthy event" is far
from confining. It includes, of course, every official action of every state utility
commission and of every relevant federal agency. But this is only the beginning. Afterdinner
speeches of the commissioners may contain important clues to impending
developments in state X or in the nation. This sort of interpretation calls for virtuosity on
the part of the newsletter author in the art of "reading the tea leaves." This is a talent for
sensing, in an apparently unambiguous declaration, a hint that just the opposite may be in
store. For example, if a regulator proclaims dramatically how ardent his or her agency has
been in furthering deregulation and waves a bunch of papers to prove it, it may really be a
signal that a huge batch of onerous new regulations is about to be issued.
The need for inside information is particularly pressing at a time when industries are
being restructured to prepare them for competition. The reason for this is that everyone is
in favor of deregulation, and it becomes increasingly important to tell those that are really

for competition from those who merely fear that a negative stance will jeopardize their
consulting contracts. There are few in industry, government, or academia who have gone
on record as opposing deregulation. Even the managements of the highest cost and most
inefficient regulated utilities declare that they are delighted to be stripped of their
monopoly. They like to give the impression that their newly proclaimed desire to trash
their monopolistic past and to seek entrepreneurial opportunity really was hidden in their
secret hearts all along. And no politician has been rash enough to suggest that
competition will be bad for the consumer and for the environment, even though his past
campaigns have always been generously supported by utilities with a monopoly
franchise. It is therefore important for the purveyors of inside information to be able to
report not only what is said publicly but also with whom the speaker had lunch before the
talk, or with whom he shot grouse in Scotland, not to mention miscellaneous pillow talk.
There is also a heart-warming rapport among, first, publications following industry
news; second, conferences and seminars at which the speakers make news; and, third,
consultants seeking to make a name for themselves as deregulation gurus. This
combination can work beautifully, with a newsletter sponsoring a conference, at which a
consultant can speak and have his views reported in the newsletter, wherein they will be
read by numerous potential clients. A government official seeking lucrative employment
in private industry can be a useful addition to this mix. [*440]

B. Advertising
Further, it is certainly not a revelation that deregulation has brought unimaginable
prosperity to people in advertising. We will soon be listening to electricity commercials.
Along this line, ads plugging as exceptionally reliable an "Old Faithful" brand of electric
power (filmed in Yellowstone Park, of course) are probably not far off. We can also look
forward to "green" promotions, where fly fishermen and Smokey the Bear will be
featured in 30 second spots recommending current generated by windmills or flowing
from a solar panel. Negative ads may showcase a mushroom cloud floating up from an
errant nuclear generator. We have as a model, of course, the virtually unintelligible television pitches of long distance telephone companies. One features ten minutes of free calling a day to American Samoa, while another explains a new procedure for making
C. Unbundling, Stranded Costs, and Mergers

Three issues that have been the subjects of many conferences and seminars, and which
arise in many deregulatory contexts, are the questions of unbundling, stranded costs, and
mergers. A short word on unbundling will suffice. It is not the forced separation of lovers
wrapped in intimate embrace; it is the forced separation, in the interest of competition, of
utility functions and services formerly wrapped in anticompetitive embrace.
Stranded costs refer to all the most harebrained mistakes made by regulated utilities,
which had duly received regulatory blessing, but which in the new order are condemned
to oblivion by competition. In the electric power industry, very [*441] expensive
nuclear plants are prominent on the list of stranded assets. The burial costs of such illstarred
undertakings are high, and there have been various plans for their payment by
some category of hapless customers. Unless the customers can be forced to pay, the
utilities may be driven into bankruptcy. It is therefore not surprising that many of these
monopolies asked nothing of the plans stripping them of their franchises except that their
stranded costs--the "funeral expenses" of their stranded assets--be somehow paid by their
customers. This position is not noble, but it is surely practical. Some of the most
apparently fanatical deregulators have adopted a mirror-image stance: Regulated
monopoly must be destroyed root and branch, but, almost incidentally (wink and nod),
the customers should pick up the tab for stranded costs. In fact, this is the new
"deregulatory compact."

Another favorite subject of conferences and of economists' theorizing is industry
concentration, mergers, and the like. As industries deregulate, their constituent companies
rush into one another's arms, forming ever more gigantic firms to compete in a much
friendlier market. These surges of corporate love at first sight give rise to the aphorism
(duly noted in the folklore): "Nothing is certain about deregulation except the mergers
that follow." Mergers are accomplished in the name of efficiency and perhaps (though
certainly sub silentio) in the hope of some easing of competitive pressures. The efforts of


the antitrust authorities to halt or slow this process are ineffectual in the face of the wild
corporate lusts unleashed by deregulation. More and more, competition in the formerly
regulated industries is carried on by a handful of behemoths of international dimensions.
And, to complicate the picture, the competitive myth that everyone covets his neighbor's
business is being tested in, for example, the telephone industry, where the anticipated
rush of long distance companies to enter local service has been notably subdued.
In the electric power industry, Herculean efforts are being made to sustain competition
against merger, vertical integration, and other hazards. Power companies vertically
disintegrate by selling off their power stations to eliminate cozy relations between
generators and distributors in their regional market and to put rival generators on a level
playing field. In line with this thinking, plants in New England are being sold to faraway
California owners and, in another transaction, to an even more distant French concern.
These deals are supposed to make sense competitively because the new owners have no
distribution or other assets in New England with which to play footsie. As in other
matters governed by the folklore of deregulation, the theoretical effectiveness of
competition is the one and only factor considered. Whether the infrastructure belongs in
foreign hands or even in absentee ownership is not a question any informed person would
ask. Whether New England regulators will have the same leverage over distant owners is
also not a permissible question. In the olden days, the only international relationships
among utilities involved First World ownership of Third World facilities--and these
arrangements frequently ended [*442] unhappily for both parties to the bargain. Now,
on the other hand, U.S. concerns own things in Britain (and elsewhere), and British
companies own things in the U.S. (and elsewhere). So far the French electric system is
not in play because it is still government-owned and, France being French, may stay that
way. International crossownership may be put to the test if electricity demand should
slacken and foreign owners seek to reduce or abandon service--pulling the infrastructure
out from under, so to speak.


Deregulation is a wondrous process, driven by the belief that competition is all. One of
the truly remarkable things about deregulation is its strong appeal to both the Right and
the Left. There may be some observers in the center who do not wildly applaud
deregulation, but nothing is heard from them as the plaudits come in from both ends of
the political spectrum. Conservatives love deregulation because it gets rid of the
government. Liberals seem to love it because it spells the end of hated monopolies.
Deregulation legislation is often sponsored by a vociferous liberal in partnership with a
doughty conservative. <=9> n8 In fact, judging by the debate on deregulation, it is hard
to believe that traditional regulated industries like AT&T ever had any friends. Rather,
these industries seem so cowed by the volume of demands by the Right and Left that they
be stripped of their monopoly, that they have accepted their fates, literally renounced
their regulated past, lit a candle to deregulation and its folklore, and adopted the fanatical
faith common among converts.


Competition is undoubtedly something, but whether it is all remains to be seen. It is
certainly a prod to efficiency and, no doubt, to innovation; but whether it can live up to
its folklore as a paradise of unlimited choice among ever-cheaper, yet always reliable,
basic services may raise nagging questions. Possibly, in some circumstances, the oldfashioned
obligation to serve may even be missed. The true believers would, of course,
be scandalized that one could entertain such a thought. In any event, whether
deregulation is a sea change or only a nudge of right rudder, it has certainly called forth a
wild abundance of musings by experts and by those aspiring to be experts. They have
launched a torrent of writings and speeches and regulations and orders and policy
statements that rival catalogues and credit card offers as a burden on the mails.
Developments in deregulation have actually appeared in front page banner headlines!
That has almost succeeded in making regulated and formerly regulated industries
exciting. At least that is the fragile reed on which this Commentary rests.

n1 See generally Applications of Microwave Communications, Inc., 18 F.C.C.2d 953
n2 Back in 1973, I heard John deButts, then Chairman of the old AT&T, make a speech
at a convention of state regulators in Seattle. See John D. deButts, The Time Is Now for
the Communications Industry: Address Before the Eighty-Fifth Annual Convention of the
National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, 1973 Nat'l Ass'n Reg. Util.
Commissioners Proc. 285. To an audience packed with AT&T vice presidents, he
declared that his company had fought to retain its monopoly status, but, now that
competition had been ordained, AT&T was going to compete with the best of them. See
id. at 287. Judging by its role as a defendant in a pack of antitrust suits, AT&T did
compete in a muscular way and without excessive restraint until it mutated from
regulated monopoly to telephonic free spirit.
n3 Applications of Microwave Communications, Inc., 18 F.C.C.2d at 978.
n4 Id. at 971.
n5 David Boies, Deregulation in Practice, 55 Antitrust L.J. 185, 189 (1986)
(commenting on Alfred E. Kahn, The Theory and Application of Regulation, 55 Antitrust
L.J. 177, 178-84 (1986)).
n6 Now apparently to be joined by a fourth--a Northwest-Continental combination.
n7 Abundant Power from Atom Seen, N.Y. Times, Sept. 17, 1954, at 5 (quoting Lewis
L. Strauss, Address at the Twentieth Anniversary of the National Association of Science
Writers (Sept. 16, 1954)). Mr. Strauss was the chairman of the Atomic Energy
Commission. See id.

n8 See, e.g., The Transition to Electric Competition Act, S. 1401, 105th Cong. (1997)
(Dale Bumpers (D.-Arkansas), Slade Gorton (D.-Washington)).